Ritam Bhatnagar On His Vision For IFP & Short Filmmakers!

By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on September 03, 2015

Started in 2011, the Indian Film Project has evolved into a mega filmmaking event with teams participating from across the country. The 1st edition of the festival, then known as the Ahmedabad Film Project saw a total of 86 entries from 19 different cities, which went up to over 600 entries in last years edition. Initially started as a nation-wide event, the festival has evolved to draw entries from different countries. In 2014, IFP went international which saw participation by filmmakers from 11 countries and 168 cities. Over the years the festival has had renowned film-makers like Shyam Benegal, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shoojit Sircar, Hansal Mehta, Vikramaditya Motwane judge the participating films.

With the event soaring in closer, we interviewed the director of the festival Ritam Bhatnagar about his vision, this year's edition and much more. Do read it right here:

1. The India Film Project is Asia’s largest filmmaking challenge. Could you tell us about your vision and idea behind the festival?

When we started IFP in 2011, the vision was to bring together aspiring filmmakers and give them a platform. Competition looked like the best format to accommodate it. In the years that came, we moved to a larger vision – getting people to make the first film of their life at IFP. This called for reaching out to those thousands of people who were neither photographers nor related to films in anyway. We wanted to stand out as a filmmaking platform not limited to filmmakers. The momentum has been very apt and in the past 5 years, we’ve zoomed from 600 filmmakers to almost 15000, from 11 cities to almost 180 cities.

2. How has the festival evolved over the years? What have you learnt over these years?

In 2011 and 2012, our early years, we kept it limited to participants who could travel down to Ahmedabad and make a film in the given 50 hours. However, we realized filmmaking wasn’t something which was mature in country. Neither was Ahmedabad a destination people would want to travel to. In 2013, we went national and did away with compulsion to travel to Ahmedabad. We went online, and we grew to 4500 filmmakers in that one year. We realized online was the future. Participants can make a film from their own cities in those 50 hours and simply upload it. Rest all is webcasted to them.

One learning that has come my way, is that, for a lot of people, filmmaking is an aspiration. The real challenge is to convert the aspiration into reality for as many as possible. Right now, we’re just a platform. Something I really look to build in coming years is to become a place where we can take these aspirations into reality for many of them.

3. Many young filmmakers are going out and making their short films? How do events like yours help the filmmakers who take part in them?

I will share a story here. Dipam, a SY student who participated in 2012 with us, was clueless that filmmaking was soon going to become a career for him. After the competition, he wrote to us about how the jury liked his very first film that he made at IFP, and he wanted to connect with them. A couple of months later, he wrote to us that the very first film could get him a chance to work as a chief AD with a renowned director. Since then, there is no looking back.

There have been numerous participants who have taken films/ ads as a serious career after they made their first film at IFP.


Ritam Bhatnagar

4. What happens to a film/ filmmaker after they participate in your event? Is there a plan to somehow help the filmmakers develop their craft beyond the 50 hours of the event?

As a platform, we do a lot of things round the year to promote the films and filmmakers. One of them is taking the films to the film festivals. We’ve some amazing tieups this year, including the one with IFFI. So, the winning films of IFP go to IFFI, Goa for the premiere. This is a big big opportunity for a participant, who otherwise wouldn’t have dreamt that big.

What we also do is to take these films across more than 100 campuses and cities and screen them to an audience. This way, we take these films to roughly around 50 thousand direct viewers, which includes premier colleges of the country as well. The films are well circulated on social media, by us and our tie-up pages. This way, they reach to a very focused and intended audience.

Over the next 2 years, we’re focusing on building communities around this. Communities which can help filmmakers better connect with their counterparts across the country. The idea is also to begin a scriptwriter’s lab soon.

5. What films have you enjoyed from all the editions of IFP thus far?

I consider I am lucky that I get to watch all the films made at IFP, sometimes twice. There are some films which are very well conceptualised, maybe not well executed, and I even have some of them in my favorites. I’ve loved too many films to even remember.

Naming a few - Daaya Baaya from 2011 season, Shift Focus from 2012, Inner Transition and Winds of Change from 2013, Audition, Laal and I am Bhushan from 2014.

You can watch the film I am Bhushan right here:

6. What is happening at the festival this year? Is there anything different this year?

This year we’re focusing more towards getting the right kind of people to participate. We’ve done lot of experimentation in the last 4 years and the learnings are being applied this time. Participation matters a lot as it decides what kind of films will be made. It is also important because as a festival, we need to grow and accommodate a lot more people year on year. Hence, the focus for entire team is just to make sure we get some lovely films out there.

Also, with IFFI happening, we are working towards taking the content to right audience. We’ve recently done some content-driven tie-ups which should help filmmakers in taking their films to a larger audience.

7. Why are animation films not allowed to compete in the India Film Project?

We believe that animation films of duration 5 to 8 minutes, can not be made in 50 hours of time. There are certain people who have challenged us, and maybe next year we shall let them take up that challenge too.

8. Previously you’ve had filmmakers like Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shoojit Sircar, Vikramaditya Motwane, Hansal Mehta. Could you tell us a bit about the Jury this year?

We’ve still not made a formal announcement about the jury. We’ll announce it shortly :)

9. What are you future plans for the festival?

Soon, you’ll also see us growing into different verticals. We’re planning an e-commerce website only for photography and filmmaking enthusiasts. Also, we’re tying up with cafes and theatres across different cities for round the year screenings.

We’re planning to make a carnival out of IFP. The idea is to get all these filmmakers at a single place and create the madness, including workshops, movie marathons, and even EDM and after-parties. We’ve been tagged as an intellectual brand, we’re moving towards becoming ‘cool’ :-)


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