Filmwallas: The Future of Filmmaking

In 1896, French artists Auguste and Louis Lumière released L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, the first film ever made. More than 100 years later, George Lucas stirred a metamorphosis in the cinematic arts with his release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, intending to challenge the film industry’s norm to shoot on 35mm film by shooting select sequences on high-definition video formats. Although Lucas’ prequels are generally regarded negatively, the technology used to make those films would revolutionize how Hollywood and independent filmmakers made films in the 21st century.

In 2017, Singapore-based Indian journalist, author, filmmaker, and entrepreneur Zafar Anjum launched Filmwallas, the world’s first AI-led collaborative filmmaking platform. Its mission is to democratize the filmmaking process by creating an online environment that brings talented individuals together as a crew to produce meaningful film work. Since their mission promotes a paradigm shift in modern production processes, Anjum’s Filmwallas could very well be as big a game changer as the Lumière brothers debut and Lucas’ foray into digital production.

Zafar Anjum
Zafar Anjum, founder of Filmwallas

Zafar Anjum has always been an ardent film enthusiast. Growing up in a small town in Bihar, India, movies were his primary source of entertainment. Comparing the moviegoing experience to that of a ritual, Anjum knew early on that he was keen to make films in his own right. His inability to pursue a formal film education would not deter him from pursuing his passion. He made a thirty-minute film in 2000, and that propelled him to learn more about the medium.

However, when he moved to Singapore in 2004, it became harder for him to make films than it was back in India.

“The problem with filmmaking is that you need a team, you need funds, you need equipment…. In Delhi, I had my circle of friends, and we would come together to make films. But here in Singapore, it was a new city for me. I did not have any connections,” said Anjum.

Due to this disadvantage, he decided to put his focus on writing rather than filmmaking. The author of seven books, Anjum is also the founder of a publishing company. As he pursued writing, however, he was also keen to develop a virtual platform for filmmakers. And it was only in 2015 that Anjum felt that the time was right to start working.

“Earlier, there were a lot of limitations. But with 3G and 4G networks and smartphone devices, the apparatus required for something like Filmwallas was developing. And two years ago, I thought that things were in a very stable situation. … Even people in rural India have smartphones, 3G and 4G connections, and free Wi-Fi. Because of that, people are able to, not only consume, but produce video content. And, of course, Singapore is far ahead of rural India. After seeing these two places, I determined that, yes, we have now reached a tipping point where a platform like Filmwallas can exist.”

He then resigned from his job and went to India to receive validation from industry professionals. Anjum pitched his idea to ten industry professionals. They all believed it would be beneficial, if made. Of ten, nine became advisors to Filmwallas. “It was a great validation for me,” comments Anjum.

Using Filmwallas is simple: you must create an account and a film project at their website. Through the AI, you will be able to find a plethora of talented people who will help you make your film. All you have to do then is assemble a team.

“Earlier, there were a lot of limitations. But with 3G and 4G networks and smartphone devices, the apparatus required for something like Filmwallas was developing. And two years ago, I thought that things were in a very stable situation. … Even people in rural India have smartphones, 3G and 4G connections, and free Wi-Fi. Because of that, people are able to, not only consume, but produce video content. And, of course, Singapore is far ahead of rural India. After seeing these two places, I determined that, yes, we have now reached a tipping point where a platform like Filmwallas can exist.”

Filmwallas has a business plan which is unprecedented. They plan to attract people on the basis of three pillars: talent, industry, and brands.

On attracting brands, Anjum notes that “social platforms are very hungry for content, and thus, brands need to be continually producing video content. This is an issue for smaller brands, since they do not have the budgets to produce quality content. We capitalize on this by asking smaller brands to sponsor film contests for us. This way they can get quality video content cheaply.”

For example, Filmwallas tied up with HCL Technologies to create the #ACUTBEYOND film contest. Novice filmmakers around the world were encouraged to make a short film which represents HCL’s pledge of building “relationships that go beyond the contract.”

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A poster for Filmwallas’ #ACUTBEYOND film contest

“Not only is this a huge ROI for the brands, this method also ties in with our mission to appeal to the raw talent,” says Anjum. “By having contests and winners, we are encouraging filmmakers to continue producing work. This is important as we are able to establish ourselves to the upcoming generation of filmmakers.”

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Ashish Vidyarthi speaking on the 27th of May for his masterclass

In addition to film contests, Anjum intends to have the raw talent know about Filmwallas by setting up workshops and masterclasses in both India and Singapore. Using their famous advisors as ‘bait’, they are able to entice people into attending the events. They then use that opportunity to let people know about Filmwallas. An example of this would be celebrated actor Ashish Vidyarthi’s masterclass in Singapore on May 27, 2017.

Anjum has a plan for established filmmakers, as well.

Traditionally, casting is a gruelling task. And in India, there is an increased difficulty as there is a limited talent pool. Filmwallas, however, simplifies the casting process by stripping it down to its rudimentary steps. They also gives filmmakers access to a much larger talented pool.

All of this is exciting, but according to Anjum, this is just the tip of the iceberg. “The apparatus is still developing, and as of now, this is all we can do. However, we want to democratize the entire filmmaking process, starting from the development stage up until distribution.”

All revolutions start with change. Just like the Lumière brothers creating film, and George Lucas transmuting filmmaking, Zafar Anjum’s Filmwallas surely will make an impact. In its early stages, it has established itself as a force to be reckoned with. This will definitely have an effect on the film industry as a whole. The key to film’s future is no longer in the hands of business executives. Rather, it lies with the common man.

Author: Aryan Varma

Aryan Varma is a junior and this is his first year as a reporter for The Eye. He has been at SAS for the past three years, and at Singapore for the past five. Regarded as the most perceptive film scholar at SAS by the school community, Aryan is the primary film columnist for The Eye. To call him a film-buff would be an understatement, for Aryan sets himself apart by his constant initiative to pursue film. If he isn’t building upon or showing off his remarkable knowledge of film history, he would be found listening to a wide-range of music. He can be contacted at varma45798@sas.edu.sg.

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