Surekha Paruchuri – Marketing Both IFFLA and Independent Indian Cinema
Posted by Vivek on April 27, 2011 | No Comments
About as difficult as making a Non Bollywood Indian film or an event around it, such as IFFLA, is marketing and publicizing it to the world. Surekha Paruchuri, the head of Marketing and PR for IFFLA actually relishes and thrives on that challenge. She has been pushing IFFLA to new frontiers and new sets of audiences, year after year and along with it also revealing the fact that there is way more to Indian cinema, than Bollywood. Here we finally corner, the ultimate foot soldier of IFFLA, before she takes off again, with another world to conquer as she spreads the message of IFFLA:
So how did the journey begin with IFFLA?
About 9 years ago I moved back to LA and was looking to get involved with film festivals and a friend in Atlanta found this website which had just been put up. So I called up the Indian Film Festival website number and told them I wanted to volunteer and we all met in a restaurant and it was just five of us. I started out helping them to get some “in –kind” items and along the way I pretty much said “yes” to whatever they wanted me to volunteer for. There were actually eight of us, with three of them in the background doing all the graphic design, the web design and the rest of us were doing the programming. It was really exciting to learn these new skills along with getting my older skills to the table too. I had a promotions background, I had worked in Radio. I had also been around PR and Advertising firms. But when I started out I didn’t actually want to do those things since I had already done that in the past, and that’s when I decided to go into sponsorship. Honestly it was something I never thought I could do. Going to people and asking them for money or in kind, items like plane tickets and things like that, never thought I would be doing that, but I found it to be such an important part of this festival organization, that it became something I started to enjoy.
What would you say if you were given a non Bollywood, Indian independent project to market, here in the US?
I guess in any country’s filmmaking process, it is a challenge when you don’t have well known celebrities attached. In the absence of that, I would look at the material and the content in itself and ask the question, who is this going to touch. What message are you trying to get across, it definitely would take work and even then it can be difficult if you are an unproven filmmaker. The filmmakers passion, conviction about the message would be something I would evaluate, before I decide to pursue it.
How long have you worn the “PR and Marketing” cap, at IFFLA?
This has been my third year, really focused on those areas. Although when we started out there were only a handful of us, so we were doing everything, including the marketing. As the festival has grown and we have got more support, that has offered me the opportunity to focus on certain areas, which I felt we really needed to push forward. So first it was in kind sponsorship, then it became monetary sponsorship since I felt that needed to be pushed to a higher level. In fact that is one of the wonderful things about this festival, if you find that you have an interest in certain area you can gravitate towards that, its pretty open, you’re not compartmentalized into one area. And that is probably why so many of the staff members come back every year, even though, its definitely not because of salaries (smiles)! It’s purely passion and the opportunity to learn about yourself, as we go about putting this platform for the filmmakers.
Tell to us about the short film that you have produced?
Yes, I have co produced BEHOLDER, with the director Nisha Ganatra. I found the script very interesting and Nisha works with a very diverse cast and I knew the people that I was working with. We all believed in the subject, worked together as a team and really enjoyed the process.
The challenge that you faced, from the South Asian American community, for putting together this festival, if any?
Well it was a challenge initially, we were unknown and unproven and that is true of anybody. For starters the majority of the potential audience were more interested in Bollywood type of films, whereas we were doing primarily Indian Independent films, although now it has really grown this appreciation for Indian Independent cinema and with that we’ve got more support but there is still a way to go, as far as the general support of the South Asian American population, for this kind of cinema.
Do you look back and say, “I could have made more money doing something else?”
Absolutely not!! I completely love what I do.