Crowdfunding is a boon for independent filmmakers – Upendra Sidhaye
It may not be the first option that filmmakers think of, but crowdfunding works as a savior when all other options run out. Crowdfunding has helped several unique stories reach their fruition and brought to fore films that would otherwise be lost in oblivion.
Episode 13 is one such film that has adopted the crowdfunding route for its completion. We spoke to Upendra Sidhaye, the writer and one of the actors of the film, on their approach to crowdfunding, its benefits and their association with Wishberry.
Why did you’ll decide to go the crowdfunding way for Episode 13? And at what stage was this decision made?
Honestly, I don’t think filmmakers “choose” crowdfunding. When you run out of all kinds of traditional funding options, then “crowdfunding” is the only way out. Frankly, if we had funds to complete the post-production and release the film, we wouldn’t have gone to Wishberry. But we did not have a choice. We went and approached numerous production houses, studios and independent financiers. Everyone loved the film but nobody knew what to do with it. We knew exactly what to do with it but we didn’t have money.
Wishberry gave us a platform to raise the funds and use them exactly as we wished, to complete this passion project. We also believed that crowdfunding is the best way for Episode 13 because it’s not your regular film. It’s not a typical horror film or a typical Marathi film, it’s not even a typical Hindi film. That’s a huge plus as well as a non-plus. Wishberry gave us the freedom to directly interact with our audience and let us collaborate with them and complete the film. I think that’s an amazing & exciting approach.
What are the factors that one has to keep in mind while adopting the crowdfunding route for their film?
We’re still figuring out this new way of funding as we’re also doing this for the first time. But I think that crowdfunding should be the LAST option. Also, not all films are compatible with crowdfunding. If I’m making a masala potboiler then I don’t need to crowdfund. The film has to be unique in some way, for example, Episode 13 is Marathi’s first ever Found-Footage Horror film. This kind of USP increases the chance as it tells the potential funders that we’re making something unique and they might want to be part of it.
Tell us about the amount you’ll aim to raise through the campaign and how much portion of the film will it support?
We’re trying to raise Rs. 15 lakhs in 60 days. We’ve already completed the shooting and editing. So we’ll be using the 15 lakhs to complete the post-production processes. We’ll spend six lakhs on Digital Intermediate (D.I), 4.78 lakhs on Sound (Dubbing & Mixing), 2.50 lakhs on Visual Effects (VFX) and 1.72 lakhs are Wishberry’s admin costs.
Are there various stages to the campaign?
Yes, the first stage is to pitch the project to the Wishberry team. We showed our edit to them, they loved it and realized how important this film is for us. Then a strategy for the campaign was planned and the two most important factors were decide – how much money to be raised and in how many days. The next stage was to decide the timeline. One must create basic awareness about the project so that people know that this kind of a project is in the pipeline. So that when the actual campaign is launched there is already a dedicated “fanbase” to communicate with.
Social Media plays a huge role in crowdfunding. Also any other kind of publicity via TV channels, newspapers, online publishing houses, forums etc. help in strengthening the reach. Wider the database, higher the chance to reach target. The next stage is to make a Pitch Video, which is one of the most important steps. Wishberry has some great guidelines which helped us make our Pitch Video. Then you decide on Rewards – what would funders get in return? Funders are not looking for profit-sharing but recognition and a sense of belonging. All these stages prepare you for the crowdfunding but the real battle begins when the campaign goes live. You have to work round the clock to ensure that the campaign is reaching its potential funders and creating the much-needed awareness.
Why did you’ll choose Wishberry as a platform for the campaign?
It was a very easy decision. We were sold on Wishberry’s terrific track record. Also small details like many crowdfunding sites accept credit cards only but Wishberry allows even debit cards to fund, made a difference. Also, their team was very helpful and available 24×7 to guide us.
And what are the suggestions given by Wishberry to make sure that you’ll reach your target?
Frankly, we’re creative people and we don’t know much about marketing. And crowdfunding needs a lot of marketing & research. Wishberry gave us some invaluable inputs to tap into the database and reach people who would actually fund us.
What according to you has led to the popularity of crowdfunding in India? And how do you see it giving an impetus to independent filmmakers?
I think the surge in independent content has a lot to do with the popularity of crowdfunding. Web has opened billions of doors to create abundant content without any boundaries and constraints. But traditional financiers are still not open to back new and different content. That’s where crowdfunding comes to the rescue. Not many people will have 15 lakhs at one go to fund a movie, but there might be 158 people with small amounts that add up to 15 lakhs. And these 158 people may not be from the film industry but they are truly passionate movie-buffs who want to see new kinds of films being made, or relatives/acquaintances who want some of the team-members to do well. The reason can be professional or personal but they all want the project to be completed. It is definitely a boon for independent filmmakers as it eliminates the mediator and links them directly to the audience for whom they’re making films. And it gives the audience an opportunity to be part of something that they’d like to see on the big screen.
But surely there are various challenges that one faces while crowdfunding. Could you throw light on the obstacles one faces?
Yes, there are tons of challenges. If you think that crowdfunding is easy, then you’re mistaken. You have to be really persistent, pushy and even annoying. People love you and love your pitch videos and Facebook posts but that doesn’t mean that those ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ will translate into actual funds. You have to literally push people to watch the pitch video and fund. If you see our Facebook timelines, you’ll see that we are flooding it with content of our Wishberry campaign. Because on social media, people just browse and move on. They don’t have time to truly wait, spare five minutes to watch the Pitch Video and think whether they’d like to fund. So you have to make special efforts to bring it to their notice.
We’re not spamming but reminding them everyday that this crowdfunding campaign for Episode 13 is the most important thing in our lives right now. In addition, you have to do personal follow-ups and push them, motivate them to fund as soon as possible. In the initial days of the campaign, people don’t fund thinking, “there are still 59 days to fund! So we will fund later.” Now if everyone thinks that way, our campaign account remains empty. Also people who really want to fund, check the page and when they see that only a little amount has been contributed, they get demotivated. It’s like a vicious circle. So one has to persistently push and even hammer the message beyond the point of irritation, so that people get up and actually fund. Also, many people would ask, “where to send the money? Can I send it to you instead? Can I send cash?” and so on. It takes time and patience to answer all those FAQs and then convert them into actual funds.
[You can help the filmmakers fund the post-production phase of Episode 13 by contributing to their crowdfunding campaign here.]