The usually calm and desolate streets of Goa have come alive in the last 48 hours. Between the 47th International Film Festival (IFFI) and the 10th NFDC Film Bazaar being held within 5 minutes distance of each other, the city of Panjim has been overrun by films and filmmakers. While IFFI is where one goes to watch movies, the Bazaar is where they get made. For 4 days, the Goa Marriott Resort and Spa is home to young filmmakers, sales agents and festival programmers. There are business meetings, pitching sessions and script narrations unfolding at every nook and cranny of this picturesque resort.
Raam Reddy, the director of the multiple award-winning Kannada film Thithi, said his journey too began at this bazaar. He was just 24 and had no idea what a sales agent was. But a producer he met at the daily cocktail party loved the concept of Thithi, and word got around about this bright, enthusiastic filmmaker on the horizon. “Everything changed from there on. I owe everything to this Bazaar,” he told me.
Charles Tesson, the artistic director of Cannes Critic’s Week, is here every year to scout for fresh voices. This is where he first discovered Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox. Tesson spent all of yesterday watching every film in the viewing room – a place where interested parties can pick a private booth and watch rough cuts and incomplete works of filmmakers looking for funding. He diligently made notes against each film he watched and marked out names of filmmakers he wanted to meet later. “The great thing is that we are all in one place. I can meet filmmakers and give them my feedback. Sometimes I tell them the film is good but needs to be much shorter,” said Tesson.
While the energy is exhilarating, it’s also sometimes heartbreaking. By the end of day 1, I overheard a somewhat recognisable actor and filmmaker deliver the fastest pitch I’ve ever seen to a jet-lagged producer from New York. “I’m sorry I can’t process any of this,” the producer said politely before walking away. Several filmmakers I went on to meet confessed that they need to be part-time hustlers as well.
Filmmaker Amit Masurkar, who debuted with his indie film Sulemani Keeda in 2014, was here at the bazaar in 2015 looking for support for his second him Newton, starring Rajkummar Rao as an election officer in Chhatisgarh. When we met last night, Amit said he was almost ready with his film and is looking to release it in the first half of year. Last year, he pitched his concept at the co-production market and set up meetings with the five producers he wanted to meet via personalised emails. He points out that thoughtful emails are more likely to get a response than spamming every producer or programmer at the bazaar or stalking them for meetings – a crime many helpless filmmakers are guilty of.
This year the co-production market introduced the concept of video pitches. Every filmmaker had to present a 5-minute clip where they spoke about the film they wanted to make, and more importantly explain why they felt their story deserved to be told. Urmi Juvekar, the head of development and production at Film Bazaar, says she trains writers and directors to make effective pitches and use their 5 minutes effectively. “I always tell them ‘Don’t panic. You need to project the same confidence that we have in you’,” she says.
This year there were some familiar faces at the pitch. Devashish Makhija sent a video pitch for Bhonsle, his first feature starring Manoj Bajpayee. He said the film about an ageing Mumbai cop takes forward Bajpayee’s character from their successful short film Taandav. The pitches that hit home were the ones that were deeply personal and heartfelt. Nepalese director Abinash Bikram Shah’s story about his sister’s lonely battle with breast cancer left a lump in my throat.
After every pitch, producers were allowed to cross question the filmmakers on their project and set up one-on-one meetings with them. After the nearly 4-hour long pitching session, a member of the NFDC told me, “These next few days are crazy. But if you’re genuinely talented, some one will find you.”