A crowd puller film, this
Independent filmmaker Anupam Barve adopted a novel method to raise funds for his film adaptation of Amitav Ghosh's Sahitya Akademi award-winning novel, The Shadow Lines. He tells Fiona Fernandez about the experience, challenges and risks involved
Anupam Barve is a busy man. The Pune resident, with a background in theatre, has been making films since 2007-08; his first project was a 40-minute documentary on Pune’s Ganesh festival for a social research organisation. Later, the independent filmmaker was involved in making a documentary titled Dhoosar. In 2009, he moved to London to pursue an MA in Film Direction. His recent shorts – Fresh Suicide and The Hunt – won him several awards at international film festivals. While moviemaking had to take a backseat for two years due to his teaching job, his current project — Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines — is his first feature length fiction development project.
What are the unique funding options that you are adopting for this film?
The only way I could do proper justice to an Amitav Ghosh novel was by devoting enough time and energy to it. This meant spending weeks, possibly months, working on it. Since I am an independent filmmaker, I do not enjoy the privileges of working on a development for months with a studio backing the process or without having to think about the rents for too long. As far as doing a day job and writing in the evenings goes, I was working in London at the University of Westminster as a faculty for two years, and rarely found the time time towrite. That was how I came to consider crowd-funding as an option to support me during the development phase of this project. I decided to launch a campaign on a crowd-funding website called Indiegogo.com. Many people in the UK and in the US managed to raise money, successfully, through this a forum, for short films and other projects. I decided to aim at raising around $1,500. Since this was only for development, I did not want to aim too high. Also, there was no guarantee as to whether this would ever get made into a film in the end (even today!) so, I did not want to rob people of their money for nothing. One is expected to give a few perks in return to patrons/ funders for their contributions. Most filmmakers agree to give back ‘Producer’, ‘Executive Producer’ or ‘Associate Producer’ or even ‘Special Thanks’ credits to funders for their contributions. Since my project was a bit different, I thought what better than to offer signed copies of Amitav Ghosh books in return? Luckily, Amitav Ghosh, who has been extremely supportive and encouraging since the start, agreed to sign copies and, in fact, even donated a few of them in the end.
Until now, to what extent has Amitav Ghosh been involved; what were his initial reactions to your idea?
Amitav has been exceptionally supportive. I was privileged to have a lunch meeting with him last year in London when he was on a book release tour for his new book. He liked my idea a lot. The first thing about my pitch that appealed to him was that I didn’t want to do it as it were, to treat a 25-year-old novel as a fossil and make a historical film on it. He was impressed when I said I wanted to look at his characters, places, the situations through my current vantage point, identifying the parallels between the times, and if possible, try and find contemporary analogies. Hence, despite the book already having three time periods in it, the 1940s, ’60s and ’80s, we added the current narrative that takes place in 2011, and which also serves as a window into the book. Since then, we have been corresponding often. He seemed fond of the idea of raising funds through crowd-funding sources, and agreed to sign and donate a few copies as well. As far as his reactions to the script go, he is currently reading it, and I should have a full feedback very soon
What remain some of the challenges that young, independent filmmakers like you encounter?
Many. Primarily, because there are too many of us around now, and it is understandable if studios or established producers have had enough. But mainly, it is the lack of funds or support to venture into a new project. Secondly, it’s getting the producers to pay attention to you. Thirdly, there is the film festival mafia. I have won cash awards at film festivals, which I have never received. If festival organisers continue to rob young emerging filmmakers of their money, it becomes easy for one to become defeatist. Also, the lack of solid film education facilities means there are too many half-baked filmmakers in the picture.
When do you see this project ready for release?
In an ideal world, within the next 2-3 years. The funding I managed to raise was only for the development phase, which is minuscule in comparison to the entire budget that will go in getting the film pre-produced, shot, post-produced, finished and exhibited, which is the toughest bit.
How much has this first full-length experience changed you as a filmmaker?
A lot. This past year has given me a first-hand experience of the higher rung — a bigger canvas, a challenge I have never faced before. I have become aware of the parameters involved in sculpting a feature length script. Also, to tackle a highly complex and multilayered novel such as The Shadow Lines was an extremely enjoyable yet severely tiring journey. I now have a better understanding of what my future as a feature filmmaker will be like.