Crowd-funding, crowdsourcing and cinema in the age of the social media

27 Sep,2013

By Fatema Rajkotwala


The influence of the internet age and social media has left few areas of creativity untouched and has then seeped into how this creative output is produced, marketed, received and consumed by the audience. Indian cinema and filmmakers are no exception to the impact of social media. What is the future of the Indian film industry in this scenario? What is the untapped potential of social media in India compared to the West and what are some of the detrimental ways in which it affects us today?


In a freewheeling and candid conversation, Rohan Sippy, Director and Producer and Guneet Monga CEO, Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt. Ltd joined Pragya Tiwari, Editor-in-Chief, The Big Indian Picture at the GroupM office in  Goregaon on Day 4 of Social Media Week Mumbai 2013. The panel discussed and debated the areas of Indian filmmaking that have been impacted by social media, alternate ways of marketing and crowdfunding, censorship, criticism and box-office collections for an enthusiastic audience that devoured in each tidbit of the views of the respected movie makers.


While crowdfunding, as an instrumental tool for raising funds for a project through social media networks such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Wishberry is gaining popularity, crowdfinancing and equity financing has still not picked up in India. Voicing her strong belief that the Indian film industry needs to come together to form an ecosystem, new wave producer of films such as Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 1, Peddlers and The Lunchbox, Ms Moonga said, “We cannot function in isolation. The indie community really needs to come together and we need more people talking.” Ms Moonga has successfully used new age techniques like crowdfunding for her films and believes that raising money on networks such as Kickstarter has worked well for many. “Raising money through crowd funding is comparatively, much more structured and popular in the West.”


Talking about the importance of word-of-mouth promotion and freedom from censorship in the advent of social media, the panelists shared their personal experiences on movies such as The Lunchbox, which gained immense buzz on social networks. Movies such as The Good Road, Ship of Theseus and Grand Masti also came up in conversation when the matter of box-office collections came up. Mr Sippy admitted that social media networks such as Twitter as a great leveler but confessed to missing the blissfulness of the simpler ways of filmmaking and marketing of the earlier days. “Taking a film out there still faces a lot of challenges beyond raising money. While it is great that there are now conversations on social media networks and people are getting in touch, these people are now bombarded by everyone. The joy of using these networks was of genuine discovery of something that people are talking about but with the corruption of trending and bought popularity on social media, is lost. There are no rules here and fans can turn a conversation in a national debate. For mainstream films, television is still big in terms of marketing.”


On the issue of box-office reviews and collections, Ms Tiwari asked the panelists if marketing budgets are eating into film budgets and how much is one to believe in the social media popularity for a film’s success. Mr Sippy expressed his refreshing points of view, “Marketing efforts are driven towards the first week of screening, which results in collections and ticket sales tapering down to almost 30 per cent soon. Studios have sold their souls to exhibitors by accepting this arrangement. The pros of social media are that people are listening to their peer groups due to a possible lack of connect made by film critics but we can’t be sure now with marketing hawks having taken over Twitter too.” On the flipside, he agrees that a film can be affected by negative word-of-mouth. “We like shouting; that is the nature on Twitter. Sometimes a big budget film’s collections may also get affected by these immediate bad reviews.”


Ms Guneet differed in her opinion here, “There is only this much you can do for small budget films in terms of promotional efforts. Money on television is so high so this is where word-of-mouth helps. We have seen a standard pattern in box-office collections across our films. In the grander scheme of things, the audience for mainstream movies is huge for even one time watchers and B and C sectors.”


Social media is also showing us a new way of watching films -niche or genre films such as zombie films but the panelists agreed that this still doesn’t guarantee it commercial success. “This is good for personal interest. Kids these days like to collect movies because the internet is limitless.”


Moving on to the topic of alternate movie release platforms that are popular internationally, such as Netflix, what hopes do we have for India in this regard and as a way to curb piracy? Playing the devil’s advocate, Mr Sippy light-heartedly admitted, “What else do we have other than hope? Satellite television is so big in India that the bureaucracy results in us having to show a movie on television within two months of release.” On a practical front, he believed that alternate platforms are good for audiences but making it sustainable is a different matter. “We are a different culture of audiences from the Netflix subscribers abroad. Youngsters have a fixed entertainment budget and if they can avail of a censored free version and watch it online, then something is better than nothing.”


Ms Moonga cited that has turned piracy into a money making model. She believes that Video on Demand is the future in India. “VOD is bigger than satellite television rights in the West and is waiting to happen.”


Ship of Theseus was the first film in India to use crowdsourcing as a way to zero in on filming locations. Lamenting on the closing down of many iconic theatres in Mumbai such as Liberty Cinema, Mr Sippy said, “We have to engage exhibitors who want to maximum ticket sales with the highest prices and more popcorn sales. Conversation on social media is great but it finally results in buying a ticket and watching the movie, which will encourage exhibitors.”


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