Can Crowdfunding Drive Indie Films? People Who've Done It Once, Think So...

By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on November 07, 2015

"Even though it may sound like a brand new concept to many of us here, crowdfunding is not a recent concept. Not even for independent cinema. Take Manthan for example. Shyam Benegal's 1976 film  starring Smita Patil and Naseeruddin Shah was funded by 5 lakh farmers of Gujarat, each of them contributing a sum of Rupees two thousand," said Wishberry's Anshulika Dubey while opening discussion.

In a panel discussion at Jio MAMI, co-founders of Wishberry, an online crowdfunding platform, Anshulika Dubey and Priyanka Agarwal and people who have raised money  for their films through crowdfunding- Bhaskar Hazarika, Gigi Mathews, Ruchi Bhimani and Vasant Nath shared their experiences and inspirations and answered to the numerous queries of the curious audience.

Crowdfunding panel

Bhaskar Hazarika, Priyanka Agarwal & Gigi Mathews during the panel discussion

It was a packed house, of aspiring filmmakers, people experienced in crowdfunding as well as curious buffs in the audience. The discussion started with a small presentation given by Anshulika, who explained the concept of crowdfunding to the audience.

"See, if someone gives you a sum of five lakh rupees for your film, they are definitely going to expect returns on their investment. But if a person pays Rupees five thousand, then they don't care if the money gets back to them or not. As they're not expecting money, but something else, like recognition in film's credits, perhaps, in return. It's dinner, at the end of the day," said Bhaskar, who raised a whopping  sum of Rupees 22 lakh for his Assamese feature Kothanodi through crowdfunding.

Adding to Bhaskar's point, Ruchi said, "It's important to find a shared passion with your contributors. Ultimately, it's not just about money. They'll contribute only if they like your idea and share your passion." Ruchi, who was the executive producer of The Ship of Theseus, has raised money through crowdfunding for a documentary Proposition for a Revolutiondirected by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, which traces Aam Aadmi Party's journey.

One of the questions from the audience was, why would someone give money and not expect anything in return. The answer to this from the panel was multifold. While one of the reasons, the shared passion, was mentioned by Ruchi, Anshulika observed another reason why people fund such projects. "These people are not investors, but 'patrons' of the project. In exchange for their money, they get a chance to collaborate with the film and its cast and crew. They get producer credits, invite to special screenings, access to behind the scenes footage, limited edition memorabilia etc. There are several ways in which the filmmaker can get the patrons involved."

Crowdfunding session at JioMAMI

Ruchi Bhimani & Vasant Nath share their experiences during the session

Screenwriter Vasant Nath, who himself has contributed to various crowdfunding campaigns, drew from his own experience. "It's not like I reserve half an hour every day for crowdfunding! I see something, the idea clicks and I just decide to contribute in that moment!", he said. Giving an example of Pebble smartwatch, he said, "It's also an ego boost for many. This makes you involved in something creative, something unique. And that makes you feel good."

Gigi Mathews, who raised over Rupees 41 lakh for the Sanskrit animated short film Punyakotidirected by Ravishankar V talked about her experience. The campaign for Punyakoti has raised the highest sum yet on Wishberry. "For each project, there's a specific group of people you can approach, people who might be interested in your idea. For Punyakoti, we tried to contact people who have a love for Sanskrit and the Indian tradition. Many people were thrilled to know that there's going to be a film made in Sanskrit!"

While answering questions by the audience related to the campaigning process, Priyanka insisted that your crowdfunding campaign is not just about getting the money. The crowdfunding campaign is a fan engagement exercise. "The people who are funding your project now, they are your potential future audience. They're going to come to your screenings and are going to appreciate your work. Therefore it's extremely important to maintain proper communication with your contributors. Informing them about the progress of your project on a regular basis helps you gain their trust."

"It's a completely trust-based process. People contribute by choice and there's nothing they can do if the project doesn't proceed as they expected. Therefore, the filmmaker has an even greater responsibility of creating & maintaining a transparent communication channel," elaborated Anshulika.

The session was received really well by the audience and the curiosity among the audience only showed that there are many people who are interested in this concept. Crowdfunding is an old concept, however, now it's gaining a more organised structure because of platforms like Wishberry, Catapoolt & Ketto. It remains to be seen how the concept evolves.


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