Guest Column | “Ten things to consider while making a crowdfunded animated movie”: Ravi Shankar

In my experience of writing, producing and directing an animated movie with a frugal budget of one to two crores, (excluding a lot of support that we acquired free or at discounted rate) taught me a lot. Here are some lessons that I learnt during the execution of Punyakoti that I want to share here-

Ravi Shankar
  • Ensure that your idea is unique. People are likely to support you if you come up with an idea that is unique. Discuss your idea with your friends and mentors. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and refine your idea. Only one in several ideas will work, so be willing to experiment with more than one idea for a crowdfunded animated movie.
  • Plan well. I was a scriptwriter and my drawing skills were not very good. I spent almost one year improving my skills to make basic drawings to express my idea quickly and convincingly to animators. This helped me to plan the breakdown of sequences, shots, scenes, expressions, action, etc. without having to depend on other people. It saved me a lot of time, cost and effort. It also helped me to plan better. If you are already an animator, you should be able to visually communicate your idea in as much detail as possible.
  • Make a prototype. Make mistakes early. Many animation projects do not reach the logical end because of poor teamwork and lack of creative leadership. The prototyping face will help you find the right team that can work with you and also identify things that can go early in the process.
  • Use paper and freeware. 90 per cent of my pre-production was done on paper. It costs very little money.

  • Don’t hesitate to spend on the important things. Many of my friends were very upset about me paying more for certain skills. It was a risky call as I had very little money to spend. But it is evident from the output that the money that we paid to many artists before settling in the right style was worth it.
  • Don’t be shy. Don’t be impatient. Be prepared to go and ask money from several people. I was promised support by hundreds of people but only received real support from a handful. But with each interaction, I was able to learn something and grow. Don’t give up. Don’t become bitter. Take risks again and again.
  • Marketing is as important as making. Be prepared to talk about the value of your project again and again and again until a lot of people start to see that you are not going to give up easily. Crowdfunding is not for the weak-hearted. Don’t hesitate to come in front of the camera and boldly articulate your idea. People cannot get into your head and see what you are thinking. You have to tell them.
  • Listen to experts. My biggest advantage was that I did not know animation or film making. But I was willing to meet anyone who knew even a little bit about this industry. I met over 300 people to learn how to make a movie. Not knowing something is a big advantage. If I had known how difficult it was to make an animation film earlier, I would never have attempted this. Many people I met, discouraged me from doing this movie. They knew how difficult it was to do something like this because I was inexperienced.
A still from ‘Punyakoti’
  • Plan for backups and alternatives. When we had to scale down the budget of the movie, we planned the script to optimise on the number of locations and treatment of certain sequences to accommodate the reduced budgets.
  • Don’t wait till perfection. Be prepared for disappointments. There were 100 more things we could have done better in this attempt and ideas are still flowing but we had to be prepared to say no to a lot of things to ensure that the movie gets completed.

Punyakoti is India’s largest crowdfunded movie. It raised 41 lacs from over 272 backers in 2015. Production started in 2016 and it is close to completion and release now. I know it is not perfect but an honest attempt to get something done against several odds. From the reactions to the trailer in YouTube, it is evident that people are willing to support good animated content from India. It is for us to make it happen.

I hope this article encourages 100 talented animators to begin their journey in making small and meaningful crowdfunded animation movies in India. 

(This article has been contributed by Ravi Shankar, director of Punyakoti, the first sanskrit animated movie in India and does not necessarily subscribe to these views).