Haven’t we all wondered at some point or the other what it takes to make a film click? Is it the presence of big stars, or a sexy item song or tremendous marketing blitzkrieg or a strong and cohesive script? Or is there no sure-shot formula to make a film click at the Box Office. These and many more such interesting questions were answered by a panel of experts at the informative session on ‘The Business of FilmMaking’ on Day 2 of the FICCI FRAMES 2011 convention in Mumbai.
The panel featured well known scriptwriters Anjum Rajabali & Shibani Bathija, veteran filmmakers Ramesh Sippy & Shyam Benegal and Mr. Ian Booth CEO of Screenwest from Australia.
The session was moderated by Ms.Kaveree Bamzai who started of by saying that Art and Commerce are inextricably linked. In her introduction of the topic, Kaveree said, “We have all seen in the recent past that some really big films have flopped at the B.O. while small films have ended up as surprise success stories so it does make sense to delve into the factors which go behind the making of a successful film.”
When asked to talk about the business of filmmaking, Mr.Shyam Benegal said, “Filmmaking business is quite different and opposite to the business of making films. The idea to create that sure-fire hit is a myth that refuses to die. An entertaining film is one that successfully involves all the emotions- be it love, hate, anger, jealousy, sadness etc- from a movie-watching audience. It is important that one follows one’s gut feel keeping in mind the business viability too.”
Shibani Bathija, writer of films such as Fanaa, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, and My Name Is Khan, gave an interesting visual presentation in which she compared a successful film to have all the necessary ingredients just as a delicious thali would. The writer said that most films which have worked have had a delicious mixture of Family, Music, Love, Tragedy, Comedy, Society, Dance, Children, God, Violence, Goodness, Sex and Hope.
Mr. Ian Booth, who is a lawyer by profession and now runs his own company in Western Australia by providing financial input and guidance to film and TV projects that would benefit his region, suggested 3 important tips to make a successful film. Ian said, “Creativity needs to be encouraged but in a business context. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people. A Hit cannot be just about returns or profits. It must reach its potential audience.” He summed it up quite nicely when he said, “Production of a film is like completing a Marathon. It’s not the final destination but each step and process which needs to be completed and thoroughly enjoyed.”
Veteran writer Anjum Rajabali, who has written successful films such as Ghulam and Raajneeti too had his own point of view on what it takes to make a successful film. He said, “We are the largest filmmaking industry in the world yet if we take a look at the last 2 decades from 1991 to 2010, nearly 85% of our films which released failed to recover their investment through theatrical revenues. Every week is a disappointment and people go euphoric when they come across a film once in a way which meets all their expectations. Something is surely going wrong.” Mr.Rajabali added, “There needs to be a clear investment strategy going into the film making business. Stars by themselves seen in a bad film won’t work. We need to ask ourselves, how much importance as a business decision do we give to the most important ingredient of a good film- the script. India as a nation has the longest, richest and most valuable heritage of story-telling since the days of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, yet if we are unable to come up with good stories, its really sad.”
Finally it was the turn of Mr.Ramesh Sippy, who has delivered one of the biggest blockbusters in the history of Indian cinema- Sholay, to give his views. Mr Sippy said, “There are two ways to analyse the success or failure of a film- a) it should satisfy the audience it is aimed for and b) recoveries of money invested through various avenues” When an audience member asked him about using focus group discussions and test screenings as a means to reduces chances of a flop film, Mr. Sippy said, “Focus group discussions are useful in pointing out things you may have otherwise overlooked but you don’t necessarily need to listen to everything.”
The informative session ended with a unanimous thought that making films at the end of a day is a business which involves costs and there is no doubt that viability should be the key without sacrificing on the creative aspect.