Filmmakers need to realize the importance of library value of a film, agree distribution experts

The ongoing Diorama International Film Festival & Market (DIFF) at Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium recently organized a market session on domestic and international distribution of small and independent films.

Diorama festival director, Manoj Srivastava spoke to leading experts in the field of production and distribution, that included Germany-based MN Gujr, CEO and MD, Custard Apple Pictures; Mumbai-based distributor, Dheeraj Sabharwal; and Beatriz de la Gandara, a producer from Spain, on the problem of raising funds for small producers and challenges of distributing Indian films in international markets.

Beatriz de la Gandara expressed her frustration at her failed attempts to do co-productions with India for years. She argued, “It’s impossible, I feel now. And you have a huge market that Spain doesn’t have, in terms of volume of moviegoers. But raising money for independent projects in India is very hard,” Beatriz contended.

While global platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video house different formats and genres, only select independent films with “global” content make it to the platforms. One of the key challenges faced by an otherwise lucrative and fertile Indian market is lack of transparency and resistance to follow legal support in foreign markets.

Srivastava expressed his concern over the sheer volume of projects undertaken by individual producers and media companies that lead to a limited focus on the shelf life of a film wherein the film is treated as a perishable object.

“It’s high time filmmakers realize the importance of library value of a film. In a rush to find a distributor for their film or begin a new project, we don’t let the film breathe in the market,” argued Srivastava.

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The after-life of 1990s Hindi film music, with numerous remixes in contemporary films, is one way we see films continuing to function as a living archive, long after its release.

MN Gujr reiterated that filmmakers need to utilize all 158 rights of a film including theatrical rights, satellite rights, music rights etc. and understand distribution and licensing as it is and not as a rushed sale of property. He deliberated on his experience of distributing Indian films in Germany and argued that there is a need to fully utilize the potential of film markets by identifying the right territory for distribution prior to production.

Indian film market enjoys a dedicated domestic audience. In the last two decades, diasporic desi communities in Europe and America have been the primary international markets for Indian films. However, thriving pirate territories saturated with Indian films, in Africa for instance, remains a blind spot for filmmakers that urgently needs to be addressed.

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