MUMBAI: The Indian film & TV industry is counted among the entertainment powerhouses of the world. The Indian filmmakers, artistes, behind-the-camera personages who have been feted internationally are beyond count, as are the movies and series that left an indelible mark on our society and culture. But it was actually two foreigners – the Lumiere brothers – who gave the gift of motion pictures to India. Since then, we have made cinematic and small-screen content that is uniquely and unabashedly our own. And love it or hate it, you just can't ignore it.
While Indian cinema is globally recognised, less so critically acclaimed, there is an ever-growing momentum and market for locally-produced content. So it was nothing short of an historic moment when the UK's Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) inked a partnership with the Indian Film & TV Producers Council (IFTPC) for an exchange on best practices in content production. The news was announced by indiantelevision.com founder, CEO & editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari during the Vidnet 2021 summit at a panel discussing the scope of this alliance. Hats Off Productions chairman-MD and IFTPC chairman (TV wing) JD Majethia, PACT managing director of global strategy Dawn McCarthy-Simpson, Shakuntalam Telefilms chairman-MD Shyamasis Bhattacharya, Contiloe Pictures chairman-MD Abhimanyu Singh and Dashami Creations chairman-MD Nitin Vaidya shared insights on how this budding relationship will help both the partners in India and the UK in terms of technology, storytelling, and other incentives.
“This is our first step towards an alliance on an international level,” Majethia started off. “In 2004 I had an opportunity to work with a UK production company for my show and to date, it has been my biggest learnings. That experience has helped me and my production house greatly. I have always wondered how as an industry we can get a similar experience and grow together.”
Majethia, during the session, also thanked Wanvari for his efforts to bring the two organisations together, which will eventually help television and digital medium grow by leaps and bounds. He also talked at length about how the IFTPC, along with other stakeholders, initiated dialogue and successfully petitioned the government to lift the halt on production amid the Covid2019-induced lockdown phase. has recently rebranded. Filming resumed in Maharashtra on 26 June 2020 and while challenges exist on production, creative and financial side, there hasn’t been a drop in a single telecast till now. With the industry approaching something akin to normalcy, the IFTPC chairman said the body is now working towards a new vision of creating something at the international level.
The Global Creative Alliance (GCA) was set up in 2018 with 16 member countries and has grown bigger since, though right now, all across the world, the film and TV business is facing similar difficulties, revealed McCarthy-Simpson. Said she: “We’re all in the same position now, funding isn’t getting bigger and the need to co-produce is becoming a necessity to fill the deficit in finance. Also, our audiences want global stories.”
As for her expectations from the PACT-IFTPC alliance and India joining the GCA, she’s looking forward to finding more ways to increase cooperation and collaboration between the two production sectors going forward. “We as associations can share best practices, details of policy changes. It enables a platform where we can have our members interact, meet, share ideas; it means you’ll have access to equal partners in 21 other countries including the US, UK, Australia, or Canada,” she added.
With production houses operating on tightened budgets on one hand, and increased operational costs owing to Covid2019 compliance on the other, the issue of financing seemed to be high on Bhattacharrya’s mind. He highlighted that through this pact, the IFTPC would probably look into the subsidy the UK government is offering for content being shot there. Currently, only films that have theatrical releases can avail the aid. “But there is so much TV and OTT content being shot in India. Through PACT, we would like to reach out to know if these rebates are open to Indian TV producers who’d like to go and film there,” he said.
Bhattacharya also touched upon the possibility of collaborative projects between Indian and British content studios. “We have a shared history and there’s a big diaspora of Indians staying in the UK. There is a great scope of co-production and storytelling where characters from different cultures come together and it will be relevant to people from India and the UK.”
To this end, the partnership with PACT can be of great help and relevance, stated Singh. Producers can get access to talent from all over the world, and storytellers can get access to content studios. Overall, the capacity and capability will improve in the long run with an exchange of ideas, talent, best practices and learning. “What the IPL did for cricket, is what the digital revolution can do for content in India,” he quipped.
Wanvari agreed, saying that if IFTPC uses the alliance right, it can leverage the knowledge, experience and aid of not one but 21 other partner markets. Vaidya chipped in to mention that it is important to find the areas of association in co-production and ideas that can travel both ways.
“With digital, content is changing. Language is no longer a barrier in telling a story,” he said. “These alliances, in terms of co-production, co-financing, retention of rights, can be an exciting proposition. We have the stories; we can be an export powerhouse. This partnership (with PACT) will help us see some of that and benefit from it.”
The panellists pointed out that the alliance could be a success only through regular discussions, proper structure and identifying individual needs. Wanvari has also proposed to organise an Indo-UK production summit within the next three months to accelerate the process.