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KAM SUMMIT '21 - Co-Production: Not a distant dream anymore?

The three-day virtual event is focussing on the next big rise in the animation industry.

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Mumbai: Day one of the KAM Summit 2021 witnessed an enriching session on ‘Co-Production: Not a distant dream anymore’ where discussion over how co-production has been a lucrative opening for the animation sector and what are the different models and challenges being faced in co-production took centre-stage.

The panel members included Toonz Media Group CEO P Jayakumar, Assemblage Entertainment founder and CEO AK Madhavan (MadMax), Punnaryug Artvision founder & FICCI chairman of AVGC Forum Ashish Kulkarni, Telegael CEO Paul Cummins, and Cosmos-Maya business development consultant Joris Eckelkamp. The session was moderated by Zebu Animation CEO Adi Shayan.

Assemblage Entertainment founder and CEO AK Madhavan (MadMax) said his company has done about six full length feature films and most of them were co-productions. “Co-production is largely used to milk or take advantage of arbitrage, which could be skill oriented, tax exemptions or arbitrage of cultural and faith of expertise. Co-production gives you the experience of being a producer to learn the other areas of production and you also get into the nuances of understanding syndication, distribution, financing and taxes. It is a learning and evolving process,” said Madhavan.

According to Punnaryug Artvision founder & FICCI chairman of AVGC Forum Ashish Kulkarni, the main reason for co-production is matching of skills, cost arbitrage and also considering fitting in timelines where you can contribute to the project and put everything together to make sense of co-production.

“Lot of co-production mechanisms are effectively working within the country. We have produced two seasons of Shaktimaan. For the first season, we co-produced with Chennai based Excel Animations and the second season was co-produced with a studio based in Hyderabad. And also two of my upcoming projects are also being co-produced within Indian studios,” said Kulkarni.

Sharing his 30 years of experience in the animation industry, Telegael CEO Paul Cummins said, “Animation can be considered as a big part of our production but co-production is very much our model. Since we started about 30 years ago, we have been involved in 100 co-productions, mainly animations. We co-produce with countries like Australia, Germany and we successfully launched many co-produced pre-school and TV animated series.”

Quoting the risk behind co-production Toonz Media Group CEO P Jayakumar said, the essential part is to share the risk and rewards and it is the basic fundamental of co-production. It is difficult to analyse whether the risks and rewards are equitable. In initial stages we did some stupid co-productions, but over a period of time we learned and evolved, he added.

Eckelkamp highlighted the importance of communication while co-production. “You have to choose your partner wisely and you have to ensure that you both find a solution for any problem that arises in the early stage or future, you have to deal with it effectively. I think it is an important task to keep up the communication working throughout the production, and not only in the beginning, to establish a certain communication,” he said.

Elaborating on how co-production gets started and what thought process goes into it, Cummins said, “Co-production is all about building networks in the industry of context. Each co-production is different. A lot of time you build-up a network of partners where often you reach out to them for future co-pros. Building trust and confidence and delivering what you promised is essential for effective co-production.”

Jayakumar enlisted key points about how co-production can make use of tax and government funding. “Co-production all starts from the producer and project; it is all about how you finance the project. Secondly the subsidies and tax collected is basically free money. There are many countries like Spain and Ireland which offer 50 per cent and it is upto you how you find the place to get your project done and get about 30-40 per cent of overall budget free of money,” he said.

He added further, “Co-production is about how you finance the project. As a commissioning broadcaster, you have to look for how to optimally fund the production without losing too much of shares, and how to find your partner. To find the right partner in co-production without losing your shares is a game and for me it was a puzzle game.”

Describing the model and future of what he has planned for himself and Cosmos-Maya, Eckelkamp said, “Our plan is to concentrate on more original IPs because co-production is effectively done based on who owns the IP, who is the producer and who has the project. The later you are coming into the project and it is already financed, the less share you own and you are in a weaker position as a co-producer.”

Asserting that co-production is always an independent studio thing, Madhavan said, the need is to understand the origin of co-productions. “Big boys like Disney, Warner, DreamWorks don’t do co-production. It is mostly done by independent creators or studios that have gaps in skills, story delivery, design, and predominantly the gap in finance. Co-production doesn’t originate unless and until there is a gap; it may be due to creative reasons, distribution reasons and market reasons,” he said.

Concluding the session, Kulkarni spoke about what the future holds for animation co-production mechanisms. “Blockchain is evolving and the whole co-production mechanism is going to change. It will take people a little time to understand blockchains but with this we can solve the large amount of issues we face during co-production. With NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) and blockchain mechanism, we, the creators, will be able to see the light of the day for some of the shows!” he said.

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