Don Palathara’s recipe for ‘No Budget’ filmmaking.

Recently Don Palathara made his second feature film ‘Vith’ with the production support from Filmocracy. The film was finished with a surprisingly small budget of Rs. 6 lakhs (that also includes a small promotional budget). We think this project is an ideal one to showcase what Filmocracy aims to achieve for various reasons. The film was completed well within the estimated budget. The shoot was done in 11 days while it was planned for 15 days. It used a very compact crew, managed local resources very well to control the expenses. It was shot with a very limited set of equipment provided by Filmocracy (as this was one of the early projects, Filmocracy had very less equipment compared to what it has today) and some equipment borrowed from friends avoiding the commercial equipment rental completely. And above all, still achieving a great and seemingly uncompromised outcome. We hope, the highly spirited and focused approach of Don can inspire the struggling independent filmmakers around us, when one needs to make the film despite all odds, when there isn’t any producer backing your project with adequate funds and when the resources you have is VERY LIMITED. Scope of this interview is limited to bring an insight into how he approached the production in the given situation and do not cover the film’s content or its aesthetics.

Don Palathara

Filmocracy: Your first film ‘Shavam’ and the second film ‘Vith’, both are low budget films. How do you approach your films? Do you have budgetary considerations while working on a script? Or is it part of your philosophy to keep them low budget?

Don: The first film that I had imagined was actually a big budget film.  I dont have any intention to keep the budget under certain limit for every film that I make. But at that point, we could raise only a fraction of that intended budget. We had two choices, either wait till we can find the entire funding for the film or make some other film that can be done with what we had. That is how Shavam happened. There is a limit to which one can think about the budget while writing the script. To me, budgeting happens after scripting, but one will have a general idea.

One would be adamant about having a low budget when that’s all he got. For both Vith and Shavam, I knew that we could finish the films with such small budgets. So, it was more about accepting one’s situations and still wanting to make films that I can enjoy. I have wished if I had more money to make Vith since many of the crew and cast were underpaid.

It becomes a matter of philosophy when you are both the producer and director. Then you have to consider which areas you spend that money on and why. In both the films luckily or otherwise, I was taking care of the financials too, so I had that responsibility of deciding where each rupee was to be spent. If you have a different producer which I would actually prefer, then the filmmaker’s job would be to just make the film. There you won’t be the sole decision maker, except for the creative elements. But again, one wouldn’t work with a producer with contradicting interests.


Could you tell us about the budgets of Shavam and Vith?

Shavam had a budget of 7 lakhs and Vith had a budget of 6 lakhs.

You said you wished if you had more funds for Vith. Have those constraints affected the creative outcome of the film?

Definitely. We had a track & dolly setup which was custom made by a local welding worker. If we had a better budget, the camera movements would have been smoother. Also if we had block lenses instead of varying focal length, there would be a difference in the sharpness of the image. We had a power black-out during the shoot which affected one of the crucial scenes of the film. If we had silent generators, we wouldn’t have to have such concerns. If there was a better budget, we could have done folly. So there are a lot of things you are forced to work around with a lower budget. Continue reading “Interview”