India — 09/11/2011 1:01 PM

Art of making good documentaries (Economic Times)

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The word ‘documentary’ has far flung implications in the international industry though in India it largely means ‘documenting’ real life incidents. The process involved in making one is very arduous and filmmakers usually take a few years to finish one.

By Yogesh Karikurve, CEO, Magus Entertainment

In Economic Times, Sep 10, 2011

The last few years have seen a sea change in the way documentaries are made and funded, thanks to new media. ‘Multimedia documentaries,’ ‘Web-docs’ and ‘Crowd funding’ are some of the buzz words in the dictionary of filmmakers gaining importance. International documentaries of today are by large a well planned and highly technical phenomena that is yet to penetrate the Films Division dominated Indian psyche.

Pitch it well: Facilitating the process are several documentary festivals like IDFA (Amsterdam), Hot Docs (Toronto), DOK Leipzig (Germany) etc. Most of these festivals have pitching forums where doc- ideas are pitched to the ‘commissioning editors’ who have the authority to disburse funds.

‘Docedge’ is a pitching forum pioneered by Nilotpal Mukherjee and is held in Jan-Feb in Kolkata. ‘Jan Vrijman’ fund associated with IDFA is one of the prime funds that has benefited Indian documentaries while BBC, Arte, YLE and NHK are some of the channels that Indians have co-produced with.

Once extensive research is done and the story is clear, it is time to write the treatment rather simultaneously and develop a trailer for 3-4 minutes. Most filmmakers pitch their ideas in various stages of development for accessing funds separately for development, production and post-production.

Follow-up: The producer should be following up with all leads that arise from the pitching process. Past history of co-producers, projects completed by them, their reputation in the industry and more importantly their rapport with the media platforms are good parameters.

Marketing: The marketing of any film starts right from the time the idea is conceived and continues through the making and selling of the film. Beyond the traditional realms of marketing, it is important to build up support for the film through websites, social networking forums, word-of-mouth and viral marketing. Participating in film festivals, PR and other eye balls attracting activities become important and hence a 2 member team of director-producer works the best rather than being a lone ranger.

Selling: Choosing a good sales agent who has a good reputation and is well connected with media platforms is very critical. Normally a commission of 30% is charged by the agent and the territories are given to him exclusively for a period of minimum 3 years.

  

Recently quite a few Indian documentaries like ‘Supermen of Malegaon’, ‘The Little Terrorist’ (Oscar nominee), ‘Bilaal’ etc. have made it big on the international circuit. With the European economic crisis and the American debt crisis, Asia is in focus for stories and for co-productions. Though foreign filmmakers have made popular docs like ‘The Bengali Detective’, ‘Pink Saris’, ‘Smile Pinky’, etc. on Indian subjects, it is just a matter of time before an Indian wakes up to the challenge and makes an Oscar winning documentary from India. Aren’t we a land of story tellers?

(Yogesh Karikurve is the CEO of Magus Entertainment (magusentertainment.in) a young platform for filmmakers to get funding and sales for their films.)

India Times

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