After a long, arduous, but ultimately very fulfilling journey, independent filmmaker Pari Mathur’s debut feature film, “Family Party,” is finally reaching audiences worldwide.
The film, which premiered at the New York Indian Film Festival in May 2015, was released on transactional platforms such as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Vudu in October 2015. Now, the film has been acquired by Netflix, and became available to stream worldwide on its platform in all English-speaking territories on March 1.
“This entire journey has been the hardest thing I’d do again in a heartbeat, which is why I’m currently developing film no. 2,” the Indian American filmmaker told India-West.
“Family Party” is a coming of age, romantic comedy, which follows a group of Indian American teens who get dragged to a family party, who then plan to sneak out once they all realize they have tickets to the same local concert.
“It’s a feel good film, which generation X, Y, Z can all sit down and enjoy together,” he explained. “I feel romantic comedies these days deal with a lot of unnecessary adult themes, so I wanted to bring that innocent, wholesome quality back into storytelling.”
Starring a cast of talented local youth from the elite private Harker School in San Jose, Calif., the film was shot all around the San Francisco Bay Area, including the cities of Oakland, San Jose, Pleasanton, Pacifica and Saratoga.
“The school has an amazing acting conservatory,” Mathur told India-West, adding that he was consistently blown away by the level of performances, which weren’t just the average high-school productions. “These kids were actually transforming into character, understanding the subject material, and delivering powerful dialogue with impeccable timing,” he said.
The adults were auditioned and cast from the local Bay Area theater group Naatak.
Though “Family Party” is his first feature film venture, Mathur is no stranger to the creative industry.
The young filmmaker, who is a studio arts graduate of the University of California, Irvine, earned his Master of Fine Arts in film production at the Orange, Calif.-based Chapman University, and after college, naturally gravitated to opportunities in the creative field.
He set up a production company called Paridym Pictures (now Silk Road Films), for which he was an official ad creation specialist for Google TV AdWords, working with Fortune 500 companies all the way to entrepreneurs starting new brands. He later joined a friend to create MKSHFT/CLLCTV, a platform to create content for companies such as Facebook and Toyota.
And after five years of making content for big brands, Mathur said he decided it was time to focus on his own stories.
He finished the film’s screenplay back in 2009, but said he didn’t know where to turn to. So he spent the next several years putting a budget and business plan together, and trying to figure out how to make it a success. But one thing, he said he was sure of, and that was he wouldn’t let anything affect the story.
“A big reason I made this film is to change the perception of Indian Americans in the media,” Mathur explained to India-West. “There are a lot of Indian American films that deal with the same, drawn out subject like: the parents vs. the kids, traditional vs. modern, how it was in India and how different it is growing up as an Indian American kid today. I wanted to wipe all that out and tell an updated story.”
In the film, the focus is not Indian culture, the filmmaker elaborated. “The Indian element is just a backdrop to the film. So you can take the characters out and replace them with a Chinese family, a black family, and the story will be the same.”
Explaining how he went about working on the project, Mathur said a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film was launched but that didn’t yield the desired result; later, he was able to obtain private investors who believed in his “mission and passion.”
They raised enough money to go into production in the summer of 2013, but, because of their low budget, he said they had to work extremely hard. No project of this magnitude can be accomplished without the assistance of an able crew, he opined.
The film, which was six years in the making, took only 14 days of shoot.
“They say the best creativity comes from limitation, and I have to give credit to the entire crew who brought this story to life with basically nothing,” said Mathur.
The team encountered yet another hurdle after the production was over.
“After production, we ran out of money. So, I spent two years self-funding the film,” he said, adding that a stint at Pinterest and a full-time job at Coursera helped him squirrel away some extra funds towards editing, color correction, sound mixing and titles, among others.
“It was a slow and painful process but I learned how to manage myself, my time, and more importantly, how to be patient,” he told India-West.
Mathur wrote the screenplay, and directed as well as produced the film. Talking about what inspired the flow of ideas for the project, he said, “There has definitely been a time in all of our lives where we didn’t want to hang out with our parents and wanted to hang out with our friends instead. It’s a universal story about what it feels like growing up.”