With ‘collaboration’ being the new global watchword, India needs a market place to bring our best content onto one platform
‘Festival film’ has taken on a new meaning; suddenly there is a sense of legitimacy that comes with it. A term which once signified the film as being ‘art house’, a blanket umbrella, today finds its way into the homes of millions of Indians and non-Indians. Indian films breaking out or being consumed by a larger population is no longer treated as an anomaly.
The position where we are at today as independents has been a long path that was initiated by the likes of Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Uma Da Cunha and Nina Lath Gupta of NFDC, among others, with quality cinema being showcased, breaking the stereotype that India meant ‘Bollywood’. Studios like Disney (then UTV), Viacom18 and Reliance Entertainment went beyond diaspora markets to introduce both the mainstream and the content-led films they produced. This perhaps marked the first-ever exploration of a world beyond our own in recent times (‘recent times’ being the key word).
The idea of trading, syndicating and sharing content beyond our boundaries is exciting, and film festivals and film markets have found a new-found interest across the board. Indian content, whether soaps, films or web content, have started finding homes beyond our own. Indian television shows are being sold to Turkey and Indonesia, among others (Viacom, Go Quest and the like have been working their way through it); and web content is being explored in China (Dice Media). There are now strategic alliances being spoken about between content providers from India and other parts of the world including China, South Africa and Brazil. Exciting times are ahead!
Markets like MIPCOM and MIPTV in Cannes, ATF in Singapore, Discop Markets (Dubai, Johannesburg and Abidjan), Marche Du Film in Cannes, EFM in Berlin, Ventana sur in Argentina, Film Mart in Hong Kong, AFM in California and Asian Film Market in Busan attract thousands of buyers and sellers, and are a melting pot of content from across the globe.
Strategically, each of these markets are both well-timed and well-located. Those in the business of buying and selling content travel far and wide to ensure they make their presence felt, including those from India.
For a country that produces the largest number of films and easily palatable TV content, the absence of a well-rounded market place for content is evident. This exceeds far more than just the sale of our content; subsequently, the buying of international content for the Indian subcontinent has also seen an upswing. From remake rights, to book rights to international films, there’s a plethora to choose from but thus far limited to those who are in the know and the new filmmakers who have the dough.
While on the festival front, film festivals like the Mumbai Film Festival and International Film Festival of Kerala have created a strong place for themselves in the global festival calendar with the best of cinema showcased. NFDC’s annual Film Bazaar is perhaps the closest we have in the country that has created a dent in the market calendar globally.
Albeit not a typical buyer-seller focused market, Film Bazaar attracts the who’s who in terms of co-productions, sales agents, producers and festival programmers. Last year, the Global Content Bazaar was organised by Saicom Trade Fairs and Exhibition led by noted industry professional Ramesh Meer, this being the first of its kind and really pretty much the first on a larger scale.
Add to this the discovery of Indian films by international festival programmers and active co-production of projects (both Indian and international). While most of this happens in a fragmented manner, we are yet to have a united front, something that has been debated and discussed innumerable times.
There is undoubtedly scope, a place and location for a market place that allows India and its content to take centrestage, a market place that allows international content owners and sellers to reach out to content buyers in the country (you’d be surprised by how many there are!). A true exchange of content, in every sense.
It’s not as if this has not been tried in the past but lack of funds, support, structure (a full-fledged team working through the year exclusively on this) and united involvement to be able to pool resources and networks have always been obstacles.
Additionally, the lack of a collective resource centre and facilitation body aimed at promoting our cinema and our content is more evident now than ever, with other nations such as France with UniFrance, Japan with UniJapan, the UK with UK Film Council and BFI, and Korea with KOFIC paving the way for their respective countries’ content.
FICCI, which organises the annual Frames coalition each year, is perhaps the only organisation that has taken steps in realising this need of the hour for a buyer-seller market place, and has initiated steps in that direction. Perhaps it is time everyone rallied behind them to create the full-fledged consortium that is needed to put up a united front to ensure that an Indian content market place is both successful and a cauldron of global content for this part of the world is created.
Idealistic? Perhaps. But, then, imagine a world where content really has no boundaries, a place within our country where you could walk in to pitch, create and co-produce a project at NFDC Film Bazaar and then the following year sell the content to a world at a content buyer-sellers’ market in the country.
Naivety is bad for business, they say, but in the business of entertainment, there’s no holding