Features & Opinion

Why you should support Abhay Kumar’s ‘hybrid’ documentary Placebo?

By Abhay Kumar • Published on February 4, 2013

Award winning short-filmmaker Abhay Kumar writes about crowdfunding his first feature film Placebo, a ‘hybrid’ documentary


placebo[G]reetings from the rabbit hole. The teaser trailer of our first feature film “Placebo’ is out now and we are overwhelmed by the response it has got. We were skeptical whether people will accept such a trailer for a documentary, but our skepticism has been windswept, and how.

‘Placebo’ is a hybrid documentary wherein a filmmaker goes undercover in one of the greatest educational institutes of India to investigate the rising incidents of violence amongst some of the best minds in the nation.

What is a Hybrid documentary?

We use the word ‘hybrid’ a lot in our work description; so what is hybrid in context of films and especially what would be a hybrid documentary?

The answer lies in the fact that we started making films by bypassing our technical and financial limitations. A lot of those bypass tools slowly ingrained themselves in our work aesthetic. And then we discovered these little microscopic spaces between existing themes and genres. What if a film could occupy that space, where it transcends genres and descriptions, and yet remain meaningful? That possibility excites us, both as filmmakers and viewers.

In the context of ‘Placebo’, the hybrid medium represents a mixture of fictional narrative tools, multi-media storytelling (found footage, animation etc) to create a very unique prism through which to view reality.

Again, this choice came up because of the way we started filming- with no money at all. Most of the film was shot on a handycam, till I could afford to buy a DSLR. Over the past one and a half year we’ve shot on a handycam, DSLR, mobile phones, IPADs, action cams (you would not believe how much of the promo you’ve seen is shot on an iphone!)

Why do we need money now?

Our one and a half year journey till now has been a self-funded one. We were dealing with things which we could take care of ourselves. But now we stand at a stage where we need technical expertise to pull it off. And we realize the potential of this project to break new ground in terms of storytelling, of how a story could be told in this particular way. We have this one character that has such a brilliant mind- the sort which shines so brightly that it could turn you blind. Even thirty lakhs would be less if we were to try and map his mindscape and try and represent it visually. However, this is not an ideal world we live in (yet), so this is the sum we have come up with in which we could pull this off tangibly, without technical compromise. We certainly have the team for it, we just need resources.

So, what is AKFPL doing?

A lot of people have been wondering about the role of AKFPL (Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt. Ltd.) in this production and why are they not giving us the money we need? Well, we are sort of in a virgin territory here. Like I have explained in the pitch video, they saw stuff which we were making and offered to support us. It was unfair of me to expect someone to give me Rupees 10 lakhs unless I could tell them how they would get it back. We don’t have a model to monetize the film .We want the film to be made first. In its best possible version. What I liked was at least they had the gumption to take on fringe players like us and to try and support us between many bigger projects they are doing. That show of belief was good enough for us to be associated with them. We have been walking in the sun for a long time. They offered us a glass of water and we are thankful.

And why crowdfunding?

We turned to crowdfunding because it is the only model of funding which dilutes the profit-loss scenario to an extent. When we put a target of Rupees ten lakhs in India, we essentially need 2000 people to come forward and contribute rupees five hundred each. If you look at it statistically and economically, it’s not an impossible scenario. At the time I’m writing this, we have raised more than rupees eighty thousand in India, in less than four days. So are there 1860 people in India who will come forward and help us? We would like to believe that. Belief has been our fuel.

We believe we stand at a point where we might just break the barrier of how independent films in India are perceived and received by people. When a person messages me on Facebook telling me how he has never contributed for anything in his life, and how he saw our work and he believed in what we were doing, I know we are creating a bridge. For that unknown person to give me his hard earned rupees 500, is a show of faith which drives us.

There is a reason why we worked hard to create a full blown theatrical teaser instead of just putting in a pitch video, which is the trend in crowd funding, so that people could see that this is what we could do without the money. Only if we get access to better resources, we are looking to push things further than they have been pushed.

We actually rejected distribution deals for our shorts so that we could put them up online for people to see. We want them to support us based on what we have been doing all this while. It is the sum total of all that madness that has brought us here. You should absolutely not support us based on the ‘we are independent, support us’ slogan. Support us only if you like what we are doing. You might just create a ripple which might change everything.

To make placebo happen:
Credit card contributors: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/placebo–3/x/2227191?c=home
Debit card, netbanking, cheque/cash : http://www.wishberry.in/Placebo-15875
To watch our previous work : http://storytellerink.net/watchfilms.html
To know more about us: http://storytellerink.net/index.html

Watch the trailer here:

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