Making films no one gets isn't an achievement: Anurag Kahsyap's pointers to new directors
Director and producer Anurag Kashyap had some words of wisdom for aspiring filmmakers and writers at this year's Film Bazaar.
Director and producer Anurag Kashyap had some words of wisdom for aspiring filmmakers and writers at this year's Film Bazaar. He talked about what he thinks is missing in Indian directors, what he's learnt from his personal experiences and how to crack the international film festival circuit.
1. Stop being self-indulgent. Films need to recover costs
"A movie has to somehow make at least one rupee more than you invested in it. When we made The Girl In Yellow Boots, the first thing we did was figure out how much money we spent on the film and how much money do we have to return to people. … Every film we’ve [Anurag Kashyap Films] done, we’ve pitched it like that so that people releasing those movies haven’t lost money on it because you have to know beforehand that no one will sit here and pay for your art or your indulgence. … If I’m not looking for mainstream markets, then I can go out and do whatever I want, but if I’m looking for mainstream markets to recover money, I have to make it sustainable."
The thing is, there’s a distributor who has to come in, who is going to release the film. Yes, he’s looking at respectability and all the other things, but he’s also looking at not losing money. That’s something the filmmaker has to understand.
2. Don't get lazy. Earn the freedom to make the film you want to make
"I think somewhere filmmakers have to take slight responsibility of the money. Films unfortunately are an art form that cost money. … If I’m not making a film every year, then something is wrong. This film has to lead to my next film. Everything is worked out like that. … If it’s successful, then it lets me go out and experiment yet again, with a smaller film, and do another, like Gangs of Wasseypur allowed me to do Ugly.
Every film gives you freedom to do more. That freedom has to be earned. You can’t sit there and say, ‘Give me my freedom.’ You have to earn it, and you have to earn it with your work, not by your conversation. Not by the loudness of your voice."
3. Making films no one understands is not an achievement
"We take pride in that ‘My film is very complex and no one will get it.’ We try to say that, ‘I don’t care that nobody understands me.' They don’t understand the pressure. … Any filmmaker in the world wants to reach out. It is directly proportionate to the amount of money invested in the film. You can be indecipherable if your film cost nothing or if you put in your money."
4. The grass is not greener on the other side
"I’ve seen Fateh (Akin) who is such a great filmmaker, who is a very close friend, struggle to find money to make a movie. After years, he found money to make a movie. It took him six years since his last film to make a movie and it came with the condition that the film has to be in English. It came with the condition that the film has to be more universal. That condition became the biggest drawback of the film. You see, (Paolo) Sorrentino won an Oscar last year [for The Great Beauty] and he has this movie about two old people sitting in a park.He has to do a television show to get that movie funded."
5. No one's standing in the way of your greatness
"Today the problem is that filmmakers are in too much of a hurry. Everybody thinks I’m missing my greatness. Any filmmaker, he thinks he has his shot at greatness and these people are standing in the way and they’re not allowing him to be great. … But the thing is… you can test your film. I know so many good writers who will not put their script through scrutiny because they have this fear that somebody will steal my idea. I’m saying, you have a lab, put the script through the lab, if the script is good, the film will find money through the lab. … Another big advantage when a film goes through a lab is that the various labs it has gone to, they’re aware of the film before it is made. So by the time the film comes to fruition… you know there are various festivals looking at the film, there are buyers aware of the film."
6. Don't organise film screenings during lunch or cocktails
"Most film festivals are looking to discover movies. … Make sure people are seeing it. You can’t peddle your film. If I’m physically collecting 50 films a day, I would not even remember what films I have. So if you respect your own film, you’ll not peddle it like that. If anyone loves their film, they won’t say, 'Please watch my film if you have time.' If I have time, one will randomly pick up a film to watch.
If I have no money, I’ll collect my money over two weeks or two months and buy exhibition space. I’ll make sure I buy a screening time which is a good time when everybody will come and watch the film, not at a time when there are so many cocktail parties, not at a time when everybody is having lunch. But at a time when everybody will be fresh... . And I’ll give them enough atmosphere about the film that they’ll be interested in watching the film."
7. Let go of your ego
"I’m not born with money. [For every film] I will figure out, I need this much money and go out and do something to make that much money to make sure the money is not borrowed and I’m not dependent on anyone or answerable to anyone. When our film went to Venice, we spent Rs 40 lakhs in taking the team to Venice to make sure The Girl in Yellow Boots was visible. That Rs 40 lakhs, I spent eight months doing every single ad available in the country. ... You have to let go. I’m going to do some crappy ads and people are going to laugh at me. I’ve written some of the shittiest films in the world and I’ve used that money to do something.
You have to let go of your ego. If you sit there and begrudge the world, that nobody understands your art and nobody is going to give you the money to do it, you’ll keep grudging the world and you’ll end up being somebody who is very bitter and hopeless."
NFDC's Film Bazaar has labs for scriptwriting, co-production and works in progress. See here for details.
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