The power of 11

Project 11 takes its digits very seriously. The 11-minute experimental short film was shot by 11 filmmakers, across 11 cities and has 11 principal characters. Made on a shoestring budget, the thriller is set for an online release today

At a time when the budget of an average Bollywood movie touches crores, Project 11 proves that good storytelling and smart marketing can make up for a budget deficiency. The 11-minute short film co-written by Vikas Chandra and Ranjan Singh (who are also its director and producer, respectively) can make for a management case study by itself.

A still from the Israel shoot of Project 11

The making of Project 11
Chandra and Singh realised the potential of the date 11.11.11, which complemented the storyline of their film and decided to involve 11 filmmakers from across the world. While Chandra has worked on films such as Ghajini and Kavi, Singh has a decade of experience as a marketing head working for multiplexes.

Project 11's plotline revolves around a cult underground video game in which no one has ever gone beyond level 11. On November 11, at 11.11 am, as avid gamers race to cross the level, they start dying one by one. The climax revolves around whether the gamers manage to survive or will the game kill them all.

For the project, Chandra sent out nearly 2,000 e-mails and spoke to 50 filmmakers to shortlist 11 of them. "I spent a month contacting filmmakers, juggling time zones and negotiating. While some had apprehensions about the format, others were concerned about the budget," he adds.

One story, 11 cities
11 directors shot the short film over three months across New York, Beijing, Balochistan, Los Angeles, Toronto, Tokyo, London and Tel Aviv. Apart from Chandra, the team of award-winning directors included Alessio Georgetti (New York), Ali Ahmed Brohi (Pakistan) and Luo Yi (China) among others.

"Detailed storyboards were sent to each and every director and once shooting was done, they would send the videos to Mumbai for feedback and editing," explains Chandra.

While there have been several collaborative movies, Project 11's USP lies in the fact that it is not an episodic film; it tells one story set in 11 cities and featuring 11 principal characters.

Too many cooks don't spoil the broth
"Even though there were several filmmakers and actors involved, the story flows seamlessly. We took care to ensure the storyboard, location and overall look was kept in tandem. So, while the main protagonists are from India, we cheated our way in other cities with side profiles, angles and other smart shooting techniques," admits Chandra.

The challenges along the way came from assimilating diverse work cultures and each filmmaker's point of view. "It is, after all, tough to translate someone else's vision. So if the directors had a solid reasoning behind asking for a certain change, we allowed them to go ahead," he adds.

For 23 year-old Pakistani filmmaker, Ali Ahmed Brohi, working on Project 11 was a learning experience, even though he ended up shooting 20 days for one-minute worth of footage. "Working on Indie films is tough in Pakistan as there is little awareness about the genre. While shooting Project 11, there were hassles in getting requisite permissions. But we worked around it and tweaked the script and ended up shooting in Balochistan instead of Kabul," he states.

While funding remained a major concern, the filmmakers believe they have a sound revenue model. "For Project 11, we ended up shelling out Rs 9 lakh from our own pockets. But we kept the cost in check so that the recovery of revenue could be easier. Since most of the co-ordination with directors happened over Skype and email and even the promotions were online, we saved a lot of money," explained Singh.

While the 11-minute film will premiere on the site and can be watched for free, there will be a 15-minute cut available through mobile downloads and a 22-minute cut screened on Youtube or television
channels. Next up, the filmmakers hope to work on Project 12. Watch this space!

On: Today, 11.11 am and 11.25 am
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