Democratizing filmmaking - Movie making made easy

Democratization of filmmaking in India

Shiv Charan Pulugurtha06 Sep 2011

Ram Gopal Varma has ushered in a revolution in Indian cinema by using new technology, hence lowering the cost of filmmaking and changing business dynamics. With the advent of latest digital filmmaking techniques, the movie making is poised to become much affordable. So, if you know some basics of filmmaking, and dream to make a movie, this just might be the right time.

Ram Gopal Varma's controversial “Not A Love Story” had released recently to mixed reviews. That's saying something for an RGV film these days. While it may not be a cinematic masterpiece, NALS is one among three movies that have begun a silent revolution in filmmaking in India that is sure to catch on. The other two movies are “Stanley ka Dabba”, “Dongala Mutha”. So, what's this about? These movies have been made using what is essentially a normal still camera of the DSLR variety and putting it on video record mode! This is also known as DSLR filmmaking. The camera they have used is a Canon 5D camera. The camera costs INR 1,38,000/- but its rental cost/day is as low as INR 890.

Digitally shot movies in BollywoodThe first movie to be made with this camera is “Dongala Mutha” by Ram Gopal Varma. As is the case with most Varma movies these days, this one too has very little to write home about. Having said that,Varma must be given a huge amount of credit because he had the vision and the guts to use what many believed was “poor” technology to make what eventually turned out to be quite a technically proficient film. He was more than willing to break out of the traditional filmmaking - the kind that was taught in film making courses. Surprisingly, the quality of the shots and colours on screen in this film were as good as a movie made with a normal camera. Varma stretched the idea a little and convinced his actors which included Telugu superstars like Ravi Teja, Charmee, Prakash Raj and Brahmanandam to act for free in the movie and promised them a share in the profits of the movie. The result? The movie got made on a shoe string budget and despite being panned by one and all, in terms of Return on Investment, Dongala Mutha turned out to be the most successful Telugu film of the year!

“Stanley ka Dabba” would not have been possible if it was not for this technology. Some of the readers may have noticed that the entire film was shot in natural light. Not only did it lend asemblance of realism to the film, it also significantly reduced the cost of film making without compromising on the quality. The film went on to do good business, enough to make a lot more money than what was spent. So what seemed like a big risk was actually sound economics!

Not A Love Story” will also make ton loads of money compared to what was spent in its making. So,does that mean this technology allows filmmakers to be more careless with the content and yet be sure of making money? Possibly. But the crux of the idea lies in the flip argument. Gone are the days when film cameras used to be associated with noise and messy tapes, as they teach you in film making courses across the film schools. No more complicated rigs, no more trolleys, no more crane shots. Gone are the days when one would have to give up precious years of his life struggling to get a break as a film director. In short, if you have the content, you can make a movie. Yes, today, anyone can! And you don't have to go to a film academy to learn how to make a film in a traditional complicated way.

Contrary to concerns that easily accessible technology can dilute quality of movies, it can actually step-change quality. It can open up a whole new world of filmmakers and actors.The choice of subjects can be much more diverse and new ground can be broken. Ticket costs can be lower making it much more affordable to watch movies. That brings us to the next question. What about the other monsters associated with the business of cinema, namely ‘Movie Distribution’ and ‘Exhibition’?

While the Canon 5D technology is a great tool for an established filmmaker to make an offbeat movie(take a risk) without risking too much money, it still leaves an absolute newcomer with the question about how to distribute and exhibit his film. There are two possible answers to this question. The first one being, selling a finished product to a distributor is significantly easier than selling an idea to a film producer. So if you have actually made a good film on a shoe string budget, chances are someone out there will take it up. Sending the finished movie to festivals is also a good way to garner word of mouth publicity for your film. Qaushik Mukherjee's“Gandu” is a classic example of this method.

The second answer to this question lies in another aspect of technology. There is a “content vacuum” waiting to fill the current 3G wave! Content on mobile phones is likely to get more and more “different” from content on regular media like TV and film. There is little likelihood of people with smart phones watching full movies or full length TV shows on their phones. Their “video time” will probably be spent on small clips (anywhere between 1 to 10 mins). This content can either be totally new or be a derivative of some popular show or movie in the regular media. It is in this “totally new” variety of content that the Canon 5D technology and the new age directors come in. Imagine a series of funny videos on the corporate world (our own Dilbert). Something like that can make for excellent mobile phone viewing. It can be forwarded; people can discuss it over Facebook and can quickly become a rage through viral growth. It could be a great way for a newcomer to interact with his audience and see if he has it in him to make films. And of course, there always is a Youtube for one to upload his content and gauge public reaction.

In summary, we are in the middle of a video revolution and technologies like Canon 5D and 3G are going a long way inspreading this revolution. The next 10 years, my friends, will be the era when the process of filmmaking is truly going to be democratized. So, lets pick up the camera and shoot!

If you're a budding filmmaker, or some one with an aspiration to make a film, these may be worth noting:

  • Latest digital filmmaking techniques drastically reduce cost, thus enabling rapid filmmaking on low budgets
  • If you have a good content on hand, take one DSLR camera on rent, and shoot quickly
  • Make a few smart teasers that showcases your concept
  • Reach out to social media with Youtube and other video sites to get feedback or seek a viral marketing
  • Identify those who may be interested in your content, and reach out
About Shiv Charan Pulugurtha

Shiv Charan PulugurthaShivcharan Pulugurtha works in sales for an MNC. Born in a family of lovers of cinema, Charan lives in a constant "state of film". He dreams of making / writing a film some day. He started writing movie reviews on the internet 6 years back. He hopes his articles reflect the thoughts of the hard core lovers of cinema.

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I am reminded of Godard who famously said that he was going to stop making films unless it became as cheap as the pen & the paper,hopefully this one seems to be an answer to that...hope it ushers in a revolution !
Posted by Debarun on  Oct 9 2011 1:13PM

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