Be it films or Fintech, anytime business is booming it’s good for the nation’s economy as a whole. Creative First spoke with Dharma Productions CEO Apoorva Mehta to discuss what makes a successful film and what role other stakeholders can play in supporting ongoing growth of the film industry.
How has storytelling evolved over the years? What are the challenges today?
Earlier movies would be three hours long and feature a stereotypical hero, heroine and a villain. The movies then included 7-8 songs; there was a set template in place. Now, thanks to globalization and growing internet access, audiences are exposed to world cultures, trends and a variety of foreign content. With the industry, audience preferences and technology evolving over the years, inadvertently there has been a paradigm shift in the way stories are told through the medium of cinema.
Today, there is a lot of noise out there and the audiences have caught on to the short format content, which makes it a challenge for keeping them engaged through cinema. At the same time, with so much content out there, films have to deliver superlative content to grab the audience today.
Has the recipe for a successful movie changed in the last 5 years?
I believe since the inception of cinema the recipe for a successful film has always been great content, great story. With evolution, layers get added to it such as the star power and quality production, amongst other factors. Yes, it can be said that earlier the success of a movie was ensured by the presence of big stars, but today the burden entirely rests on engaging and compelling content.
As a producer, what is your litmus test for a script’s success prior to committing to producing it?
There is no formula and there certainly isn’t a sure-shot way to know that the script you are backing and you believe in, is going to be a sure-shot success. There have been movies that production houses believe in but haven’t done so well at the box-office, and many small-budget films have emerged to be surprise hits. While that is the case, as I had mentioned that the conscious decision is to always pick great stories – stories that the audience will relate to, that will move them emotionally or make them think; stories that are unique and bring a fresh perspective and approach to a particular genre.
Test screening is a practice not often used in Bollywood. Do you think there’s a place for it?
On the contrary, test screening is a practice often used in Bollywood. While production houses and filmmakers may not be reaching out to agencies to conduct test screenings, they do hold private test screenings. Friends, family and people from outside the industry are invited to these test screenings to share their opinions and thoughts on the movie.
Many Bollywood films have seen great revenues abroad. What are some of the key geographies outside of India that filmmakers should look at reaching and could an international market make or break an Indian film financially speaking?
Every additional territory translates to more ticket-buyers for any movie. China has emerged as an exciting territory where Indian films have been embraced by the audience, on a large-scale. We hope that Indian films also achieve this kind of success in regions such as South Korea, South America, Taiwan and Japan.
How much should a producer consider non-Indian markets when making an Indian film today?
I believe that the sole thing a producer should be considering to begin with is the content; a film should be made keeping the quality of content, the story in mind. Since human emotions are universal, then if the film is successful in India, its success here will inadvertently drive it to other markets as well. Today, good films made for the Indian audience are also doing well internationally.
A single-window clearance could help filmmakers a lot when it comes to getting clearances for shooting. Do you think there is any benefit to the government?
When any process is streamlined it not only helps the citizens or industries but also helps the government in numerous ways. Setting up a single-window clearance would allow the government to do away with multiple stages in the process and cut-down redundant procedures, thereby making the process smoother, faster and more efficient. We have seen some progress on this front with government authorities taking the necessary steps to help simplify the process.
Is there an organised effort among the film industry leaders trying to push for single-window clearance? If so, any success?
The Film Producers Guild as a body has already made representation to various state bodies to help in easing film shoots in various states. Government bodies have also become proactive in pushing production houses to come and shoot in their state because they have all experienced the direct and indirect benefits, in terms of local tourism and local employment.
How do you think India can better incentivise film tourism for the international community?
Movies play a crucial role in promoting tourism in any country and even promoting specific locations in a region. India can certainly implement a standard that is acknowledged around the world to give impetus to more international studios coming to the country for film production. Here again, effective ground rules and ease-in-process for gaining permissions and clearances will lay the foundation work. The implementation has to take place both on a state-level as well as nationally. A hassle-free yet a strong, efficient, and sustainable set-up will be a start towards opening doors for big international production houses to come into the country to produce and shoot films here.
Is it feasible for India to attract international productions to shoot scenes in India for movies that actually have nothing to do with India whatsoever?
India has complete potential to be that destination that international productions can think of, for shooting any type of content. I believe this to be the cause for a number of reasons. To begin with the varied topography gives production houses the option to pick between scenic locales right from beaches to mountains to urban settings, which can match any other locations around the world. India’s biggest advantage is low production costs as compared to the west, along with highly trained personnel and skilled-production crew in the country. Over the last few years, we have witnessed some international productions come to India, but the numbers can only be increased with a film incentive tax regime and of course by also streamlining the clearance processes and putting effective policies in place.