Movies

New distribution avenues obviate docu filmmakers' dependence on state: IDPA

NEW DELHI: The scene appears to be changing for makers of meaningful short, documentary and animation films.Though the multiplex culture has shrunk distribution possibilities in the cinema hall, those associated with this genre of cinema are no longer despondent, with many more channels including television channels and portals accepting their films and paying for them, albeit in small sums. In addition, there are the new entrepreneurs who are taking packages of small films to rural or semi-urban areas or schools and colleges, and showing these films and then indulging in discussions.

This was the general outcome at the open forum organised by the Indian Documentary Producers‘ Association (IDPA) in collaboration with the Films Division. Those who attended the forum agreed that there was no need for filmmakers to depend on state support either for financing or exhibition outlets as technology had opened newer avenues.

Nautanki.tv COO Vikram Prabhu said that he launched the portal after he had collected a large sum of money to make a feature film, a project he was forced to give up for various reasons. He then started the portal which is now showing features and non-features on mutually agreed business models. The online TV channel is now viewed by people all over the country and abroad, and is encouraging filmmakers to approach him to put their film online. He said he was surprised to learn that the number of people interested in seeing short films was very large.

Rakesh Sharma, whose film The Final Solution had won several awards a couple of years ago, said there exist a variety of avenues for short films. He said that it was perhaps ironical that his film had done well because it was banned, but there were demands from different parts of the country for the film. He has now allowed all portals to "pirate and circulate" his film on condition that they buy at least one print. Very often those who pirate the films come back to him as they are not satisfied until they have the original. He sells his prints at subsidised rates as that helps him show it all over the country and overseas. He has, so far, managed to sell 18,000 DVDs of The Final Solution and 8,000 copies of Aftershocks, both based on events in Gujarat.

Sharma asked why a portion of the huge entertainment tax collected by the governments was not being ploughed back into the industry. He also questioned why there was no subsidy for distribution, and why multiplexes were not showing short films despite the fact that they had been given a five-year tax holiday. A condition could have been laid before giving the tax holiday that at least one screen be devoted to short films. He also said filmmaking was no longer capital intensive since one could make a film and edit it on a PC. He suggested that short filmmakers put promotionals of other filmmakers in their films.

Saratchandran and P Babu Raj related their experiences of how they had taken their own films and those of others to different parts of Kerala where audiences and students took part in discussions. Saratchandran said that some television channels in Kerala like the terrestrial channel Kerala Vision were devoted to documentary films.

Babu said dependence on Doordarshan had become futile and therefore filmmakers had to find their own outlets. Entrepreneur Subhash Chheda also agreed and said good money could be made with wise screenings in semi-urban and rural areas.

Gargi Sen, a distributor of short films, said this was done on a 65-35 basis. However, she also added that she only had 130 films with her.

Vidyarthi Chatterjee who conducted the discussion said it was futile depending on the state or on Doordarshan, while NDTV producer Gunjan Jain said her channel was now acquiring documentary films.

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