A Win-Win for India & Canada- Interview With Ashish Kulkarni

By Pickle  September 8, 2022
A Win-Win for India & Canada- Interview With Ashish Kulkarni, Pickle Media

India and Canada enjoy a unique position as storytelling partners. Canada and India are well known for their multicultural content economies. While Canada has a widely recognised distribution network – India has a cost-effective production ability delivering highest quality content. The dissemination of Canadian content would be greatly impacted by an Indian partnership. This is a win-win for both sides, says Ashish Kulkarni, CEO, Punnaryug Artvision and Screenyug Creations, in a candid conversation with Pickle

In the audio-visual segments, how do you see the India-Canada relationship evolving?

The relationship between India and Canada has evolved significantly. The India-Canada Co-production Treaty is a fantastic tool that benefits producers in both countries. India is known for its creative output, whereas Canada specialises in pre production, post production and distribution. As Canada’s service sector has grown exponentially, many American companies are relocating to Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Canada and India can collaborate to produce global content. We actually found a new paradigm in terms of co-production between India and Canada. This year, we have a large delegation from India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and industry at large visiting Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), primarily to look at the mechanism of implementing the co-production treaty into producing films and animation films. In fact, the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) has been collaborating closely with Canada to develop a mechanism for implementation,so that there is a studio-to-studio connection and we greenlight certain films for co-production in India and Canada.

We can also see that there is a significant amount of student as well as faculty exchange between the two countries. Although the treaty was signed in 2015, we will be able to see implementation and actual major live projects starting this year. So, as we introduce a new co-production structure in India, I see NFDC playing a critical role in ensuring that this mechanism works. There would eventually be a Co-production fund, which would benefit the co-production projects.

Canada and Indiaare a multicultural content economies, and they together hold an unique position as partners in storytelling. Canada has well-known, globally recognised distributors. They travel to every global market then Indians, While Indians are constantly busy with large productions. An Indian collaboration would have far-reaching implications for the distribution of their content. Both parties benefit from this arrangement. Second, Canada fits in quite well with the East-West relationship balance. Because many Indians have made Canada their home, it is appealing to most storytellers to ensure that we are able to carve out stories that will impress both the audience.

What steps should be taken to scale the relationship? How should we proceed, and what should be the next steps?

India sends delegations to TIFF because Indian films are shown there. However, I believe that we should not stop there. We should make an effort to establish, say, a creators and producers matching programme. So that we can exchange ideas and see if we can find a way to work together because co-productions would never be able to find a way unless studios collaborated.

Second, we should make it a habit to invite Canadian producers to at least one or two events each year. This is especially true at the India International Film Festival of India (IFFI) because that’s where b2b sessions could become a breeding ground. In fact, Canada was a partner country a few years ago, and it brought quite a few interesting things with it.

However, I believe we need to do this as a growing effort across Canada, with delegations coming from Vancouver, Toronto, and Quebec in particular, among other places. And, with the emergence of experiential storytelling through XR, I believe there are certain projects that can become a reality in terms of co-productions between the two countries. I see that even animation, VFX, Gaming, Comics & XR as a great opportunity to really partner with Canada.

Canada is a virtual production powerhouse. Toronto is home to the world’s largest virtual production sets. What are the opportunities in this field for India?

The need for the number of virtual productions for Indian films is also growing. While we would like to see virtual sets develop in India, Canadian studios have already done it by collaborating with universities so that industry-academy partnerships actually evolve new technologies, new patterns of working, and additional production ecosystems. I see a larger number of Indian storytelling also requiring those kinds of visual production capabilities, and until the time, we actually build the skills and sustain them in this part of the world, collaboration with Canada would be extremely beneficial.It’s not just about sharing technology or working with the latest & evolving technologies; it’s also about cost effectiveness and ensuring that some of the heritage films and historical films can be produced more efficiently – Where we see every frame of the film is enhanced. I believe those outcomes will be something to which we should all be looking forward to.

Following the implementation of the new education policy, animation, visual effects, and gaming will be included in the curriculum in India. How do we bring in, say, a gaming expert from Toronto to teach students here?

The Vancouver Film School has already established a presence in Mumbai. And there are quite a few other schools that have expressed an interest in opening up in India. Student exchange and faculty exchange has already been a practice between India and Canada. In Canada, the media and entertainment education as well as the AVGC-XR education is par excellence. They have been actually building these areas for several years now, and a large number of students from all over the globe have benefited from this. Nevertheless, for Indian students with interests in Film and media studies, AVGC-XR has been the top destination in Canada for the last two decades.

I believe that the best practices can always be brought into India.Such partnerships would bring in technology transfer, curriculum transfer, train the trainers, and the exchange would aid in actually getting the most critical element, which is the faculty. And if you can get the right faculty to come to India, you will see a lot of people developing the required skills that are implemented, and this skilled community will then start experimenting and working on live projects in India, which will add to the creative content creation ecosystem.

A Win-Win for India & Canada- Interview With Ashish Kulkarni, Pickle Media

I am particularly proud of Prime Focus, Paperboat, Green Gold, Cosmos Maya, Toonz Media Group in particular and several other studio’s who have ventured into starting studio’s in several other countries including Canada. The Indian AVGC- XR studios just in the short time frame have recognised the potential of becoming multinational studios and leveraging the strengths of several creative content creation eco-systems to its benefit

Recently, India announced 30% incentives for foreign filmmakers. How can India benefit from Canada’s 75 co-production treaties with other countries?

The incentive plan that has been announced to shoot in India is a long awaited and a very positive step by the government of India. It’s a welcome step to invite creative content creators from all over the globe to come to India.I see a bigger success through collaboration with Indian studios. Unless and until there are producers and creators from India meeting the producers and creators of Canada, the co-production cannot start. The government will talk to another government to do co-production projects.But firstly,an idea must be realised through collaboration between the two studios. And when a common business plan for that project is developed, they let each other know what each side would bring to the table. That is ideally what occurs when a successful co-production takes place.

Before signing a co-production, you must either sign a broadcaster in the case of a television show or have a distributor in place in the case of a film. So, the Indian producer must obtain approval from the Indian distributor, and the Canadian producer must obtain approval from the Canadian distributor. If it is a co-production of a series, we must also obtain approval from the Indian and Canadian broadcasters.

So, we need to make sure that we funnel down to the studio-to-studio interactions, and that is something that will help sign more and more co-productions, because only then will they be able to use the incentive packages in the co-production funding, which is an effective funding mechanism, and they also have a framework.

What procedures must Canadian studios follow in order to co-produce in India?

If a Canadian producer wants to come and shoot in India, for example, they should look for an Indian production partner who will partner with them, and that’s how they can shoot in India with the help of the partner, and the partnering studio will then either do it as a service or can do it as a co- production, and then they can unlock the incentive plan and the funding that has also been provided. To get there, you must first meet those requirements. NFDC has set up a single window clearance to help ease of doing shoots in India and get required permissions. Even several state governments in India have policies in place to facilitate the shoots in respective states thru single window clearance mechanism.

What steps India and TIFF can take in the short term in order to strengthen the India-Canada relationship?

I believe that if we can continue to build a special section for Indian producers to come, the Indian producers will have to block their calendars every year to ensure that they are a part of the TIFF programme. And we should actually encourage both the countries to ensure that we hold b2b producer-to-producer meetings at least twice a year, once in TIFF and once in IFFI so that those relationships can then mature into successful productions, projects, and so on.Third, I believe we should consider how to leverage the global distribution ecosystem of Canada For Indian content. Because of the Indian diaspora, there are a lot of Indian stories that would work extremely well in Canada and North America.

Could you comment on the re-location of studios like Paperboat, Prime Focus from India?

I believe it’s a positive step because Indian studios are daring to become multinational. Second, they are a fully recognised Canadian studio under Canadian law, and they can officially enter into co-productions with Indian studios. This will allow the matching to happen much faster, because they are physically present in that location. I believe that will greatly benefit co-production as well as joint productions. I also believe that this trend will continue to grow because most Indian studios that are producing original content have realised that a large amount of pre-production skills are available there, and one can actually create a high-quality production package there while using production capabilities from India. This will, in fact, aid the ‘Make in India, Show the World’, which is one of the most significant initiatives launched by our Honourable India’s Prime Minister, and it truly encompasses design, media & entertainment as a key contributor to the “Make in India” programme.

I am particularly proud of Prime Focus, Paperboat, Green Gold, Cosmos Maya, Toonz Media Group in particular and several other studio’s who have ventured into starting studio’s in several other countries including Canada. The Indian AVGC- XR studios just in the short time frame have recognised the potential of becoming multinational studios and leveraging the strengths of several creative content creation eco-systems to its benefit. In time to come I clearly see Indian AVGC – XR companies getting recognised as global players. This is indeed a very positive growth in establishing Indian creative content creations and design leadership in ever evolving global creative content economy.

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