A truly sorry state of Pakistan film industry has provided a chance to every other person to draft-out his own version of solutions for its betterment. I, like all other concerned people in the business also carry some solutions or two of my own. This time I thought why not share it with everyone else and checkout to what extent I stand correct amongst those who really feel the pain for our currently ‘in-recession’ film industry. Being an editor on Galaxy Lollywood, I had the platform to share my views and here are those ten essential steps that in my viewpoint are the real need of time for Pakistan film Industry.
1. Injection of new blood:
The dipping state of our film industry isn’t good to us in any sense. Its impact can more obviously be realised by the fact that we haven’t produced a true fresh film star in a decade-plus time. Leave aside a star; we don’t even have someone who can just be termed as ‘new blood’ to the industry.
A very important factor needed to overcome this issue is the ongoing process of filmmaking. And not just filmmaking, but films having quality, substance, strong technical aspects and proper release. It’s a two dimensional strategy, you have to build this habit of producing films on above mentioned standards and only then, you would be able to insert someone new in the fraternity. Films shouldn’t be dependent on actors, but on their substance. How come an already successful franchise of Spiderman films or James Bond series with an established cast and story; still earn millions on box office when released with totally different structure and a new lead. This is what the power of a film is where substance dominates everything else; this is where it becomes so easy to try out new people.
I am not saying we stand any near to the two films mentioned above, but what needs to be understood is that unlike what usually our directors think, films aren’t successful just because of the actors, it’s the substance that needs to be strong, else we wouldn’t have any other actor in the world than Sylvester Stallone of Rambo series or Pierce Brosnan of James Bond series or Al Pacino or Amitabh Bachan or Nadeem and other superstars of the past.
2. Restructuring of Censor board:
Corruption tales are quite commonly attached with Pakistan’s central board for film censors. A complete restructuring should be done in the department and a heavy representation must be given to the people having a background in entertainment. Representatives of civil society, ISPR (Inter-service public relations), children concerning organisations, human and animal rights organisations and people from legal background should be made part or consulted in different aspects of restructuring and even daily life activities of the department. It’s also been seen that many times films aren’t able to meet their release deadlines just because either censor board is too busy censoring foreign films or have some money mongers sitting there that won’t pass the film until they are fed with heavy bribes. A strict mechanism should be developed in order to keep the board activities move smoothly.
3. Bank support for films:
This factor isn’t as easy as it looks, ‘budget constraints’ is one major reason why our film industry is constantly failing to mark its identity in international arena. Covering budget costs through bank loans isn’t really a popular culture amongst local filmmakers; films are mostly financed through producer’s own pocket, and thus resulting in a much compromised product that at the end fails to impress audience on big screen. Even if in some cases banks are finally dragged in, they only account for a very limited role in monetary aspects of the project.
The difference is created because of the banks being smart and most of our filmmakers not. It’s a high time that filmmakers start thinking big and put more study in their case. Every aspect in the film needs to have depth in it and should be well thought, be it the film name or its cast, shooting locations, overall appeal, marketing plan, quality or anything, it must be presented well to the banks. ‘To get big, one must think big’. Let’s suppose I am a lending manager in one of the big banks in our country, at one side Shoaib Mansoor approaches me for Bol (countrywide market, appealing cast, good past record, strong marketing plan –better chances of recovery) and on the other hand Syed Noor approaches me for his film Ek Aur Ghazi (provincial appeal, low budget approach, rural oriented cast, average past record, marketing not important for director –risk involved), my obvious choice would be Mansoor’s project. If banks are to be involved in cost sharing, they are to be dealt smartly. If from start the approach would just be a low quality product to be screened at conventional cinemas, don’t even think of me as a bank financing your project.
4. Dragging multinationals into the business:
This point has been debated quite a few times now. Despite the fact that multinationals would take the filmmaking business more towards commercialism, their backing and presence in industry is still heavily required. It’s about time that our corporate sector realises the fact that filmmaking is one of those unique businesses that can earn them their promotional objectives in a way that no other advertisement or any medium in general can achieve. Isn’t this insane that our corporate sector invests millions of rupees on just one exotic looking 30 second advertisement, but can’t invest the same amount of money in a film that would have much more impact on local and international audience with their product also being visible for multiple times in an hour-plus-duration film. How cool would that be for, say, Honda or Suzuki as a corporation and also an investor in a film where Fawad Khan being country’s secret agent chases the lead antagonist of the film on the roads of Islamabad for whole 5 minutes in their branded car, wouldn’t that be much more impact leaving than a mere 30 second TVC.
A great part has to be played by the filmmakers too, just like in the case of banks, here too our filmmakers need to think out of that conventional circle and deal with the corporate sector more smartly, having thorough study in each and every aspect of their plans would surely work.
5. No multiple films at one time:
A very important factor when it comes to a film industry like ours; where market is small—thanks to the diminishing number of cinemas in the country—and so are our film budgets and revenues. This generates a fear of ‘money recovery failures’ in our filmmakers, who; in solution to this, end up dividing their budgets into multiple films at one time. Although this isn’t something unethical but this is actually one of the big reasons behind cinema goers in Pakistan being shifted to ‘better-looking’ films in cinemas.
On average, a good film in Pakistan is made with a budget of around Rs. 3 to 5 crores (Rs 30-50 million), but to most of our producers here, this budget means 3 to 4 films at one time, thus resulting in compromised quality and almost no marketing efforts with terrible release of the film.
Take the example of Syed Noor, keep aside his efforts for keeping the industry alive; the veteran has been working on the same policy for last five to seven years at least, just try and think of one of his films in this era, that—in monetary terms–matched the success of well marketed, and high quality Indian films or even locally produced films at local cinemas. There could be hundred other influential factors between the differences, but the basic difference was in quality and overall appeal to the audience. On the other hand, we have Shoaib Mansoor, let’s not discuss his bear-sleeping breaks after completing a film, but both his silver screen projects not only made history in Pakistan but were also praised internationally. This results when you and your resources are highly focused on mere one thing.
6. Multiple producers:
In most of the successful film industries, this is now a legal requirement to have more than one producer for a film project. Having very simple basis, the concept asks you to have multiple producers so that not only a major problem of ‘financial limitations’ can be eradicated but more stakeholders also result in having shared stakes in the project, which means one of them can’t just shut down the project for some dubious reasons—as it usually happens in Pakistan film industry—films are announced here but then they are just restricted to their names and stories of their launch parties. Besides this, more people always mean more helping hands, which at the end surely results in welfare of the project.
7. Foreign Investment and joint ventures with foreign industries:
Individually people have tried their hand at joint ventures with foreign film industries (most of them unsuccessful though—largely because of lack of effort), but this now needs to be done at a bigger level. An important role is to be played by Government representatives for entertainment and culture here. If Pakistan can develop one of the latest fighter jets in the world with the Chinese support or invite its banks to the country, why can’t we ask their multiplex companies to come and open state of the art cinema facilities in Pakistan. Same can be done with Indian or Iranian investors, who by the way have a great experience in this business. We can ask their academies to have joint ventures with our film teaching institutes, presenting them with a vibrant youth that holds majority in country’s demographics. Similarly they can be asked to establish their processing and editing labs or even production houses. Such steps must be taken even if we have to give investors the reference of growing market for Indian films.
8. My tax, my benefit:
Including in the current year’s budget, government hasn’t been paying serious attention to the financial needs of the film industry. It is argued most of the times that although government taxes the foreign films and growing cinema industry heavily, but in return of which no benefits are provided to either cinema industry or the local film industry as a whole. It’s about time that government implements the policy of ‘Your tax, Your benefits’. The amount that government collects on exhibitors importing and finally exhibiting the foreign films can be used for the strengthening of the local film industry. For instance, a mechanism can be developed through which films meeting certain quality standards should be promised to get a certain amount (e.g. 30% of total loss) from government’s kitty in case they fail at box office. Such a step will certainly help boosting the confidence of investors.
A part of government’s entertainment revenues can also be spent on providing the industry with basic infrastructure. Pakistan film industry lacks greatly in technological aspects of the filmmaking, this includes processing and editing labs, latest cameras and equipment and even proper and high-tech screening facilities (multiplexes—private firms are quite active in this area). Besides this, soft loans can be provided to filmmakers and also a special subsidy on the tickets when local films are being exhibited.
9. Proper marketing strategy for films:
Marketing and finally releasing the film properly are two very essential components in making a film success. Most of our directors think about it when they are done with their budget-exceeding shoots, with little time left to meet the release deadlines—another debateable issue—and, at the end we just get to hear directors putting all the blame on Indian movies for their film not scoring big numbers at the box office. This cannot just remain same if Pakistan film industry ever has to grow. Proper strategy planning must be done in this regard, in my suggestion it must be made compulsory on every filmmaker to get his marketing and release plan approved by Pakistan film producers association before he could get the film registered there.
This again is a two way process, you have to have a film worth spending millions on its marketing. Even the makers of Badmash Gujjar won’t want to spend millions of rupees on tele-marketing or organising pre-release private screenings at PC or Marriott or even spending their “precious time” managing a Facebook page to promote the film. An all-round effort must be done regarding each and every aspect of the film and the business must be done the way it should be done.
10. Exhibition of foreign films according to Pakistani law and the corrected role of local filmmakers:
Extensive exhibition of foreign films in local cinemas has now become one of the biggest cry of filmmakers in Pakistan. To some extent they stand absolutely correct, for instance when they say cinema owners prefer foreign films over the local ones and that law only permits them to exhibit 20% foreign films while rest of the quota is for the local product, that’s absolutely correct. But, what they fail to understand is that this can only be done when they would be playing their part correctly.
Most of the filmmakers in Pakistan make only Eid or festival centric films, subtracting that, hardly any locally produced film is released in normal days. How can you expect cinema owners to sacrifice a big chunk of their earning when you break the chain yourself? Besides this, not meeting already announced release dates has also become a normal practice amongst filmmakers here. To make exhibitors work according the law, ‘quality films’ must be produced and released on back to back basis. If your product is good with proper marketing being done on it, you don’t have to rely on any festival to release it. Our films aren’t really as big as Harry potter or Body guard or My name is Khan, but, films like Bol or Khuda Kay Liye do compete with them on the local box office and still make quite a fortune out of it,–and that too by-the-way– without any festival release.
I await your feedback. 🙂
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