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Tushar Tyagi: For Independent Filmmakers, Story Is The Queen And The Story Is The King As Well

Tushar Tyagi, a multiple award-winning filmmaker, over the years he has directed and produced many independent films. His last short film ‘Saving Chintu’ starring Adil Hussain was selected in over 30 film festivals including Oscar and Bafta qualifying festivals. ‘Saving Chintu’ also qualified under the Live-Action Short category for the 93rd Academy Awards.

Tushar recently produced Pankaj Tripathi’s first-ever short film ‘Laali’. He is currently curating the Yellowstone International Film Festival, which specialises in bringing in the best of independent films from across the globe. Speaking to Prateek Sur, he opens up about what goes behind the making of independent films, how they make money and how they’re different from commercial cinema. Excerpts from the chat:

How does one define oneself as an independent filmmaker?

Someone who makes (a film) independently, out of a studio system.

What are those things that an independent filmmaker does that a commercial filmmaker doesn’t do?

Independent filmmaking is full of hustle and creative liberation. An independent filmmaker needs to wear various hats at the same time. A writer’s hat, a producer’s hat, a director’s hat, and at the same time, a hat of a distributor. Unlike mainstream commercial directors, an independent director doesn’t have the privilege of making enormous-budget films. They have to try and deliver a million-dollar-looking film on a very limited budget. Firstly, it’s all about the story. But alongside telling a good story, we independent filmmakers need to make sure that the film looks like a high-end quality film that too on an extremely limited budget. That puts creativity to the real test.

How do independent films make money?

We are living in an age of OTT platforms. Also, in the scenario where India and the entire world are waking up to the magic of independent art house cinema. If a filmmaker has made a film that has a good story crafted in a way that goes on to connect with the audience, then a film has a long way ahead. For example, a filmmaker friend, Saim Sadiq from Pakistan made this brilliant film called ‘Joyland’ that premiered and won an award at the Cannes film festival. Now the entire world is talking about it.

In India, is there enough reception for independent films?

Yes. The youth of independent Indian filmmakers has finally blossomed in India. Indie filmmakers in India are making films which are doing exceptionally well globally.

Visual effects have been helping big-budget films achieve their goals, but how does a small independent filmmaker, who may have a grand vision, be able to do VFX at par but at a lesser budget?

Generally, independent filmmakers are tight on the budget and for the most part, we try to keep our film’s stories heavy and limited to the basic grammar of filmmaking. I hardly know a filmmaker who prioritises fancy camera moments or VFX above their story. Independent filmmaking is all about putting creativity to the test and finding creative alternatives. If in case, VFX is absolutely required then we try to find a qualitative but inexpensive substitute. If a story needs a VFX to come to life, then an independent filmmaker finds ways to get it done. (For independent filmmakers) Story is the queen and the story is the king as well.

You’re curating and organising an independent film festival. How difficult is it to source these films?

So, a lot of films are submitted to our festival around the world. This year we had over 1500+ submissions from 122 countries. It takes us up to 7 months for our programming team to go through these films. We put a list together of the films that we collectively as a programming team think are relevant and would connect with our audience. We also send out invitations to films that may not have been films submitted to the festival but if we think that it would be a great addition to our current edition. So, we send a special invite out.

Do independent films make money if they compete or win at film festivals? What’s their motivation to showcase their film at a film festival?

Regarding making money at the film festival, it depends on the festival. Some festivals have prize money for winning films and some festivals provide screening fees for programming the film. Some of them do both, and some of them do neither. The motivation to showcase the film at a festival is to showcase your talent and art, wishing that your film could make it to a film festival where it might be programmed along with other talented filmmakers from around the globe. Just to be a part of the collective celebration of international cinema and also it’s a chance to connect with producers, distributors, and fellow filmmakers.

What next can we see coming from your end?

I am a filmmaker and film festival curator. I am working on two web series with a major OTT and a film. All the 3 projects are set to release throughout next year through the festival since the Yellowstone International Film festival is the home to independent cinema from around the world. My team and I are dedicated to celebrating the global cinema from all across the continents year round long.

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