How We Got 60 Celebrities To Support Our Film Festival For Free
10 years ago, in March 2007, we organized the Pumelo Independent Film Festival in Mumbai. The festival was part of our learning curriculum in the Journalism and Mass Communication course that my institute (SDiMS) was providing in association with a leading college in Mumbai, the L.S. Raheja College.
The film festival was a resounding success.
All our hard work had paid off.
We received over a dozen press clippings from reputed newspapers such as Mumbai Mirror, Mid-Day, Hindustan Times, etc. for our film festival.
However, the biggest highlight of the Pumelo Film Festival was that we had independent film makers from more than 50 countries who had sent in their movies for screening at our festival.
Another huge plus point of our film festival was that we received the audio clips of more than 40 of the film makers whose films were selected for screening at Pumelo 2007.
But the icing on the cake was that we got the support of over 60 celebrities from the film, music, TV and fashion industry in Mumbai.
Some of the celebs who gave their video clips for our film fest were Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Arshad Warsi, Cyrus Broacha, Mahesh Manjrekar, Charu Sharma, Kunal Ganjawala, Sharat Saxena, Mandira Bedi, Mini Mathur, Manoj Joshi, Vikram Gokhle, Mariam Khan, Padmani Dhillon, Charudutt Acharya, and Sadashiv Amrapurkar.
The festival was initially sponsored by Cine Max. They had given us their theater in Versova to host the entire festival at no charge.
However, due to pressure from the L.S. Raheja College, where we were running our course, we were forced to hold the festival in the college premises itself.
This post isn't about how successful our maiden film festival was.
It's about how we went about getting the support of all the film makers whose films were selected for screening and how we managed to get the video clips of more than 60 celebrities who gave their support for Pumelo.
When the idea for a film festival first came up during one of the film making classes, everyone was excited.
We had 16 students who were undergoing their training with us that year.
All 16 of them wanted to make my idea of a film festival come true.
In those years, I was a regular at every single festival that was held in Mumbai.
In fact, even today, I always watch mostly film festival and foreign language movies on my home theater system.
I just love movies.
I enjoy watching only the good ones though.
So, during a class that I was taking in December 2006, I just threw up the idea of organizing a little film festival early next year.
I did not expect the students to show such overwhelming support for my idea. But they did...
As a result, just 8 minutes later, we decided to organize a film festival in February 2007.
The name of the festival was to be Pumelo. Since it was a domain name I owned (and still own) which had the name of a fruit and sounded kinda cool.
After having been to many film festivals, I realized that organizing one on my own was not going to be an easy task.
First of all, I had no experience in film making, nor in organizing a film festival.
The only strong points I had was that I had organized several parties and socials during my school and college days.
Even inside my classes, there were many interesting workshops and educational events organized over the years.
So I knew that the event management part was well within our means.
The problem was how to get foreign films to be screened at our festival and how to raise the funds to organize such an international film festival.
My team, all our Mass Communication students, and me had a lengthy brain storming session at my office that evening.
Tea and snacks were served and the meeting went on till 9pm. So my staff and me decided to go out for dinner later.
The results of the brain storming session was that first we would divide the tasks into groups and second we would work from dawn to dusk on fulfilling the tasks of the group we belonged to.
As the Festival Director, and being the one with the most experience in event management and film festivals, I was given the main two tasks.
One was to contact film makers abroad to get them to submit their movies for selection at our festival.
And second, my task was to get publicity in the media (Newspapers, websites, magazines, radio, TV, etc) for the film festival.
The other two groups had just one major task assigned to them. But they were low on confidence about it.
They did not feel that they could pull it off.
The task given to them was to get sponsors and video clips of celebrities from the movie, TV, radio, fashion and sports industries.
All the 8 students who got these two mammoth tasks felt that it would be possible to get few sponsors but impossible to get the video clips of big-big celebrities from Bollywood, TV, etc.
I reassured them that they could easily get the video clips of any celebrity they approached correctly.
I held a 2-hour class on how to approach the celebrities for them to say "Yes" and give their video clip showing support for the Pumelo Film Festival for absolutely FREE!
There were just three things that they must follow when approaching the celebrities for these free video clips...
1. Ask them politely for the clip.
2. Record the clip quickly.
3. Leave as soon as you've got the clip.
These 8 students were still not sure about things so they decided among themselves that they would not even try to get the video clips of the celebrities who we taught of approaching.
Meanwhile, my group went full speed on contacting film makers using the powers of the internet.
Fortunately, most movie makers were easily available on a single website at that time. The website was WithoutABox.com.
Through this film festival website, I was able to contact all the film makers that I felt had made great movies in that year or a year before.
Thanks to my team's efforts, we received replies from more than 250 foreign film makers within 10 days.
Almost all of them wanted their movies to be screened at the Pumelo Film Festival.
While things were going great in my team, the other two teams headed by my other teachers and the remaining 8 students had done nothing during those 12 days following our Brain Storming session.
I was shocked to find out that all of them just sat tight at home and took a long holiday just because they felt that they just could not get celebrities to support our film festival for free.
I vividly remember one of the students saying...
"Why don't you go and beg for video clips yourself?"
Another student supported her as well. She said...
"Why can't you get at least one video clip for us first so that we know that this can actually be done?"
Since my team was already way ahead on our tasks, I assigned two of the students from my team to go and approach a few celebrities that I knew would readily give their video clips to me.
The two students showed full faith in me.
They took the only video camera we had at that time, made calls from their phones, set up appointments and just two days later had 12 video clips from celebrities in the radio, TV and fashion industry.
Once the other two teams saw that it was so easy to get video clips, they started becoming confident themselves.
They took the video camera from these two students and secured video clips of more than 30 celebrities within 5 days.
They managed to get 15 celebrities on a single day thanks to an event being organized by Sony TV on one of those evenings.
In no time, we went from having 'Zero' video clips to getting more than 60 celebrities readily giving their support on video for our film festival.
Meanwhile, I kept getting more and more film makers contacting me to have their films screened at Pumelo Film Festival.
More than 20 of these film makers willingly paid a small fee of $50 to have their films screened at key times during the 2-day festival.
After getting major celebrities like Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Harashad Warsi and Charu Sharma supporting our festival, it was much easier to get sponsors for the festival.
We signed an MOU with Cine Max for full use of their theater screens in Versova for a 3-day period.
However, as mentioned earlier, the college with whom we were conducting this course wanted to get lots of free coverage and publicity which they had done absolutely nothing to deserve.
The principal of the college cheekily forced me to pay a fee to rent the auditorium for the festival for 3 days at the shocking cost of Rs.21,000.
I had no choice but to pay this amount for the AC auditorium rental since she pushed in this demand just few days before the festival was to take place.
What a cunning and corrupt principal!!
I knew that this would be the first and last time that I managed the Mass Communication course for them since I did not wish to be a part of such corrupt educators anymore.
Anyway, the Pumelo Independent Film Festival was a massive success.
Thanks to the Mumbai International Film Festival being held just a month earlier, I spoke to their organizers and had pamphlets promoting the Pumelo Film Festival distributed to their attendees for free.
Another great achievement for us!
We had more attendees interested in attending our film fest than we had bargained for.
Our auditorium was completely full on the first day of the festival. Everyone loved the movies that we screened during the festival.
The video clips of the Indian and foreign celebrities were played on the big screen before and after each film was screened. Great coverage for them too.
It all started with a random thought, an idea which was put into action.
Thankfully, all the students were happy at the end of the day.
I taught them a secret technique to get any celebrity to support a product for free.
All that it needs is your self belief and to show them how giving that video clip benefits them as much as it benefits us.
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