Welcome to the TED fellows Interview. This time we are interacting with Aparna Wilder, the co-founder of Global Rickshaw and Wildkumar Movies. She has found a life partner and business partner in Shivraj Shantakumar, who received MTV India’s Best Music Video Award for 2009. While Aparna was in graduate school studying for a career in the non-profit sector, she and her husband decided to collaborate “…to make short, entertaining films that could inspire change.” Global Rickshaw has produced a score of films over the past three years, drawing upon professional film production talent to promote the messages of non-profit organizations. You can read about her, her venture, how does she look at her achievements so far and her plans for the future here. And yes, join me in wishing Aparna, the very best.
1. What is the defining moment in your career that made you chose short film making?
I am an accidental film maker. The story goes that I was studying for a career in the non-profit sector. During my graduate school summer internship with Unicef, I was writing a case study on the sex ratio in Maharashtra and one of my team members was shooting a documentary to accompany our report. The documentary covered great subject material, but the film was technically flawed and not shot in a way that would appeal to people outside of the NGO sector. Shivraj (my now husband who has been working in the film industry for nearly a dozen years) and I decided that we could create something much better together. We decided that we could make great films for NGOs, non-profits, and socially responsible businesses that were interesting, informative, visually appealing, and fun to watch. We also make music videos, television commercials, and corporate films under our company wildkumar moving pictures private limited.
2. Why this name - Global Rickshaw?
Global because we strive to be global citizens and would like to make films that appeal to global audiences. And rickshaw because it is a mode of transportation that is used in many parts of the world by people from various social classes. And the combination, well, it sounds like fun!
3. Is making commercial films and ads mutually exclusive to making film films with a cause?
We try to bring our technical and artistic background from commercial film making to public service announcements and other films made for the NGO sector. I would not say they are mutually exclusive though I would say the trend is to separate the two. For us, films are entertainment. And if a film can say something that might encourage a viewer to think about something for even a few seconds, well, that is the most we can ask for!
4. How do know that a particular short film has achieved its objective? Does the creator's satisfaction come primarily from the creation or from the impact?
Success really depends on the purpose behind the film – Is it to encourage donations? Build awareness? Teach a lesson? Encourage behavior change? We are satisfied if we are able to create a product the organizations we collaborate with are able to use towards furthering their message. And each film is a learning experience for us as film makers.
5. How do you tick an idea for a film? What thought process do you go through?
We work backwards and try to determine what should the film achieve. Then we try and brainstorm with several of our creative peers to figure out how we can come up with a concept that supports that end goal.
6. How has been the reach for your films? Have you been able to gain audience attention when it is put along with mainstream cinema or TV channels? Is the message taken like a postcard with feel good thoughts or as a slap right in the face of reality?
Several of our films have played on TV both in India and in the U.S. But thus far, our work is most easily accessed on the internet. We are looking forward to extending our audience with each and every film we make.
7. Today we see for a lot of commercial ads and also social ads, celebrities are used. While it attracts attention , how much do you agree with this trend? Have you used celebrities in any of your project? How was it different for you if you have used?
Celebrity spokespeople are a great way to raise awareness around a cause. It is trendy because it makes some noise around an issue but can also be good PR for a celebrity. We have seldom worked with big names for global rickshaw projects, though I am not against the idea. I think it really just depends on the project, topic, and nature of the film.
8. How are you sustaining your business? What is your revenue model?
Depending on the needs of the project, we work with an organization to work within a budget that they can accommodate. We also support our global rickshaw projects with technical know-how and professional expertise from our commercial work through our company wildkumar moving pictures pvt ltd. When we can, we also try to write for project-specific funding to help cover the costs of the films that we are excited to make on our own.
9. According to you what is the essence of short film making? What are the ingredients of an ideal short film according to you?
10. How do you inspire your team?
Enthusiasm is the best way to motivate and inspire the people around me.
11. How does it help to have your life partner as a partner in your business? How does it hinder?
It is difficult and challenging but also the greatest gift to be able to share your work and passion with the person you love.
12. What would you like to say to those youngsters who have bright ideas and want to make it big in the media, but have not got the right avenues?
Volunteer your time and ideas to people who you admire. Help build your skill set without pushing your own agenda but always keep your priorities straight. Every opportunity is a chance to learn and redefine your goals and aspirations.
13. What does being a TED fellow mean to you? How do you plan to leverage this?
I love TED and I learn something new from each TEDtalk. It is super exciting to be selected as a fellow and I am very excited to learn about what other people around me are doing. I am looking forward to hearing some incredible talks, meeting new and interesting people, and of course, soak in the TED experience live! This is a fabulous opportunity and I am very excited.
14. If you are given a chance to start your life from the beginning what will you do differently?
Absolutely nothing. I think life is full of twists and turns and I try to make the most out of every opportunity that comes my way!
15. Where do you see yourself and Global Autorickshaw in the future?
I hope that global rickshaw will be collaborating with fabulous organizations in the future to make awesome media – public service announcements, music videos and short films for years to come. My hope is that one day we will be able to make films that inform or encourage awareness about issues that could help guide policy decisions in the future.
Aparna Wilder can be followed in twitter @globalrickshaw
Her organization's website is http://www.globalrickshaw.com