Let's not undervalue our content: Vaswani at IIFC

MUMBAI: The 2nd IIFC opened on 6 September at Mumbai's Intercontinental - the Grand to an enthusiastic response.

After the inauguration ceremonies, trends in Indian films and analysis of recent success stories as to what is working were discussed in a special session titled "If content is King - What works."

A very interesting post-lunch session on "New revenue sources and International marketing" had the audience listening with rapt attention.

The panelists Nitin Keni (of Zee), Viveck Vaswani, Padam Kumar and Vinod Kumar put across their viewpoints, raising many questions on issues like piracy, tax, revenue sharing, data collection and proper realisation of content value.

"Be careful with whatever you dispose of," the astute Vaswani cautioned the audience.

Drawing their attention to various ways in which they could draw more value for their content, Vaswani recollecting from his vast experience as a producer shared,"I was once abroad selling overseas rights for a movie, a distributor offered me 60 lacs. I asked him how much money did he propose to make in a country like greenland. The response was that there's no money from such places. I asked him to strike off the country from under the agreement. The point in case is we shouldn't treat overseas as one country or one city, it is 700 countries and 7,000 cities that we are talking about here. With newer countries getting interested in our films and newer technologies making distribution of content in various platforms easy, there is a vast market for our content."

Talking about the way everyone else but the producer ends up making money from his content, Vaswani cited the example of multiplexes which have been exempted from tax,"They sell popcorn for Rs 35, charge Rs 50 for parking and Rs 130 per ticket. If by being in the business of selling films, they can make money out of things like pop corn, then we ought to get a share of the same too. "

"The principles that apply to any retail trade apply to films too," he concluded.

Padam Kumar, director of movies like Champion and Supari spoke on the importance of data collection and of tapping new revenue streams.

"A movie which doesn't have a big starcast doesn't make it to the large screen abroad. We have to then depend on overseas revenue from DVD sales," said Padam describing the scenario.

"A small star cast movie sells around 7-8,000 DVDs while a Shah Rukh - Aamir movie sells 20,000. A Yash Chopra movie could sell around 40,000 DVDs, which people would buy and make a collection of," he added.

"We need to collect such data on ticket sales, if a small village can have an ATM, then why can't each ticket window have a system in place," argued Padam.

Speaking about piracy, the panelists all agreed that the menace was indeed eating into a substantial part of revenue. Padam, who actually marketed his film over the (in)famous p2p software Kazaa said, "There might be intentions to curb piracy but the menace cannot be so easily conquered. We should approach the government and ask for subsidies."

"Taxes are a big issue, it is not only the tax on income but taxes like tax on stock, tax on equipment, import duties that have to be lowered to reduce our burden," said Padam.

Talking about the marketing of films overseas, Vinod Kumar, the secretary general of FPFAC, which has organised IIFC said, "The way Indian content is being marketed today at festivals is not sufficient; when you are a seller you need to go ahead and promote big time, just having stalls at a festival doesn't suffice, we need to market months in advance."

"In the US there are 7,200 video rentals stocking Indian fare. If a producer were to make 7,200 copies of his movie and stock one each with each video rental it would provide an additional source of income. Sadly that's not how things work out here," he said

Further commenting on the need to market the movie during release overseas, he cited the example of Bend it like Beckham in whose international selling he was involved. "The movie had less than $2million as the marketing budget for Asia Pacific, and it grossed $42 million in 4 weeks."

"If Spiderman were to release in India and only posters would be put up at some restaurants and hotels, would it do the kind of business it has done in India, then why do we do this when we go abroad to sell our fare" questioned Vinod.

The entire session was sprinkled with a lot of wisdom and real world experience. Vinod Kumar concluded the session saying "What we need is distributors/ producers to come forward and join us to market Indian content abroad not only during festivals but all year round."

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