So I’m pleased to finally publish Talim. While it’s also streaming on Amazon Instant Video, my friends at Gumroad made it easy to offer it here too. You can donate $2.99 to rent the title, $7.99 to buy, or use the promo codes listed right below the trailer. Bit more background underneath.
Talim started out of a failure to get a legitimate internship.
In spring 2010, Alex O’Dell wandered into my room one night and asked me to help launch TED Talks at Michigan. Eventually assenting, I soon found myself staying at Frank Lloyd Wright houses, listening to Groove Spoon, and hob-nobbing with professors in fuzzy sweaters who found everything “terribly interesting”. At the afterparty of what was an intimate, highly sought-after event, Alex, myself and another Indian kid were celebrating with champagne. We asked each other’s summer plans and jointly lamented how organizing TED had taken our capacity away to go after the best internships. Grimly noting our likely fate of making copies all summer for some firm in Detroit, the Indian kid joked that we should do our own internship, consulting for different NGOs across India. He said it a second time; it sounded better. The wheels started turning.
The next morning, Alex and I woke up buzzing about the plan. The other guy forgot about it, never emailing us like he promised he would, but we were fixated. We’d go around India offering our consulting—get this, for free—to local organizations. We’d hand-pick the ones that sounded interesting and teach them to run their organizations.
It took us longer to realize than it should have, but eventually we remembered we didn’t know anything and pretty much scrapped the idea. Here we were, 21-year olds from the Midwest, thinking we had a thing or two to teach nonprofits facing down some of the toughest issues on earth. Audacity is often a good thing, but not when you walk into a place thinking you’re wise and knowing as little as we knew.
But after we recognized we had nothing to contribute, the focus shifted from “teach” to “learn”. After all, that’s what an internship is, right? The project slowly came to life in a new form. We’d seek the Why’s behind innovators, and delve into the meaning behind social change. We’d meet people instead of organizations. And, if we were able to budget it, we’d take a camera along for the ride. So we launched a 2010 Kickstarter to enable you to join us. Needless to say, we’re stoked to finally show you what we’ve worked on for half a decade.
We got the Kickstarter funded. We got a semi-drunk Sam Valenti (President of Ghostly International) to offer usage of his label’s music in the film (Tycho, Mux Mool, among others). Then we sent one simple email to be circulated among the global TED community:
What are the coolest things happening in India that nobody knows about?
From this alone came the movie above. 18 names came through; we tracked down half, and found our own along the way. We ran out of $$ by Day 35 (of 56) and relied on my remnant family members to get us through. We managed to burn two CDs for the entire trip, searing the playlist into our minds (this, alongside music from the film below):
We got sick of each other. We got robbed. At several instances, we had no idea the plot or point of our film (the “Fireworks” chapter touches on this). By some means though, we came home with 16 stories bouncing around our heads to tell. A school run by kids, a story remarkably similar to Slumdog Millionaire, a tribe boxing their way out of extinction, the list continued. They are the reason we persisted to pursue this film after so many years; to keep these people’s tales inside of our heads alone was impossible.
At the very end of my journey through India, I was asked, “Are you proud of what you were able to accomplish?” I replied, “I don’t think ‘proud’ is the right word. More appropriately, I feel overwhelmed with a gratefulness to have had this opportunity.” What we did here was not remarkable; I want to make that clear. Talim can be easily replicated in any locale with the question above and the right people to help. This was an internship, a learning experience, and I’m now proud to share nine tightly-woven stories at the top of this page.