Independent Film Making

I get so many people writing in about their desire to make films independently that I am going to publish their letters so as to start a discussion group. Its wonderful how many people from different walks of life are now wanting to express themselves through the medium of film. I guess part of that is because technology has made it so much easier to shoot, edit do the sound and upload the film for people to watch. Gone are the days when, like I did, needed to wait 12 years to convince someone to give me an expensive camera, expensive stock and make Masoom. Yup, 12 long years of trying to convince people I could direct.

Now when people come to me to ask for advice on how to make a film, the answer is simple. Go make one. You have all the tools. Unless you want a theatrical release which is a completely different story. Then your film turns into a project and a business proposal. Do you really want that burden ?

But if someone, anyone wants to share their experience in making/attempting to make an independent film, please do write in ….

28 thoughts on “Independent Film Making

  1. The world of cinema has certainly changed Mr Kapur. Good read.

    I had posted a message yesterday and can’t seem to recall my exact words to share my experience. All I can say is that, it has definitely been a milestone in my life to have that “first hand” experience work right on the front line. I never had any formal training in filmmaking, direction, screenwriting or even managing a set. For me, as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to make films since the age of 15 and will always remember where it all started. I have kindled this dream for over 18 years before I rolled in my first take. Back then, everyone laughed at me for being too young and naive at the age of 15. Those were the days filled with constant reminders about life, career, ambition and a pre-conceived analogy to justify and measure them. I had to grow up with an alter ego. One, that kept his head low and followed the yellow brick road which was cast out of the “worldly” wisdom of family and friends. The other that somehow found a way to hold on to an impossible dream. A dream that is filled with stories, images and bright colors. Hoping and praying that someday life will show the way and I will finally be able to transform all that I have envisioned on to the big screen.

    Now at 33, everyone considers you reckless :). I guess at this age you are expected to lock down your heels on to the tracks of life and follow the pack – as a father, a husband and simply as described by society “a responsible and settled individual”.

    Well, I have taken the plunge and I am glad that I did. I have finally written, produced and directed my first indie full length feature. Thought it is still far fetched from completion at post production but it has definitely been a huge personal achievement and milestone in my life. One of many I hope will come.

    I can certainly understand as you have mentioned about the “burden” that creeps in when aiming for a theatrical release and going beyond indie filmmaking. I think, personally for me it is important to at least attempt the business side of this equation. The reality of cost -vs- creativity will always remain a huge concern for any filmmaker Mr. Kapur. There is just so much that luck and networking can bring to the table. As we continue to push ourselves to go further with creativity, this haunting reality of making it happen with zero investment just doesn’t fit in all the time . I feel to a certain degree, one does require that oomph factor of having a bit of spare change in order to make it happen. You never want to be limited in expressing yourself and reaching your audience.

    As an indie filmmaker, we all watch and witness the success stories of aspiring others who have finally made it. Inspired and rejuvenated, we pick ourselves up, dust our feet and continue searching for a way. Only to come back in full circle. I have been there and to a certain degree am still battling it out everyday.

    But here is the good news. You just have to stick to it and not worry too much about where it will lead you. If the focus remains clear and you find satisfaction and success in the little things you want to create, then whatever you attempt will somehow find a way.

    I believe every single person has a creative side to themselves and at some point in our lives we attempt to explore that. What really makes a difference is not whether we choose to attempt it or not. The real measure of success comes when we are faced with an obstacle half way through the process and the choices we make then will change the outcome.

    Toronto, Canada
    Twitter: amit_benjamin.

  2. Dear Shekhar,

    I was just listening to your TED talk and felt inspired to visit your blog. I was quite impressed by the animated quality of your talk, as well as the brutal honesty and openness with which you shared your suffering of creation.

    I know it so well within my acupuncture practice, where you have to open your mind and heart to create that is perfect and give the perfect treatment as best you can within the moment. Those moments of death are the ideal moments really and are the only truly authentic moments.

    Apart from that, I have this deep desire to make a movie as a creative project, as a fiction that can truly create something positive in the world. I have this movie idea and I have been working on the script very gently. It is going to be called ‘The Happiness Project’ and it is going to be vignettes from people’s lives woven together at the end in a manner that is humorous, joyful and real to people. I do believe, that, as a medium cinema should entertain always, which in my opinion, is the complete engagement of the senses of the mind and heart. This engagement is necessary, and the heartful presence of your work authentically, can and will create that possibility in all people.

    Just wanted to share all this.



  3. Hi Shekhar

    Very well said. No other medium can express you better than films. The very concept of recreating characters and situations and to capture them with your camera is amazing. And yes, I completely agree, that if you are not burdened with the idea of a theatrical release, you can do wonders as an independent film maker.

    I have just completed my first film titled “With Love, Delhi!” as an independent filmmaker. Its an English language film with Seema Biswas, Tom Alter and Kiran Kumar in lead roles. Its an intelligent thriller where you have clues to decipher to reach different monuments in Delhi.

    My entire experience with this film has been fantastic. There are 3 of us who produced this film (Myself- A Chartered Accountant & 2 Others- from IIT Delhi). All of us left our corporate jobs and put in our efforts (well more than that, actually can do anything to make films) to make this movie. And today we are in the final stages of this 100 minute film doing post-production in Mumbai.

    Every bit of this experience has been joy to us. It was as if we were together giving birth to a child and could do anything for it.

    Its my wish that some day I could show you my first ever film as I owe my journey into filmmaking to you.

    Happy Filming


  4. Hello shekhar sir,this is Dushyant i am posting my short film on paranormal activity which i made by simple camera and sound is added by my frnd via softwares..sound quality is not up to mark but in order to prove my imigination,i just shoot it the way i think or the way i feel..

    i think film making is an individual style of story telling,none of the institiute on the planet earth can’t teach u that how to make a is a medium and depends on person to person that how they would like to see the things..i just remember one line from quentin tarantino-

    if million people watch my films than i hope they see million different films..

    here is my short film-

    i also wrote two stories on bhangarh fort and than i sent it to director sudhir mishra sir and they like it..soon i am going to mumbai to meet mr sudhir mishra sir for further possibilty of work..shekhar sir if you are interested than i can send my short stories on paranormal activity to you via facebook but pls give a feedback abt my short film..thnks..

  5. It would be great to discuss, however, I would rather suggest to go deeper with the meaning of “Independent” before I give my comment. If such word added with “Film Making” would intrigue another aspect of life that hasn’t been depicted till date. I hope this will help you determine the answer you are looking for. Moreover, every word is a new translation of an Innovation can be seen if you spare a moment before you sleep.

  6. i always had a passion for movies and two years ago (i am 37 now) i got the chance to take part in a movie contest from author paulo coelho (the experimental witch) and i produced and directed (i would not really say directed but learned a lot from the dp and the people on set) that short movie. lucky me, i won the contest and my short movie played on the cinema festival in rome and i got to meet the other winners and paulo coelho himself. i have been going to workshops the last two years to get more knowledge about scriptwriting, directing actors, camera work, scene settings, etc.
    but since i was so overstrained when doing that short movie i am still not in a position where i feel motivated enough to do another film. maybe i just lack the inspiration. maybe i would need to learn more before i can. maybe my inner voice tells me when the right time and the right idea wants to be materialized in form of a film. will see.

  7. Dear Shekhar,

    Its a great idea. My vision is that in coming 10 years we will see real great talents in this field of cinema because of the easy access to technology. But I strongly believe that films and any work of art are made with a vision and talent not with technology. My calculation is that , even big studio films have to compete with a the real talents out there and eventually film business will not remain a family biz anymore but will become a biz of talent.
    I Would like to share one of my latest work, which is entirely done in my home studio. Right from the recording of song, mixing it, filming the video, editing, directing and whatever you can think of is done all alone. check it out on the link below.

    Best of Regards!

  8. Nothing filmy about filmmaking

    “I want to make a film” – the moment one utters this line, he’s touted the next wannabe. Another brick in the wall, you could say, destined to live with moony eyes inebriated with dreams of becoming the next Satyajit Ray, Kurosawa, Guru Dutt, Shekhar Kapur, or Ram Gopal Varma. It also means making digs at Karan Johars and Yash Chopras and hailing Fellinis, Nolans, Martin Scorches and Oliver Stones as the gods of cinema, and proclaiming to have an ability to teach our desi filmmakers how to make films. Furthermore, one is bound to receive free advices like “Is line mein kisi ka kuch nahin hota”, who go on to tell you that there are better people than you out there, who are waiting at posh cafes and hotels just to get noticed by a director or music composer and get a break as an actor, assistant director or cinematographer.

    Mercifully, times have changed. Films have no longer remained filmy as they used to be. We have wonderful examples like Udaan (the only film, according to me, which can match scales with world cinema). Films like Udaan inspire one to tell their stories in its purest and raw form, stripped off from the glitters of self-pity and melodrama. (Speaking of melodrama, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is melodrama personified. Rent a DVD of The Sea Inside and then watch Guzaarish or still if you feel I am biased watch his Devdas and then Dev D, and you’ll know what I mean).

    So the idea is to tell stories you’ve always wanted to share. And since films are the best medium to express creativity, why not make a film? After all, even MF Hussain needs a Gajgaamini or Minaxi to portray shades on silver screen which his palette could possibly not create on canvass. And so did Gulzar need a Parichay, Kitaab, Koshish or Achaanak to explore a world beyond words. You’d say – every creative person has a story to tell, and everyone thinks it’s worth sharing. My boss at ad agency I work with once told me there’s a film script lying in the drawer of almost every person in the creative department of ad agencies in Mumbai. So does that mean one should give it all up and chase film directors in Mumbai? Maybe you’ll end up quitting your high-paying job only to become a glorified spot boy wearing a tag of Assistant Director at a film studio, following instructions of an exhausted director, enduring tantrums of insecure big stars and being audience to diatribes by frustrated writers. Well, it works for some who’ve been at it and were mentally prepared, but for someone who thinks he can change the way films are made might be in for a rude shock.

    By no means am I being pessimist, but realist. Why mess up our lives to make a film which we could even make on our own? All you’ve got to do is just pick up that cellphone with camera, handycam or even a digital camera and tell your story. You don’t need a Santosh Sivan to shoot your film, do it yourself – the trial and error way, nor do you need an AR Rahman to compose the background score – pick up any film soundtrack and use it (Don’t worry of plagiarism, our filmmakers have been shamelessly doing that since ages) or if you want to stay original, ask any local musician to compose a track for you. Shoot on Sundays if you don’t find time on weekdays, after all there’s no deadline so enjoy the luxury.

    If that sounds too much for you, just buy a script of 3 Idiots or A Beautiful Mind from Crossword, learn the craft of screenplay writing and type your own film in a word document. Keep making films or writing scripts and share them with your friends until you get either the best bouquet or the worst brickbat of your life from them (either way, you have no option but to go on). This way you can start making a collection of your own films and upload them on our good ol’ youtube or even your own blog. Enjoy the celebrity status while it lasts. Who knows your vocation could turn out to be the next Paranormal Activity? Sounds filmy? Well, it isn’t.

    – Prakash Gowda
    Vadodara, Gujarat

  9. I’d love to say this your post is very inspiring, as well as your speech, I just watched at TED.

    I’d love also to pay you a compliment for Elizabeth. The Golden Age.
    To be exact the definition is not mine, but it describes well the level this picture were made on: a friend of mine compared it to Bernard Show dramas like Saint Joan.
    I think he’s right.

    Your sincerely
    Nadezda Pakhmutova, Moscow

  10. thank you Nadzeda, and when you get a chance do write more on your thoughts of the Golden Age. I will write a piece on it soon, shekhar

  11. It all started in Caracas airport, when I was left alone by the taxi-driver. I was coming back home after a month of exhausting job, sun-burnt, frozen by air conditioners, with Caracas smog in my lungs. All around me was grey, white, yellow, hot, sweaty, dusty.
    After standing in two noisy queues, embracing a gold-painted sun-like carved Peruvian balsa mirror, I finally got into the airplane.
    When my neighbor and I were tired enough of talking to each other, I decided to pick a movie to watch. Some costume drama as sleeping aid. Seeing the familiar name of the movie (pen pal costume historian observed in her blog “Not trustworthy but beautiful”) I pressed the button.

    There were no “costumes” at all. And the drama, the plot, was not felt as such, the story slipped on the verge of consciousness. I just I casually have noted: “Well, old story, the one forerights and self-giving will yield the man to one that knows how to demand everything, asking for nothing. Yet whole the thing seems to be too smart for Hollywood”.

    I was surrounded by the blue. Blue chairs, blue cloth and blankets, my own travelling dress – blue as always. There were a navy blue sky and black-blue ocean outside. All the shades of blue were flowing from the screen: cold pale grayish-turquoise, rich cerulean, navy, and ultramarine – dangerous for painters, which our teachers called “overdone.” But in the movie it was present precisely at measure. I was mesmerized by the sensation of “humidity” of the image, by the pulsing watery light, by subtle flashes of gold.
    The action itself, as I have observed, was perceived half-subconsciously. At that moment, the most important thing was a sense of magic blue cocoon around me, kind of pacified alliance with the world, feeling of acceptance of what’s to come. Light in the cabin was turned off, I switched off the monitor.
    The plane was shaking up in turbulent flows, nervous tourists were drinking and praying, the businessmen were snoring, and I was sleeping, feeling that there is Atlantic below me with HER ships running back to Europe.

  12. Hi shekhar sir, I really liked your post. It really inspires the director wannabes like me. I’ve no formal training in movie making but i aspire to be a good director someday. I am a local ad film maker and i’ve also made 3 short films. I’ve written a script and worked on the screenplay for about 6 months. Now iam attempting to make this film. I’ve a passionate bunch of team who are eagerly ready to work free of cost. But sir can you please give us any thoughts about how we can promote our film after finishing it. Coz every indie film maker wants to be recognized.

    With regards,

  13. “…do you really want that burden…” — easy words for someone who’s ‘arrived’ (?) 🙂


    * How do you balance the independence (aka retaining creative freedom) with the economics of making the art – assuming breaking even at the very least (!), and reaching a reasonable audience is part of the equation & film-making objective

    *How do independents garner the marketing & distribution muscle of mainstream players, even if they aspire for a non-theatrical release leveraging alternative/digital platforms ?

    *Any examples of independent cinema w/non-theatrical releases that were commercially successful? Oxymoron?

  14. I am MBE (Master of Business Economics)’s student. I am also want to make a film but I haven’t any equipment & experience & Finance. AND Also not any type of certificate and never work in film industry. But I have only a story. My question is not that what i do ? but my question is that how i do ? Because I must make a film in coming year. I know i have nothing but i know i can. I am writing this mail because I want experience & a person who want to work with me AND Some advise. Thank You.

  15. Dear Mayur,
    you think you have nothing?
    You have got a key in your hands (the idea and maybe a good story).
    Maybe is more than a producer or movie maker has (someone with a mental block )
    Good luck


    Hi Shekhar,

    Please see it and let me know what you think., I mean, it is my first effort to film-making and it is my first project for the first 3 months. I have tried to show – How technology can effect us subconsciously using a snap shot from a couple’s life…I have been a great admirer of your work. Any input from you would be really appreciated.


  17. I think that would be wonderful, I wish to get into directing …and its crazy convincing people at home. I am trying that since last september and I have not managed to do the same. Hearing about your 12 years wait, I am definately not giving up so soon.
    Do form a discussion group. And I am a part of it.

  18. shekar kapoor sir, from the child hood itself i am a big fan of you …those siyaram ad and doordarshan serials.for me you where fabulous as an actor.even my mother who is from this non hindi area ie kerala ,used to watch you in particular ,because of your charming smile , simple and heart filling acting that time i was not aware that you are the director of Mr.india.even now when i directs ,i expects, the simple and easy enactment done by you,from my actor.
    with love

  19. Hello Shekarji, ginormously long time, hope all is well. I quite enjoyed enjoyed reading all your thoughts after nearly one year of sabbatical from online worlds. After a 10-year stint in Los Angeles, I moved back to India late last year – I have been soaking-in the chaos that India is and I’m quite amazed about how being here stimulates the grey matter 🙂 I have been interacting with several young filmmakers these days and have noticed there is a sea-change in the way we perceive the art of film-making, especially indie films in India. Even the audiences seems so much more appreciative. The rot seems to stem however from the so-called big producers and distributors who comply with unfair methods to quell the surge in indie film-making. All they have to do is to block channels of distribution. They book theaters and ensure publicity blitzkrieg for their cookie-cutter “boy meets girl” movies, therefore discouraging young and upcoming filmmakers who have so many interesting stories to tell. With all the tools available these days, one could just go out there and make movies but some sort of system that would ensure that these projects get more eyeballs while paying even a nominal fee would really help. Best wishes to you for the year ahead. Regards.

  20. Doesn’t feel like a ‘discussion group’…..but more like a lop-sided flow,

    Perhaps what’s missing is a judicious mix of *aspiring* & more *experienced* contributions to make this a more meaningful and enriching discussion space 🙂

    In the mean time, here’s the trailer of a forthcoming documentary on the ‘economics of happiness’ that promises to be a must-see…

  21. Greetings Mr. Shekhar,

    I am a Bsc. Graduate in animation. I just finished my last sem and I am seeking for internship. I sat and thought for many years about what I wanted to do with my life, and finally saw films(live action) as my passion and my interest and am looking forward to be a director one day.
    But the whole thing is that i don’t really know how to proceed, cause one day I want to see my movies go worldwide. I thought of working with an independent filmmaker such that I can first learn something and then later on execute on my own.

    Currently I have been searching for a intern in film editing, cause I have to first initiate somehow, and starting off as a Director didn’t seem to be a nice idea. Henceforth I am looking forward to work as an editor and make independent short films side by side and continue the learning process.. And one day make a feature film when I am ready.

    I would really appreciate it and would be great-full if you as a filmmaker and a great director could give your suggestions to what I am doing and how to proceed.

  22. Enticing article!

    My friend’s daughter who is 9 shot her cat in several moods for several days(on camcorder) …then she directed the editing which her father did for her…

    And thats it…the film was ready for her…friend says she has already forgotten about it…

    for me that is true Independent Film making which is possible because of ‘digital’!…

    rest all is commercial!

  23. Shekhar,

    In this discussion chain, I saw you are planning to write a piece on the Golden Age. I have written my thoughts on it, almost 60-70% complete. I prefer to send it privately to you. I don’t think I will have the time to complete it, so would appreciate if you will accept my partial work. Please send me a contact address where I can send my critique to you.

  24. Hai sekhar,
    I see so many people intersted in this article which speaks of independent films. Maybe its time that such people came together under a single roof. It is a crazy idea in many ways because indie movement itself dwells on the basis of independendance. But still a platform for discussing and sharing ideas is necessary

  25. We are all born with the same potential so what makes us different in the end? Why do some of us have to struggle our entire lives to have the wealth we deserve when it comes so easy to others? The answer is more simple than you know. Test drive The Bridge to a Limitless Life and get the first 3 chapters free of charge. It will change your life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.