Crowdfunding and Indie cinema in India – Panel Discussion

 A new wave of Indie filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of Indian cinema with their fresh and edgier takes on contemporary society and culture. Eschewing patronage and subsidy, the filmmakers who make independent cinema are relying on new and creative ways to fund their works, by directly reaching out to their audiences.
Wishberry, hosted a panel discussion on “Crowdfunding and independent cinema in India” at the seventh edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. The panel discussion was held on May 28, 2016. Wishberry is the leading crowdfunding platform for creative projects in India. More than 300 creative projects spanning across films, music, theatre, dance etc. have raised close Rs. 7 crores from over 12,000 backers in India using Wishberry. The panel discussion brought together filmmakers who have successfully raised funds for their films using Wishberry as well as activists who crowdfunded for a cause. They shared their experience and learnings from this new and alternative way of funding.
The moderator of the discussion was Priyanka Agarwal, one of the founders of Wishberry. The other panelists included film director Rupa Rao, Sakshi Janeja, editor of Gaysi Zine, Pallav Patankar of The Humsafar Trust and activist Harish Iyer.

The talk began with Priyanka asking Rupa, “What did you crowdfund and why did you do it?”

“I wrote this story ten years ago. Finally, when I decided to make it I looked for producers for nine months, all in vain. Crowdfunding was my last option and so came to life a web series about two girls falling in love in the 90’s and their innocence, passion, and the drama that follows,” said Rupa.

Rupa, who has herself contributed to other crowdfunding causes was asked about the motivation behind the different campaigns that she has backed. “It is the different motivation and dynamics that are the driving forces behind what I do. I supported the Mumbai Pride march the first time to show my support and solidarity as I personally couldn’t be there,” she responded.

Sakshi Juneja shared her crowdfunding experience with the Gaysi Zine, “Money was one of the main reasons as we were people with day jobs who run the magazine in our spare time. Crowdfunding was also a way to test a product and see if people we ready to come out and support it,” said Sakshi.

Pallav then shared some reasons why he prefers Wishberry over Facebook or a blog, “Wishberry provides convenience in payment gateway and format, there is also a certain rigor attached to it. It also makes one aware of other campaigns that are being funded by close friends and colleagues. The platform helps to start on a certain level. It also provides factor of authenticity and honesty. As the backers are often looking for a kind of assurance, about the way their money will be used,” said Pallav.

When asked about what is the main motivation behind the crowdfunding that he does through Wishberry, Harish Iyer said, “I personally believe that if you can give something, give time. If you can’t give time, then give money. When it comes to Gaysi Zine and Mumbai Pride March, I expect people to donate because they are my causes, but I can’t really expect them to do it, unless I do it myself.  Every time you see a friend backing a project on Wishberry, it automatically urges you to do the same,” said Harish.

As a founder of Wishberry, Priyanka shares her own insights, “There are a lot of little details that go into crowdfunding. Little details like not launching a campaign during Diwali or Christmas, or the end of the month.”

Priyanka then asked Pallav, about the fact that 40%of the pride march’s backing which comes from unknown people. “The funding is done by the community, which comprises different individuals every year. There is an underlying feeling of collective belongingness where everyone relates to it as their own campaign and so the funding continues to come from different sources each year,” said Pallav.

Sakshi shared her lessons, “One very important factor in successful crowd funding is to have many friends who are willing to part with their money. This is actually very hard, especially because it is a small market in India. People here are not ready to part with their money.” Pallav added: “It is also necessary to maintain 100% transparency about how the money is being used.”

Answering a question raised by a member of the audience, Harish said, “to attract funders it need not necessarily be a social message. If your cause has honesty and integrity, that’s all you need.”

“A great idea doesn’t need a push, it just pulls. All you need to worry about is the creative idea,” concluded the co-founder of Wishberry  Anshulika Dubey who was also present amongst the audience.