There were only a few banks that used to finance films and even they have become very choosy. They only back films with a big star cast, made by a large production house. They do not back niche subjects with newcomers.
I have produced six films but, with every film, I still have to struggle with finance. In spite of having A Wednesday! under my belt, things haven’t changed much. This is a very fickle business and there are no guaranteed returns when you make a film. Films which feature A-list actors too fail at the box office. You simply cannot tell which film will work and which will not.
This is a very sad situation for filmmakers, especially small filmmakers. Filmmaking is a tricky business and banks look at balance sheets and your account should be clear. For instance, they have stopped financing the real estate industry even though they know the building will be sold and they will make money but because builders have not repaid their loans on time, banks have stopped financing small-time real estate developers. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, so everyone from exhibitor to distributor to producer has to come together to make a film possible.
How do you expect banks or the government to support us when we ourselves don’t support each other? There is no unity in this industry. When a big film is releasing, every exhibitor goes all out to promote it whereas they don’t assign more than three shows to a small film.
The problem with bank finance is that they need to make sure they recover the money they lend you. If you mortgage your house, they will happily finance your film. They need to know the return on investment, which a film does not guarantee. Hence filmmakers, especially new filmmakers, don’t get bank finance.
Alternatively, the government could do its bit by offering us some subsidies, which will ease our financial burden. We were given ‘industry’ status but we are still not counted as an industry. That needs to change.
From Vicky Donor, to Madras Cafe, to Piku, we have never approached banks for finance. But banks have their rules and regulations and if you fulfill their requirements, you will be able to secure a loan from them. When we apply for a housing loan or a personal loan, don’t they check our credentials to assess whether or not we can repay the loan?
Similarly, when you ask a bank to finance your film, they will look at your credibility and balance sheet and track record. They are there to give loans but also recover those loans. Banks work on deadlines, like recovering EMIs on specific dates, periodically. So, say, your film gets delayed, banks will not accommodate the delay.
Banks are financing television shows these days because they see the returns, they see cheques coming in on time. But they don’t see returns in the filmmaking business and that’s why they provide loans only to producers whose credentials they recognise. The government has given us an industry status. What more could we ask for? As an industry, we need to get our act together when it comes to work culture. After that, everything will fall into place.