Friday, March 4, 2011

Why is it either Bollywood or Hollywood?

A couple of years ago I was appointed the first screenwriter-in-residence to the Toronto Public Library where I discovered Dany Boy, a screenplay by an unproduced writer, Imthiyaz Hameed.  We worked on rewriting the script through several drafts and last summer I optioned it with a view to directing it.

It's a terrific script, a thriller about incest, shame and redemption set in the Tamil Muslim community of Toronto.  I really wanted to make this because it would also do something I've tried to do my entire career, not be invisible.

As a South Asian Canadian, and a pioneer in the Canadian film and TV industry, I really wanted to do what all writers and directors and actors want to do--tell our stories.  But in Canada, Indo-Canadians are either denizens of Bollywood or of the Sub-continent--Canadian films like Amal and Water, made by Canadians and financed by Canadians but which tell the story of Indians in India.  And in the theatre, the lovely work of Toronto playwright Anusree Roy who writes plays set in India, we do have a strong Indian cultural expression coming out of Canada.  But it doesn't reflect my story, which is that of a racially Indian, culturally Canadian person.

Trying to get my films financed which are all coming out of THAT experience is extremely difficult.  There are no movie stars to fulfill financiers demands for the parts.  I can't paint Howie Mandel brown, though my very first TV movie script for CBC back in the early 80's, had the CBC contemplating that casting choice.  I finally had to beg for an audition for my own movie and thankfully, won the part.

Canadian film makers struggle, no question.  Finding B level stars to cast films - affordable names - is one of the only ways to get a Canadian movie off the ground.  But that tactic isn't open to me.

Or I give up trying to tell my stories, and do an M. Knight.  Don't think I haven't tried, but lately I still have hopes for Dany Boy.

That's because I raised some money to film a trailer for the movie, in the hopes that it will showcase the story, the on-screen and off-screen talent well enough to get financiers and producers to even read the screenplay.

(Most people respond to the pitch by saying, it's nothing we can pre-sell.)  It isn't Bollywood and it isn't Hollywood.  It's Tollywood? (Toronto?) Collywood? (Canada?) (Isn' the 'ollywood thing  getting a bit much?  Apparently, Nigeria's booming film industry is called Nollywood.)

Prepping the trailer shoot over the last little while has made me happier than I've been in months.  Finding locations, meeting with the AD, rehearsing with the actors, it's such a joy to bring cast and crew together, make a little instant family for a day or two and do some creative work that we'd all pay to do if we didn't get paid to do it.  In fact, I'm asking everyone to work for free in order to get this trailer made and they've all agreed.  That is a testament to their belief in this story.

Now we just have to reach the audience - that I KNOW is out there.  It's just that the regular channels don't know how to sell to them.  What's worked - Bollywood and Hollywod - they understand.  But this is something new.  Using classic good storytelling and movie making to tell a story that could only be about us.  I'd pay money to see that.  I don't think I'm the only one.

1 comment:

YoungUrbanAmateur said...

I'd watch it... I'd very much rather see a "Canadian Tamil movie" than just another Bollywood movie.