THE HIT-MAKERS

BY KINJAL SETHIA

“The ecosystem of producing films is changing is a significant way. There is a paradigm shift away from the studios and towards digital platforms,” Bobby DeLeon told The Peacock, just a few hours after the American producer (he works at Infinitum Nihil, which was founded by Johnny Depp in 2004) arrived in Goa to attend the first-ever IFFI Producers Roundtable, today at 11am at Maquinez Palace.

DeLeon said, “Studios are making less and less movies. At the same time, consumers are getting younger. So essentially there are two factors working in favour of digital platforms. One, the studios are only interested in making a particular genre of commercial films, so filmmakers with unique and interesting stories are migrating to Netflix and Amazon Prime. And secondly, inefficiencies in marketing and distribution create overheads of 30-50%, which raise budgets. It is this mix of creative and financial reasons that guarantees that the future holds promise for digital platforms.”

John Hart, producer of You Can Count On Me (2000) and Revolutionary Road (2008), traces the story of digital platforms to 2008, “The financial crisis broke the back of studios that were supporting independent cinema. That model was dead, as was the DVD business. 40% of their business was drained by piracy. And yet, while it may be fine to watch drama on small screens, audiences will still come to the theatres for a comedy or an epic. Digital platforms cannot provide the experience that theatres do. I would rather watch a comedy with someone with whom I can share the laughs. The audiences will come back to the theatres, but one will have to figure out how and why. It might be presumptuous of me, but the audiences in America and India are not very intelligent. So the movies will have to bow to the largest denominator.”

William Fay produced huge global hits likeThe Hangover (2009), 300 (2006) and Independence Day (1996). He told us, “Netflix and Amazon Prime are disrupting the industry. The studios are trying to compete, but it has reduced the scope of what films will be picked for a theatrical release. There is so much content online that it is getting difficult to get audiences to go to the theatres. The film has to create a cultural event around itself to draw people to the cinema halls.”

Fay says that digital platforms have another side too, “They offer a lot of latitude. You can make a film for a particular audience, and it will be targeted towards them. It need not have mass appeal. A studio can make a movie for 20 million dollars and will have to spend an equal or larger amount on its marketing. But now, you can make a film for 10 or 15 million dollars, and Netflix will buy it if it suits a segment of its audience.”

The three producers emphasised that digital platforms did not diminish the significance of film festivals like IFFI. Fay says, “Film Festivals will remain important for certain types of films. Netflix buys films for its platform even at Cannes. So, the marketing aspect of film festivals will remain.”

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