Production Notes

Tenzing Sonam
01 August 2003

It's been nearly three years since we first put out an announcement on our website about our proposed feature film, Poison Charm. Since then we've been working nonstop to raise the finances for the film. It hasn't been easy but we're happy to announce that we are finally in a position to begin production. Here's a brief background on how we got here:

It seems a very long time ago when the first draft of the script was finished and we set out, full of optimism, in the summer of 2000, to meet Bernardo Bertolucci in Rome and his producer, Jeremy Thomas, in London. We had met Bertolucci many years ago when he had watched our film, The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche, while researching his own film, Little Buddha, and had invited us to the sets of the shoot in Kathmandu. That's where we met Jeremy for the first time. They read the script and were encouraging in their response. Jeremy agreed to help us find the finances but warned that raising money for a foreign language film was difficult at the best of times. It didn't take us long to find out how true his words were!

A year and many rejections later, we ventured once again to England and America, armed with a new draft of the script. Helped by Jeremy's contacts, we had better luck this time and had promising meetings with Sony Picture Classics and Palm Pictures in New York and Muse Productions in Los Angeles. For a while it seemed our troubles were over. But we soon learnt that in the world of Hollywood-style wheeling and dealing, the only deal is the one backed by hard cash. September 11 happened soon afterwards and before we knew it, all interest in our film had vanished.

We spent the next year in financing wilderness, using the time to rework the script yet again and to come up with a new strategy. We were fortunate enough during this period to have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama who gave our project his support and blessings. This encounter revitalized our energies and we were more determined than ever to realize our dream.

By the end of 2002, we were ready with a streamlined script and a slimmer budget. From an initial budget of $1 million, we cut back to a more realistic $300,000. Instead of shooting on 35mm, we considered the option of shooting on Digital Video. In the end, we settled on Super 16mm as a more viable and attractive alternative. Costs were also brought down by the decision to do a major part of the post-production in India. We also decided to target individual investors rather than film companies.

This strategy paid off and Richard Gere came on board as the first of our investors. He has agreed conditionally to be the Executive Producer. A number of other individuals, including Jeremy Thomas, agreed to invest and by July of this year, we had raised enough money to begin production. We are still looking to raise the balance of the budget and would be happy to discuss the financial implications of investing in the film with any interested parties.

In June, we held a series of auditions in Dharamsala. We were overwhelmed by the response and enthusiasm and sorry that there were not enough roles in the film to accommodate everyone! Further auditions were conducted in Kathmandu and a casting call sent out to North America for our lead character. We will be finalizing the main cast shortly.

We started our Production Office in Delhi at the end of July and have begun the process of getting the crew together. Acclaimed filmmaker and cinematographer Ranjan Palit, who we earlier worked with on The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet, and whose credits include four feature films, will be the Director of Photography. Kathmandu-based Tsering Rhitar, will help us as Associate Director. The director of Amnye Machen Institute in Dharamsala, Tashi Tsering, is our Consultant. Other Tibetans involved in the project include Youdon Aukatsang and the photographer Tenzin Dorjee. We hope to involve other budding Tibetan filmmakers and film enthusiasts on the project.

We will set up our production office in Dharamsala by mid-September. Our shoot is scheduled from early November to the end of December.

Wish us luck!

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