When Manoj Srivastava began moderating an event titled Master Class: LA Film Council on Co-Productions with the line ‘Money is important whenever a film is to be made’, it felt like the course of discussion would take a turn towards serious talks filled with stats. Well, what followed was serious in nature but decorated with interesting anecdotes.
On the panel were Sunil Doshi, the director of Alliance Lumiere, Bobby Bedi, managing director of Kaleidoscope Entertainment and Uday Singh, managing director of Motion Picture Distributors Association. All the three distinguished gentlemen shed a balanced light on the merits and demerits of a movie venture when it comes to international market. The very objective of this panel discussion was to facilitate Indian productions and investment in California, and similarly, encourage Hollywood productions and investment in India.
According to Doshi, a multinational film production brings with it the possibility of finding a greater audience. And at the same time, a filmmaker in India gets a chance to work with like-minded people in some other country. “There are several production companies in Europe who are always looking for good content. If a filmmaker has a draft ready and is looking for people to fund his film, it’s a healthy option to explore. Who wouldn’t want to make the most of government grants and incentives? Take The Lunchbox for instance. It’s a co-production between seven countries and took nearly seven years to emerge,” he adds.
Bedi, the producer of films like Maqbool and Saathiya, diverted attention to an important aspect which is often overlooked: a film has to have a story that might be local in taste but universal in flavour. “If the story is about discrimination and hardship, the message is pretty global and language becomes secondary. You can’t expect a way-too-rooted film to be accepted on the other side of the globe,” he pointed out.
Did you know the producers of Bend It Like Beckham had already recovered their money even before the film opened in the theatres? Turns out it did. As Singh noted, smart distribution techniques help a lot. But what’s more admirable is a producer making the most of what is available. Like the producers of the aforementioned British film did. “They availed government subsidies and even took grants from Isle of Man. That was a smart thing to do making the most of resources,” he says.
Singh also reminisced how it’s incumbent on the distributors to share the same passion as the makers of the film. He took the audience more than a decade back by referring to Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. Before that particular movie, her films used to receive less than 10 screens in India but Monsoon Wedding changed everything for the US-based filmmaker. “We pushed for 80 screens for a simple reason: we believed in the product and wanted the distributors to show a similar feeling. It ended up as her biggest hit in the country.”
There are downsides, too, to international collaborations. Language barriers could be one such issue. “It can take at least half a year to wait for the translations to complete,” reminds Bedi. Not all co-productions help the filmmaker involved. Sometimes he or she ends up paying much more than they were hoping to reimburse for their project. The final verdict falls on the distributors and their network’s ability to make things work — on national as well as the international front. “Content might be king but distribution is God,” concludes Singh.