Pixel Perfect

Independent filmmakers get a leg-up as film festivals now showcase digitally-shot works and the government opens up to subsidies.

Written by Debjani Paul | Pune | Published: November 12, 2013 12:04:16 am

There will always be old-school filmmakers who will swear by traditional celluloid movies,the beauty of the images and the grandeur and scale of the shoots. Over the years,however,digital cinema has quietly made its footing in the film industry,with more and more filmmakers turning to it. Recent films such as Ship of Theseus and The Lunchbox,which have been shot digitally,have done well both at the box office and with critics,and are among the new-age digital films that are now being showcased at film festivals all over.

“Technology is changing,innovations are being made and the industry has to move with time. Digital systems are much easier to use; digital cinema package (DCP) is like a hard disk on to which you can load your movies and transfer and transport them with ease. This changes the economy of movies for filmmakers,whether independent or from production houses. Even multiplexes are upgrading their own systems,replacing the older 35 mm print projectors with digital systems,” says Santosh Unecha,Associate Director of Pune International Film Festival (PIFF).

While PIFF has showcased digital films in the non-competitive sections in past years,the 2014 edition (January 9-16) will welcome digital entries to the competitions for the first time. “Because of advances in technology,digital film processes have become refined and the films are both technically sound and rich in quality. Several filmmakers are opting to make digital films as it cuts down their costs and labour,and we want to provide a platform to these new entrants. Besides,film festivals the world over now accept digital films,” says Unecha.

This is not the only sign of welcome for digital films,as the state government in Maharashtra recently also declared a new government resolution to offer subsidies to digital films. “Earlier,only celluloid films were eligible for the subsidies,so filmmakers had to shoot on film if they wanted funds. This way,new filmmakers and new technology will have an equal chance,” says Vishal Pawar,the Mumbai branch manager of Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal (ABMCM),which had made the original proposal to the state government. He adds that 80 per cent of Marathi films are shot digitally and they have been getting several calls from filmmakers to ask how they can apply for a grant for a digital film. These changes are being welcomed by first-timers,independent filmmakers and film students.

Vikas Urs,a student of cinematography at Films and Television Institute of India,says,“Indian films have not understood digital technology and images in its completeness. This culture is in a very nascent stage in India,compared to films in Hollywood,where there is more support and more research in digital films.”

He adds that Malayalam film Adaminte Makan Abu (2010) was a breakthrough film in terms of recognition from the government. It became the first digital film to win a National Award (Best Feature Film and Best Cinematography). “With digital films now being recognised for a government-funded fest such as PIFF and for government subsidies,filmmakers get a feeling of reaching a more professional platform,whereas until now,digital films were looked at as semi-professional,” says Urs.

Urs says the time is not far when it is celluloid’s survival that will have to be supported. “As time progresses,and in fact it is already happening,filmmakers will shift to using digital completely,and celluloid will become a niche process. There will come a time when it is celluloid that will need subsidies to keep it going,” he says.

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