Let us remind ourselves that in times of trouble, we don’t have to march ahead alone. Yet we don’t give the administrative bodies that represent film technicians and artists due recognition
The very moment a child is born, s/he becomes part of the family. Every family is a part of society, and there’s a committee at the helm of every society. What happens when you need something but cannot go at it alone? Obviously, you talk to the people around you – your family, society or the committee – in your quest for a solution.
Here’s another, more everyday, example. Each of us lives in either a building, or a chawl, or a bungalow, and each of these living arrangements is administered by a committee set up by the people who live in them. When problems and challenges arise, one usually needs to approach one’s housing society or committee for assistance.
Likewise, in our film industry, which we believe is one big family, we have different associations representing the interests of different categories of professionals. All these associations have been around for decades. But the one BIG question is: do we really have faith in them?
These associations were set up to represent technicians and artists, whenever the latter faced a problem that was too big for them to resolve on their own. The association was meant to engage and negotiate on their behalf.
Again, the BIG question is: do we ever approach these associations, even when we need their help? Not really.
If we believe that this industry is one big family, and these associations were formed by yesteryear actors/filmmakers, why don’t we take their legacy forward? We all say that the youth is the face of our country, and it is they who will lead our country. But the BIG question is: how many young actors/filmmakers take these association seriously?
Oh, how we love to crib and say there’s no one to lead us! Yet there is a solution to every problem – and that’s being together.
In this section of our seventh anniversary issue, we have spoken to the people at the helm of some of our industry associations. If each one has a different story to tell, the one common theme in their collective voice is the importance of their existence and their resolve to make things better. They have had done a lot so far and, they say, if they’re taken more seriously, they could do much more. It’s all about coming forward and believing in them.
If only we could get together to achieve this common objective. After all, don’t we, and the industry as a whole, stand to benefit? Here’s a heartfelt plea. Read on:
As the entertainment landscape evolves, it is more important than ever for the people writing content and those telling the stories to work together
Hon General Secretary,
(formerly Film Writers’ Association)
Let me begin with a few lines from our member and poet-lyricist Shakeel Azmi’s poem Parde Ke Peechhe Ka Andhera, which aptly and briefly describes the state and status of a screenwriter and lyricist in Hindi cinema:
Isee jahaan mein hai ek kalam bhi
Ki jisse nikla tha ek Gabbar
Ki jisne likha tha ek Mogambo
Ki jisne socha tha ek Birju
Ki jisne parde par ek Vijay ki talaash ki thi.
Isi kalam ne villain ko maara
Badi par nekee ki jeet likhi.
Rivaz nafarat ka kaat daala
Nayi muhabbat ki reet likhi.
Kalam ne actor ko jaan di hai.
Khamoshiyon ko jabaan di hai.
Kalam ne likhe hain geet aise
Kamaati filmen hain jinse paise.
Magar kalam ki nahi hai izzat.
Magar kalam ki nahi hai keemat.
Milega kab iss kalam ko chehra?
Woh daur aayega kab sunehra?
The motive of the Film Writers’ Association is to first get a recognisable, respectable face to the ‘kalam’ and bring back that golden age, when screenwriters and lyricists found a well-deserved place in the Indian film and television industry and their legitimate right to respect, remuneration and credit.
So the first thing I did when my team and I took charge of the Film Writers’ Association back in 2008 was to put this line boldly on the door of our office:
‘The screenwriter is the first star of a film or television show because before the screenwriter, a film or a television show is just a blank piece of paper.’
Add to this, no one except the screenwriter knows how to fill up that blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen – not the superstar who gets paid crores; nor the producer who would not hesitate to pay crores to the star but preaches simple living and high thinking to the screenwriter and often cheats him/her of their due remuneration; nor the director who insists on sharing writing credit for just offering feedback on the script but wouldn’t dare share credit with a cinematographer, art director, editor, music director, singer, etc., for doing the same.
It is not that there never was a golden age for screenwriters and lyricists. The ’50s, the golden age of Hindi cinema, was also the golden age of screenwriters – Raj Kapoor perhaps spent more time with Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, VP Sathe and Inder Raj Anand than with his family; Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi were virtually inseparable; Bimal Roy could not do without Nabendu Ghosh. K Asif surrounded himself with four of the best screenwriters – Amanulla Khan, Kamal Amrohi, Vajahat Mirza and Ehsan Rizvi – to deliver an immortal classic like Mughal-E-Azam. Mehboob Khan had Ali Raza and Vajahat Mirza as his regular screenwriters; B.R. Chopra had an entire story department consisting of writers like Akhtar Mirza and Akhtar ul Iman; Shantaram often depended on the literary talents of legendary Marathi writer GD Madgulkar.
However the golden age did not continue, and over the years, with the exception of Pt Mukhram Sharma and Salim-Javed, the screenwriter was reduced to a ‘munshi’ at best.
Luckily for us, the Film Writers’ Association was born with the right DNA. It amuses me no end and in fact thrills me that back in 1950, when most of us were not even born and a few like me were still in our nappies, on a Sunday afternoon in the humble Matunga flat of music director Anil Biswas during an open house of their weekly cultural and literary meeting with KA Abbas, Ramanand Sagar, Dr Safdar Shah, Mahesh Kaul, Pt Narendra Sharma, Chandrashekhar, Madhusudan, PN Rangeen and Amritlal Nagar, the seed of the Film Writers’ Association, Bombay, was planted.
What is important to note here is the fact that the names associated with the birth of the Film Writers’ Association more or less defined its DNA – social concern, a progressive and secular outlook, literary mindset, high professional standards, awareness of a writer’s fundamental rights, and creative excellence in whatever a writer and lyricist is expected to deliver.
This is what the Film Writers’ Association has always stood for and continues to stand for.
Till the early ’50s, most craftsmen and technicians worked with studios and were considered permanent employees of the studios. There were no freelancers. The need to have a trade union body was never felt. It was only when producer Chimanlal Trivedi started the contract system in his production company that cracks developed in the relationship between the writers and directors, who were considered the two most important two wheels on which the industry moved.
The change in the system led to a dispute between the producers and directors on one hand and directors and writers on the other. Apparently the director could no longer pick a writer of his choice. The same held true for writers. They now felt the need to have their own trade union bodies.
Adoption of A Constitution
May 29, 1954
On May 29, 1954, another meeting of writers was held at Shree Sound Studios. Nearly 80 writers had enrolled as members by then and an appeal was made to all film writers to join the association. At the meeting, 24 writers were present. The Constitution of the association was adopted in the General Body Meeting held thereafter. The membership enrollment drive had been a success.
On formation of the association, it was in the fitness of things that one of its main initiators was elected as its General Secretary. There was no post of President or Chairperson as the Constitution did not have any provision for the post(s). Vishwamitra Adil and CL Kavish were elected as Joint Secretaries while Pt Sudarshan became the Treasurer. The council of members included stalwarts such as KA Abbas, DN Madhok, PL Santoshi, Mahesh Kaul, IS Johar, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, VP Sathe, Shakeel Badayuni, Krishan Chander, Kamal Amrohi, Rajendra Krishan, Ali Raza, and Nabendu Ghosh.
Though the Constitution was adopted in 1956, the Film Writers’ Association, Bombay, was registered as a trade union under the Trade Union Act 1926 with Registration No 3726 only on May 13, 1960.
Studio to Studio
It is interesting to quote the late KA Abbas, who has recorded that’ “Someone got forms printed in the ‘thaila’ (bag) of Qamar Jalalabadi, who during his professional work as song-cum-dialogue-writer, went from Studio to Studio enrolling members. For one or two years the Association remained not in the womb, but in a bag which Qamar Sahib was carrying with him”.
What started with only 200 members is now 16,000 strong, out of which 8,000 are Regular, Life and Associate members and the rest Fellow members.
Ironically, despite the efforts and commitment, the association became defunct after a year or two. That the association did exist in 1951 is corroborated by a news item published in Screen in its issue of November 9, 1951. The issue was published immediately after the release of the Film Enquiry Committee Report. It is important to reproduce the said news item, which stated: “The Film Writers Association, Bombay, has passed a resolution deploring the lack of representation for screenwriters on the proposed Film Council. It asked the Central Government to provide adequate representation to them.”
Growth & Development
The Initial Years
During the initial period, the association’s office was at Famous Studio, Mahalaxmi. The office shifted to a small room adjoining the masjid near Roop Tara Studios in Dadar. Thereafter it shifted to Shree Sound Studios and then to Ranjit Studios and finally to Richa Building, Andheri West.
Issues At Stake
1.A few pertinent issues that the association took up immediately upon its formation can be categorised as under:
2.To fight for dignity and rights of writers and to secure representation on national and international organisations and develop fraternal relations with them
3.To seek representation of writers on panels/committees instituted by the government to debate on cinema and issues connected with it
4.To submit memoranda to the government to enact a comprehensive copyright law for safeguarding the rights of writers. Back in 2008, we restarted the fight for the Copyright Amendment Bill to recognise screenwriters and lyricists as authors deserving royalty on their work. Producers and broadcasters, many of whom were film stars, had all the resources, a battery of lawyers, clout and access to top politicians, while all we had was Javed Akhtar who, with luck, happened to be a member of the Rajya Sabha. History was made when the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed the Copyright Amendment Bill unanimously without a single vote against it, on June 21, 2012, when it became the law of the land. It is a unique Copyright Amendment Bill which gives screenwriters and lyricists completely non-assignable right to royalty on their work.
5.A committee set up to formulate three types of standard contracts. So far, contracts with screenwriters and lyricists had been totally one-sided in favour of the producer. So the Film Writers’ Association drafted one for film writers, one for television writers and one for lyricists. We sent the proposed drafts of these Minimum Basic Contracts to producers and broadcaster five years ago and we are still waiting for a mere acknowledgement that they have received them. I have sent at least 50 reminders, but have received no response. Meanwhile, producer-director Vipul A Shah has gone ahead and complained to the Competition Commission of India against the trade union associations of 20 crafts (he has conveniently exempted his own association, IFTDA, and Mahila Kalakar Sangh, being an association of women junior artists, from the list) and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees and All India Film Employees Confederation, that the MoU that producers associations on behalf of producers and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees on behalf of its affiliated 22 craft associations had been signing for the last 60 years is anti-competitive. So right now there is no MoU in existence, which used to lay down the rules and regulations for the working conditions between producers and workers and technicians of the film and TV industry. As a result, producers now often pay whatever they want to and whenever they want to and shoot as long as they want to beyond the time limit allowed in earlier MoUs. The Federation of Western India Cine Employees gets dozens of complaints against producers.
6.Formation of a Dispute Settlement Committee to settle disputes between writers and producers, writers and directors and also between writers. Right now, due to a heavy rush of complaints, the Film Writers’ Association has two teams of Dispute Settlement Committees. On average, we get about four to five complaints a week. This is the volume of injustice and exploitation against screenwriters and lyricists, who are often denied their legitimate remuneration and credit. Violation of their copyright has become quite common in the television industry. But at the same time, when we find our own member guilty, we never fail to take action against him/her.
6.Formation of a Welfare Committee to offer medical help to members, pensions to writers who are too old to work, educational funds to members’ children. Currently, 20 per cent of the annual revenue that the Film Writers’ Association makes in membership fees (the lowest among all associations) from new members and renewal fees from old members goes into welfare of its members, including about 21 members who get a monthly pension.
1.Parivarik Sahaeta Kosh (Family Welfare Fund)
2.Hrishikesh Mukherjee Educational Fund for Bedi Rahi Scholarships (Education Fund)
3.Emergency Relief Fund (Medical Assistance)
5.To help members hone their craft, the Film Writers’ Association regularly organises seminars and screenwriting workshops. A workshop for lyricists is also on the agenda. It also participated in the pitch-fest organised by FICCI last year, to offer its members a chance to pitch their ideas, stories and scripts to over 40 film and television producers and broadcasters. It plans to organise a pitch-fest of its own and is working towards this.
Redefining the role of a writer for film & television
Acclaimed writers mingled with those who aspired to become one on the occasion of the first Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, organised at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, by the association. The assembly of leading lights deliberated on various issues plaguing scriptwriters. A few pertinent points that emerged from the deliberations could be summed up as under:
1.A screenplay of a film would be better if writers didn’t write what they assumed was acceptable to the audience but wrote about what they believed in.
2.Make producers break the stranglehold of the star system.
3.Contemporary films have something for everyone except
4.Existence of a system that inflicts self-morality as a result of which characters in our films don’t even speak the way normal people do.
5.Despite the existence of a rich tradition of folklore, the film industry has not cared to even tap into this treasure trove of stories. Hence, the need to find an original way to tell stories.
6.It is not just the content but also the way it is being told that is changing
7.The need to allow personal creativity to take over to make things change.
8.The Film Writers’ Association has been holding the Indian Screenwriters’ Conference every two years to address issues concerning screenwriters and lyricists and to expose them to the contemporary realities of India by inviting celebrated scholars, thinkers, media experts, even broadcasters and producers, for stimulating and rewarding discussions. This August, the Film Writers’ Association held its 4th Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, which, as usual, was attended by about 800 writers. The Indian Screenwriters’ Conference is perhaps the only platform in the Indian film and television industry that takes the issues concerning not only writers but other crafts also seriously and addresses them with thought-provoking debates and discussions. We hope to take it to the next level and make it an Asian Screenwriters’ Conference some day. Since the 3rd Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, the Film Writers’ Association has also begun to give the FWA Award to legendary screenwriters and lyricists. In the 3rd Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, lyricist Gulzar, screenwriters Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar and the late television writer Manohar Shyam Joshi were given the FWA Award. This year, the late lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi and the late screenwriters Vijay Anand and Sharad Joshi were given the FWA Award. Regular events are held every month at the Film Writers’ Association office premises. In the last two years, it has held events on Saadat Hasan Manto, Sahir Ludhianvi, Bhojpuri legends Bhikhari Thakur and Mahender Misir, a workshop on adaptation for Marathi screenwriters, a screenwriting workshop for Bhojpuri writers, screenings of documentaries by Anand Patwardhan, etc.
9.Poetry recital sessions are held regularly for Hindi and Urdu poets, to create a platform where member poets can share their work with each other.
Stories, Screenplays, Songs
In the late ’60s, the association undertook the task of registering stories, screenplays, songs etc. The first recorded reference to such registration is contained in the minutes of the Managing Committee meeting held on June 11, 1968. It was felt that registration would protect the rights of writers in case of any dispute.
The registration is one activity undertaken by the association that has withstood the test of time and continues to draw hordes of writers, professionals as well as amateurs and is being indisputably recognised by the film and television industry as a whole. We have kept the registration fee ridiculously low to make it easier for all members, some of who are not yet working professionally.
At the time of its formation itself in 1954, the association felt the need to have a library and approached all members for donations. Wali Saheb was the first to contribute. He gave `201 and with his contribution the Library Fund was established. Over the years, the association has regularly upgraded its library.
A few major developments during the last decade have brought about a welcome change. After a long hiatus, acclaimed writers took the initiative to contest elections to the Managing Committee of the Association. They took the initiative in organising series of seminars/conferences and workshops to enable the fraternity to focus its attention on key issues plaguing the writers.
Exciting developments like the arrival of multiplexes and positive responses from the audience to unprecedented themes led to the elevation of a writer to a major player in the scheme of filmmaking. A well-structured screenplay is not looked down upon by producers but considered to be a key element in making a good film. Today every Bollywood professional has a bound script that he or she wants to make it to the screen. It is now an acceptable fact that no matter how good or great your story is, a bad screenplay can ruin it.
The Film Writers’ Association achieved a global presence when it was invited to be a full member with voting rights on the Board of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG). It regularly attends the World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS), where its voice is heard and respected. At the Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, Film Writers Association regularly gets guests from Writers Guild of America.
For a long time, it had been felt that the Film Writers’ Association must assess and re-evaluate itself to cope with the fast-changing scenario of the Indian and international film and television industry. It had to update its ways of working to face the new challenges of the media and entertainment industry. And this required not only amendments to the Constitution of the Film Writers’ Association but also a name change to include writers and lyricists writing not only for film but largely for television and now even for digital media.
This involved documenting and double-checking the validity of all proposals to amend clauses, doing independent research by scouring though relevant laws like the Trade Unions Act, the Bombay Shops and Establishments Act, Indian Trusts Act, etc, and consulting a legal expert. It took months of time and effort by the Executive Committee in general and the Constitution Amendment Sub-Committee in particular. Finally, in a Special General Body Meeting held on July 17, 2016, the amended Constitution and the new name – Screenwriters Association – were approved unanimously by the members present. The Registrar of Trade Unions also gave its certificate of approval, as recently as August, 2016. So, officially, the Film Writers’ Association (FWA) is now Screenwriters Association (SWA).
Organisational changes to make FWA more professional include:
1.Recruiting more staff and not depending on honorary, busy, practising members to give their time for routine office work but hiring professionals to execute the vision of the honorary members elected by the FWA members
2.Redefining roles of office bearers in the light of new organisational changes
3.Formation of a Copyright Society to monitor members’ work, collect royalties and distribute
4.Bringing producers’ associations like IMPAA, the Guild, the IFTPC and others to the negotiating table to sign on the Minimum Basic Contract
5.Bringing the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and, through it, the satellite channels to the negotiating table to sign on the Minimum Basic Contract for television screenwriters and come to mutually acceptable terms on royalties from TV channels for the interim period until the government forms the Copyright Board and decides the percentages for royalties for both film and television, and for both screenwriters and lyricists.
6.Increasing interaction with other international guilds for cooperation and mutual benefit on various areas, creative and commercial, including workshops, seminars, protection of Indian screenwriters rights in USA, protection of WGA members’ rights in India, exchange of writers, participation in conferences, workshops, seminars. Increased participation and cooperation with International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) and the World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS).
7.For the Welfare Committee, allocating more funds to increase the base, increase the number of beneficiaries of pensions, medical help, educational help.
8.Finding new ways to get resources within the limitations of the trade union status.
9.Organising more workshops and events for film and television screenwriters and lyricists to help them improve their craft and interact with professional screenwriters. For example, selecting a well-known screenwriter and analysing their work for the benefit of members. Holding such sessions in a bigger space than the office and, if necessary, charging a nominal fee.
10.Mentorship by senior screenwriters for a fee which goes into FWA funds.
11.Making the library user-friendly for screenwriters by adding more books, periodicals and screenplays of good films and television shows from around the world. Starting an archive of memorable screenplays.
12.Holding screenings and discussions of films with filmmakers.
13.Increasing the scope of the Constitution to include the changing roles and responsibilities of the FWA.
14.Expanding the services of the website, which now attracts 8-900,000 visitors a year. Adding more columns, more features. Making it more interactive. Making it self-supporting.
15.Bringing writers of regional languages like Marathi, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali under the FWA umbrella and addressing their grievances.
16.Reaching out to members beyond Mumbai. Opening branches in other towns where films are made, if FWA resources permit.
17.Getting television writers better contractual deals, whether it is release forms or agreements, grievances or welfare.
18.Making the Dispute Settlement Committee stronger, giving it more teeth. Following up with the Federation of Western India Cine Employees to be more regular, assertive. Conclusions and decisions of the Dispute Settlement Committee of the Film Writers’ Association have been so effective that even the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court, in their judgments in cases of copyright violations of our members, have found it necessary to acknowledge, and I quote, ‘Though the Film Writers’ Association is not a tribunal and its decision may not have force of law, it has a persuasive value when we consider grant of interim relief. Ultimately the Association comprises of the writers who being in the profession itself are equipped to ascertain whether there is any plagiarism.”
19.Re-examining the election process and reforming the AGM for better, more transparent and peaceful elections. Starting in 2014, the elections are now held through EVMs for quick and transparent results.
20.Appointing lawyers and law firms that understand the problems of our members better. The Film Writers’ Association now has two legal advisors on monthly retainership, to advise its members on contracts.
21.Bringing the writer to centrestage in the industry, make his presence felt everywhere – industry events, award functions, the media, internet, in fact across the public domain.
22.Formulating a media policy and making a conscious effort to boost PR and visibility in the media.
23.Holding a pitch-fest for FWA members.
24.Implementing the newly amended Constitution and publicising the new name and identity – Screenwriters Association.
Keep The Faith
If only the big stars actively participated in the union that represents cine artistes, we would get a lot more respect
Sushant Singh, General Secretary, CINTAA
Just like a country needs a good government at the helm, film industries around the world also need governing bodies to safeguard the interests of various professionals who keep the wheels of the industry turning.
The movement of forming an association for artists/actors started as early as 1939, when it was called the Film Artists’ Association of India. Since then, the association has been rechristened many times while many of its influential members have helped build a vision for the body.
The association was finally renamed Cine & TV Artists Association (CINTAA) in 1997, when it was decided that all artists, whether of the big screen or small, should have a union representing them. As I have mentioned earlier, the main objective of CINTAA is to safeguard the interest of artists, offer medical and financial aid to those who need it and evolve together for the betterment of the industry. There are many layers to how the association works, the struggles it has gone through and the hurdles it has overcome.
Just like any other job, the job of an artist is not limited to passion for their work; it is a livelihood for most. And hence, safeguarding their interests begins with putting finances in order. For many years, a lot of young and junior artistes have faced problems when it comes to payments, especially lower grade artistes, who are often not paid on time. The disparity in payment mode needs to be curbed as a priority.
Another massive problem is getting our members to take an active part in the union’s functioning and its affairs. In theory, the formation of such an association seems perfect for an industry like ours. However, the real work begins when the people for whom the association is formed take active part in it. Even though the biggest superstars are a part of CINTAA, not all of them are active members of the union. This demoralises the others!
After joining CINTAA, I could so easily have pointed a finger at the previous office bearers and accused them of not doing anything during their term. But the real problem is that CINTAA is not limited to 17 or 20 of us who work here. CINTAA has over 10,000 members and it is each and every person’s responsibility to make things happen properly for the union members.
Having faith in the functioning of the association is a must. While we claim to live in a united country, we don’t work in a united way and that paves way for problems to arise. Maybe some of this apathy stems from the fact that, over the years, the union has not given the artists reason to believe in it. But when a reform is promised or when a change emerges, we should stand united.
Another problem area we are tackling is helping the artists with legal issues. For an artiste, it is a must to have a specific hours of work; basic necessities like vanity vans or a green room should be given to them. Meals on set should be provided and they should be paid
Junior artists are often taken for a ride through their contracts. Most artists are free to call upon us and we help them fight for their rights. We take up these issues with the producers’ association and try to find a solution.
These are just a few of the problems that I know will get sorted with the right approach and faith in the association. Yes, many young artists find the association ‘old school’. This may be due to a lack of our presence in the digital space. But, we are taking bold steps to move with the times and will be launching a new website soon. We are also working on having CINTAA digitised for faster accessibility for the artists and for people at large who want to know how our union functions.
We are also connecting with old members of CINTAA so that they participate actively and inspire the new ones to have faith in the association. We are involving ourselves in CSR activities, which will help our members do good for society.
Changes will happen. They might not happen overnight or over a year. With dedicated work, faith and involvement of more members, we can overcome all our problems. There are many who look at associations like ours as a body that stops or disrupts work. But let me tell you, everyone in the industry is working hard to achieve success and shine. In the process, the rights of everyone should be respected too!
They Can’t Cut Us Out
Sadly, some producers still dont understand an editor’s job. Editing is more creative then it gets credit for
Rajendra Surve,President, Association of Film & Video Editors
Vaibhav Desai, General Secretary, Association of Film & Video Editors
Our association was founded in 1953. Earlier, there were eight associations, including ours, making up one federation. This was way back when a film editor’s work was still done in labs and he had to work with reels and film negatives.
Things were much more organised then. Members had to take an exam to prove that they had sufficient knowledge of the craft. Their qualifications were checked. Senior members would approve or reject applications, and if an applicant failed, he could take the exam again only after three months.
Since the switch to digital, there has been a lot of chaos. In the age of negatives, everything was processed out of actual labs. Now people can just download software on their laptops and edit from anywhere. Due to this we get complaints from producers that their editors have ditched them in the midst of a project.
This can again be traced back to the fact that non-professionals are being hired to do a professional’s job in order to save money. At the end of the day, the producer suffers. This happens most in the TV industry. Most of our complaints are from TV members and producers.
There are two types of workers in the industry – skilled and unskilled. Skilled workers include directors, cameramen and editors. For us, basic qualification is a must, because if you are working on a machine, you need to have the right training to operate it skillfully.
Now, the problem is producers have started doing in-house editing, using basic software and sometimes even making do with office boys, instead of hiring professional editors. They can get away by paying an office boy, or even a non-professional, a pittance. Some are also employing operators in place of editors, to save on costs.
Till 2013 or 2014, we used to sign formal agreements. If an individual was contracted by a production house for a non-fiction show like Indian Idol or Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, that individual would set up a team of about 12 editors and together they would work on the project.
Contracts from production houses would accommodate us too, serving as proof of income in case we wanted to take a loan or shift house. Even that has stopped. Now, producers prefer to rope in a contractor who is not even related to the editing field – sometimes even a relative. They open their own company, hire 10 to 15 editors and take most of the profits. Our payments, meanwhile, are delayed. There is no paperwork; so in case of a dispute, that’s a problem too.
It’s the same story with films. Every week, there are two to three complaints that producers have not paid editors for their work, and non-professionals like spotboys are now editing the film.
This must stop if we want quality in our films. Producers have to support skilled technicians and not hand over projects to the non-skilled. The creativity of people trained in this field suffers as more non-qualified people are hired to do their job. People who were never trained are now calling themselves editors. Ultimately quality suffers and that is a problem for everyone.
If a member of our association fails to deliver, we can trace that person, as we have their details. But if producers hire a non-member who is not even a professional, we cannot help at all. It is risky to hire an untrained, unregistered person just to save some money. With digital technology, your entire movie is on those hard disks – everything you have invested on and your hard work is saved on a mere Rs.12,000 worth of hard disks. If it gets damaged, it’s game over. Ours is a very important job, but people take it lightly.
Typically, an editor’s shift lasts eight hours. Back in the day, it used to be six hours to maintain quality control but no one follows the eight-hour shift. There is no check out time at the studios. There are times when an editor works for 12 to 15 hours at a stretch, in shabby studios, so tiny that a technician cannot even stretch.
In fiction and television, editors report to work, carrying enough clothes for five days, because they don’t know when they will be able to go home. Such conditions are more prevalent in TV than in big-budget films. Smaller films with restricted budgets sometimes have similar conditions too.
Previously, producers would come in to oversee or finalise the edits. Now that technology has improved, we can send them the cuts on DVD or even via email. So they have nothing to do with the place of our operation and the conditions we are working in. The main person for whom we are working is rarely bothered about how and in what conditions we work.
Pre-production and production need different crafts and technicians, but when it comes to post-production, 99 per cent of the work must be done by the editor. They shoot and send it in on hard drives; we process it. It is a huge responsibility that we bear, but with time our importance is fading.
The problem in the film industry is that there is no guarantee that you will have work tomorrow. There is no financial security or job security. We have to fight regularly with producers for our members to be paid. We send notices and file complaints. This is very demoralising for editors.
The sad part is that even today some producers don’t really understand what an editor does. They feel, ‘Chalo, shooting khatam. Ab editor is mein se NG (not good) shots nikaal dega aur kaam khatam’. That’s not what editing is; it is much more creative than it gets credit for.
Film School Students
Since the good old days, graduates from FTII come to us to sign up as members. They know that they will be safe and will have someone to fight for their rights once they join. As non-members, they know we can’t help them.
In our office, we have also set up two editing tables for people who want to improve their skills. We also run an institute for children of members and outsiders who wish to learn. A film-editing course typically costs between Rs.3 lakh and Rs.6 lakh, but we teach the same course for Rs.75,000, and we provide internships to our students, teach them about the workings of the industry and offer them memberships, so they know the association will always look after their backs if need be.
The film industry works on the basis of relationships. For instance, filmmakers like David Dhawan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, have their own teams to work with. Once scripting is done and the director is appointed, the editor and other members of the technical department are appointed accordingly. So we get more complaints about problems from the TV industry than the film industry.
The authority of a technician has been lost. Earlier, even the director or producer would hesitate to step into their editor’s lab. There was a sense of trust and respect, and it was mutual. Now, with digitalisation, all that has changed. Editors are taken for granted.
There was a time when the editor-producer association was very different. The editor was appreciated and valued. If an editor gave a requirement to the producer, it was taken seriously. Producers today have become very controlling.
More than films, it is the television industry that has ruined things for technicians. Small-time film producers mistreat editors too and we deal with them by standing up for our people.
The good thing is that reputed editors take care of their assistants and even fight producers for their rights. A sign of a good editor is when he stands up for his team and puts them before himself. The big editors, carrying their attitude with them, don’t even listen.
Producers say, ‘We are producing it and we are paying money for it, so we are your boss.’ In the film industry, nobody is anybody’s boss. If you are a technician, we are also technicians. Earlier, it used to be one big family environment. The producers would themselves carry food for the editors who were working late.
I remember, during the making of Pukar, Boney Kapoor called me because I had forgotten to pick up my last cheque. Nowadays, producers are not like this. With the corporatization of Bollywood, the wrong people have come in and have taken the heart out of the industry. They don’t even know enough about the industry. All that matters to them is cutting costs.
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?
Grow We Must
The film industry is much more than an entertainment body – it is a wealth creator, a stimulant for the economy and a power status with phenomenal reach. The government has no excuse for its lack of support
The Film and Television
Producers Guild of India
It is extremely encouraging to see the value and respect the Indian film industry commands in the global scenario, which is evident while meeting representatives of the government, tourism boards, film commissions as well as film industry professionals from various countries. And the admiration for the Indian film industry only multiplies further when they learn of the circumstances under which the industry managed to not only survive but also sustain growth.
Indian films and the industry’s iconic film stars have always enjoyed massive popularity and have had a huge impact across the globe, even among those who have never visited India or can’t even speak any of the Indian languages. The film industry has therefore aptly been called a cultural ambassador of India by some political leaders.
It is true that the Indian film industry has essayed an important role in many areas directly and indirectly contributing to the growth and development of our economy, particularly since the early 1990s. The industry has undoubtedly been the apostle of steady progress for India, even in these troubled times of global recession and slowdown. It has well and truly justified the tag of ‘soft power’ allocated to it by proving its mettle when most of the core sectors have not performed to their potential.
If we need to grow – and I truly believe we must – then the question is of the real potential the Indian film industry has and how we can take on giant film industries in the world on economic parameters rather than emotional tags.
In my view, there are two most successful film industries in the world that are very different in their approaches yet they follow one common dream i.e. ‘growth’. On one hand, there is the US film industry or Hollywood, which is purely driven by market forces without facing restrictions or curbs from governments. On the other hand, there is the most exciting and much talked-about success story of the Chinese film industry, which clearly demonstrates that even in a highly controlled and restrictive regime, such success is possible if a determined government decides to support the industry with a clear mandate to develop the industry in a defined time frame.
There cannot be a bigger contrast between India and China, in respect of the holistic mechanism of running the film industry despite broad-based similarities in terms of restrictions, permissions and multiple bureaucratic controls. The government of China has endeavoured to revitalise their systemic processes in order to promote and incentivise the industry, whereas our establishment, notwithstanding its best intentions, has unfortunately not succeeded in extracting the hugely untapped talent pool of the Indian film industry.
It is here that the current regime needs to step in and reduce red tape in approvals through single window clearances in more and more Indian states, initiate beneficial tax lowering measures to mitigate the onerous burden on the industry in the form of multiple taxation and above all radically change its outlook and mindset towards the industry from SIN industry to a GOOD industry.
Over the decades, the potential and the contribution of the film industry has been undermined by various restrictions and curbs imposed. The industry is not asking for special favours from the government but simply asking to only make things easier and better for the film industry by removing unnecessary hassles of restrictions at multiple levels to unfair taxation regimes and this is what every sector of economy probably needs.
However, many more reforms need to be enunciated in order to satiate the long standing demands of the film industry. There was a growing urgency to break the stranglehold of restrictions imposed on the industry due to age-old procedural hassles and most of the restrictions currently cater to a segment which is less than two per cent of the country’s population by way of exhibition of films in cinema halls.
The backbone of the film industry has been viewing of films in cinema halls and in my opinion it is an experience in itself and we need to rejuvenate the existing ecosystem through a structured and well devised policy for more and more people across income groups to experience cinema.
Over the years, the building of cinema halls has been severely hampered through archaic processes, cumbersome permissions and laws and a generic apathy and lackadaisical attitude at times by the administration. This environment has also contributed to the slackness and decline in the exhibition business, which was the catalyst for economic boom post the advent of multiplexes which proved to be a game-changer for the film industry as a whole.
The biggest film industry which churns out films in around 30 languages and prides itself on a rich heritage and history of over 100 years has been facing a host of outdated operative methodologies and administrative hindrances to branch out to a larger section of our population across a wide spectrum of age and income groups.
The paradox of the tax situation with respect to the Indian film industry can be amply illustrated through the largest indirect tax reform being expedited and finalised by the Central Government – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) – which has not been able to fully redress the multiple taxation issues confronting the Indian film industry (entertainment tax jurisdiction has been transferred from state governments to local government authorities merely changing the goalposts for the industry) and thus obfuscating the very purpose of GST as a uniform single tax structure. To further accentuate problems, the fundamentals of operating GST through Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) framework for the film industry seem to be more complex and troublesome.
Let’s not forget the indirect economic contribution made by the film industry in many other sectors. Historically, it has been proven that there is a proportionate positive correlation between cinema and tourism, where promotion of cinema in a picturesque locale has a multiplier effect on the tourism industry So when the Central Government has encouragingly decided to throw open various sectors for Foreign Direct Investment in its objective to make our country a viable investment destination, and thereby gain invaluable foreign exchange, it must lay down the gauntlet to foreign producers to invest in co-productions with their Indian counterparts in the form of offering subsidies, tax incentives and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
The government must also exhibit an inherent willingness to open channels of communication with luminaries and experts from the film industry to discuss critical matters having significant consequences for the industry such as logistics, hygienic and other rudimentary problems encountered whilst shooting in India.
The need of the hour for the government is to adopt a more positive and congenial approach to the Indian film industry by advocating more reforms to remove restrictions and roadblocks both in the funding/financing of films and creating a healthy and level playing field for all stakeholders irrespective of their aura and volumes in the production-distribution-exhibition chain through progressive initiatives for creating a no adversarial tax regime.
We, as an industry, need to come out of the perception merely as entertainers. The fact is that the film industry has created enormous wealth for the nation in the form of intellectual property which needs to be respected and protected through stringent anti-piracy laws and enforcement.
India is the largest producer of films in the world as proven statistically, with patronage among the huge demographic in and outside India. ‘Digital India’ has emerged as a viable option to remove geographical boundaries and obstacles hitherto impeding the smooth functioning of the industry. This positive mood of vibrancy and enthusiasm amongst the stakeholders of the film industry has been further boosted by various positive initiatives of the Central Government such as Digital India.
The time has come to speed up the industry engine to the next level in order to boost its revenues which despite growth in numbers has shown a qualitative stagnancy. I honestly believe that to usher in real value-added growth, there is a burning need to create a conducive environment to promote ingenuous creativity and widening the scope and dimensions of the existing distribution channels.
Thrills & Spills
Indian producers need to be sensitised to the requirements of our stuntment and women and give this profession the importance it deserves
Sunil Rodrigues (Rod)
President, Movie Stunt
Artist’s Association (MSAA)
Of all the technicians in the industry, stuntmen not only give their sweat but also their blood to their craft. We don’t hesitate to take risks but, sadly, the reward for our hard work does not match the risks we take. Nor is there any institutionalised support or respect for what we do.
The Movie Stunt Artist’s Association, established back in 1959, represents stuntmen in the film industry. We look after the welfare of stuntmen in matters such as changes in wages or payments that are stuck, and the like.
The biggest problem our technicians face is lack of sufficient remuneration and low wages. This is also why we don’t have many young technicians entering the industry. As an association, we have started many initiatives and have begun to take care of the families where stuntmen were the sole breadwinners of the family.
We also provide retirement benefits by deducting `100 from each stuntman’s pay cheque and give back the sum on retirement.
But there is only so much we can do. The biggest support we need is from producers, who must understand that their cooperation will only ensure better work from us.
The biggest challenge the association faces is that no company is willing to give us insurance. It is easy to pay lip service to stuntmen but when it comes to actually giving this profession the importance it deserves, there are only a handful of producers who do that.
How ironic it is that we place our lives on the line for our work yet we are given no insurance cover. While stuntmen and women are insured in other parts of the world, in India, they have to rely on the generosity of the producer for whom they work. If they meet with an accident while performing a stunt, it is the producer who pays for treatment, and at times the expense is too much for them to bear.
Rohit Shetty paid `45 lakh for the treatment of one of his stuntmen who was injured on the sets of Chennai Express. But not many producers can afford that, especially small-time producers or television producers.
Lack Of Support From Producers
Everyone wants to see new, upgraded stunts but no one wants to pay for the hard work that goes into designing them. For instance, there is this new equipment that has been introduced overseas. If we bring it to India, no producer is willing to rent it if they want to use the machine.
Our wages are too little considering we put our lives on the line every single time, and that is something our association is working towards, to get the industry as a whole to understands that.
Preference To Foreign Stunt Artists
They (Hollywood) take three to four weeks to prepare a stunt whereas we don’t. We design and we shoot them impromptu. Our producers take us for granted and yet they want us to perform our stunts to perfection.
If a foreign stunt artist is hired, he would take a week or two to prepare for the stunt and practises the stunt over and over again to reach a level of perfection. On the other hand, we are given a day or two to prepare for a stunt, which naturally mars the quality of our work. Again, producers need to be sensitised to this. Worse, they then expect us to do our stunts with the precision of foreign technicians.
Apart from preparation time, producers are willing to pay foreign stuntmen a hefty fee but are very stingy with us. Again, our association is trying to raise these issues at relevant forums but we will make little headway without the support of producers.
Protecting Our Rights
Only the collective effort of the industry can help build a secure environment for content creation and respect for copyright in a digital world
Managing Director, Motion Picture Distributors Association, India
India is at the forefront of creativity, technological innovation and economic growth. Government initiatives such as the National IPR Policy and Make in India are a step in the right direction to promote a Creative and Innovative India. Through these initiatives, we foresee a future where India’s creative industries can enforce their Intellectual Property Rights and achieve their full potential in a rapidly changing marketplace.
The film and television industry supports a strong 1.8 million workforce, many of which are daily wage earners. This industry however, has only a 6 per cent share of the global box office, and generally low profitability that makes movie financing and production a
Globally, the growth of the Internet has created new benefits and opportunities to society at large; however, thousands of rogue websites threaten the lifeline of a film, as soon as it is released in theatres. Film piracy creates financial loss to our business and to the exchequer. Users of illegitimate or rogue websites also face significant risks. There is a close link between these websites and their operations and the spread of malware and cyber crime, in addition to exposing netizens to high-risk advertising. (Ad revenues earned by rogues websites which include ads from the sex industry, gambling, drugs and scams and other cyber crimes - money laundering, fraud).
Screen content is a key driver of India’s digital economy. While, the ongoing Digital India initiative aims to increase Internet penetration in the country through national high-speed broadband highways including rural areas, it is imperative to consider the need for Technological Protection Measures (TPMS). The 2012, Copyright Amendment Bill, fell short of addressing TPMS in terms of access control and prevention of circumventing devices/hacker’s tools. Online content theft in India is fluid, as sites subject to enforcement or court orders merely migrate to avoid enforcement or further detection in addition to inadequate support from ISPs and law enforcement for taking down illegitimate sites. Hundreds of sites target international and Indian content; therefore the prevalence of these readily accessible sites indicates a threat to India’s creative industries.
Efforts in support of the industry should focus on reducing the cost of copyright protection and increasing the cost of copyright infringement. However, we applaud the recent order by the Delhi High Court that has a set a precedent by blocking of 73 rogue websites that indulged in rank piracy, which went on to say that mere blocking of the uniform resource locator (URL) was not sufficient as it could be easily changed.
New and evolving digital technologies mean that there is an increasing degree of technological sophistication required in investigating copyright infringement and protecting online legitimate content business. Therefore, a specialist, dedicated resource is crucial to tackle online film piracy. The Telangana Government’s initiative to establish the Telangana Intellectual Property Crime Unit (TIPCU), to tackle organized online film piracy, is set to create a new benchmark in copyright enforcement in the country. Modelled on the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, City of London Police, UK, it is exemplary of a successful government – Industry partnership that includes the Telangana Film Chamber of Commerce (TFCC), the U.S. government and the Motion Picture Association, India office. We will continue to encourage other Indian states and the Centre, to adopt this pioneering enforcement model.
We have a great challenge and a great opportunity ahead of us to protect the rights of creators. I am confident that our collective efforts as an industry will help build a secure environment for content creators in the future and respect for copyright in a digital world.