Future Belongs to   Independent Films

admin   February 15, 2018

Many good works in India do not get theatres because the system belongs to hardcore commercial houses. However, digital platforms have empowered filmmakers to explore new ways, believes HariViswanath

As an independent Indian filmmaker, sometimes I feel very insecure because a large number of people and a section of media believe that, in a diversified cultural mosaic like India, the audience welcome only the so-called commercial main stream films.

However, I believe that the independent films are also commercial products which are consumed by the consumers (film-goers) from the outlets (theatres). But if a commodity does not even make it to the outlets, how can you be so sure that the consumers only demand the so-called commercial big house products? I wish there was a healthy competition between these two kinds of films, so that the audience had the choiceto select their movies according to their tastes.

As far as my venture Radiopetti is concerned, I would say it’s not a complete success. I was very happy to get a world premiere in Busan and win the Best Audience Award, that too for my debut film. Apart from that, the film won four more awards at various film festivals and nine official selections. It was made available on Netflix (first Tamil film on Netflix before its theatrical release), itunes and Google Play. But all said and done, since the film didn’t get the theatrical release in its home ground, I still feel incomplete.

Being a jury at IFFI (International Film Festival of India)2017,was a very good experience. I enjoyed the cinema as an art without the barrier of language, as we got films in Indian Panorama from all the states of India. I could experience the rich culture of India and got to know how small and beautiful things are told by other fellow film directors.

My new short film is based on a concept I developed while I was working as a team leader in an IT company. In an office, so many people work for hours together and while they are there, they laugh, cry, experience humiliation, insult or get praised. Sometimes they feel that there is no one who is watching them going through all these emotions. But I thought that there is one witness – a computer monitor– that watches everything. But since it is an inanimate being, it cannot react. This thought gave me an idea, what if the monitor could talk! Based on this idea, I have made this short film in Hindi, Monitor, which is a story being told from the point of view of a computer monitor. India is the most prolific movie producer nation in the world. As part of this film production market, every independent film maker is like an isolated island. As an independent film maker, my first work was Radiopetti. It received applause at international film festivals, but shockingly I could not get a theatrical release of my film in India because of several reasons. However, after participating as a jury of Indian Panorama at IFFI last year, I found I am not the only film maker who has suffered this release issue. Many good, thought provoking artistic works could not be released in Indian theatres because the releasing system belongs to the hard core commercial houses. They make the hits and flops. So, an independent film maker, in almost every part of India, suffers in almost the same way as I did.

Our Constitution gives us the right of freedom of expression.Yes, it’s there. Although a strict certification board is there. But, if the final creation cannot reach to the audience and this becomes a phenomenon, it makes a creator unhappy and frustrated. But having said that, I also believe that good Indian cinema of the future belongs to independent film makers.

India is a huge country with a vast diversity in talent and the emerging digital world has made filmmaking easier. Now anyone can shoot using their mobile or any digital camera. In this digital era making a film could be easier, but making good quality films is quite difficult. Besides that, showing your film on the right platform to the audience is another important aspect that one needs to learn and understand.

The best thing about the emerging digital era is that filmmakers need not have to think about the traditional way of theatrical release alone. Now we have so many digital platforms (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc) to showcase our films to our audience around the world.

(The writer is the maker of 2015 Tamil film Radiopetti which won widespread accolades at multiple international film festivals across the globe)


Transparency at Core of Vista”s Business Practices

admin   February 15, 2018

Vista India Digital Media – a passionate aggregator of content in the digital world – has transparency as the core value that drives all its business practices. Rajiv Raghunathan, CEO, Vista India Digital Media Inc, shares his unique insights on how the company – a Netflix Preferred Vendor – has earned its reputation and how it efficiently manages the whole gamut from acquisition to delivery

What’s the core ideology of Vista India Digital Media? What’s the agenda set for 2018 for Vista?

Our core ideology is to provide content owners with high calibre and secure Localisation, Post Production and Aggregation services.

Our media services include Ingestion, QC, Origination and Conformance of ancillary assets (i.e. Closed Captions, Timed Text, Forced Narratives, Metadata and Artwork design), Packaging and Delivery. We provide these specialised ser-vices to global OTT platforms, studios, broadcasters and independent filmmakers, both in India and overseas.

The VOD ecosystem is expanding rapidly with many top leaders like Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and GooglePlay leading the way. Vista believes that these factors and our ever expanding gamut of services attuned to the platform requirements, position us to play a more involved role from licensing to delivery. As the markets expand rapidly, the corresponding requirement for content is also growing. 4K delivery and growing our localisation services would be our core focus in 2018.

What’s your objective for the European Film Market?

Our objective is to reach out to content owners who would like to avail our distribution and supply chain services. We are also meeting with other OTT delivery facilities to offer our localisation services.

What are the various services offered by Vista to filmmakers? What’s Vista’s global footprint?

We are very passionate to aggregate content in the digital world. As an aggregator, our primary aim is to ensure that good content has a universal reach.

We are a Netflix Preferred Vendor (NPV). We are able to deliver content directly to Netflix and other platforms like Amazon Video Direct, Google Play, etc. As part of our service, we ensure that we cater to all the quality parameters set by premium OTT platforms. We have a dedicated technical team working on every minute aspect.

The Vista team has an extensive foundation in the content production workflows like DI, VFX, Editing, Sound mixing, Mastering, etc, and has adapted to the newer content specifications of the VOD platforms currently focusing on all aspects of delivery to the platforms from QC, Artwork design, Subtitling and Dubbing to Packaging and Delivery.

We have content partners across different parts of the world including Asia, North America and Europe.

Vista India is known for its transparency. What drives this intrinsic value in your business practices?

The media Industry worldwide is plagued with hidden accounting and reporting process. We are determined to change this and have ingrained this into the DNA of our company. Our ground up system architecture has been built to reflect transparency and accurate real time reporting.  We are proud to have been acknowledged by our International platform partners for our in house systems.  Transparency is something we take very seriously even to the smallest level and it is our constant endeveour to work with our engineering team in updating our re-porting process to reflect financial accuracy and reduce human error.  My vision is to build the highest quality organization comparable to the best in the World.

Vista India specialises to adapt a film for streaming (in various platforms – iTunes, Amazon Video Direct, Google Play (transactional)) from quality parameter perspective? Can you explain the process?

Each of these platforms has a very stringent set of delivery parameters that are also frequently updated. Vista specialises in the whole gamut from acquisition to delivery, with an emphasis on quicker turnaround for the online delivery, which results in better monetisation for our con-tent partners. Our extensive experience in the content production workflows and the OTT workflows enables us to tune all aspects of the delivery to the platform requirement in the quickest turnaround time for both the platforms and content partners.

Since Vista is one of the preferred aggregators for Netflix’s SVOD in India, does the final decision rests with Netflix on streaming it on their platform?

Yes, the final decision rests with Netflix.

What do VOD platforms look for in a film?

My general observation in the past 5 years has been that VOD platforms look for content that connects with the audience in terms of emotion, humour or story. Some of the pointers that play an important role would be the production value, strong story line, popularity of the star cast internationally and locally. Box office numbers, the number of festivals the film has travelled and the accolades it has garnered could also play a key role.

Many a time, a film gets rejected for various reasons. From your experience can you provide insights into this issue?

Different platforms have different requirements. However, if one must generalise, many films are rejected because of:

  The content does not pass the QC standard of the platform

  The content does not meet the plat-form’s programming strategy

  The content is not available  exclusively

  There is a disconnect in the offer and expectation of the license fee

What are some of the innovations Vista has adopted in recent times?

We are working on extensive tooling to augment our delivery capabilities in terms of project management, process automation and delivery workflows. We are switching to a full 4K workflow to cater to the newer delivery standards from various digital platforms. Apart from this we are also expanding our service offerings within the SVOD/ OTT spectrum.