In A New Direction
Behind the high-profile job of helming a film there are many challenges that directors face. Here’s news that will bring them cheer
Ashwini Chaudhary, General Secretary, IFTDA
We have more than 10,000 members in Indian Film Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA), directors and assistants, of both films and television. One has to be a member of an association; if you’re not, you can’t work in the industry. Whether you’re a spot boy, a light man, hairdresser or a make-up artiste, everyone is a member of an association.
IFTDA is the only association for directors based in Mumbai. It was meant mainly for Hindi films but now we have members from other regions too, like the Punjabi, Marathi and Bengali film industries.
We are a registered trade union, which was founded 50 years ago. One of the many things we do is settle disputes. For instance, if a director is not paid by the producer, their dispute is settled by IFTDA. Second, we provide medical welfare to our members, especially directors who are not doing well and are old.
I was appointed general secretary of IFTDA two years ago, when I resolved to help directors regain the respect they once enjoyed. As an association for aspiring and upcoming directors, I thought we should give something back to the industry.
Master Class: During this time, we also introduced many new initiatives. Earlier, we did not have a website. Now we have one of the best in the industry. We have also started a monthly master class, which is helmed by a master director with another director who moderates the class. This has included names like Aanand L Rai, Mani Ratmnam, Subhash Ghai, David Dhawan and Madhur Bhandarkar. I think it is a huge platform for upcoming aspiring directors to simply interact with master directors. Every month, more than 500 aspiring directors attend the master class.
I have also started a monthly workshop for assistants, where senior directors, writers and cinematographers helm these workshops. The idea is to groom assistants. Another initiative is an informal baithak, which we call Baat Cheeth. A monthly event, it is a forum where directors and assistants discuss all sorts of issues relating to films and television. It gives everyone a chance to bond with each other and we get acquainted with the problems faced by assistants and directors at the ground level.
Filmmaking involves plenty of legal procedures, especially with so many corporates making films. We have therefore hired a legal team to educate our members about the terms of agreements and make them aware of their rights.
Mentoring Newbies: Very soon, we will launch a short-film competition. Technology now enables budding talent to shoot films even on their mobile phones. This competition is meant to encourage upcoming directors. I have therefore put together a jury of directors in IFTDA. The winner of this competition will be honoured in the master class and s/he will be assigned a senior director as a mentor from IFTDA, if they are working on a script.
Apart from these initiatives, we are also tying to build bridges with state governments and the central government. This will enable us to improve working conditions and make things easier for filmmakers to shoot their films.
Film Policies: The Bihar government approached us three months ago, as they wanted to formulate a film policy. We invited the government delegation to Mumbai and sat together for three days to formulate a film policy for the Bihar government. We also organised interactions for both producers and directors with the representatives of the Bihar government, their tourism minister, their finance minister and the director of their film commission.
We repeated the exercise with the Jharkhand government and we will next assist the Gujarat government. We have already formulated a film policy for the Haryana government, and the first International Film Festival of Haryana, which was held in Hisar, was organized in association with IFTDA, to promote the culture of films in a state like Haryana.
Also, if you are a first-time director, IFTDA gives you a platform to showcase your film. We organise a premiere for debutant directors to make sure the industry gets to see your film. We are also planning a huge exhibition on the journey of cinema. Next on our wish list are awards, like it is organised by the Directors Guild of America.
TV Professionals: Television has grown immensely in the last few years but the working conditions in the television industry are very bad. For instance, the industry has gone from having eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. Also, there are no separate washrooms for women. It’s ridiculous – while the industry constructs sets which cost crores of rupees, they have not bothered to build separate washrooms! We have raised this issue with producers repeatedly.
We are also campaigning to get some space allotted to directors and DoPs. These professionals work for 16 hours at a stretch but still have no space to rest. We have seen technicians faint on the sets.There are many more issues.
Labour Laws: We are governed by the labour laws of the country and the labour law says you can’t work beyond eight hours. But that does not apply in the television industry, where they work 14 hours a day, 30 days a month. So we want the government and associations to address this issue and make life bearable.
Did you know that 70 per cent of those who work in the television industry are unhealthy because they are not exposed to sufficient sunlight? These are some of the issues we are taking up with the associations concerned and the government, in an effort to get them on the same page.
Marketing Budgets: We all know that P&A is killing the industry. Every film has to spend a lot on promotions and sometimes, the marketing budget is almost as big as the film’s budget! This is not the case in the South film industries, which are not allowed to spend more than a certain sum on P&A.
Piracy is a major issue that we are facing. Here, there is not much one can do without the government’s help. The government has to make stringent anti-piracy rules and execute them, and this is the only way we can control piracy.
Due Credit: There are many in the film and television industries who don’t get due credit for their work. Consider the following scenario. It often happens that a director works with a producer for 10 months and they then have a fallout later. The producer then hires a new director and the entre credit goes to him. We work towards settling disputes like this. Sometimes, more than one association sits together to solve issues. So, if an actor has an issue with a director, then the CINTAA and IFTDA try and resolve it.
Another initiative the IFTDA has taken is talking to state governments to make various states shooting-friendly. We have achieved quite a lot with the Bihar government, which is now offering single-window permissions. To encourage filmmakers to shoot in Bihar, the state government is not demanding a fee to shoot on location.
We are also talking to the Gujarat government and working out similar policies in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. We are also pushing for subsidies from state governments, not for the director but for their films.
Another initiative is the sessions we arrange for foreign filmmakers who want to shoot in India. Clearly, they want to invite our filmmakers to shoot in their countries as well. So we host sessions, where they share their experiences to enlighten people here.
Copyright Issues: Copyright is another focus area for IFTDA. Just like the writers’ association is working on the copyright issue, which has now become a law, so also we are talking to the ministry concerned about copyright for directors too.
Say, for instance, a director makes a sequel to a film. Shouldn’t the director who made the first film and developed the characters in that instalment enjoy copyright over the film?