Gotham Chopra: I made a movie — now what do I do?

So I guess the cat is out of the bag, which is what happens when Lady Gaga gets involved… and then you yourself post pictures of it everywhere. I made a movie about my dad Deepak Chopra called ‘Decoding Deepak.’ This past Friday Night, there was a small private screening at the home of Hollywood mogul Peter Guber and his wife Tara, who also happen to be longtime close friends of our family. It’s likely to be the only screening before the film’s worldwide premiere at the trendy South by Southwest Film Festival March 11th in Austin, Texas.

And yeah, Lady Gaga attended Friday night’s screening… which was, um, interesting. Not only because she’s a fascinating contemporary cultural icon – which is kind of what the film is about (my dad being one of those too) — but also because hardly anyone outside of the small circle of those that have worked on the film with me the last 18 months have seen it. So when one of the first happens to be someone who’s sitting at the zeitgeist of the cultural creative Universe — and also happens to have 19 million twitter followers — it’s a bit nerve-wracking. There’s the fact that she’s twenty-five years old too, but that’s another issue…

I guess the good news is that Lady Gaga claimed to like the movie, at least she said she did. In fact, everyone in attendance said they liked it. Then again, what were they going to say at an invitation only party up in the elite Bel Air Hills hosted by a mogul with the film-maker and subject of the film (my dad) sitting amongst them. Not exactly the venue to go all Roger Ebert, right?

I’ll share more on the genesis and substance of the film in the coming days and weeks, but the nuts and bolts of it are that I followed my dad around the world for the better part of a year. I wanted to answer that question I’ve been asked all my life — ‘what’s it like being the kid of Deepak Chopra?’ I also wanted to resolve the contradiction I’ve seen all my life — reconcile the saintly pop-cultural spiritual icon the world seems to believe my dad is (amongst millions anyway) with the real human being (full of virtues, vices, flaws, and foibles) that my sister and I grew up around.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away by confessing that this movie ain’t no hit job. I didn’t set out to undermine the “brand” my dad has built over his 25 year career. But I also didn’t set out to just emboss it either. I set out to be honest, and that was the quality I kept reminding myself to honor through the course of the film every time I peaked into the camera’s viewfinder. I feel pretty good about staying true to that.

Now, as word leaks out about the film, people are starting to ask when it will be out for the general public to see. And my answer is: I have no idea.

After the SXSW premiere, we’ve committed to a few other subsequent festivals. So limited regional audiences to start. Such is the independent film model. But after that, in terms of reaching the masses, no plan yet in place. And herein lies the issue: What is the best way to reach the audience, which in this case is already pre-established just by virtue of the fact that my dad has done quite a bit of work for me by, you’know, doing what he’s done the last two odd decades. 65 plus books written, 30 plus million sold, dozens of languages, millions of readers, 700k twitter followers, picking fights with Fox News, befriending Oprah etc.

The traditional model is to take the film to the festival, hope we get some good reviews and audience response, have some distributors in the house and play them off of each other for the best and highest sale. Then repeat the process for the foreign markets. Nice license fees, maybe some limited theatrical, and some upside on the home video and downloads and call it a day… Take the money and run and abide by their release schedule. After all, they’d have paid for it.

The hitch? We’re currently amidst the total transformation of the media industry as we know it. The model is twisting, turning, and totally transforming before our very eyes. Content creators (like me) with assets (like the film) with established audiences (like my dad’s) and the potential for broader ones (like Lady Gaga’s) present wildly intriguing possibilities.

Consider this roadmap: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc as means to promote the film. Off the (digital) shelf file sharing software to download the film, Paypal to charge for the film. No walls between you and me. We wouldn’t be the first: see comedian Louis C.K.

Or maybe there’s some hybrid version, collaborating with our friends at YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix. Surely there’s a way. We’re creating our own bloody YouTube channel in partnership with YouTube for God’s sake! (launched July 1, btw)

Alas…for all the hype around the collapse of the old media model as we know it, it continues to march on. New cable channels headlined by titans like Oprah, Ryan Seacrest, Mark Cuban and more in the pipe continue to mount their offensive, demonstrating that the so-called old model isn’t exactly going extinct. And for every Lewis CK success story, there are a dozen others in the new media graveyard.

I said that I set out to be honest, right? So here’s the truth: I set out to make an honest movie about my dad and my goal — like any film-maker — was and is to have it seen by as many people as possible. I had another goal too, to make it worth my and my investor’s while. I didn’t take any money myself to make the movie. The investment — from an amazingly trusting investor by the way- – went into the movie, not my pocket. As a result, my personal financial success comes in the financial success of the film. So yeah, one more bit of honesty, doing the whole ‘open source’ thing is not really in the cards.

So that’s where we stand, folks in ‘real time.’ At the precipice of a brave new (digital) world, but with lingering reminders that the old model ain’t dead yet. And to be honest – since that’s the theme of the day – we’re still tweaking the film in the edit room as I write this. We likely will be until the moment it goes on the big screen in front of that Texan crowd about a month from now. So really, these are just distractive fantasies anyway, because who knows what happens then? SXSW crowds to have that reputation for telling you what they feel. It ain’t exactly Bel Air.

At least, I’ll always have Gaga, right?

 

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About Gotham Chopra

Gotham Chopra is a multi-media voice on issues of spirituality, culture, and news. As an anchor for Channel One News -- an in-school educational news broadcast seen daily by upwards of 8 million American students -- Gotham reported from Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, China, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Colombia, Russia, Chechnya, Mexico, Honduras, all across Europe and the United States. He has interviewed a wide range of Global leaders -- from President Bush to the Dalai Lama to associates and foot soldiers of Osama Bin Laden. He has hosted events as diverse as the Pope's pep rally in St. Louis to the action at the fifty-yard line at the Superbowl. Gotham's global assignments have sent him on patrol with anti-militant commando units in war torn Kashmir and had him detained by secret police in China, Iran, and Pakistan. Gotham is the author of Familiar Strangers (Random House 2002) -- a non-fiction and spiritual chronicle of his travels and encounters at the frontlines of areas in conflict and transition. Gotham served as Story Editor on the Bulletproof Monk -- a comic book about bullets, monks, gangs, and seekers. He also served as Executive Producer of the feature Film with John Woo's Lion Rock Films and MGM Studios, which appeared in theaters in 2003. He is also author of Child of the Dawn, a novel published in 1996 and translated in 13 languages internationally. He recorded The Mythical Lover on A Gift of Love -- a recording of sensual poetry by the 13th Century poet Rumi, and has served as researcher and lyrical advisor to Michael Jackson on the multi-platinum albums Dangerous and HIStory. He has also served as Producer on television specials for PBS. As co-founder of 5K Entertainment, Gotham wrote, is producing, and will direct the indy feature Swindle. He is also the co-creator of K Lounge -- a Kama Sutra bar and lounge in New York City with more to launch internationally in 2005. As co-founder of Chopra Media and a partner in Intent Media (with Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur), Gotham is involved in a wide-array of creative media ventures. He is the President of development for Gotham Studios Asia, the largest comic book studio in India. Currently Gotham is serving as creative consultant to Current TV, a new television network co-founded by former Vice-President Al Gore, and scheduled to launch in 20 million American households in August 2005. Identified by Newsweek Magazine (March 04) as one of the "most powerful and influential" South Asians worth watching, Gotham speaks nationally on issues of youth and spirituality, conflict resolution, and develops workshops to create a language for young people to bring out the internal and external issues that important to them.

Comments

  1. I wish you all good luck with your film.
    It will be immensely interesting to so many.
    We are very curious about spiritual people that appear to be perfect but are of course human.
    I look forward to seeing it.
    Have fun in Austin.

  2. Gotham, I saw the clip you showed us at Whistler SOS this summer and loved it and your irreverence and honesty about your family. Some people in the audience who revere your dad found it "disrespectful"… but I simply found it irreverent… the way you see your dad is from real life… the way the rest of us see him is from the many gifts he shares and his ability to marry science with spirituality and bring ancient eastern thought together with modern/western science… He may like staying in a beautiful hotel suite rather than on the floor of an ashram, but I see him on the subway regularly in NYC, so he's not being driven around in a limo, lest anyone think ill of him for enjoying a few creature comforts… I wish you every success and can't wait for the full film to be available to all. Also, loving your sister's intent.com. love, love, love to you.

  3. Good luck with this as with all things great in this universe the flow of whats to come will show up naturally and carry you away, if you let it! Gently down the stream! Shaman Ziggy

  4. Gotham: You know I’ve been close to your Dad for a long time… You’ve honored him and yourself by doing this movie. I’d reccomend you go all ways… If we are in the midst, we are in the midst, so the answer lies in your own question statement… Everyone will benefit from doing so… Remember that not all people are Technology savy… Lots of your Dad’s fans have no twitter, no fb, no way how to get an account on paypal… Because your Dad’s spectrum of followers range from all ages, but mainly from ages when one strats to ask who am I and what am I doing here?… I know the goal should be to broaden the scope (And Gaga might be helpful on this), so use all the ways… I know you might not like “Typical channels of distribution” but someone has to do the Dirty Job, and that seems to be you (to deal with all those people)… Do not be afraid, every body will love your Dad, he is adorable… I’ve known his brilliance and his flaws, and knowing all that I have no other option but to love and respect him… All the ways, I mean Allways :)

  5. Great comments.
    Marco – I agree with you. Most of my dad's fans are unlikely tech savvy. So we need to think through traditional distribution.
    But also its a global fan base – so it should be available to everyone.
    I am noticing with our Intent online courses (See Intent Shop), many of our sales are globally. Downloading virtual products gives a new audience as well.
    So interesting our times!!
    Mallika

  6. Being an indie filmmaker my self (but without the built-in audience) I'm intrigued to see what you end up deciding. I'm also very much looking forward to the opportunity to see your film myself – both because I've learned so much from your father (SOS + Sages & Scientists) but also as a filmmaker.

    Congrats and much success!

    Terri

  7. Gotham, many of us would like to thank you for taking on a project of this magnitude, especially while your father is living. It’s not often the humanity is able to see inside the life of an icon such as your father and the world is looking forward to seeing your dad through your lens. I can only guess, but I’m pretty sure the film will show that even the most highly regarded spiritual icons display human tendencies. As a parent myself, I’m well aware of those areas in my life where I could have displayed a better example to my children and at the same time I know I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. I imagine your Dad feels the same way. With regard to how to distribute the film, please do not forsake the well traveled path because I would not want anyone to miss an opportunity to see this film. The tech savvy generation is great, I rely on kids regularly to help me stay up with the latest technology, without them I would miss so much in the world. At the same time, I feel super comfortable putting a DVD in the old fashioned way. I wish you all the best of success with the film…. We can’t wait!!

  8. Dear Gotham, I've met your dad three times. The second time was at Mauna Lani about 8 years ago, and he was kind of gruff with me when I asked him to sign a book — though to be honest I may have interrupted some deep thinking he was doing just before giving a talk. Your dad is amazing, but I also learned then that he's human. All of this is to say that I would love Love LOVE to watch your movie — and that I hope I can someday stream it thru Netflix, Hulu or the like. I'll happily pay a few bucks to do that, with hopes that in this way more of the money goes to you, the content creator. The new paradigm wins because it's better…

  9. Looking forward to getting my ticket to see this film in whatever shape or form…i'd like it to be on some big screen!!! Yay Gotham!!! this is awesome and exciting. i love what you share and your style of sharing it. i know you've enjoyed the process…now, get your ROI and we will all love to watch this film. i am so very excited to see your point of view. you are an awesome and fun creator!!! i am just slowly getting to know you. enjoy the last tweaks in the editing process! love, constanza

  10. I think you should just enjoy the creative process in the editing room and savour every single minute of the crescendo of your screening. You are Dr. Chopra's son, you can trust in knowing the right people and the right situations are already on the way to greet you. At the end of the day your memories are going to be surrounded by the truth of your kindness told to your Dad through your movie. rc

  11. here is an interesting angle on the 'new spirituality' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xON0Gw-caks

    "When people like Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle become best sellers, there is obviously a market for the ideas they promote. So what are those ideas? Is there any truth to them? Find out this week on Let My People Think with Ravi Zacharias."