Last week, filmmakers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK announced that they would launch an initiative to help upcoming filmmakers, with a tweet that read, 'When we first started off, we had to do it all by ourselves. So we've been thinking…why not be there for other filmmakers like us?' Under a new branch of their production house D2R, the two plan to use all they've learnt over the course of their 12-year-long career to not only mentor first-time directors, but also back their projects financially. Nidimoru can't say much about the first film they've funded as part of this venture, only that it comes out later this week. What he does talk about is the kind of projects they're looking to fund, what a good pitch should entail and what he and DK wish they knew when they first started out:
What made you decide to launch an indie branch of your production house?
We started off as independent filmmakers and back then, we didn't know much about the process and we didn't have contacts or funding. We didn't have a foot in the door and so we had to teach ourselves how to make films, how to get them released. It was a process of discovery and starting from scratch. Independent cinema is where winning ideas and fresh interpretations of genres can be found. A good indie film is always a breath of a fresh air because there's always a fresh perspective. That's because you're only working with the essentials. You have a story or an idea. You don't have big budgets or a large crew or even a big cast. We experienced that on our first couple of films into which we poured all our savings. We learnt not just storytelling, but how to produce a film ourselves. Having gone through that, we thought it would be nice to be there for others who are starting out, give them the backing we wish we had.
We've been unofficially working with a bunch of filmmakers for a while — helping them fine-tune their scripts or set up a movie. We've even given them some of our stories to make the way they want. DK and I used to room together and filmmakers would come over to hash out their stories. We weren't producing those films or getting involved officially, but we'd help them out from a creative point of view. We thought it was time to formalize this.
So the plan is to produce films and mentor indie filmmakers?
Yeah, maybe we can now use our leverage to try and get actors to star in these films also. We have a film coming out this week that we've invested money in. It would've been hard to get funding for this film otherwise because it's from a new voice and it lacks the usual 'packaging' of films today. So we thought we'd put our money into it, take a risk. If it goes to a couple of festivals, great. If it releases, even better. If we recover our money, even better. We wanted to make it as simple as: We went to the bank, got a cheque, now go make your film. We want indie filmmakers to make their film the way they intend to, without too many players being involved. For this project, we sat in on script discussions, we went to the shoot but didn't interfere in their process, and then sat in on the first cut. It's all about the key areas in which we can support the filmmaker.
What sort of voices are you looking to champion? What kind of stories are you excited to be part of?
We've been getting hundreds of messages from people who've made films or short films or have a series idea. That's not the volume we'll be able to handle and that's not what the plan is. The plan is to curate specific pitches that are either unique in terms of vision and storytelling or in terms of subject. We're giving preference to first-time filmmakers. We're looking for films that are not 'commercial' in terms of packaging, but are still fun, exciting and have a solid idea. We'll have to invest time and set up a team to pore through pitches, but the idea is to pick voices that have something specific to say. At the end of it, we want to put out a film that has something new to offer.
Are you accepting pitches? Is there a way for people to get in touch with you?
We're setting up an account to which people can send pitches. They better register their ideas first — enough stuff has been stolen from me, so this is my advice now. If we read a pitch and like it, we'll get in touch and ask for more details, either a treatment or a whole script.
The idea isn't to invite every possible entry and then turn it into a contest. What we plan to communicate to people is that we're looking for something of good quality. Most of the time, people approach us with a half-attempt or a vague idea. It's not about us making 10 films a year, right now we don't even have a target. It's more about us putting all our effort into one great idea and trying to get it made. When we expand our team, we'll look at pushing two great ideas.
What should people definitely have in place before they approach you?
Ideally, one paragraph on the film that makes a lot of sense. A pitch or a blurb that sounds unique. From there, we'll get a fairly decent idea of whether the project is good. What happens is that people send in a blurb that feels like any other film and then say, 'When you read about it more in detail, you'll see how fresh it is.' That's never the case. You should make the film stand out in one paragraph. Even if your idea isn't out of this world, your blurb should show your clarity of thought. Sometimes, people ask to come over for narrations. We're not really fans of narrations — if something has to work, it will work on paper. We don't mind helping you with your script, but the big idea has to come from you.
At the end of the day, we're also looking for people interested in filmmaking. They can be individuals or teams of two or three. We're not looking for stories that we can direct, we have a surplus of those. We're looking for filmmakers who need our support.
You mentioned that when you first started out, you had to figure out everything by yourselves. What are some of your learnings from that time?
We studied scripting because we thought that would make us stronger filmmakers. When we made our first film, we didn't even know of the concept of film festivals. We didn't know that you could send your film to one and then it could get picked up for distribution there. So the marketing of a film was something we really had to figure out. We learnt a lot, from casting to shot divisions to sound mixing to VFX to how to run a set. We ended up working on almost every department on that film and we knew that even if we didn't have anyone else, the two of us could make a film together. We even made our own posters. We even had to figure out editing — we've shot the film, now what? We learnt so much just by being on set, things like how to rework a scene if the actor is messing up, how to work quickly. We wished we had another person to talk to and ask: How do we do this? Now want to pass on all these hacks we've learnt to first-time filmmakers.
As someone who's been making films since 2009 and been a producer himself, what makes a good producer?
Someone who picks a subject that he cares for and can relate to. If you're a producer making a film for a film's sake, because woh chal raha hai aajkal, you'll only be invested in it financially, not emotionally. If the filmmaker has an issue and needs more money, you'll have to make a call not just based on numbers but also on emotions. If you're a filmmaker yourself, you'll understand where the director is coming from, why he's struggling, what he's trying to do. That will shape how you decide to help him make the kind of film that he wants to. So the ideal scenario is a producer who has directed a film or a short so that he understands the value of each department and each process.