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'Focus on marketing to turn a film profitable'

Last updated on: October 12, 2012 11:09 IST

'Focus on marketing to turn a film profitable'

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Arthur J Pais in New York

For the next second generation Indian American in a hurry to make a film, Ajay Shrivastav, who recently hosted a two-day symposium in New York on Bollywood and global film-making, has two pieces of advice.

"If you are budgeting your film at $50,000 or half a million dollars, keep at least one third of that money for marketing the film," Shrivastav, partner in Molecule Communications with his sister Kiren, said. "Secondly, know your audience."

The two day symposium Ticket2Bollywood, Bollywood: Beyond the Song and Dance offered "insider" information about directing, producing, writing, and financing Bollywood films and featured film makers Zoya Akhtar and Imtiaz Ali and scriptwriter Anuradha Tiwari.

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Image: Two day symposium offered 'insider' information on all aspects of film-making.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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It attracted about 200 movie fans and those with writing and film-making ambitions. "So many Bollywood directors are choosing to shoot their films abroad, whether in New York or other major cities around the world," Shrivastav said.

By a conservative estimate, at least $10 million were spent in the last two years shooting Indian films in North America, even for a few days each.

"These filmmakers are always looking for local talent, production crews, writers, directors, and music composers to give their films an international flare and perspective. Bollywood has truly gone global, and the main agenda for this conference was to make the general public aware about how much the Indian film industry impacts the world's economy through not only location shooting, exhibition of these films in first run multiplexes and also through fusion Indian music, often inspired by Bollywood."

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Image: The event attracted 200 movie fans and those with writing and film-making ambitions.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'Focus on marketing to turn a film profitable'

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A major concern of the symposium was creating a reality check for first time independent desi film-makers in America and Canada.

"I saw a young woman who had worked very hard to raise money for a film made here going around with a DVD print," he said.

"She did not have money or resources to market it and find a distributor. Perhaps the film is unmarketable but even if you made a terrific film on a low budget, borrowing money from your parents or friends, you will be a loser if do not have resources for marketing it."

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Image: Director Imtiaz Ali speaking at the symposium.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
Tags: , DVD , Canada , America

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In the past decade over independent 25 films, costing anything between $50,000 to $250,000 million, have been made by Indians in America and Canada, most of them in North America.

But for a handful including American Desi and the recent triumph, the well received Patang (The Kite), the efforts have been a waste.

Most of these film makers have not made a second film. Patang, on the other hand, has been shown successfully in more than a dozen cities in commercial cinemas at the initiative of its producers Jaideep Punjabi and Jay Bhargava and director Prashant Bhargava.

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Image: Imtiaz Ali with scriptwriter Anuraadha Tewari.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Though they have not released box-office figures, the movie could gross eventually $1 million across America which is very good for a shoestring budget production.

"Knowing the audiences is also very important," Shrivastav offered.

"If you are trying to make an East and West film and do not know how to pull it off, you are neither here or there. I remember a phrase mundher ke paude which means a plant on plant grown on the wall which acts as a divider between two homes, does not belong to any of the homes. I use this phrase in context to our talented filmmakers based here... who work very hard to make movies which does not gets a proper distributors as a lot of theses movies don't belong to Indian cinema not to western.

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Image: Anuradha Tiwari.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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"The Indian distributors don't pick them as desi audiences may not be interested in them. And the American distributors don't pick them as they do not have mainstream appeal. These movies end up circulating in DVDs to friends, families and South Asian film festivals and no one hears of them after the festivals are over. You ought to keep money aside to promote your films beyond a film festival "

Shrivastav recalled when Shekhar Kapur made Bandit Queen, he made sure it was purely an Indian film, and when he made Elizabeth, it was an out and out mainstream historical film.

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Image: Ajay Shrivastav with Kiren.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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"Many young people venture into making films looking at Gurinder Chadha or Mira Nair," he said. "But they do not study how Gurinder and Mira arrived and what they had to prepare (by way of making documentaries or short films) before Bend It Like Beckham or Monsoon Wedding happened."

The symposium also had DAR as a partner, and its commissioning producer Shahnaab Alam talked about the increasing avenues for international collaborations.

He said several German, British and French companies are producing films with film makers such as Anurag Kashyap. But the projects would not have taken off if the scripts were not stimulating and proper budgeting had not been worked out.

"At DAR, right from our inception, we have been a firm believer in the globalization of Indian content," he said of his three year old company.


Image: Zoya Akhtar was also present at the event.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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