Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Yolanda's Production Diary from India - A Brief Intro

I've been in India for a day and all I can say is... wow.

But before I elaborate on those three letters, I suppose I should tell you how I've gotten to this point.

It takes a long time to make a film. 'Prisms of Light' began in May 2008 the way all creative works begin - as a seed of an idea that carries the feeling of wanting to be born*

Like all seeds, an idea has to be nurtured before anything can happen. I spent nearly a year researching spirituality in India (my resarch of spirituality itself goes back a lot further), trying to understand what I actually wanted to make - and then trying to convey this in words!*

In March 2009 the film started to become a reality. Myself and three crew mates / friends went to India to research, to develop the idea, and to shoot what we could. We didn't have money or a strict plan - just an idea and a world of passion. India proved to be more wonderful and fascinating than any of us had anticipated, and the little seed began to sprout.

It's over a year since that trip to India, and the film has taken on a life of it's own. That's the great thing about filmmaking, but especially documentary. A good documentary director recognises that they are facilitating the film, not the other way around. (As Alfred Hitchcock put it: "In fiction, the director is God; in documentary, God is the director"). We were hoping to get back to India at the start of March but things have not unfolded as we planned.

Life is dependent on sustainance, and a film's sustainance comes in the form of the energy of the people working on it, and... in form of money. In the latter form, we've had some successes and disappointments. Our crowd funding venture has gone incredibly well, which gave us the initial cash injection we needed to kcik start our production. Unfortunately however, the formal funding we were hoping for still hasn't some through. It's hard, and we're still trying, but because we needed to get to India to shoot the Kumbha Mela, we couldn't wait for this funding to come through any longer. We had to go. To do so, we had to cut our crew in half.

So it's just me and Raja, the director of photography who are out here. I'm doubling up as a producer, and Raj is doing sound. And luckily we have Dipesh, our man in India. This, is what they call "a skeleton crew"!! But... as disappointed as I was about not getting the funding in time, and the reprocussions that it had... I have a feeling that maybe things are working out... the way they're supposed to? Something about this shoot feels right. It feels like things are falling into place. BUT, it all remains to be seen. I will keep you posted ;)


*according to Neil Jordan this is the most difficult challenge for reasonably new directors!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Crowd Funding

For those of you in the film industry, you're probably already well aware of a method of film funding that is becoming ever more popular within the independent film sector called crowd-funding.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, let us explain: The premise of crowd-funding for independent film stems from the charity sector – it involves aggregating donations, investments and memberships from supporters of a cause, or now, a “creative cause”. The advent of the web has made reaching out to various communities easier and the continued advancement in technology via social networking sites and online communities means that filmmakers like us can spread the word about our film that we believe so passionately in.

Prisms of Light is our creative cause. We're striving to make a documentary that will promote religious tolerance and celebrate all spiritual diversity. We've worked for nearly a year to get the film into pre-production, without any financial support. But our unshakable belief in our project coupled with the emotional support and positive reaction to our promo from film industry professionals and individuals from various religious backgrounds has helped sustain us to this point.

But unfortunately, films don't get made from this alone. Films need money. Films need financial backing.

After suffering a series of knock-backs from commissioners, we are still determined to see this project come into fruition. It's such a worthy cause that could (and will!) touch a massive audience and its messages can resonate with individuals from all corners of the globe.

So, that's when we thought, "Hey! Let's see if we can get supporters in our cause to help us finance the film!"

What better way to get this documentary made than getting the very people we know will be interested in seeing it and asking them to help us make it?

And we know this method works and that it's possible to fund this film through crowd-funding and through believers in our cause. An astounding example of this in the recent cinematic world is UK documentary filmmaker Franny Armstrong’s The Age Of Stupid. The 2008 film, which stars Pete Postlethwaite and addresses the climate change issue, raised more than £450,000 ($815,000) over four years by selling ‘shares’ to 209 individuals and groups. The film was released in the UK in 2009 and generated a massive buzz in the film world and national press and went on to win a slew of awards.

Even politicians are no strangers to this method and have used it to their advantage too –Barack Obama raised a staggering $233 million for his presidential campaign through small donations of $200 or less.

So far, we have raised over £6,000 of the £30,000 we need for production in a matter of weeks. And for this we are incredibly grateful. It will help get our crew out to India (they're getting ready for the trip now!) and it means we're there to shoot in time for Kumbha Mela. But, this isn't enough to last forever so we'll continue gaining alliances and forging relationships with organizations and individuals who support our cause.

If you're interested in supporting us, you can donate on this page. Even spreading the word about our film is a big help.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, 15 March 2010

POL on Documentary Connection

This week (March 15-19) Prisms of Light is the featured film on the Documentary Connection on Facebook.

Yolanda will be available to answer questions throughout the week about the documentary on the page's discussion board.

If you have any questions you'd like to ask our director, feel free to join in the discussions here.

We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Kumbha Mela 2010

As some of you may already know, time is pressing for the Prisms of Light team right now. This is because we're aiming to secure funding so we can get to India and shoot for the film during one of the most epic spiritual gatherings in the world - the Kumbha Mela.

The Kumbha Mela is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, "the greatest recorded number of human beings assembled with a common purpose". The mass Hindu pilgrimage sees millions of devotees, gurus, spiritual leaders and sadhus gather at sangam in Prayag, Allahabad, which is the point where the three sacred rivers - the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati - converge. A ritual bath is one of the main events of the festival.

The Kumbha Mela has been held for more than 2,000 years and, according to Indian astrology, is held when the planet Brhaspati (Jupiter) moves into the zodiac sign of Kumbha (Aquarius). The Purna (complete) Kumbha Mela occurs every 12 years while Ardh Kumba Mela is celebrated every six years.

This year the Purna Kumbha Mela takes place in India from January 14 - April 28. Millions of pilgrims will bathe in the river, participate in religious discussions, devotional singing and the mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor.

The history of the festival dates back to the Vedic period and is based on a story in Indian mythology where the gods and demons made a temporary agreement to unite in obtaining amrita (the nectar of immortality) from the Milky Ocean and share it equally. But, when the Kumbha (pot) with the amrita appeared, the demons stole it and ran away, while the gods chased after them. For 12 days and 12 nights (the equivalent of 12 human years) the gods and the demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is said that the pot fell onto four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. These are the four locations where Kumbha Mela is observed.

The historical significance coupled with the sheer enormity of the festival makes it an ideal backdrop for the Prisms of Light crew to document its mission of finding out what spirituality in India truly means to natives and Westerners alike. It's important that we can shoot during one of the greatest acts of faith in the world so when we say time is running out, we mean it.

You can help us get out there to capture this incredible experience! Please help us in any way you can by donating on the PayPal button on this blog or spreading the word about our project!

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A Q&A With Yolanda Barker, Director Of Prisms Of Light

We're chatting with Yolanda Barker, the director and brainchild behind Prisms of Light . As the documentary is now in the early stages, we thought we'd give our readers a chance to get to know Yolanda's thoughts and visions behind POL before she heads off to India to shoot. Enjoy!

Q: Why did you decide to become a documentary filmmaker?

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to do something with my life that allowed me to touch and connect with other people. When I was nine my dad bought a camcorder and without really thinking, I started making films! With film you can connect with people in a very powerful way, because it combines so many different creative disciplines. (Admittedly I didn't think about it that logically when I was nine! But on some level it really appealed to me).

My interest in documentary began in media college, where I realised people were making amazing works of art shaped from pure reality. I think fiction films can definitely touch people, and make a difference in the world, but for me documentaries are more hard-hitting. You can't brush your feelings under the carpet and say: "Oh - it's just a film". I want to make films that encourage people to walk in each others' shoes, and I think I can achieve this more effectively through documenting real people in real situations.

Q: What inspired you to make a film about India and spirituality?

Well, some films are born out of fascination, and others are born out of experience. This film is very personal to me, because I was an atheist for most of my life, but in in my mid-twenties this changed. I had a series of experiences that convinced me that there was more around us than what we perceive through our five senses. I became extremely spiritual for about 2 years, and I experimented with lots of different spiritual traditions, and met many, many people.

Over that time-frame I kept hearing India being talked about. I began to feel a very strong desire to go there, but I didn't, because I had a perception that people who went were running away from something. Gradually I began to integrate spirituality into my life, instead of it being the main focus. I had a more detached viewpoint, and became deeply interested in conveying through film the things that I had observed and experienced during my spiritual honeymoon. And at the same time my desire to go to India hadn't abated. And then it clicked with me - What better place to make a film about spirituality than a place where people specifically go to connect with that part of themselves?

Q: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

This is an interesting question, because definitions of what is "spiritual" vary wildly depending on culture and belief systems. In some cultures animal sacrifice is a spiritual practice, in others abstaining from sex suggests spiritual purity. I believe that being human is a multi-faceted experience : we're physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual creatures, but some people don't believe that they have spirits in the same way that others deny that they have emotions, or physical desires.

For me, spirituality isn't associated with a specific religion or philosophy or god. It's an understanding that life expands from a certain inwardness. "As within, so without". It's an ongoing journey where every experience has meaning. Life becomes a learning experience from the inside out. So yes, in this sense I do consider myself a spiritual person, because I try to approach life honestly, and with awareness. But it doesn't matter to me how interested or disinterested in spirituality a person is - they're still spiritual because I believe everything and everyone comes from a spiritual energy.

Q: Funding for independent films is becoming more and more difficult and recent economic conditions seem to have left a lot of financiers in a stagnant mode. What approach are you taking to see your project come to fruition?

The Age of Stupid really inspired me, because they raised their entire budget through what is called 'crowd-funding'. (This is basically raising money by asking hundreds or even thousands of people to contribute sums of money). Their approach and attitude was cutting-edge, and it proved that the days of being dependent on studios and funding bodies really are over. With Prisms we are applying for funding from established bodies, but we're also approaching individuals and sponsors and asking them to contribute. We're not putting all our eggs in one basket.

Q: What are some of your favourite documentaries?

At the moment, my three favourite docs are: Capturing the Fredmans and The Cove, which are both amazingly crafted stories by very intelligent directors, and Waltz With Bashir which is a visually stunning, beautifully scored, very original approach to documentary filmmaking.

Q: What advice do you have to offer aspiring filmmakers?

Learn a skill and develop a network of inspiring, supportive people around you. Those two things will keep you going financially and emotionally when you get disillusioned and feel like quitting! It happens to us all, but personally I am so so glad that I stuck with filmmaking. When it works for you, there's nothing like it. You get the opportunity to explore a topic that really interests you, and to share it with other people using pictures and sounds. You get to work with like-minded people and develop really meaningful friendships. You flit between different cultures, subcultures, and fictional worlds. I'm totally honoured to be able to say that I passionately love what I do, and I am so grateful because it feels like I'm living my life every day.

Welcome To Our Blog!

Welcome to our blog!

If you're reading this, you're lucky enough to be starting an incredible journey with us here at Prisms of Light - we hope you enjoy the ride.

Spirituality is a topic that most people have an opinion on. Sometimes these opinions coincide with others and sometimes these opinions create divisions. Sometimes these searches for answers to life's unending questions - Who are we? Why are we here? - can bring joyous unions and other times they create catastrophic wars and divisions.

Whether it means subscribing to a particular religion or god or, indeed, believing that there is no god, or even just developing a personal philosophy by which one guides their life, one thing is clear - we have lots of questions and few answers.

India is, and has been for centuries, a melting pot of religion and piety - a formidable "spiritual stew". Some two million Westerners travel to India every year in search of spiritual enlightenment and personal meaning, often without the support of their loved ones or community.

Prisms of Light explores this steadily growing phenomenon by focusing on the lives of people who are traveling throughout the subcontinent with the shared hope of reaching enlightenment. Interwoven between them are a plethora of spiritual traditions, colourful characters and chance encounters.

You can check out the promo reel here: