An engaged audience discussed a hot IFFI 2016 topic, ‘The Scope and Challenges for the Independent Film-Maker’ at the sprawling water-front Kala Academy complex on Nov 23rd. The session was hosted by Open Forum, now a popular annual fixture at India’s largest and most prestigious film festival. The series is organized by the Federation of Film Societies in collaboration with the Directorate of Film Festivals and the Entertainment Society of Goa.
Yesterday’s panel included Rajeev Shinde, the filmmaker from Goa whose ‘K Sera Sera’ (2016) is the only Konkani film screened as part of the Indian Panorama 2016, Pierre Filmon, the French director of ‘Close Encounter with Vilmos Zsigmund’ (2016), the actor and Indian Panorama 2016 jury member Rama Vij, Hyderabad-based director of ‘Parampara’ (2014) Madhu Mahankali, and Meena Longjam, from Manipur, who made ‘Auto Driver’ (2015).
On a warm and balmy afternoon overlooking the slow-flowing Mandovi river, the panelists shared their experiences of being independent filmmakers, and the challenges faced in making and distributing their work. “Being independent is empowering,” said Longjam, “And I think with all the empowerment there are challenges. To me this is independent filmmaking.”
Despite financial difficulties that go along with independence, all the participants stressed how important passion becomes in the process of making an indie film.
Shinde believes the wide availability of talent and training means good films can be made with a small budget, “I am a teacher at the Goa College of Fine Arts. For my film the students have done the art direction, VFX, and such other things,” he says proudly. But “just being a story-teller is not enough,” he stressed, there is a need for skillful marketing, and the use of technology to “take your films to the public.”
Filmon underscored the importance of technology – like the internet – for independent filmmakers to reach out to their audiences. “You have to build a community that will help you. It doesn’t matter how, but connect with [other] people. Making the film is just the beginning.”
Mahankali explained “if you are competing with the mainstream films you are in for a struggle.” He recommends theatres with reasonably priced tickets which could gamble on independent films, saying “in this age it is very important for independent funding houses to help out”.
Vij, primarily an actor, agreed with the panel of directors that passion should come first. “If you want to tell a story just plunge into it. I think we should be courageous enough to just do it.”
(A version of this article was first published in The Peacock, 24 November, 2016)