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Not right time to open cinema halls: Ravi Kottarakara

admin   July 28, 2020

Amid reports that the government was set to unveil standard operating procedures paving way for the opening of theatres which remain shut ever since the Covid-19 induced lockdown was implemented in March, the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce has felt it is not conducive for cinema halls to open in current conditions and amid restrictions.

SIFCC Secretary Ravi Kottarakara has said cinema theatres should resume operations only after two months of cinema production. This would allow free flow of content into cinema screens. The timing also has to align with the availability of Hollywood and other foreign language films.  

Many Hollywood films have postponed films slated for release scheduled for the next three months. There are over 3800 single screen theatres in South India (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh., Telangana, kerala, Karnataka, Puducherry).


Preventing COVID Spreads at Film Shoots

admin   July 28, 2020

The tags are currently wearable on an individual’s wrist or belt, but there are opportunities to deploy them more widely, such as on shopping carts in grocery stores or with self-guided tour technology at museums or in film shooting spots

A new product EGOpro Social Distancing wearable tag from Italy based A.M.E (Advanced Microwave Engineering) is emerging as solution for social distancing in many parts of the world. A product which was primarily meant for logistics, industrial security and safety is used now used by museums and other institutions. Most likely, this will be embraced by production executives while film shooting.

The company offers highperformance, flexible solutions using active automatic identification (RFID) wireless technologies and sensors for industrial applications. A.M.E. designs, develops and implements integrated, turnkey solutions for industrial security and safety.

One of Florence’s most frequented sites, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) is the first museum complex in the world to execute the usage of social distancing necklaces for its visitors. The EGOpro Active Tag uses radio technology to sense the measure between two tags. The device will flash, vibrate and softly beep when one visitor accidentally walks within two metres or six feet of another, signalling they are too close.

The devices will be handed out free of charge upon entering the museum and will have to be handed back at the end of the visit after which they will be disinfected before being used again. The usage is anonymous and does not track any kind of data.

Magazzino Italian Art is the first museum in the United States to adopt the EGOPro Tag. The primary objective is to promote social distancing among visitors. Visitors are explained that the device is not invasive and just a reminder. They hope to make the best use of it during weekends.

So, what exactly is an EGOpro? Think of it like those buzzers you get at some restaurants to notify you when your order is ready. The buzzing is the same, although this time the sound occurs when visitors get a little too close to one another. As for the devices themselves, they hang on eco-friendly, individually wrapped lanyards available to individuals and/or groups upon entering. If someone gets too close to another visitor, the device will begin to flash red and buzz with increasing urgency to remind parties to widen the gap.

“The usage of this technology in the current pandemic is groundbreaking,” said Rob Hruskoci, owner and CEO of Advanced Industrial Marketing. “Employees can see how much room they have to work with one another, and employers can use this data to reconfigure workspaces to maintain the minimum safe distance while operating.”

The tags are currently wearable on an individual’s wrist or belt, but there are opportunities to deploy them more widely, such as on shopping carts in grocery stores or with selfguided tour technology at museums or in film shooting spots.

Each EGOpro Active Tag is equipped with a unique serial number and has the potential to be connected to a custom software solution. This can be used for counting the number of people in a given area, keeping track on how long they are in certain areas, and even sending alerts to managers if there is overcrowding. Additionally, in a situation where a facility may have been exposed to Covid-19, the software could be used for contact tracing using the device’s individual serial numbers.

The pandemic has baffled medical professionals everywhere, but social distancing protocols that necessitate people in public keeping at least six feet away from other strangers have already been accepted as a basic public health defense against the novel coronavirus. Until a vaccine is developed, it’s likely that devices like the EGOpro tags will become increasingly ubiquitous not just in museums, but in all arenas of public life.


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No Business as Usual for Film Industry

admin   July 13, 2020

COVID-19 has stunned film producers in India, who see the pandemic causing major disruptions in the way this unique industry functions. Here are some major challenges and remedial measures that can be taken to help the industry get back on its feet By Ravi Kottarakara

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused an irreparable damage to businesses and industries globally. Our film industry too finds itself into quite a predicament and the writing on the wall is absolutely clear. The Indian film industry has a peculiar ecosystem and its mode of functioning is entirely different from the normal industrial practices. In the past few years, the business in the Indian film industry has seen a lot of volatility—marked by lots of failures and a meager success rate of say 15%. Adding fuel to the fire, the COVID-19 pandemic has created so much havoc and pandemonium that it’s a difficult task to imagine recovery of the film industry anytime soon.

I have underlined some of issues of the film industry that need to be addressed before we resume business as usual:

PRODUCERS / PRODUCTION SECTOR

The film producers are stunned due to the several issues caused by the novel Corona virus and the lockdown that followed after its outbreak.

Released Films Losses

Some of the films that were released and screened at the cinema halls and were doing well in terms of box office collection have been abruptly stopped after the announcement of lockdown. This has caused irretrievable and permanent loss to the film producers and distributors [During the
lockdown there were around 80 to 90 films in different languages running in various cinema halls pan India]. The financial loss accrued due to abrupt closure of cinema halls during the lockdown is alone expected to amount to more than Rs. 400 crores.

Shooting Locations and Sets

Some film shootings had to be stopped suddenly in the aftermath of COVID-19 crisis that has caused huge losses to film producers. Adding to the injury, many gigantic sets erected by them for shooting are now wearing out [the shooting sets are temporary and made from perishable materials, so lifespan of these setsis very short]. Besides the uncertainty that looms over the commencementof film shootings, the Monsoon season will be another
factor leading to the total destruction of sets, thus creating irreversible losses to the producers as now they would have to erect new sets and structures again. The producers will also have to pay daily rent for the locations where these sets have been erected.It will be an additional cost to him.

Reorganizing and Rescheduling

To start the shooting process is another herculean task as the producers will have to now get new shooting dates from their respective artistes and technicians and reschedule the shooting. Adding to our woes, we are aware that some the artistes and technicians need to travel from different states for shootings. Some films have to be shot in outdoor locations like garden/
parks, bus stands, airports, roads, historical monuments, temples, and farmlands, etc, and shooting at many of these locations doesn’t seem a possibility in near future. Some of these films have to be shot in foreign locations and it looks like an impossible task to get permissions to shoot in those foreign locations in near future.

Unfortunate Loss of Lives & Displacement of workers

In this difficult time, we are experiencing another major issue. Unfortunately, some of our artistes and technicians have become victims of the COVID-19 pandemic and many are experiencing depression, tensions, mental ailments and other issues due to uncertainty in resuming shootings. Now all these film have to be reshot using new artists which would incur additional costs to the producer. Many of the daily wage/ contract and semiskilled workers have returned to their native states and it would be an uphill task to get them resume work.

Debts & Interest on finance

Meanwhile, one of the biggest issues we are facing is the interest accruing on loans after cancellation of shooting and delay in completing and recovering our investments from the projects. The interests to be paid to financiers are mounting by each passing day. Since films are not financed by banks as the film production is perceived as a high risk industry, film producers borrow money at a very high rate of interest of 30% to 48% per annum which is very exorbitant but there is no other option.

Release of films

Even if we complete with a film facing all these hurdles,another major stumbling block would be trying to release the film in these desperate times. The reasons are:

a) To think of a worldwide release looks like an impossibility at this time.We would lose money to be received from those territories/ markets.

b) The cine goers would think twice to watch films in theatres by taking
undue risk of contracting the virus.

c) In this volatile market the distributors would not come forward to buy films.

THEATRES / EXHIBITORS

Social Distancing at Theatres Social distancing will be maintained very strictly at theatres. Tickets will be sold for every alternate or every third seat to maintain a gap between two occupants.

Screening Sanitizing

Further, prior to every show, before entry each and every individual going in for the show will be individually screened for temperature and sanitized before allowed in the premises.

Issues of Screening Films

Post screening, cleansing and disinfection and sanitizing of theatre hall, individual seats, corridors, toilets, will also be done. This will eat into the total time available for shows. The number of shows will have to be reduced to a maximum of three instead of four shows as the lot of time will go into screening, cleaning/sanitization of halls. The time between each show will increase due to checking and sanitizing each individual.Also, the interval time will have to be increased to avoid congestion at food courts/
stalls, etc.

Reduced Footfalls

As there exists a fear of Corona in the minds of the public and the entertainment is available to them on digital mediums like satellite TV and OTT platforms, the need for the public to watch cinema at theatres must be encouraged. Since cinema is still the cheapest form of entertainment in India, we are hopeful that the public will revisit theatres and watch films on large screens coupled with quality sound systems.

Relief sought from the State Government

  • 50% reduction in property tax during lean period*
  • Flat 30% reduction in Electricity Tariffs/Bills for a limited period*[From rates of April 1st]
  • Local Body Entertainment Tax holiday for 5 years. [LBET]
  • No Ticket Price Capping and the unfettered Right to increase the ticket price by the exhibitors due a)restricted sale of 50% capacity of theatre.
  • All shooting Locations such as parks, roads, gardens, Bus stand, Beaches, etc should be given for shooting at Rs.1000/- per day only.
  • *Period is three years.
  • All Monuments, Temples, Archeological Sites, Railway stations, Dams, must be charge only Rs.5000/- per day[Indemnity Bond to be given by producer in case of any damages incurred]
  • Single window permission and clearances for shooting at any location within 72 hours.
  • TDS deduction on sale of copyright rights to Digital, OTT, Satellite, etc, to be reduced to 1%.
  • Instruct Banks to finance film producers/ distributors/ cinema hall at a concessional rate of interest. [the same Rate as for MSME sectors].
  • Central Subsidy of Rs 5 lakh only to be given to the film producer [whose name appears in Censor Board certificate] for every film released [minimum in 10 screens], irrespective of language and where the budget of the film is less than Rs 3 crores[based submissions to Income tax]. The amount to be paid within six months from the date of release of the film.
  • Reduction of GST from 18% to 12% and 12 % to 5% ( there are two slabs).
  • A service charge of Rs.30 at Non A/c Theatres, Rs.40 at A/c Theatres, Rs.50 at multiplexes could be added to every ticket purchased to recover the cost incurred for providing additional sanitization services at theatres and during Film Production [This is collectible by an additional coupon to be issued with every ticket]. The service charge money will be split three ways between the Exhibitor [where film is screened], producer [appears on the censor certificate] and the governments in the ration of 40:30:30 –exhibitor 40% ,producer 30% and government 30% [Central 15% & State 15%, respectively]
  • This service charge is to compensate the exhibitor/producer for the extra expenses/costs incurred on safety measures of sanitization procedures. These recommendations made by us is just to provide some sort of remedial help to the industry on a temporary basis, but in the long run we would only be able to ascertain the damage after the wrath of corona is over and the industry starts functioning.


Is Man no More at Home on Earth? Is Cinema no More at Home in Theatres?

admin   June 22, 2020

Is Mother Earth chastising Man for the harm Man has inflicted upon Her in his short-sighted ungrateful exploitation of Her generous resources?

We were not allowed to go out. From my window, I saw animals, many birds and insects: they had the right to be outside in the open air. It filled me with a strange feeling, as if Mother Earth was repudiating us: “Get inside, you’ve done too much wrong, I don’t want to see you anymore!”

We were being chased from all places, streets, cafés, markets, theatres, and from our cherished Cannes Film Festival, while cats, birds, cows were and still are at home in the streets and free to walk on the carpets of the world, be they red or not.

Is Man no more at home on Earth?

In India’s wonderful Vedic tradition, we learn that at a time the whole world became perturbed due to nefarious activities, the predominating deity of the Earth, known as Bhumi, went to see Lord Brahma to tell of her calamities. Bhumi assumed the shape of a cow and presented herself before Lord Brahma with tears in her eyes. She was bereaved and was weeping, relating the calamitous position of the Earth.

The bull is the emblem of Dharma, the moral principle, and the cow is the representative of the Earth. Nowadays, the cow is being slaughtered and the bull is only standing on one leg as the threefourths of humanity have evacuated the Sacred from their lives.

We are at a time when both thinkers and scientists are questioning our modern materialistic model, at a time when the film industry has to freeze and a Thierry Frémaux, the Big-Screen bard, go digital. Is it not also time for Indian Studios and Independents to clear a corridor to uplifting films? Films that could possibly draw their narrative from India’s invaluable and under-explored homegrown richness, the Mahabharata Franchise, the Bhagavata-purana Franchise, the Ramayana Franchise, all available, all IP free and all courtesy of Vyasadeva and Valmiki.

Inspiration for stories with spiritual content is everywhere, but nowhere more than from within the cradle of spirituality – India, with her rich oral and written tradition. It is time for Indian-crafted films to show the world the beauty of India’s culture, rather than follow Western films down the same old beaten track of portraying an “Indian genre” associated only with misery and social conflict as their main topics.

Unfortunately, those of the new generation filmmakers who are more apt in the handling of a Universal Cinema Language, have been Westernized to think that shabby hardship is the only theme that will take them to international festivals. Historically, great tragedies such as the current pandemic have often brought about significant changes. This crisis offers us the opportunity for a change of consciousness towards what images and narratives we are feeding audiences with.

Audiences must have their say in the kind of films they want the industry to offer. We just have seen how, in a few days, a strong public will is capable of completely changing our way of life. Despite the shortterm economic imperatives”, despite our habits and at the cost of our comfort. Making the collective choice to demand less gratuitous mind-polluting images, less vacuity, more beauty, subtlety and inspiration dressing up our screens would be a much less arduous change than the one we are currently undergoing.

Will we all be, filmmakers and film consumers, up to the challenges?

Bhagavad-Gita tells us the soul can never be cut nor burnt. Have we experienced the soul cannot be locked down either, free to express craving for uplifting content?

Pierre Assouline, a producer in France and India with Selections and Awards including Competition in Venice, Competition and Jury Award in Locarno, Competition in India, Pierre Assouline currently works at establishing “The Uplifting Cinema Project”, a production slate of the world.

He can be reached at pierre@theupliftingcinemaproject.com


Re-Emergence of Cinema & Audience Engagement

admin   June 22, 2020

THE SHOW GOES ON, SAYS DR S RAGHUNATH, PROFESSOR OF STRATEGY, INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT (IIM) BANGALORE TRACKING THE CHANGING DIGITAL FACE OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THE AFTERMATH OF COVID-19

In the Covid-19 era, it appears that in the immediate and the short term, production and consumption of cinema will undergo change driven by considerations such as social distancing and reduction of local travel for leisure activities including entertainment.

On the production side as the lockdown has impacted film shooting schedules, a whole lot of creative work is continuing to take place in various geographies. Therefore the content pipeline is stacking up well,
while shooting schedules are being delayed. While the silver lining is in the learning curve amongst industry professionals who are increasingly interacting with each other and engaging on digital platforms with experienced experts to discuss and update their knowledge.

As social distancing is a necessary requirement on production sets, use of technology can improve processes in studios. Virtual post-production processes may find their way to replace the traditional ones such as dialogue replacement where actual dialogues are recorded in a studio but are dubbed over live footage. Actors might also choose to perform live within a digital environment.

Pre-visualization software is now available for directors to plan and visualize better to make creative choices and plan logistics taking the current realities into account. Tools and techniques are now available to virtually construct shots, sequences, or an entire movie, without physically visiting a location. The traditional format of development pre-production-production-postproduction sequential processing is going through radical change in productions that contain VFX or CGI. In a virtual production, it is possible for all the creative processes, including live action, video and CGI imagery – to begin simultaneously and in real-time within virtual environments – as the recent re-make of The Lion King demonstrated.

These are also days of potential opportunity for ready content shot on a low budget with clever camera work which can deliver closeup scene shots from a distance to stream their content on OTT platforms. Movie makers on a tight budget are trying to establish mass market connect through the OTT platforms. Therefore digital release of films is beginning to happen and will increase in the foreseeable future for modest budget movies especially with the increase in consumption of entertainment on OTT platforms.

We are witnessing an era where movie goers have turned into movie viewers consuming content in the digital space. This change in the habits of the audience changes the relationship between producers of movies and consumers of movies. As the audience have the privilege of choosing the mode of consumption, cinema has to evolve to deliver impact on multiple screens in multiple formats. Movies must be available on mobile phones, on touch screen tablets and consider the widespread use of a device in delivering cinematic experience to the audience.

There is also gradual change emerging in supporting independent artistes who are changing the art of storytelling through movies, media, live performance, music with the help of technology. With remote working becoming the norm and with educational institutions going online, people are looking for entertainment within self-quarantined areas. Therefore in the foreseeable future, the subscriber base and viewership levels will continue to rise on Amazon Prime, Netflix and pay TV channels. There are other emerging forms of entertainment which include online drama, Alternate Reality Gaming, etc. The action is on!


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COVID-19: Nuggets from Netflix’s Ted Sarandos on Filming and Safety Protocols

admin   May 6, 2020

Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix has shared best practices of how the streaming giant is adapting and learning to filming in some parts of the world in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. While many countries have shut down film shoots, film productions have reopened in South Korea, Japan and Iceland and Netflix plan to continue to shoot in Sweden (later this month) and Norway in July.

“Netflix shows and films are made around the globe, we’re starting to learn how to get production going again despite the crisis. Filming typically takes place in intimate, high-touch environments, with scores of artists and craftspeople working closely together on tight deadlines,” Ted Sarandos wrote in the Opinion page published in the Los Angeles Times on May 5 (Tuesday). “While we will need to change this process — in some cases dramatically — to ensure the safety of cast and crew during this pandemic, the closed nature of sets also offers some advantages. Not least that they provide a relatively controlled environment, where we can track who comes and goes.”

The Netflix content chief has made it clear that situations and environments vary from country to country and city to city. ” (We) need to work with local health authorities to adopt safeguards that take into account the situation on the ground. There is no one size fits all,” he wrote.

Following are some of the examples cited by Ted Sarandos.

South Korea: Currently filming “Move to Heaven” and romantic series “Love Alarm”. Testing in South Korea only for people with symptoms. Temparature tested regularly for cast and crew.

Iceland: COVID-19 tests are widely available in Iceland. Currently Netflix is filming “Katla,” a science-fiction series. Crews have voluntariyly tested. Crews report to production after testing negative. Netflix has prescribed strict safely protocols.

Sweden: Test is scarce in Sweden. Netflix will resume production of its comedy series “Love and Anarchy”. Crew and production executives will self-quarantine for 14 days before shooting and throughout the shooting schedule.

Netflix Best Practices on the Sets

  • Maintain social distancing among crew and production members
  • Availablity of hand sanitizers
  • Boxed meals instead of buffets
  • Make up artists use disposable applicators
  • People on the set wash hands every two hours
  • Props cleaned and wardrobes stream cleaned every day

Ted Sarandos has maintained that some Netflix shows will need to rewrite scripts or look to add visual effects to what previously would have been shot live.

“The business of bringing stories to life onscreen is built on partnership and trust. We will only make progress if everyone who returns to
the set, whether they are in front of or behind the camera, feels safe doing so. Without this basic trust, the creative process breaks down,” says Ted Sarandos.

He ends his op-ed piece on a postive note: “The adage is as old as our business, but it has never been more true: The show must — and
will — go on”.


EFM Constantly adapts to Change to Stay Relevate

admin   February 20, 2020

The European Film Market’s development over many years depends on how quickly it adapts to what’s happening within the industry; to the trends and changes that are influencing the players of this very complex market landscape, says Matthijs Wouter Knol, EFM Director, as he speaks on new initiatives, future developments and trends in the global film, media and entertainment industry, in an interview with Pickle

European Film Market heralds the entertainment industry and gives a perspective of where the film industry is heading? How has the market shaped this year?

The European Film Market is the first market at the beginning of the
year and as such it has been acting as a barometer for the upcoming film year. Our participants come here because the EFM is one of the largest markets for audiovisual content worldwide and one of the most important trading platforms kicking-off the year.
With our many communication, information and networking events and initiatives we offer the EFM visitors the upcoming trends and developments that are going to shape the year.

2020 is the beginning of the new decade. How do you see the relevance of markets impacted in the digital age and longer term?

The European Film Market has evolved enormously since its creation in 1988. To maintain its position as a leading market and trading platform in the industry, the EFM has to adapt to what’s happening within the industry; to the trends and changes that are influencing the players of this very complex market landscape. There are technological and financial developments as well as developments regarding content and new players at the market. The EFM picked up on these trends and offers suitable platforms and initiatives such as the Berlinale Series Market & Conference dedicated to all aspects of serial content; EFM Horizon to meet the growing information demand regarding the fast technologically development; the Berlinale Africa Hub, a platform for innovative projects and ideas from the African film industry. EFM DocSalon, EFM Producers Hub, EFM Industry Debates are other initiatives that are also meeting the industry’s ongoing changes. And equally important: diversity, inclusion and sustainability have marked the EFM’s development over the last year, gaining more and more importance due to what’s happening not only in the film industry, but on a larger, social and political scale.

What are some of the new additions and trends that you see in the industry?

We have introduced a new initiative called EFM Landmark, a program aimed specifically at film commissions and producers, offering them an additional business platform. For the first time we as EFM issued a sustainability manifesto because we want to take responsibility for the environment and fight unnecessary creation of waste, be careful in the usage of energy and resources, develop strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle resources.

The manifesto includes also the creation of a healthy and sustainable working climate as well as raising awareness among team and visitors that they are part of a greener EFM. The measures are part of the initiatives already taken in previous years by the Berlinale. The DocSalon also offers new developments such as the “Archive Day”, the DocSalon Toolbox Program specifically intended for international delegations of documentary creatives from underrepresented groups, as well as the partnership with the DAE, the Documentary Association of Europe.

EFM Landmark is a new addition with coming together of film commissioners. What has been the response? It is a great initiative as EFM is always a buzz with film commissions from Europe?

We have received a very positive feedback to EFM Landmark. Especially because “EFM Landmark” will give plenty of options to present new trends, the cash rebates and tax incentives du jour, as well as changes in co-production funding opportunities and showcases of the best locations for film and drama series to producers looking for the right fit.

EFM is a convergence of a wholesome market that has solutions for needs of every aspect of filmmaking (from a business angle), including technology/AR/VR at EFM Horizon. What’s the overall theme that you see emerging this year? What are people looking for in changing times of streaming getting an upper hand?

Our format EFM Horizon picks up on the future developments and trends of the film, media and entertainment industry. The striking subject is that there is not only one striking subject: Sustainability, well-being, diversity, storytelling, artificial intelligence and immersive media – they all are in the focus of this year’s EFM Horizon edition. We will dive deeper into those forwardlooking developments of social, technological, economic and creative nature and with the EFM Industry Debates, EFM Startups, EFM VR NOW Summit and other formats we provide an outlook into the future of the film and entertainment industry. The paradigm shift to streaming platforms becoming key decision makers will be very present in seminars, conferences and events at this year’s EFM.

EFM organizes the finest coproduction market? How much is the success rate of films getting into execution mode?

The Berlinale Co-Production Market is a separate part of the industry platforms at the Berlinale and closely associated with the EFM. It has been a very successful format from the very beginning. This is mainly due to the curated nature of this event. The film makers and their projects are carefully chosen and they are provided with many pitching and networking and one-on-one opportunities where they have the unique possibilitiy to find exactly those partners they need for financing, co-producing, developing etc.

India participation has been on the rise over the last few years. This year also a small delegation will be at EFM. How do you see collaboration and scope for India to expand its activities in the market?

This year, we have 27 companies from India with 38 participants coming to the EFM. There will be five Indian films being shown in market screenings. The collaboration with the Indian film industry goes back quite some time and has intensified over the past years, with the Indian pavilion in the centre of the historic Gropius-Bau.

EFM is keen on further expanding collaboration with different parts of the Indian film industry. Considering the size, influence and impact the Indian film industry has worldwide, including for example on the African continent, I see opportunities for new projects together.

Corona Virus Hits Chinese presence at Berlinale

• A Chinese delegation of companies that was planning to attend EFM in a
Chinese umbrella stand had to cancel their visit due the current health emergency imposed by a Corona virus outbreak in the country that has made it difficult for them to obtain visa. Attendance of Chinese professionals, including buyers, is also expected to be low in comparison to the increasing number of Chinese buyers finding their ways to EFM in the previous three years.

• As many as 59 cancellations from mainland China and Hong Kong have been registered to date. From other countries, at least five people have cancelled their visit and given the Corona virus as a reason to cancel.