The Busy-ness of Filmmaking : A Panel Discussion on the Trajectory of Independent Cinema

The world of independent filmmaking is in itself strewn with stories of challenges and triumphs. A Panel Discussion on Day 2 of the 9th edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival at Liberty Carnival Cinemas on May 25, 2018, explored the nuances of what goes into the process of independent film making, spanning finances, production and distribution, highlighting the challenges faced, especially from an LGBTQ point of view, and ways by which they have been addressed.

The Panel featured Santhosh Sundaraman, the Co-Founder of 1018mb, Siddharth Anand Kumar of Yoodlee Films at SaReGaMa India, Suri Gopalan, Founder of Vista India, Harini Daddala, Founder of JLT Films, and Lokesh Kumar, A filmmaker and Owner of the production house Beyond the Limit Creations. The moderator of the Panel was reknowned Film Critic Meenakshi Shedde.

In terms of how the Independent content is received, Siddharth Anand Kumar says “We don’t have too many buyers for Indie Films, except for maybe Amazon and Netflix”. Other Panelist like Harini Daddala and Suri Gopalan agreed to this and went on to say that in this age of technology Amazon and Netflix can track each and every hit and subscription on a film .  Anand Kumar pointed out that even on Amazon and Netflix, consumers tend to lean towards commercial films. He said that he was a firm believer in content that challenges its viewers and is still valid twenty years from today.

With regard to how the goals have changed for indie films now, Sundaraman shed some light on his company and said that when 1018mb started out viewers didn’t have much of a choice as to what content they would watch on the screens. But 1018mb attempted to put in the choices of viewers into their online catalogues as consumers can buy tickets online for a film they want to watch and if a stipulated number of people pay for a screening then a movie hall is used to screen that movie. And if a show is cancelled then the money is refunded to the consumers. Moreover, the company is now expanding to spaces beyond commercial multiplexes like sports bars and large restaurants to conduct screenings.

The discussion then shifted to Youtube as it was seen as a way to get back some of the money that was put into a film. Mr. Gopalan labeled it as completely “stupid” as YouTube was most prone to piracy and would not even recover a fraction of the cost of production for the filmmaker. Ms. Daddala pointed out that she uses YouTube only as a PR tool and uses it to get traction for her films and Web series. Mr. Lokesh Kumar too said that he uses his social media presence to publicize his films, which led his film to be sold at double the price it was made to a distribution house in Bombay.

The discussion boiled down to one point-if a filmmaker wants his movie to be in the lime light, he himself will have to make the effort to bring it into the public eye and prove himself to the audiences and distribution houses.

About the Panelists

Harini Daddala has been a pioneer in LGBT content in India and is a media and entertainment professional with more than 13 years of experience as a Management Consultant for leading players across the globe. In 2015, Harini founded JLT films that produces web series, short films and feature films. This integrated brand spreads across a YouTube Channel with over 100K+ subscribers and 37Million+ views and an online VOD platform,

Lokesh Kumar is a Writer, Director, Producer with his indie production house called Beyond The Limit Creations. He is a firm believer in the power of film as a means of influence and considers it to be a transformational tool. His film, My Son is Gay is debut feature film in Tamil.

Santhosh Sundaraman is an alum of Madras University, and has over 10 years of experience in Investment Banking and Analytics. As a co-founder at 1018mb and a big fan of the big screen, Santhosh is responsible for Execution, Product, Relations and Fundraising.

Siddharth Anand Kumar Kumar has spent a lifetime in the world of visual storytelling. He has been a director, DOP, editor, writer and screenwriting teacher over the last 20 years with 2 feature films (Let’s Enjoy and Semshook) and innumerable TV shows to his credit. He currently leads Yoodlee Films at Saregama India Ltd., where he is tasked with helping Indian Indie filmmakers make their passion feature projects come alive. Yoodlee has produced 11 feature films in the last 18 months, including the award-winning Ajji, and the critically acclaimed Kuch Bheege Alfaaz, and aims at bringing thematically led fearless films to audiences worldwide.

Suri Gopalan founded Vista India in 1992. It is one of the largest distributors of Indian Music and Film outside of India and has over 20 years in the ethnic markets with partners that include over 100 Indian music and film companies. Suri’s core focus is in working towards enabling sustainable revenues for filmmakers in the brave new world of the digital.

The panel was moderated by Meenakshi Shedde – South Asia Consultant to the Berlin International Film Festival, based in Mumbai. Winner of India’s National Award for Best Film Critic, she has been on the jury of 20 international film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin and Venice and is an independent film curator, as well as a film journalist and critic.