Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Definition of Success

The late producer Ismail Merchant (A ROOM WITH A VIEW, HOWARD'S END) once said that we tend to lump all forms of success in one grab-all bag.  So a film's commercial success is often the barometer used to determine its success as art.   And Mr. Merchant warned against these easy lumping together of things that do not necessarily belong together.

I cannot agree more.   A film that has top numbers in the box office charts is not necessarily a good film.  A festival hit does not translate to money at the box office--and sometimes, does not even mean a film is a good film, leave alone a great one!  Critics rave about works that fail to meet the test of time, and time pushes to the surface works that were deemed commercial or critical failures...The list is endless.  But time is a fair arbiter of these things, and in him/her, I trust.  (Let's not forget that the mighty Hitchcock never won an Academy award for Best Director.  But PSYCHO, and REAR WINDOW, and VERTIGO, and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH are and will be evergreen.)

It's crucial for not only filmmakers, but for everyone with a project, a mission, a goal, to define what success means, for themselves.  Do you want your work to reach millions?  Do you want it to make millions?  Are  you looking for a calling card, to fuel your next deal?  Do you want to win over the critics?  Or get into a festival/festivals?   Is it pure self-expression--with the belief that your best thoughts, expressed to the best of your skills and abilities, will in turn spark a reciprocal response in your ideal viewer?

Have a clear idea of what it is you hope to gain, by doing your work.  If you are not clear on what constitutes success to you, it will be defined for you by other forces, by default.   And you may not like what you end up with.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Women in Film

A friend of mine told me that she had recently seen a clip of an interview with director Jane Campion (SWEETIE, PIANO).  Ms. Campion talked about how film schools usually contain an equal mix of male and female film students, but once these students are released into the industry, the percentage shifts alarmingly, and very few female directors actually get their films made.  

Statistics bear her out, and I agree that the female of the species has a tougher time in the feature filmmaking world.  Women with bold and original visions rarely find support, be it with opinion-makers or execs in the business.  Which is why the phrase "girl wonder" sees very little usage--it is not as if there are no wonderful and original girl feature filmmakers; it is just that the odds of them getting acclaim and recognition are steep.

I said steep--not impossible.  Not impossible, because (a) the younger generation--the future movie-goers--gives me huge reasons for hope.  They, incidentally, are the strongest fan-base for my own CLOSET LAND.  They don't care that I am female or Indian--they have no preconceived notions as to what sort of films a "Third World female filmmaker" is supposed to make, and they therefore have been receptive to my work with an openness that unfortunately eluded some older critics and savants. (b) Free media, like the one I am using now, allow female filmmakers equal access to their public, and the ability to speak directly to their audience; to build such an audience, to tend it and grow it.  (c) I am essentially an optimist.  I believe that what's good and decent will have its day.

That said, one still has to do the work.  And part of the work, for ANY filmmaker--male or female--is to be endlessly creative.  This was the hardest lesson for me to learn: to not focus exclusively on one project, but to create a whole slate of projects.  The more arrows in your quiver, the more your chances of one of them hitting the mark. 

So while you take your meetings and do your networking and research and everything else you need to do to take your scripts to screen, use the lull (waiting for the phone call/email; the empty hours that face you when the meeting is suddenly cancelled; the doldrums forced upon you when you discover that the financier you were banking on has no financing that can be banked) to create.  Create more projects.  Create stories and novels, graphic books and webisodes, TV series and documentaries.  But create.  Do the work.   Make your quiver full of strong arrows.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Closet Land

If you've found this page, it is probably because you have seen (and hopefully liked!) my 1991 film, CLOSET LAND.  If the film has currency today, it is because of viewers like you.  You have kept my film alive.  You had the ingenuity to put it up on YouTube.  You have engaged in chats and discussions about it.  So the fact that the film is alive, and its influence is growing, is very much a testimony to what you can do.  More power to you!

I have always been a private person, and one of my earliest beliefs has been that one's work speaks for oneself, and one need do no further than do the work itself.  However, my journey with CLOSET LAND and the years that followed the film's release have brought home to me, in ways too numerous to be counted, that my belief was erroneous.  I wrote in CLOSET LAND that "children make easy victims."  I would now add that those who wish to remain anonymous and recede into the background (like myself), make for even easier sitting ducks!  Something that happened very recently was a potent wake-up call to shake free of that belief and to reach out--like with this blog.  More on my painful but necessary lesson in the coming weeks.  

Here are my updates:  I hope to be able to upload both CLOSET LAND and my cut of my second film, BASIL, on my website in the next month or so.  Stay tuned.

I currently have three feature projects in the works, as well as a TV series I'm developing.  Plus I am 2/3 into my novel--a Victorian gothic piece with which I am hugely pleased. 

I look forward to building a community with you!

With my gratitude and good wishes,

Radha Bharadwaj