Indian Indies turn to Crowdfunding

Filmmakers take matters into their own hands to get financing for hit films

Crowdfunding may be going mainstream in Hollywood, but in India, it is very much the preserve of the independent sector.

Facebook and Twitter campaigns are some of the methods current Indian independent filmmakers use to raise rupees from their prospective audience. Anurag Kashyap Films and Sikhya Entertainment used Facebook to raise half of the $300,000 budget for Vasan Bala’s 2012 Cannes selection “Peddlers.” Eros Intl. subsequently acquired the film. Mono-monikered helmer Onir raised his entire $670,000 budget for 2010’s “I Am” via Facebook and Twitter campaigns, and produced the pic via his Anticlock Films shingle.

But besides global crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Distrify, Indian filmmakers also have access to local platforms like Wishberry, Funduzz and Catapooolt .

Bikas Mishra used Wishberry to raise $6,800 for development of his first feature, “Chauranga” (Four Colors). “It helped us to keep the project afloat,” Mishra says.

Wishberry chief operating officer Anshulika Dubey believes independent filmmakers are increasingly turning to crowdfunding because they are frustrated with money coming from a select few — and with strings attached.

“The other benefit filmmakers are getting out of crowdfunding is its inherent marketing value,” Dubey says. “Once a person goes all out asking for funds, he is essentially already marketing his film and creating buzz around it.”

Pawan Kumar chose the crowdfunding route for Kannada-language “Lucia” despite the box office success of his traditionally funded debut feature “Lifeu ishtene” (That’s Life). He used Distrify to create awareness of the film with potential international investors, and raised his budget of $100,000 mostly from Indians living outside the country, then produced and directed via his Audience Films and Home Talkies shingles.

India’s Securities and Exchange Board does not allow businesses to ask for funds on public forums in exchange for monetary returns, unless those entities are registered as a public limited company. Most crowdfunded films offer investors rewards in the form of posters, DVDs, Blu-rays, electronic press kits and access to screenings and premieres in lieu of cash. However, if the number of investors is fewer than 50, crowd participation is allowed in exchange for equity.

Kumar ensured that his investors were fewer than 50. He also raised funds for theatrical distribution by pre-selling DVDs, soundtrack CDs and online streaming views to individuals. And his investors aren’t unhappy. “Lucia,” released across India on Sept. 6, has already recouped its production budget and is on course to make a tidy profit. And broadcast rights have been sold to Udaya TV, part of the Sun Network, for $143,000.

(Pictured: “Lucia” raised much of its $100,000 budget from the Indian diaspora.)

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