In an exclusive chat with Firstpost, Shorts TV Founder and CEO Carter Pilcher explains how the Indian Film Community and Film Awards bodies have started to take more interest in competition in the international film community in recent years.
Qualifying for the Oscars is every filmmaker’s dream and Carter Pilcher, founder and CEO of short film entertainment company Shorts TV and also a voting member of BAFTA and the Academy of Cinema, Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) , has a suggestion for those aspiring to be on this list.
He says filmmaking is a community effort, not a solitary art project of an individual, so there is a need to bring together artists from across the spectrum who are at the top of their game and rely on their talents and innovation to tell a revolutionary story. .
Pilcher, who has also been the distributor of Oscar-nominated shorts for seventeen years, was in India to give a master class on how to make an Oscar-worthy film during the 17th International Film Festival. from Mumbai. He spoke to Firstpost about how the Indian Film Community and Film Awards bodies have started to pay more attention to competition in the international film community in recent years, why India is in an incredible time that merges talent, ingenuity and breaking old norms and increasing the content of shorts.
Excerpts from the interview:
Want to talk about the talking points from your master class at MIFF?
First of all, I just want to say how gratifying it was to be invited to lead a Masterclass at MIFF, a leading Asian film festival that brings together an incredible collection of the greatest documentarians and short film directors of the world. There is nothing like it anywhere else in Asia.
The MasterClass of course went into a lot of detail outlining the entire process, but I made 3 key points and hoped to leave the filmmakers and other people present with an overall shift in their mindset: this i.e. competing for an Oscar in Short Film is entirely possible for every filmmaker and not just that but for India’s leading directors, actors and talents – this is the most likely path for the Indian film industry to prove its arrival as a power of international cinema.
The 3 key points:
a) An Oscar-nominated film begins with a great story. Short films nominated for an Oscar are judged by members of the Academy who are experts in short filmmaking. To compete at this high level of the craft of short filmmaking requires a powerful story told with passion and coldly calculated to ensure that every element serves the story.
b) Very few Indian short films can be considered by the Academy today. When ShortsTV came to India 4 years ago, there was no festival in India whose short film awards had been accredited by the Academy of Motion Pictures. Today, two festivals are labeled (Bengaluru Int’l Short Film Festival & Kerala Short Film Festival for short docs). This still only creates a very small number of eligible Indian films, which is why ShortsTV created the Best of India Short Film Festival and releases the top 5 films in Los Angeles theaters for a duration of one week in theaters so that these 5 additional films are qualified for the Oscars. We have outlined all possible avenues for filmmakers, but hope to work closely across the sub-continent to open as many avenues as possible for India’s best short films to qualify and compete on the global stage.
c) Short film awards at the Oscars are the pinnacle of achievement and are very competitive. Filmmakers can’t just post their film to the Academy, cross their fingers, and hope to be nominated. They must work carefully to promote their film or show (for documentarians) and put everything in place to serve this end.
You’re also a voting member of BAFTA and the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), so what aspects should a filmmaker keep in mind to make their project Oscar-worthy?
Yes, an Oscar-worthy short is all about telling a full story in 3 acts in a passionate, maybe even shocking way, with all the layers and details that go into a carefully planned work of art.
However, filmmaking is a community effort, not a solitary artistic project of an individual. It is the rapprochement and the creation of a team of artists. For a film to be recognized as being at the top of its game, it must bring together artists from all walks of life who are at the top of their game and rely on their talents and innovation to deliver a groundbreaking story.
Several Indian filmmakers have created history with their Oscar and Bafta recognition, but how could they make it more frequent and fruitful?
The Indian Film Community and Film Awards bodies have certainly started to take more interest in competition in the international film community in recent years, making it a very exciting time for Indian filmmakers. And with a very large Indian diaspora, Indian stories are increasingly successful internationally.
As we see through, a clear problem to be addressed in helping filmmakers compete for short film awards at the BAFTAs and AMPAS is the small number of Indian festivals whose awards are accredited as qualifying awards. Also, there should be a much more focused effort to help Indian talent compete. I live in the UK and know that the British Council and other bodies work closely with filmmakers whose work wins awards to help them defray the costs of international competition.
What aspects of the Indian film industry inspire you and where is the scope for improvement?
ShortsTV loves supporting the Indian film community. It feels like you’ve been part of the secret development of the next ‘atomic bomb’ when you work alongside Indian talent. India is in an amazing period that merges talent, ingenuity and breaking with old norms. We are doing all we can to support your talent which is laying the foundation for an international renaissance of Indian cinema over the next 10 years which will see tremendous achievements and international recognition of Indian films. In my mind, South Korea is amazing, but wait until the Indian film community has its feet on the ground.
You also founded Shorts International in 2000, so how do you see short film content dominating the entertainment industry in the days to come?
Audiences are changing faster than ever before. Short films and short content are no longer the prerogative of moviegoers and auteur cinema but are everywhere on everyone’s phone. It’s taken a very long time for shorts and short series to be reinvented and come back into the mainstream, but we’re seeing huge and rapid changes in that direction.
When testing the ShortsTV+ mobile OTT app, we found that users spent 4x more time per week than they spent on TV watching short films on their mobile phones. It’s happening!
Talk about the emergence of OTT platforms and how it has given filmmakers wings to showcase their works globally?
The last few years have seen an explosion of streaming services, OTT platforms and free distribution platforms. We are actually oversaturated. The key now for audiences is to have the best “curators” to help them find the best films and the best programming.
India is an important market for ShortsTV. It is currently the world laboratory for film and video. Many of the opportunities we see elsewhere in streaming, app bundling and other mobile viewing start here, on the ground with Indian audiences.
Nivedita Sharma’s work experience includes covering fashion weeks in Milan, Pakistan, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Dubai and award functions like IIFA and TOIFA.
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