Attention Please! say Amanda Sodhi & K J Singh
What better way to get people’s attention than Attention Please! It’s also the title of Amanda Sodhi and K J Singh’s documentary in the making. Meet these passionate musicians who are out there to get your attention with their candid views on the subject that they feel for the most – Independent Music Scene in India.
What was the inspiration or incident that made you want to make Attention Please?
K J Singh (KJ): The independent music industry in India has been ignored by the two main platforms where visibility is ensured, namely Radio and TV. Young kids are taking to music as an alternate profession but getting no support. So it was time that someone collected and collated all these views and opinions, from across India, and presented them.
Amanda Sodhi (AS): I wanted to understand why being immersed in the independent music scene in India seems like a nonviable option for most musicians. Why is the scene not as far ahead as it could be and should be? And there was a slightly selfish motive too; being a singer-songwriter from the ‘outside’, trying to make it in India, I wanted to make sense of everything going on in the indie scene to comprehend things better. I’ve been covering the music scene as a journalist for several years, so putting together my skills as a journalist and filmmaker, and my passion and interest in music to use, was rewarding.
When you say Attention Please whose attention do you seek?
KJ: Attention of the 1 billion plus Indian population that has grown up on a staple diet of music of all forms. Attention of the government so that we can lobby with them into making laws that support the non-film music industry. Attention of the people within the independent music industry to see that there are common issues that the industry shares, which need to be addressed collectively.
AS: We are seeking the attention of audiences across the globe, including India, for the independent music scene here because not much limelight has been given to this very important segment of the music industry.
How big was your crew through the making of this film?
KJ: We shot with a crew of 3 people. There was a cameraman, sound engineer and an assistant common to both.
You have managed to get interviews of quite a few like-minded and influential people. How easy or difficult was it?
KJ: Being in the industry for over three decade definitely helps (Smiles). Once people realized what it was for and that it was the first of its kind initiative that they were going to be featured in and that their opinion mattered, everyone agreed.
AS: Everyone has been extremely supportive within the scene; people have been kind enough to take out time to share their thoughts and stories on camera for our film. Ultimately, we are showcasing a scene they are all a part of, a scene we all wish to see grow further in India.
How long did it take to actually put the film together, right from its conception?
AS: Within a matter of days of discussing this idea, KJ and I began writing questions and reaching out to people from the scene ranging from bands to sound engineers to label heads to artist managers for interviews. The shoot began within hardly two weeks thanks to August Moon Productions stepping on board to help fund the shoot.
How was the experience of collaborating with each other?
KJ: Well we managed to come this far without a single fight so that says something about Amanda. She is very focused, organized and a bit mad, which `I think is good when making a documentary like this.
AS: K J Singh is an awesome sound engineer and producer, and is an equally amazing mentor and human being. The entire process has been very collaborative, and we have been on the same page throughout which has made the whole project pretty smooth and stress-free! This documentary would not have happened without his support, encouragement and inputs.
How did you go about the scripting process? Did you have a locked script on paper or is it shaping up on the edit table?
AS: We both had a series of questions we wanted to address in our documentary, but this is not a fictional film where we can script dialogues or a plot. There are various things about the independent music scene we wanted to understand through these interviews, and now the final film will shape up on the edit table. We have over 60 hours of priceless footage to sift through!
You tend to go overboard when you are so passionate about the subject and attached to the cause. How difficult was it to edit? Did you have to let go of some informative parts for the sake of holding the viewer’s attention?
KJ: Currently we are crowdfunding from within the fraternity itself to secure sufficient funding to get us through post-production and showcase the documentary at film festivals and private screenings. We are hoping to begin editing the film within a few weeks. Indeed, it is going to be difficult to determine what sections from 60+ hours of footage make it into the final 90-minutes we release. We are going to work with an external editor so we have a different pair of eyes taking look at the material we’ve collected.
AS: We are yet to start the edit but going by the promo edit, it is evident that we will not be able to squeeze everything in to 90 minutes. We will really have to be careful and take material which supports and underlines what the documentary is trying to say.
International Bands sell out more often than not when they perform. How do music festivals like Rockfest /NH7 help independent artists and bands sell their own shows/ DVDs / songs on ITunes etc. Or are they just valid in such multi band festival environment.
KJ: It’s the thing called DISCOVERY. You may end up coming for one band or artist and you go back discovering a totally new band or artist, whom you had never heard or for that matter, never thought you would like that genre of music. Also, with such multi-band festivals, the demographics are spread far and wide and the chance of someone hearing you and liking you go up tremendously. From there you form your fan base and move ahead.
AS: I feel that most artists in India are not very good at engaging their own fans. Most are not very good at social media or PR outreach which is why you will see very few bands out of the relatively newer artists who are able to draw huge audiences to gigs. Also, international artists have sold out shows here because they are not performing in India every day, so you don’t have programming fatigue going on. If your favorite international artist is coming to your city for the first time then you’re bound to want to attend because you know it will be a while before you get to see them live again. Most people end up taking their local artists for granted.
I think festivals help connect artists to audiences that they might not have been able to tap into on their own, by offering valuable exposure – for example, someone might have walked into an NH7 for a rock band they love and end up discovering a folk artist also performing at the festival.
Though the promo is brazen and in your face, if you had to tell us in one line, what message are you trying to get across?
KJ: Non-film music in India needs support from all quarters to survive.
AS: We are showcasing the independent music scene in India in terms of how far it has come, the hurdles in the way of getting to where it has potential to reach, as well as a few inspirational stories too.
You surely need more support to make this film happen and shape up the way you have imagined. What is the response that you have received so far?
KJ: We are already inviting people from within the independent music fraternity to come out and support this initiative. We have had a fantastic positive response from all those whom we approached.
AS: We are reaching out to people for funding to get into post-production and release the documentary, so we’d be happy with all the support people would like to offer! So far, the people we have reached out to from within the fraternity have been extremely gracious and encouraging.
Being a film–maker/ writer/ journalist, you have a medium through which you can reach out. How do you think should upcoming musicians go about finding their feet in this field?
KJ: As veteran Rahul Ram, from Indian Ocean, says in the interview “You need to perform as much as possible.” There is no substitute to playing in different venues, cities, towns, clubs, festivals etc. and interacting and engaging your fans through social media, be it Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Vimeo.
AS: I think an artist needs to focus on two things – a) creating music they believe in and b) building/creating/reaching out to a relevant audience actively and becoming more PR/social media savvy because the truth is there are so many excellent artists coming up every day and artists need to become a bit more aggressive in marketing themselves. Ultimately, an artist needs an audience – so there shouldn’t be any shame in going all out!
How much resistance do they face from family? Is it even considered as a valid profession in India?
KJ: I think things are different from what they were 20 years ago. Music and its allied professions like sound engineering, production, DJing are all looked upon as viable professions. Parents are, in fact, putting their children through music and audio courses so that they can be far more informed when they step out. The number of music and audio schools are proof of that. Also the quantum of sale of musical instruments has gone up. And this is a pan India phenomenon.
AS: I think the very fact that there are tons of talented people entering the music scene every day shows that more people clearly do view music as a valid profession now than let’s say two decades ago. However, that said and done, yes, in India as a whole, it will still take time for the scene to grow enough for the overall mindset of the general public to accept any form of art as a ‘valid profession’ instead of a mere ‘hobby’.
What has been your most memorable incident/ interview while making this film?
KJ: Meeting some of the most iconic people of this independent music industry and the interview of the band in a cab!
AS: I was going through a slightly dark phase when I started off making this documentary, so many interviews really helped re-inspire me and put things into perspective. Raghu Dixit’s interview really inspired me. There have been a lot of memorable incidents and interviews, and I had a great time with our crew running from one interview to the next!
By when and where all do you plan to release the film?
KJ: Somewhere around September 2015
AS: We plan on sending our film to various film festivals across the globe as well as organize private screenings at events and colleges.
– Ashwini Kulkarni