By Nita Deshmukh. Posted on April 16, 2016
My story, 'The Adventures of Kaka and Kiki' was lying dormant in my mind for a long time.
It all began when NFDC had called Childrens' film scripts for entry, for the Childrens' Screenwriters' Lab in 2015. This past year has been a whirlwind of sorts for me. Before embarking on this journey, I had been an Assistant Director in various projects. While, I've been intimately involved in the process of filmmaking, this experience has taught me so much about the process and struggles (not complaining at all), in getting a film off the floor and getting funded to make one.
After spending a lot of time on my script, character motivations, scene structuring and all that jazz (which Arijit so eloquently put forth in his article), I was ready to pitch my film in Film Bazaar. The work I put in with my mentor Tamara Bos (and my pitching mentor Aamir Bashir), gave me enough confidence to present my film in front of many industry people.
There, Annete Brejner (Head of Financing Forum for Kids Content) was present. We all received welcome feedback and encouragement from her. Little did we know that we were being screened for our pitches. The next day we all met her individually and it was announced that Sagarika and I were invited to the Finance Forum at Malmo.
The first day of the forum, was full of lectures and talks regarding many areas concerning kids content. My mind was blown seeing some of the content and case studies. There was a successful interactive documentary for kids, on the refugee crisis, no less! It was amazing to see how much they respect kids as their audience, and it comes through in the choice of projects and storytelling.
Shreyas outside one of pitching locations in Malmo
The next day was the first of the pitching days. Sagarika's project was one of them. It was lovely to see her project being received so warmly and it enjoyed a long applause. I had an observer status at the event. And I learnt and observed a lot!
For starters, almost all projects there, are state or region-funded. Probably, I've been ignorant, but it was a great revelation to me, that their industry, unlike ours or in the US, isn't really that commercial. Most of their movies are made from taxpayers' money! So, if I were to get a co-producer from one of the Scandinavian countries, it should benefit the region in some way. This was a great lesson. In my case, since the location (only one; a railway station) and characters being Indian are so integral to the story, it becomes a slightly difficult prospect for most interested parties.
But, there is always a solution. The filmmaking community (all the directors and producers participating), gave me many ideas on how to secure a co-production, by doing the post-production and by hiring a DoP from their region and other crew talent. It was very encouraging to see the response I received on my material (the story that I pitched, the look book and a small teaser that I shot on my cell phone). The networking lunches and the parties really helped us get to know a lot of the delegates at the forum. It was great exchanging ideas and thoughts on a variety of topics.
Shreyas pitching his story at The Finance Forum
They were very keen on knowing more about how films get made and distributed in India. Some were very keen on getting advice, as they had a bit of an Indian connect to their stories. I was also invited to screening of a wonderful film, which was a Swedish horror-comedy for children!
One of the things that encouraged me a lot, was when I saw Dhanak at the BUFF Festival with Swedish kids in the theater. It received a long standing ovation. The story was set in a remote village in Rajasthan, yet the young audience laughed and were touched at the right moments. It reaffirmed my belief that a good story can have universal appeal regardless of where it is set.
At the end of it all, I got interest from a few people. I have made new friends and a nice, warm community to stay in touch with. The key learning for me was to recognize and reach out to the audience as soon as possible. Here, we focus too much on just making a film and spending an assigned amount of money on promotion and marketing. It is very important to build an audience much before the release of your film. Especially in the case of children's films, as they don't stand a chance otherwise with the bigger budget films.
There are many ways to build an audience. It could be through a web-series, podcasts, games or apps. It is important to realise where your potential audience lies and seek them out directly. This process shouldn't be thought of as painful or cumbersome. We should rather think of this as an opportunity to create more content and all the trans-media means to showcase should be organic .
It could all even lead to the final feature film (storytelling-wise). I was also told that a lot of these discussions were the producer's to make and not mine. But it wouldn't hurt to be clued into the process.
So, next stop for is to me find an Indian producer. Fingers crossed that this process ends soon too! This time last year, I was day dreaming about getting out of the rut I was in and procrastinating over whether or not I should send my script to the Childrens' Screenwriters' Lab. That one send button, has pushed me into not just finishing my first feature-length screenplay but it also opened a whole new world for me.
So keep daydreaming, but don't be afraid to put yourself out there!
Shreyas Govindarajan Thathachari is a young writer who has worked in feature films, television serials, short films, and commercials. Apart from developing his own scripts, he has worked as an assistant director and script supervisor in projects like the Walt Disney production, Million Dollar Arm. The Adventures of Kaka and Kiki would be his debut feature as a screenwriter.