Telling truth is not enough; giving it sustenance is what really matters. It would not be realistic for Nepali short filmmakers to expect commercial gains just now but they have reasons to hope for a better future. With many young filmmakers venturing into it, short making is gradually taking professional shape.
This week, Kathmandu saw varieties of Nepali short stories, along with dozen of films from abroad. The enthusiasm shown by viewers has hugely encouraged the organisers of the film festival and producers alike. However, as we go producing more films, questions have been raised if this can be a commercially viable sector while delivering quality as well.
While the organisers of the film festival appeared wary of the fact that short films can have commercial viability producers are optimistic. Given the bulk of investment in producing and the seriously in carving the stories that touch human hearts, short films are attracting more and more viewers which, producers think, will help get return of the investment.
The Sari Soldiers, for example, depicting the stories of the women in the frontline of Nepal's Maoist conflict has drawn rave reviews, which indicates that good products can find their consumers. For those who are able to offer quality in short movies, market in Nepal may not be as meager as it through to be. Deepak Rauniyar, whose movie 'Threshold' bagged third prize at the KIMFF, says Nepali products have market beyond Nepal and it is up to the producers how he or she can tap that viability.
Rauniyar see the possibility that short film makers could displace the mainstream film makers if the current trend continues as the Kathmandu’s mainstream film industry inaptly named as Kollywood is plagued by mediocrity and yet it has shown no sign of improvement over the years. The young entrants into the film industry through short movies have that certain degree of talent to tell real stories from society, going beyond what our feature films could tell, says Rauniyar.
But commercialising is not so easy for the short film producers. Film halls are not ready to screen them for fear of poor returns, TV channels charge for telecasting whereas DVD sales are not enough to recover the money invested. Screening them once in an annual film festival can't ensure return, says Basanta Thapa, chairman of the organising body of KIMFF.
However, Thapa sees an alternative for producers – selling their intellect. Few Nepali short film makers have already made their mark in the international market and this has help build their career in film industry. "It is about selling their intellectuality rather than their products which brings good prospects of income for producers," says Thapa.
Short films like Karma, Numafung or the Living Goddess have drawn the good number of audiences from across the globe and their producers have not only earned monye but fame as well. What really required for the film makers is to come up to the stage with new idea, new vision and entirely new taste which the regular movie makers have failed to provide so far.
This needs reading and research. Rauniyar maintains that rather than just copying the stories from Bollywood producers can really draw attention from viewers if they could tell their own stories. His belief is that the immensely diverse Nepali society has hundreds and thousands of untold stories that can educate, aware and entertain the movie goers.
Additionally, short movies are generally made with small purse. The young generation is exposed to such advancement in digital technology that one person have the skills of filming, editing and directing. Hiring choreographers has been traditional: you can have a small digital movie camera easily carried over to any terraces for filming. And it may not even requite being in queue at the video editing studio: you have the laptop and a pirated video editor. All these expertise are available at such a low cost that making a film really does not need a big budget and grand arrangements.
The only difficulties the producers today face is the place to screen. Film halls deny screening unless approved by the Film Development Board (FDB) and the FDB denies registration unless the short film producers come under the banner of a company or accreditation from directors association. And the association denies accreditation unless the person willing to make film comes past the association. To be member of the association, one must have the expertise of film direction for more than two years. This impenetrable web of complexities in getting license from the authorities has really discouraged the short film makers, says Fidel Devkota, director of 'Irony', one of the movies screened at KIMFF.
However, chairman of the FDB Ganesh Bhandari denies any hindrances in registering short films. The fact is: FDB made registration process for short films easier after the recent verdict of the Supreme Court to cancel the provision of approval from directors for registration of such films. The decision had irked the Kollywood film directors.
The producers also blame the TV channels that invest so much on making tele-serials but charge money for telecasting the short films. If the TV channels start outsourcing on films as part of their entertainment programmes, it would cut hassles at the TV studies and add little cheers for the short films producers as well.
Despite bleak picture in terms of commercial viability, increasing number and quality in production of the short films in Nepal do project bright future for uncovering the unheard stories, if not in drawing enough returns for the investors