Based on a true story, writer/director Duke Roth Simon’s feature film project Debal-Uncrowned Underdogs explores the dark and dangerous world of an underground drug cartel in Pakistan. The previously untold story takes place in Roth’s home city of Karachi, and is a labour of love that he’s been working on and researching for over 2 years.
Although he’s received a lot of positive response when pitching the film over the years, Roth struggled to source the financial support he needed in order to make the idea a reality. In fact, if you take a look at Debal’s indiegogo crowdfunding campaign set up on Raindance’s partner page, it would appear that that project is still yet to raise a single dime.
However, in an unexpected twist of fate it was this very campaign that caught the attention of a private investor within one week of going live and secured Roth and his team the entire budget for the film.
A success story that proves how hard work, determination, practice and the use of social media really can pay off, Debal’s recent crowdfunding triumph had all of us in the Raindance office desperate to know more. Lucky for us, Roth was delighted to tell me more about his experiences with this project when I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with him a couple of weeks ago.
“Almost 3 years ago I was introduced to Raindance” says Roth, “Boozin’ ‘N’ Schmoozin’ parties are my favourite, you get to meet people of your kind.” It’s these types of opportunities that Roth feels enabled him to engage with other filmmakers and to “slowly and gradually progress in networking in London.” Finding that people seemed genuinely interested in the premise of Debal, Roth was fuelled with determination to establish some financial backing and make it happen.
The turning point, however, came when Roth pitched Debal to the panel at the Meet the Buyers event during the Raindance Film Festival in October. “That was one crazy event” he says, recalling the feedback that the panel of experts in sales, distribution and marketing gave him: “I pitched. Some liked, some didn’t.” Despite getting in touch with all of them afterwards, Roth didn’t hear anything back, guessing that he was most likely “lost in their crowd of emails.”
Although he found this “disappointing,” Roth believes that the experience of Meet the Buyers improved his confidence and ultimately “helped [him] to boost [his] pitching skills.” Furthermore, it inspired him to take the advice and criticism that the panel gave him and “turn it into success,” seeing him look toward crowdfunding on indiegogo as a means of putting plans into action.
“The platform was free, so I made the campaign and posted it” says Roth, feeling that there was nothing to lose through trying. With his ever-developing network of friends and pitching practice at Meet the Buyers under his belt, Roth felt confident that he could put together a strong campaign strategy to get the ball rolling and raise “at least something to start the project.”
Shortly after Debal‘s campaign went live, Roth was contacted through Facebook and told that there was someone who had seen it and wanted to fund the film. “We got in touch and I pitched him the project,” says Roth when I asked him what followed after this initial contact; “he loved it, funded it and now I am buying my own Red Dragon, isn’t that great?!”
After over 2 years of researching and pitching this project, filming for Debal- Uncrowned Underdogs begins at the end of December and wraps in February 2015. Roth is finally able to shed light on the crimes that he “saw and witnessed” growing up in Pakistan, securing a deal to release the film word worldwide by next October 2015. When I asked what’s next, Roth replied “I really hope it’s gonna showcase at Raindance and make it to the Oscars!”
A success story that Duke Roth Simon himself describes as “unbelievable but true,” we wish him and his team all the luck and success in the future with Debal- Uncrowned Underdogs.
It seems most fitting to leave you with Roth’s words of advice for aspiring filmmakers:
“Guys, my fellow beings, don’t give up on your dreams, if I did it maybe all of you can out there. People who win Oscars are humans like us, there is no difference. Just be patient and let everybody turn you down, because there’ll be 99s nos and 1 yes…you just need to look out for that yes.”