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Theatrical release out of question for independent filmmakers: Suri Gopalan

In the time where the digital platform is booming, there are still a lot of people in the industry who want a theatrical release over digital medium. However in the case of most independent filmmakers, Suri Gopalan, the founder of Vista India, a platform which offers media companies with high calibre and secure localisation, post production and aggregation services, says theatrical release is not for them.

Gopalan, Rajiv Raghunathan, the CEO of Vista India and Noella Dias, the manager of content acquisition and licensing at Vista India Digital Media Inc, were present here at the LIFFT India Filmotsav 2017 for a discussion which was conducted by the founder of the film Fest, Riju Bajaj, here on Sunday.

“The demographics have changed so much that unless the filmmakers understand that the audiences are now are… It is as it is difficult to get your films for a theatrical release. With Hollywood coming in… The programmers at PVR… the chances of them releasing any of the films at this festival, is virtually out of question. They might give you one slot at early morning timings where five people show up,” said Gopalan.

“Theatrical is out of question for independent filmmakers. Rather use that money, work hard and come up with a smart digital strategy. Which is a combination of social media, driven by a release date, driven by Google play, Amazon apple.

“The day that independent filmmakers take on the initiative of building up their audiences, saying yes I made a film that has an audience and invest in that and reach out. We find the results can be amazing. For example the director Pawan Kumar who made ‘UTurn’. It was crowd funded… self distributed with limited theatrical release which was in Karnataka only , went into digital did very well and we did syndication for him on Netflix. Then used that and made another film,” he added.

Gopalan also threw light on the fact that in India most people watch full length videos on their mobile phones whereas such is not the case in the US. He shared that the officials of Netflix there too were surprised with their findings.

Gopalan stressed that making a film is not difficult unlike the process of establishing the market for all the independent films.

“Digital is the perfect medium for that number of different end points we have in India itself like Voot, Hotstar, so many new platforms opening up.

“All the telecoms wanting to be in it. Video is .. India is the largest user of mobile Video in the world more than China. So it’s a whole new brave world of video consumption. So, by default it opens up avenues for filmmakers… which is a part of solution here,” Gopalan added.

Exploring the angle where comes the transparency in the revenue incurred by the films, Raghunathan said that the digital medium “has eradicated any doubts”.

“A company like Apple will give you all reports of every transaction, be it rental or a purchase, which territory. You cannot doctor these reports. If some of you have music, you can publish it on iTunes, you must be aware that the revenues are so systematic and transparent,” he said.

“Digital has solved that problem. A lot of people at one point never knew what their true theatrical revenue would be because single screens may not disclose some numbers, multiplexes might have a way of disclosing numbers.

“The question of reporting… digital has taken care of that problem with larger companies coming in and also a lot of us realising the essence of accurate reporting, ethical of business practices listed here,” he added.

What are the basic requirements for a film or documentary to have a place in the digital platform like Netflix, what are they looking for?

“We have for the past five years licensed a 1000 films on Netflix. I think it is pretty much what most VOD platforms would be looking at. Each wants content.

“They all want new releases, that is given. They all want the big ticket window. But what is becoming more and more apparent is. The content needs to be interesting. It necessarily may not have big names. It can have fare production value, it can have a decent cast which can perform well… but at the end of the day it is story which needs to interesting and unique, short and crisp,” Raghunathan added.

LIFFT India Filmotsav 2017 is a five day long extravaganza which started on September 1 and will end on September 5.

The fest is not only screening films but is also holding sessions of book reading, solo plays by actors like Rajit Kapur, conversations and masterclasses by actors like Vipin Sharma, and is yet to have a book reading session with Mita Vasishth.

(The writer’s trip is at the invitation of LIFFT India Filmotsav 2017. Kishori Sud can be contacted at [email protected])

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