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Shoestring budget is now no impediment
SHWETA SHARMA  12th Jun 2011

A still from the Kweezzz commercial made by Mihir Desai

ndie filmmakers worldwide are shifting to do-it-yourself mode, as big studios in India and abroad go for massive budget cuts post-Recession. They are often paying for their own distribution, marketing films through social networking sites and Twitter, and uploading their work free on the Web to build a reputation.

Movies like Onir's I Am, Amol Gupte's Stanley ka Dabba and international releases like Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity managed to create an impact on the audience without the backing of any big banner, which was earlier considered the mantra for success. And to help these filmmakers cross the conventional barriers of filmmaking and encourage amateurs to make movies with available resources, independent filmmaker Mihir Desai started a do-it-yourself film production company, Auteur Mark (AM), that aspires to create high quality content with limited resources and budget.

"Experience has taught me that if there is a story worth telling, then the budget and format does not always matter. AM leads by example to prove that filmmakers shouldn't be intimidated by huge resources. Also, reaching audiences is not as difficult as they think. A lot of filmmakers still believe that bigger equipment, bigger sets invariably lead to better movies. That is not true. Our films are scheduled and budgeted in a way that we can make the best use of the available resources, without compromising on quality," says Desai. According to filmmaker Onir, the Indian audience is divided and driven by economics. He claims, independent filmmaking is not practiced in India because of lack of monetary resources. "The world over, cinema is supported by the Government or other bodies, as it is considered an agent of change, which is not the case in India. Movies can be made, but distribution requires money, which is not the strength of independent cinema. We are trying, but it will not happen overnight," he told Guardian20.

AM seeks to encourage alternative methods that can be deployed by fresh filmmakers. Apart from making online content, it also provides resources for independent directors to enhance their production value and video content. Depending on the projects, they shoot films on the new DSLRs, build their own rigs sometime, and for distribution use free websites like Vimeo and YouTube, cutting on production costs.

"AM is all about empowering, sharing and collaborating in an inclusive model. Our new initiative, the Auteur Mark Sound Bank is a sound effects library with diegetic, non-diegetic, ambient sounds for filmmakers around the world to use. This is a first of its kind initiative in India which is absolutely free. One needs to visit, choose the sounds and download. Everything is under Creative Commons, we don't ask for money, though we do ask for on screen credit. I also shoot a lot of B roll footage (like landscape, portraits, city, time lapse) and post it online as my contribution to the community of filmmakers. These can be downloaded for free on the AM Vimeo page," Desai said. Desai states that despite India's huge talent resource, there is no platform to exhibit it. He feels that indie films are still a niche because not many films are created to break out of the usual format of filmmaking. "It seems like these guys are either too hesitant to take that step or money conscious, and I don't blame them for that. But short films and online viral content will help them improve their skills. And once the word spreads, it'll also help them get more work," he concludes.

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