Crowdfunding my first feature Fenêtre

By Himanshu Vora • Published on August 12, 2011

Everything was going per plan, but unfortunately in mid 2010 with the Indian economy flagging, the friend who had pledged to fund the movie announced with regret that he would be unable to invest further. It was a sudden and major setback in my aspirations to make this film.

Crowdfunding my first feature Fenêtre[A]fter a five year stretch as an Assistant Director on a few successful Indian films, I set out to write my own screenplay. In search of a meaningful and impactful theme, I fortuitously spoke to a friend from Rajasthan and we exchanged ideas around woman empowerment, a concerning topic in some parts of rural Rajasthan. We narrowed the topic down to child marriage, and the story down to a young girl who runs away from home to escape being married off.

It was one of those ‘aha’ moments – I was so inspired by the story that in two weeks I found myself in the rural outskirts of Jodhpur, Rajasthan! My goal was to feel the place, understand it, the people, the situation, the stories and return to write the script. I found myself there again repeatedly over the next few months. It was magical.

I worked at the script, and it soon started taking shape. I started working exclusively on the project in early 2009, visiting Rajasthan as necessary and further developing the storyline and script at a manageable pace. A friend also pledged to fund the main parts of the project, which helped me focus on the creative aspects.

In the unbearable summer heat of May 2010, I took my fourth, and perhaps most enriching trip to Rajasthan coinciding with a few summer cultural festivals. It was the most extreme heat I had experienced in my life: 47 degrees Celsius (116 F). Some locals and other filmmaker friends had warned me about the inhuman heat and unpredictable sandstorms that time of year. For the first time ever, I gave in to brand UV sunglasses, a hat and very high SPF sunscreen lotion.

I visited a theater workshop in nearby Jodhpur, which was so enriching that I further modified my script based on a few pointers I picked up there. I was getting used to this shampoo pattern of visit Rajasthan, modify script, repeat.

The next day was the big festival of Akha Teej. It has several religious significances, the most important marking the day that the Hindu epic Mahabharata began being captured in scripture. Incidentally, it is an auspicious day for marriages and even ‘mass marriages’, where many couples are married together for cost efficiencies.

I was shocked to witness so many child marriages in temples and even along the side of the road. I had read and written about it, but to see it before my eyes in broad daylight was astonishing. The legal age for marriage in India is 21 for males and 18 for females. There was no doubt that the young boys and girls before me were way below those ages. There were policemen not so far away, nonchalantly turning a blind eye at the ongoings.

Still reeling, as I walked to the entrance of the next village, the villagers stopped me in my tracks, taking me to be an authority about to derail the proceedings. Stuck outside, I ended up treating around 100 kulfis (ice cream on sticks) to the children of the village I was in. They thoroughly enjoyed the kulfi, and that was a defining moment for me – they are just children looking for the next frivolous amusement, in no way ready for the sober and mature institution of marriage.

My final crusade on this trip was to find the protagonist of my story, Pinky. In her chase, I traveled to several schools and villages around Jaisalmer. I auditioned around a hundred and fifty girls to play the part, which I pared down to a final shortlist of ten. When the time was right, I would pick ‘the one’.

Everything was going per plan, but unfortunately in mid 2010 with the Indian economy flagging, the friend who had pledged to fund the movie announced with regret that he would be unable to invest further. It was a sudden and major setback in my aspirations to make this film.

After briefly laying low, in early 2011, I teamed up with an old friend, Amish Gandhi, now in the media world in New York. Together, we have revamped the project and have a brand new campaign on Kickstarter to showcase the project and raise funds for it. The quest continues, but this time I am more hopeful than ever.

I believe movies can have more social impact than attempts by jaded governments. I believe in the power of grassroots movements to create change for a better world with untroubled children. We don’t want them growing up in sweat shops making toys for other more privileged children. We don’t want them serving food amidst flies at roadside stalls. We don’t want little girls carrying little babies begging on the streets. And we don’t want little boys and girls getting married. To know that this is a reality in today’s day and age is quite alarming.

With this in mind, I have created a strong and courageous character who at the tender age of nine has the fortitude to escape her own home window to find her safe haven. Her story unfolds through a meandering route across Rajasthan, as she encounters obstacles, victories and learns life lessons.  The movie is titled ‘fenêtre’, French for ‘window’.

I hope to be able to make this movie and engage, entertain and inspire you to make a difference. As Greg Mortensen said, “If you teach a boy, you educate an individual; but if you teach a girl, you educate a community”.

Donate to make fenêtre at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1331057472/fenetre

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One Response to “Crowdfunding my first feature Fenêtre”

  1. humaira bilkis says:

    Feeling good to know that there are people struggling for making films in this tough path. Very inspiring … Wish you all the best.. Go ahead..

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