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How online media gave this film director new hope

Last updated on: August 10, 2012 08:36 IST

How online media gave this film director new hope

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Meghana Biwalkar in Mumbai

The strength and reach of online medium never ceases to surprise us. This mass appeal was well showcased by a telecom player in its commercial a couple of years ago, where its protagonist uses the online medium to put a criminal behind bars.

If you thought that's easy, because it was not real. Think again. For years, young writers have explored this medium to showcase their talent by publishing their books online. New-age bloggers have become household names thanks to the widespread of internet. 

This only goes to say that the medium simply moulds itself by serving as a platform to new age creative minds. This is just the beginning.

Take, Shailja Gupta - a new-age impendent director - who chose the online space to release her first film; taking this platform to a new level.

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Photographs: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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The result: Growing popularity and accolades.

Shailja's movie an Indian-American film -- Walk Away -- deals with the subtleties of the Indian mega-institution of marriage.

Touted as the male version of HBO's hit TV series 'Sex and the City', Walk Away is positioned as a light-comedy drama.

In an exclusive interview with rediff.com, Shailja discusses the online medium, her movie and why she chose to make a film on modern day marriages.

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Image: Shailja Gupta

Tags: Shailja , HBO

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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What was the inspiration behind Walk Away?

This film was inspired by my friends from across the world. I saw them living a pretty conventional life. Typically, these friends have studied in premium schools in India, who eventually got picked up by the biggest corporate houses and got a chance to move abroad and one by one got married (mostly arranged).

In fact they all moved seamlessly from one phase of their life to another. It was as if they were a following a standard template on how to live a life.

And, after few years it was time for them to have a baby. For them, life just moved on. I just found this template-driven life very intriguing.

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Tags: , India

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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Why did you choose to go online with your first film?

I would be lying if I said I always wanted to choose this medium. The truth is I would have loved to get theatrical. I tried a lot, and eventually got tired of chasing distributors. However, when I decided to go online, I thought of choosing a niche.

Therefore, instead of going through the conventional VOD (video-on-demand) platforms like iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, and so on, I chose to use this upcoming technology. This is because the revenue share here is much greater for the makers.

Also, the onus of marketing for both platforms is on the producer. I thus wanted to first exhaust the market share with the movie website and then put it up on general VOD sites.

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Image: The cast of Walk Away

Tags: VOD , Netflix , Amazon

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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What has been the response so far?

The response has been pretty good, though lot of people from India are visiting, consumers from USA, Canada and UK are watching it more.

The campaign has just started here in India, hopefully we will get some really good numbers soon.

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Image: Still from Walk Away

Tags: USA , India , UK , Canada

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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How does a social platform help young professionals like you garner views and clicks?

Word of mouth is very important and I am relying on that through social media sites. For now, I am not exploring advertising. However, I will get to that in the second phase.

At present, I am relying on reaching out via my subscribers. Though, it's a small number of 90,000, it is still a big help. Apart from that, friends of friends and other independent filmmaking community are helping me spread the word.

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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What was your marketing and promotion strategy for the film?

Using digital and social media was my primary focus. And then of course hiring a PR agency and going through the conventional press release, interviews, was another.

What was your pricing strategy? How has it worked for the film?

Pricing is at par with most other VOD sites. In India since this is not common, and this technology is being used for the first time, it is mostly like a case study.

I can say for sure that our price is cheaper than buying one ticket to a multiplex movie. To be honest, people who will watch my film are not really going to watch it for the price. It is for those who are looking to watch some light comedy/drama and sensible cinema.

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Image: Still from Walk Away

Tags: VOD , India

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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With Walkway, you have dabbled with many different roles. So, which according to you was the most challenging and enjoyable role? Why?

I would say it was directing. It was the most challenging role, because I don't really have any experience of assisting in films nor have I studied direction. So, basically I was learning on the project.

What made it more difficult was that I had to switch between being a produced and director, due to limited resources. Thus, sometimes my alter ego of being a producer would come in the way of my creative freedom.

But, at the end of it the most enjoyable part was seeing my ideas and thoughts being converted into something so tangible. The creative satisfaction is unexplainable.

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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Do you think India is ready for the development in the online space?

It is getting there. Quite a few big companies have setup VOD stores here. The biggest challenge is the internet connection, it is still not up to the mark. But, with the mobile connection surpassing the internet, the possibilities of content being pushed here is also getting higher.

I think by 2015 the situation will be totally different. However for this to completely change, filmmakers also need to realise that the only way to combat piracy is to come up with a way to get their films onto these platforms simultaneously.

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Image: Shailja Gupta

Tags: VOD , India

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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You've said that you draw inspiration from Shah Rukh Khan. How is that exactly?

I met Shah Rukh in 1999, while I was working at a graphic designing studio in Mumbai. We became friends and did an internet project together. Though the project didn't take off, I learnt a lot by just being around him and working with him on the sets.

The huge responsibility that he gave me during my internet project was one of the firsts and at a young age I got to learn about some of the latest technologies. Years later when I made my film, he helped me with finishing funds, post production and provided a lot of support. Last year I worked with him on Ra.One, where I was the digital marketing and merchandising head.

Working with him has been one of the best experiences. Once he gives the responsibility he doesn't micromanage, so you get to learn a lot. One thing is for sure, I too have learnt to live like an owl and sleep at 6 am! On a serious note, I learnt how to take chances and surge ahead. He taught me how not to be scared of failures.

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Photographs: Vijay Mathur/Reuters
Tags: Shah Rukh , Ra , Mumbai

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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Do you see the online media coming at par with the traditional media soon?

In a country like India it still has a long way to go. I feel mobile has a better chance to come at par with traditional media. Also in India, language is a barrier. With so many languages, I think online has quite a bit of catching up to do.

At present, TV and newspapers are still popular in regional languages. Also, the culture of going to theatre is still an event in India, unlike USA. So that will be in the forefront for quite a while.

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Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/ Reuters
Tags: USA , India

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How online media gave this film director new hope

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Any word of advice for young filmmakers?

Getting a good story and character sketch is a given. Apart from that get a good team of assistants for different departments.

This is the key to getting a good product. If you are making an independent film, then please be on top of the marketing and promotions too. Finally, use social media as much as possible.


Image: Still from Walk Away

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