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RAVINDRA VELHAL: DRIVING MEDIA TRANSFORMATION

admin   April 25, 2022

Ravindra Velhal, Intel’s Global Content Policy Strategist and 8K lead, wants to democratise technology and make it affordable and accessible to even the novoice immersive and volumetric filmmakers in order to help transform the creative industry from Lights, Camera, Action to Lights, Compute, and Action. The man behind many revolutionary ideas and creations opens up in a candid interview with Pickle explaining how technology is pushing the boundaries of filmmaking globally

From pixels to voxels, you have been part of the digital transformation in the media. How has been the 25-year journey? Intel has been at the forefront of computing innovation for more than five  decades.

It’s been a thrilling ride, to say the least. For more than five decades, Intel has been driving innovation in computing that touches every human being on the planet. We have been at the forefront of emerging technologies used by the entertainment industry worldwide to deliver rich content and provide consumers with exciting immersive digital experiences for the past 25 years. In the early  1990s, under the visionary leadership of Intel’s CEO Andy Grove, and now current CEO Pat Gelsinger (Andy’s Tech Advisor and Jeff Lawrence, Andy’s Copyright Lawyer back then), Intel began driving and establishing content/technology policy with the “Market not Mandate” principle between US Regulators, Hollywood, Consumer electronics, and Technology providers.

It all started in the 1990s with the creation of the Broadcast Flag, contributions to DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) regulation, the DVD standard, the first CDN (Content Delivery Network), and DRM for content access. A typical media format transition cycle lasts 7 years (e.g., from SD (DVD) to HD (Blu-Ray)/4K/8K). Work begun in the mid-1990s and early 2000s with a slew of associated technologies and standards (H.264/H.265, DVD, Blu-Ray, DRMUltraViolet, USB, WiFi, HDMI, Cloud, AI, now 5G) was critical in bringing high-quality media playback of Hollywood blockbusters to PCs, laptops, gaming consoles, STBs, Smart TVs, and mobile devices. Intel technology has powered the digitization initiatives in Hollywood and the global media industry for the last three decades and continues to drive the future of storytelling through 8K, immersive Cinema, and beyond by constantly engaging with global studios and innovators to bring the first ever Volumetric and immersive Cinema experiences to life.

Intel technology is used in the creation, distribution, content protection, consumption, and other stages of nearly every major Hollywood and global film. To provide the best viewing experiences for consumers, major studios, postproduction houses, virtual production and visual effects companies rely on Intel technologies such as Intel® Xeon® Scalable and Intel® CoreTM processors, memory technology, AI, 5G networking solutions to drive transformation at network-edge-cloud, and One API, development toolkits like SDV is for open source raytracing.

From the time you had landed from India to the US, you had a breezy journey. Could you share some of the most memorable moments in the convergence of tech and content?

I had a humble upbringing in Sangli, Maharashtra, India, where I completed my Engineering degrees despite numerous setbacks. We had few technical resources, but our college library had every issue of IEEE journals. During our school days, my younger brother Ajit Velhal and I developed and patented a prototype and research paper on “Genome sequencing and pattern recognition,” which received awards from the Instrument Society of America and widespread attention in 1994. This sparked my interest in imaging, which grew into a passion during my internship at Siemens Medical R&D and has taken it to a whole new level over the last 25 years with Eastman Kodak Research, Intel Research, and since 2008 with Hollywood initiatives, Immersive Cinema productions, and driving 8K live initiatives at the Olympics games in Tokyo 2020.

In 1998, I was working at Eastman Kodak Research in the outskirts of Washington, DC, on an early consumer grade flagship digital camera and “film to digital” consumer project, which was producing only thumbnail quality digital pictures. Within a year of joining Intel, I began working on the Proshare initiative, which allowed users to video conference with someone on the opposite side of the world over the internet. That was just wow. At Intel Research, I worked on several early stage media encoders technologies, media devices and phone that can consume media.

The rate of invention and convergence of “Tech Meets Story” has been exceptional, from thumbnail size digital photos in the mid 1990s to 8K quality live video and now “beyond resolution” volumetric filmmaking. From the legendary “Thousand songs in your pocket” moment to today “Million movies and TV episodes at your fingertip delivered from the cloud,” technology and the art of storytelling are revolutionising our lives on a daily basis, and I’ve been able to do my small part. Platforms are continuously multiplying and borders are blurring day by day.

What is the most ambitious global initiative in media and entertainment that you want to fulfil?

Help transform creative industry from Lights, Camera, Action to Lights, Compute, Action to drive tech meets story globally along with democratization of technology and affordable access to anyone who desires. More than 100 high resolution cameras filmed everything that light can see during the production of Grease in Volumetric at Intel Studios (the world’s largest Volumetric stage), generating and processing more than 5 Trillion pixels in less than three minutes. This is a cutting-edge technology production from Hollywood. How can this be democratised and made available to even the most inexperienced volumetric filmmaker? We did just that with the Museum of Tomorrow lab in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a small but dedicated team of filmmakers and technologists used a less than $1,000 setup to capture Amazonian Tribal ritual artists in volumetric and completed a project that I presented at CannesXR. This is the power of storytelling unleashed through the use of affordable technologies, regardless of where you live.

What are your major learnings working in different continents… embracing change?

A fast pace of innovation and creativity is a global phenomenon. Working with people from various cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life broadens your mind, fosters creativity and teamwork, broadens your horizons, teaches you to appreciate their points of view, and makes you more humble. The more you work with a diverse group of people (both inside and outside of your workplace) all over the world, the more you realise how little you know. I consider myself fortunate to have worked with amazing people from all over the world, both at work and outside of work, who have had a significant impact on my life.

I was fortunate to have excellent mentors both inside and outside of Intel. Legendary chefs such as Alex Atala from Brazil provided me with a crash course in the Indo-Brazilian epicurean connection dating back to the 15th century. Virgilio Martinez, a Peruvian chef, can teach us about sustainable Panchamama heritage. One encounter with legendary Spanish chefs Adria brothers, Albert and Ferran Adria can be life-changing in terms of understanding the deep meaning of Passion and Creativity. I am a firm believer in what Albert Adria once said: “Creativity is 20% knowledge, 20% inspiration, and 60% intensity.”

Working with Randal Kleiser can provide you with more institutional knowledge about filmmaking than any textbook will ever provide. Listening to Jeff Lawrence (my boss and mentor) can provide youwith encyclopaedic knowledge of the media industry’s history since its inception. As a member of the delegation, I learned about drive, determination, hard work, and dedication from world leaders like PM Narendra Modi and former US President Obama. The world is flat; all you have to do is get out of your comfort zone, find inspiration, embrace change, and go do something amazing. “Don’t be complacent, complacency will lead to failure, and thats why only the paranoid will survive,” Andy Grove had once said.

What brought you to AR/VR and immersive cinema and where are we heading in that space? How did you get immersed in the virtual reality experience in the cinema? How do you describe the immersive revolution? What have we seen, what is to be seen…

Immersion is defined as anything that allows you to experience yourself in a completely new dimension. The industry has progressed through various stages of immersion, from the first moving picture to BW Cinema, from colour to sound, and from sensory exploration (motion, olfactory, haptics) to AR/VR/XR/Metaverse. Around 2015, I began my journey into Immersive Cinema (primarily VR Cinema and later multi-format volumetric).

During 2016-17, I had the opportunity to collaborate with AR Rahman, LeMusk Sensory Cinema VRE, Warner Bros/Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk-Save Every Breath Cinema VRE, and Sony Picture Entertainment’s Spider-Man: Homecoming Virtual Reality, all at the same time (and many sleepless nights). Each project was unique, but they all pushed the boundaries of Cinematic Storytelling in a medium that did not exist before. It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time. VREs, which have capitalised on successful films such as Oscar contender Dunkirk and Spider-Man: Homecoming, bring stories to life for moviegoers long after they’ve left the theatre. With the release of Le Musk, the first VR multi-sensory motion encoded, olfactory feature film on Positron VR chairs, VR is poised to become the newest film medium.

As virtual reality has changed the quation, technology has started to change the future of filmmaking. It has pushed boundaries, defined new expressions for storytellers, and provided audiences with new immersive multi-sensory experiences, allowing them to become a part of the story and explore and expand new dimensions. This is extremely powerful. According to Matthew Lewis, president of Practical Magic, and director and producer of Dunkirk VR Experience, the world Christopher Nolan created for Dunkirk played right into the strengths of VR.

While 360-degree VR videos are optimized for HD and 4K media, the production company had to stitch images 40 times that resolution for this VR experience. Using Dell blade servers and workstations that were powered by Intel Xeon processors, Practical Magic had real-time access to high-resolution media during the post-production process during Dunkirk VRE.

I humbly believe, best is yet to be experienced as creators and tech keep on pushing the boundaries of immersive storytelling.

How did volumetric production evolve in Sony Innovation Studios, and what was its impact on filmmaking?

With the creation of Intel Studios in 2018, the industry began to shift from pixels to voxel (pixel with depth information), allowing you to step into the movie from any angle because it captures everything that light can see. Grease Volumetric Cinema with Paramount Pictures set industry standards by capturing and processing more than 5 trillion pixels for a three-minute song using Intel technologies. Sony Innovation Studio collaborated with Intel, Dell Deloitte, and Sony Pictures on volumetric digital set acquisition, which enabled a whole new business model for virtual production and expanded technical possibilities. During Spider-Man: Far From Home Virtual Reality, the entire Tony Stark Jet was scanned with sub-millimeter accuracy using billions upon billions of point clouds, processed, and rendered, allowing you to step into the virtual set. Once set is digitally captured at extremely high resolution, possibilities for filmmakers are endless.

How did Le Musk happen with A R Rahman?

A strong emotional connection is the foundation of creativity, and this is the mutual bond that I share with AR Rahman. When I learned about A R Rahman’s vision to create a full-length immersive LeMusk, Sensory Cinema VRE, a romantic story with olfactory experiences, I began working with him in 2016. Nothing of this magnitude, with full Ambisonic audio immersion, high resolution stereoscopic 360 VR, and a scent-driven story on a motion chair, has ever been attempted in the world of cinema. That’s when we started experimenting and exploring new ways to push the bounds and boundaries of immersive cinema in ways that had never been done before. Motion elicits emotion in users who experience this on a PC-powered Positron VR chairs, allowing you to experience the subtle art of immersive storytelling without feeling overwhelmed. So far, the response to the Prelude to LeMusk and Scent of a Song from LeMusk has been phenomenal, and we can’t wait to bring full length LeMusk Sensory Cinema VRE soon.

We are entering the endemic phase in the aftermath of COVID-19; how do you see the change? You had 8K live streaming of the Tokyo Olympics at the height of COVID?

We’ve been working with 8K for several years and have previously live-streamed video in 8K during a live test trial this past December. What makes this project unique is that it is the first live 8K 60 fps 10-bit HDR broadcast of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to use the Open Public Internet, with over 4.7 PetaBytes of 8K data captured, processed, and streamed over the course of 19 days of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Despite the challenges, Intel and partners such as NHK, Globo, and the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) wanted to try and find solutions to advance wider 8K global adoption, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was a great place to do so. Despite the challenges, my team and I believe it is worthwhile. We did all of this to ensure that our viewers are completely immersed in the event. We brought stadium-quality immersive TV experience in stunning 8K/60FPS/HDR to our audiences across several continents because they were not allowed to be inside the stadium to cheer on their favourite athletes and teams. We really wanted you to feel like you were there. This project was named iABM Project of the Year 2021.

You’ve brought immersive cinema and virtual reality to Marche; what’s your personal experience?

AR Rahman’s Prelude to LeMusk, Warner Bros., Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk Save Every Breathe in Virtual Reality, and Rio Carnival VRE with GloboTVBrasil in 2018. Universal Pictures’ FirstMan VRE, LeMusk’s Scent of a Song, and Grease Volumetric Cinema in mixed reality and hologram were launched at on Positron motion VR chairs in 2018-19. Repangia, a Techno-Shamanic volumetric social VR experience from Brazilian Amazonian tribes in 2020, has previously made it to Marche du Film’s CannesXR during the Cannes Film Festival. The audience response was incredible, with long lines forming to see the future of immersive cinema at CannesXR. Over the years, I’ve given about 7 keynote speeches and producers roundtable at Cannes, as well as a fireside chat with A R Rahman. Over the years, CannesXR has evolved into a premium destination for advancing immersive cinema powered by technology.

You have made significant contributions to the advancement of India’s media sector (FICCIFRAMES)… Where do you see India going in the future?

In 2009, Yash Chopra, a legendary Indian director and FICCI appointed me as an advisor to bridge the gap between Hollywood and the Indian film and television industries. For the past 14 years, I have worked with the Indian film industry to provide early technology access and knowhow, as well as to lead media policy with FICCI at various levels. With a rich heritage and history, India is a land of storytellers and billion dreamers. Incentivizing the AVGC sector, embracing virtual production workflow for content creators, and developing a national level policy for digital preservation of cultural heritage and monuments across India for future generations will all contribute significantly to the industry’s growth.

5G is being deployed in a number of countries across the world; what effect will 5G have on computing and cinema?

According to the ‘5G Economics of Entertainment Report,’ 5G will accelerate content consumption, including mobile media, mobile advertising, home broadband, Cinema, and TV, as well as improve experiences across a wide range of new immersive and interactive technologies, thereby unleashing the full potential of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and new media. By 2028, immersive and new media applications – applications and capabilities that currently do not exist – will reach unprecedented scale. The average monthly traffic per 5G subscriber will increase from 11.7GB in 2019 to 84.4GB in 2028, when video will account for 90% of all 5G traffic. We brought SpiderMan: Far From Home’s first ever multiplayer VRE experience over 5G during MWC 2019 with Sony Pictures to harness the power of 5G for immersive cinema.

From Eastman Kodak to Intel… what three things have completely altered the world of media today?

Fast pace of innovation, Compute Power and Transformation happening at edge-network-cloud, AI are rapidly transforming media industry from lights, camera, action to Lights, Camera, Compute and action.

What are your plans for this year’s NABShow?

I’ve been attending NAB Show since 2008 and have spoken on several occasions. In 2014, Kamal Hassan, myself, and a fellow panellist delivered a session at the NAB to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a global platform for learning about advancements in the media and entertainment industries. At the Intel booth, we showcased Prelude to LeMusk with AR Rahman in 2017, the first ever 8K encode-decode in 2017, and the first ever 16K playback in 2018. This year, I will be speaking at the “Capitalizing Hollywood

Technology” panel on April 26th with my industry colleagues from HP, Microsoft, and Verizon, moderated by Story-Tech, Chief Tech Catalyst Lori Schwartz, as well as showcasing 8K/60fps/HDR end to end Olympic games Tokyo 2020 workflow and Olympics games highlights at NAB Future Zone with 8K Association.


10 ACHIEVEMENTS OF RAVI VEHLAL

admin   April 25, 2022

  • Represented former US President Obama’s India delegation in 2010 and PM Modi’s US business delegations to foster Indo-US tech policies
  • More than dozen US and worldwide patents on Silicon, media and new innovations
  • Produced more than dozen Hollywood and global immersive Cinema VREs. Launched 7 Cinema VREs at CannesXR, Cannes Film Festival
  • Grease Volumetric Cinema Experience: World’s first 5 trillion Volumetric Cinema for three min song using virtual production
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home, first ever Multiplayer VRE over 5G VRE launched at MWC 2019
  • Pioneered 8K at Roland Garros in 2018/ launched firstever 16K at NAB 2018
  • 8K/60FPS/HDR live OTT broadcast for the 19 days of Olympic games Tokyo 2020 over the open Internet during Summer 2021
  • LeMusk first ever motion encoded, Olfactory Sensory Cinema VRE
  • Spoke at more than 100 global leading media and tech  conferences worldwide
  • Mentoring Industry and the Next Generation worldwide

AWARDS

FICCI-Frames Pioneering Contribution Award for advancing AVGC Sector in India Award 2017

Grease Volumetric Cinema AIS (Advanced Imaging Society) Lumiere Awards 2019

Spider-Man: HomeComing Virtual Reality AIS (Advanced Imaging Society) Lumiere Awards 2018 (Also nominated for The Emmys 2018)

FirstMan VRE, Audience Choice Monolith Award, Infinity Festival of Hollywood 2018 (Also nominated for The Emmys 2019),

8K Live Olympics OTT Broadcast, iABM Project Of The Year Award 2021

Finalist for “Technology Leader Of The Year” iABM 2021


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THE PATH FINDER: JYOTI DESHPANDE

admin   March 22, 2022

As a keen observer and enabler of change in the Indian M&E sector for nearly three decades, Media Veteran Jyoti Deshpande, CEO, Viacom18, President – Jio Studios and Co-Chair, FICCI Media & Entertainment has her task cut out for herself in a postpandemic world dominated by new challenges. In a candid interview with Pickle, she underscores her key priorities and grand vision to help the Indian M&E sector navigate towards becoming a $100 billion industry

Jyoti Deshpande is an industry veteran with over 3 decades of experience in the media and entertainment business. On September 30, 2021, Jyoti was appointed as CEO of Viacom18 to drive its transition into a truly integrated media company across broadcast, OTT and content studio businesses spanning general entertainment, movies, kids and sports across languages. This makes her the first woman leader to be named CEO of a Big 4 media company in India. She also serves on the boards of Network18, Balaji Telefilms and JioSaavn. Jyoti joined Reliance Industries in 2018 as President, Chairman’s Office – Media Platform & Content. Over the last four years, Jyoti established Jio Studios as a key player in the entertainment value chain. In her previous company, Jyoti had successfully built a formidable media & content distribution business and pioneered ErosNow’s early entry into the OTT space. In her new role, Jyoti will grow Viacom18 in the backdrop of digital disruption while bringing synergies across all RIL media investments. An industry captain, Jyoti also serves as the Co-Chair, Media & Entertainment Committee, FICCI, again the first woman leader to hold this position. She has featured among Fortune India as well as Business Today’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business lists, both of which celebrate the journeys and triumphs of women who not only impact their organization but are also thought leaders in their industry. Jyoti believes in the power of positive thinking and practices Vipassana meditation. She’s an avid movie buff and equally follows cricket and tennis passionately.

Congratulations on acquiring a new leadership role as the co-chair of FICCI M&E Board. As you have witnessed the rise of M&E at close quarters for three decades, how do you see M&E evolving in postpandemic world? What is your major objective in terms of pushing the growth of the Indian M&E industry in near future?

Thank you. It has been my good fortune to be part of a paradigm shift in the M&E industry for almost three eventful decades—from the analogue to digital era in the nineties, to the proliferation of
the mobile internet driven by the Jio revolution, to the subsequent digital/OTT explosion and now looking curiously ahead at a life in the Metaverse. The pandemic has definitely pushed more households to accelerate digital adoption, be it for education or entertainment. Multi-device platform agnostic consumption of content (and therefore data) is here to stay. It would be safe to say that the change is permanent. The only constant is that technological advancements continue to increase the relevance, importance and demand for content and story tellers.

During pandemic, TV became connected and interactive; films released online; news went hyper-local; 390 million Indians gamed online; and over 150 billon songs were streamed. Besides, subscriptions of OTT scaled to 40 million households, and digital media cemented its position as the second largest segment of Indian M&E. Our M&E sector should reach pre-pandemic levels in 2022 itself.

My major objective would be to work with the government and the Indian M&E industry champions to ensure that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole and we have a sustainable path to becoming a $100 billion industry which is currently less than $28 billion in size. This has been our dream for a while, as we straddle changing dynamics of traditional and new media, in the backdrop of a complex regulatory environment.

Indian media and entertainment sector’s positioning at Dubai Expo later this month is one of the first physical global outings for the M&E sector since the start of the pandemic. What is the message we will be conveying to the world?

India’s message to the world is that the digital era has made it a level playing field and India is no longer playing catch up. We are well on our way to becoming the largest credible marketplace in the world with over 800 million internet users and over 600 million upwardly mobile middle class which is larger than the population of most developed countries. This is a consumer wallet no brand or service can ignore. With consolidation in the Indian M&E sector, our message to global companies in the media value chain is that we are open for business and strategic collaborations to spoil the Indian consumer for choice and tap arguably the most lucrative market in the world.

Post pandemic, various verticals of the M&E sector (TV, Film, OTT, AVGC, Radio) have strengths, status quo, weaknesses… some have more growth pointers than others… how do you view it?

India is unique in the sense that it feels like several diverse countries lie within this one great nation. We still have more than 300 million internet dark households who we are targeting to convert through 4G/5G. Only about 66% of households own a television set in India. As the top end of the urban mass and rural rich households pivot to a more digital multidevice multi-platform content consumption pattern, and cord cutting begins, I firmly believe that there is still headroom for new households to come into play in both traditional and new media in what is a rapidly developing nation of young people. Cinema and Print have been hardest hit in the pandemic while digital has been the biggest beneficiary.

As consumption explodes across media, moot question remains on the ability to drive up subscription ARPU and persuade the Indian consumer to part with a share of wallet by building a compelling
value proposition. Ad ex has grown by close to 40% in the last year surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Monetization is still largely dependent on measurement metrics which may or may not be updated frequently enough to effectively and/or accurately reflect the rapidly changing consumption patterns. Again, this is an area where industry leaders and government can play a pivotal role. Transparency in monitoring and measurement with common currency within the remit of consumer data privacy can really help attract more dollars to the Indian M&E sector. Tax credits to encourage shooting across various states in India can be another incentive.

The Indian Cinema industry is currently facing its biggest growth challenge. Since you have immersed yourself in this space, especially when it comes to increasing its global footprint, what steps can we take to increase India’s exports in the M&E space?

Even before the pandemic began, the Indian film industry was suffering from under-penetration of cinemas with only six screens available per million people compared to 125 in the US. The situation has turned worse with the shutting down of single screens during the pandemic. Despite highest number of tickets sold as well as the largest number of movies produced across languages (2000+) annually, low ATP or average ticket prices, have historically plagued our market. I do believe that India will now see production of ‘larger than life’ visual spectacles that will first cross over pan nationally before crossing over to the world. The visual medium is largely becoming language agnostic where audiences are willing to consume compelling content in dubbed or subtitled versions. There are more than 75 countries that regularly consume Indian content. A framework for viable cross collaborations between Indian and international talent, state-of-theart production values where cost is supported by commensurate tax breaks and mainstream distribution and marketing of the same is what is needed to export our stories to the world.

How can we capitalize on our 2,000+ films, 800 TV channels, 50 OTT platforms, 650 million smart phones, and 400 million gamers to grow further? Is it enough to take Indian M&E sector to reach its $100 billion growth target? With $10 trillion Indian economy envisioned in 2030, can audio-visual sector has the potential to achieve 2% share in the economy going forward?

This is indeed a solid foundation to build a path to the $100 billion goal. While consumption grows in geometric progression, we need to work together to weave a framework for monetization that is robust and sustainable, be it directly from consumer wallet or from advertising. Our stories have to be relevant and entertaining to a global audience. Again, the key competitive advantage India will have is that the traditional parts of the media value chain will not decline as fast as it happened in developed countries while the new media will grow just as fast. The US M&E sector is 5-7% of their GDP in any given year so there is no reason why we cannot achieve 2% of the GDP in the next 3-5 years.

India is celebrating 75 years of its Independence in 2022. What is your vision for the Indian M&E sector in the next 10 years?

Ten years from now, the Indian M&E sector should be at least 5% of our GDP. The Indian M&E market should have driven up ARPU on the back of prolific consumption to be a top three market globally competing with US and China. ‘Make in India and Show the World’ mantra driven by Indian storytellers and tech companies would unleash the true power of the Indian Mythoverse into the Metaverse. Technologies change, distribution platforms change, devices change, operating systems change – what never changes is the demand for content, the demand for a compelling story and a talented storyteller. The next 10 years will see a large crop of young story-tellers crossing over globally.

How do we create a startup ecosystem, providing new canvasses – like the Metaverse– bringing stories to life in new forms?

Technological advancements, education, training and development and large-scale production and post-production facilities are the need of the hour. Many traditional story tellers even today do not understand the power and possibilities of basic VFX, let alone the Metaverse. Creators are only limited by their own imagination. Institutionalization and democratization are required so that India and Indian story telling can play to scale.

There is a growing concern for ethics and morality of technologically driven advancements in the digital media space…How do we tackle this?

Ethics is too vast a topic to be straddled in a short answer. It can cover something as basic as parameters for censorship across different platforms like Cinema, TV or OTT, to something as complex as data privacy of a consumer who leaves a digital footprint with every click, to the unexplored use cases in the Metaverse and what it may do to our moral fibre or our mental health, especially of young India. What should be policed and what shouldn’t? How can governments have a nimble intuitive regulatory framework that is effective for consumer protection as well as not detrimental to business? Another topic worth discussion is the M&E sectors responsibility towards the issue of sustainability. We haven’t even scratched the tip of the iceberg here.

To make ‘Make in India, Show the World’ successful, we need to have a mechanism for our IPs created out of India. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Of course, protection of copyright is a pivotal spoke of the flywheel. It is estimated that last year India recorded over 6.5 billion visits to piracy websites, third highest in the world after US and Russia. As the various windows of exploitation collapse to offer consumers the ultimate choice to legitimately watch what they want when they want it, on the one hand we will need to work with the government to enforce stronger consequences to piracy that are effective deterrents and on the other hand we need to create technological barriers to piracy with further advancements.

Nearly 120 million Indian women—more than double the population of South Korea—do not participate in the workforce despite having secondary level education. Does the media sector provide outlets for them?

Once again this is a vast topic and one that is close to my heart. As per the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum, India is ranked at 140 out of 156 countries with a
score of 0.625 (out of 1). Why girls in India don’t enter the workforce after being neck and neck with boys in education, why women drop out of the workforce midway through their career? While some
of it is voluntary choice made by the women themselves, some of it is circumstantially thrust upon them due to deep-rooted cultural biases that continuously reinforce stereotypes. For this to change, men must equally be included in the conversation about women empowerment, and there needs to be a seismic cultural shift in the attitude towards preconceived notions and role definitions of men and women at home and at work.

I already see this happening due to greater exposure and awareness driven by the social media explosion. Starting with a bank account and financial independence sought by women. Winds of change have set in motion slowly but surely. The media and entertainment sector has seen a systematic increase in women workforce in the last several years. There are still only a handful of us at the leadership levels in M&E, but it’s surely growing. Women leaders in this sector (and others) are rigorously mentoring other women on merits and paying it forward to give this movement the momentum it desperately needs, as I am doing in my own organization.


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Jonathan Wolf

Optimism Rules at American Film Market 2021

admin   November 2, 2021

Amidst the challenges posed by the global pandemic over the past two years, the American Film Market will be going virtual from November 1 to 5 on its proprietary interactive campus AFM 2021 Online which was built in 2020 for the second year in a row. As the opening of the last major global film industry event on the 2021 calendar, which is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance kicked off on a bright note, Jonathan Wolf, Managing Director, American Film Market, tells Vivek Ratnakar and Natarajan Vidyasagar, Pickle in detail about major challenges and what participants can look forward to in this edition.

The American Film Market is being organized online second year in a row. How has been the response and what can participants expect from this edition?

The AFM virtual platform will be presenting an engaging and effective environment for discovery, education, deal making, networking and reconnecting. More than 300 production and sales companies, as well as international trade organizations from 25+ countries have already registered as exhibitors for the market.  AFM will also bring its distinguished Conferences and educational programming back online with two stages running simultaneously and featuring more than 50 live sessions exploring film topics from script to screen. The sessions will also be made available the same day on-demand for attendees to stream at their convenience. 

Over 150 industry professionals and decision makers will participate in AFM 2021 Online’s programming lineup.  Over five days, 7,000+ professionals from 70+ countries will access the entire global catalogue of available films and projects, attend world class conferences, and connect with decision makers.

What are the new features added in this year’s edition?

As far as new session highlights are concerned, AFM 2021 Online will feature a story analyst’s approach to screenwriting, focus on Animation as a growing territory for independents, and sessions like Black Filmmakers at the Crossroads to Success (presented in partnership with AAFCA), Bridging the Production Insurance Gap, The Casting Effect: How Talent Choices Impact Every Phase of Production, International Film Market: Consumption of Black Culture, Rejection of Black Stories (presented in partnership with NAACP)and New Perspective on Horror.

In addition, AFM has announced its lineup of eight Premiere Sponsors.  The sponsors, each of which will present a dedicated location on the AFM 2021 Online campus, include Apojo Publications, Entertainment Partners, Filmhub, Honolulu Film Office, JAPAN/JETRO, Media Services Payroll, Polish Film Institute, and Whip Media.

How will you make sure that the virtual platform would serve AFM’s diverse constituency?

The AFM is the most efficient film acquisition, development and networking event in the world. Over US$1 billion in production and distribution deals are closed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production. The pivot to online would allow for all stakeholders around the world to participate in the market. It offers a good opportunity for people to explore different ways of accessing people. Only about a third of AFM’s participants are buying and selling. The other two-thirds are part of the production community. There are producers, writers, film commissions, lawyers, bankers, sales agents and those who provide production facilities. So, the platform was created so as to make sure that we could serve that diverse constituency.

AFM map

AFM is known for handholding and supporting global independent film makers. What can they expect to gain from this virtual edition?

The global film industry has set aside this week (November 9-13) to connect for deal making, presentations, and education, and to gather marketplace intel from one another.  AFM’s engaging online experience, with the types of serendipitous meetings that happen organically in the halls, hotels and parties each year in Santa Monica, will keep everyone in touch and ensure that independent film continues to reach audiences around the world.

AFM 2021 Online will commence with the opening session – The Independent Film Ecosphere – Present and Future, featuring Liesl Copland, EVP, Content and Platform Strategy, Participant, Jonathan Kier, Co-President, Upgrade Productions, Brian O’Shea, CEO, The Exchange, Julia Weber, Head of International Sales & Acquisitions, Global Screen – A TELEPOOL Brand, and moderated by Stephen Galloway, Dean of Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Tell us about major challenges that the global pandemic has posed for independents and how does AFM plan to help them reconnect?

The challenges posed by streaming platforms, exacerbated by the global pandemic over the past two years, have been formidable for independents. However, despite the tumult of paradigm-shifting moves by monolithic media corporations, the ingenuity and experience of independent buyers, sellers, producers and financiers of all sizes has, by and large, enabled them to survive.

AFM 2020 showed us that how a crisis can be converted into an opportunity. At a time when the world is gripped by Covid-19 pandemic, American Film Market was conducted in a successful manner by taking the virtual route. AFM firmly believes that for the resilient independents who are willing to look for the best talent and scripts and find innovative ways to attract actors and directors, human connection is critical, even if that means meeting people virtually thousands of miles apart on a laptop.

AFM 2021 is being organized at a time when there is still uncertainty about when theaters around the world will open. How will you address this challenge?

We are optimistic that theaters will be open around the world by at least mid-summer. A lot of the business that’s done at the AFM is done on films that haven’t started shooting yet. So the business is really about films for a year from now. And so I expect to see a lot of business taking place.



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Media News Digest June 22, 2021

admin   June 22, 2021

NFDC Film Bazaar’s Co-Production Projects at Cannes Film Market

For the first time, NFDC Film Bazaar is part of the Co-Production Day (July 9) at the Cannes Film Market with seven projects. The seven projects are Dengue by Prantik Basu (India, Netherlands), Rasa (Immerse) by Anjali Menon (India), Kuhiro Pariko Sahar (A Hidden Tale Behind The Mist) by Pasang Dawa Sherpa (Nepal), Moving Bangladesh by Nuhash Humayun (Bangladesh), Last Time On Earth by Paromita Dhar (India, France), Ghol (The Catch) by Rishi Chandna and Second Chance by Subhadra Mahajan (India). During one-to-one speed meeting sessions, filmmakers will have the opportunity to connect with projects in development looking for co-producers and financiers and one-on-one meetings. This will open new opportunities for filmmakers and it is a great initiative by NFDC in the challenging Covid-19 times. No doubt, Marché du Film (Cannes) is the biggest film market in the world that will be having its online as well as physical edition from 06-15 July, 2021.

Now, OFCOM in Action

It is not just in India that regulation is put in place for video streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney Hotstar, Zee5 and Voot among others. OFCOM, the UK media regulator, plans to regulate streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime in the same level playing field as the BBC and ITV. OFCOM is set to bring on demand services, allowing complaints over inaccuracy and bias. Netflix’s royal drama The Crown was embroiled in controversy with the UK Government — over portrayal of historical events in the drama. It may also be remembered after a lot of criticism a couple of years ago Amazon Prime removed its anti-vaccine documentaries from Prime Video Streaming. Now, countries around the world are waiting for the white paper from OFCOM.

Mohanlal’s Marakkar to get 3-week Theatre Run in 600 Screens

The Kerala film industry has decided to exclusively screen Mohanlal starrer, Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, for a period of three weeks in theatres in Kerala from August 12 to coincide with the Onam festival. This is as per an agreement reached between the Film Exhibitors’ United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) and the Kerala Film Producers’ Association (KFPA) to revive the ailing Malayalam film industry hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Though the decision not to release any other movies during the three-week exclusive window for the Priyardarshan-directed movie was taken based on the inference that a major film was needed to bring back the audience to the theatres once the pandemic situation eased, some stakeholders are questioning the move. How an association can take such an unilateral decision, they wonder.

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Zee Denies Merger with Viacom18

Eventhough Zee Entertainment Enterprises has denied there is no credence to reports about a potential merger with Viacom18, it continues to be the talking point among media industry executives. Ashish Agarwal, Company Secretary, Zee Entertainment Enterprises in a regulatory filing to BSE listing department stated that “there is no transaction being undertaken and the matter is speculative in nature.” The market buzz is not something new for ZEE, as the speculation of who will Zee partner with or acquired has been heard on the street for over two years. Only the suitors are changing…

Connectivity & Communication are Basic Rights: Mukesh Ambani

Industrialist Mukesh Ambani has pressed for bridging the digital divide “both among nations and within nations”, and said connectivity and communications have become the fundamental rights of every person. Also, there is a need to bring back the economies around the globe, he added. Addressing the Qatar Economic Forum, he said it is difficult to imagine what India would have been without the 4G telecom network during the pandemic. The Reliance chief said, “The digital divide must be bridged, both among nations and within nations. This is because connectivity and communications have become the basic needs, and also fundamental rights of every human being on the planet (just) as basic as food, clothing, and shelter.”

Dish TV to Raise Rs 1,000 crore

Dish TV India Ltd said its board has approved raising up to Rs 1,000 crore through a rights issue in one or more tranches. In a regulatory filing, the Essel Group firm said, the board of the company in a meeting held on Monday “approved the fundraising of up to ₹1,000 crores through rights issue of equity shares”. It added: “This would be subject to receipt of such corporate, regulatory and other approvals/consents, as may be required under applicable rules, regulations and laws.” Funds would be raised through issuance of fully paid-up equity shares at ₹10 apiece, including premium of ₹9 per fully paid-up equity share, to eligible shareholders of the company as on the record date.

By the Numbers: There are 1.18 billion mobile phones and 775 million Internet users in India


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Pickle Media News Digest June 21, 2021

admin   June 21, 2021

Viacom18-Zee, merger talks?

Viacom18 Media which called off talks with Sony Picture Network India (October 2020) is now said to be exploring potential merger with Subhash Chandra’s Zee Entertainment Enterprises. All these days, this was speculated, and today made news in page one of Mint, the financial daily of HT Media. Viacom18 is a joint venture between TV18 Broadcast and Viacom CBS. TV18 is part of Network18 Media (majority owned by Reliance Industries Ltd). Zee is majorly owned by Foriegn Institutional Investors and Subhash Chandra’s Essel Group (3.9%). Network18 and Zee Entertainment Enterprises are listed entities. This merger buzz tops the radar of every media and telecom executive in the country.

Action Time at I&B Ministry

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has never been busy, particularly when it comes to regulatory corrections and new policy initiatives in the media and entertainment sector as we are witnessing now. Cable TV Network Amendment Rules 2021 (giving statutory recognition to self-regulatory bodies), calling for public views on amendments in the Cinematograph (Amendment Bill 2021), The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (registration of self regulatory bodies for video streaming and digital news platforms) top the agenda. The recent interactions by the I&B Ministry officials with all stakeholders and handholding industry explaining the nuances is now happening with regional players too. With all this action, many in the film fraternity (especially independent filmmakers and producers) are looking for long pending announcements with regard to incentive package for film shoots and co-production under the champion sector scheme.The Indian media, entertainment and technology services are witnessing new growth opportunities (in current pandemic times) on the back of growing offshore services domain, especially in animation, VFX, gaming, AR/VR and digital media are keenly looking forward to the draft National AVGC (animation, visual effects, gaming) and AR/VR policy from the government.

Who is Lina Khan

Born and grew up in London to parents from Pakistan, 32-year-old Lina Khan is a champion to protect the public from corporate abuse (read Big Tech). US President Joe Biden has named Khan as Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Earlier, Khan was an Associate Professor at Columbia Law School. She has been one of the vocal critics of tech giants. Khan’s article in 2017 in the Yale Law Journal called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” went viral. No doubt, Lina Khan is now chair of FTC, and feared too. We will get to see her in action in the coming months on what’s in store for Big Tech. Nations across the world are to take a cue from this consumer protectionist.

2,500 buyers, 700 films, 85 countries, at Pre-Cannes Screening

Around 2,500 buyers and festival programmers will be online to discover more than 700 films from around the world at the Pre-Cannes Screenings (June 21-25). These films come from 85 countries and the genres are eclectic (dramas 32%, thrillers 20%, comedies 17%, documentaries 14%, animation 14%, horror 14%). The most represented countries are the USA (198 films), Europe (395 films) including France (78 films) and Asia (108 films). The Pre-Cannes Screenings take place on marchedufilm.online and are reserved for accredited buyers, distributors, streamers and festival programmers. The physical Marché du Film (Cannes Film Market) runs from July 6-15). Due to the pandemic, India will be participating virtually at Cannes Film Market 2021.

Madan’s YouTube Channels Blocked, Videos Deleted

Close on the heels of the arrest and remand of YouTuber ‘PUBG’ Madan, Central Crime Branch has blocked his four YouTube channels and deleted all the videos. Also, police have advised his fans, mostly school students and juveniles, to stop playing PUBG. Madan Kumar Manickam alias Madan OP, an engineering graduate came under police scanner for talking obscenely to under 18 boys and girls through online games and extorting money from them. The games were live streamed from his YouTube channel. Madan and his wife are arrested. On Thursday, the Madras High Court expressed shock to hear the recorded conversations between Madan and his teenage subscribers. The cybercrime wing cops registered a case under sections of the IPC, Information Technology (IT) Act and The Indecent Representation of Women Prohibition Act, 1986, after receiving more than 100 complaints against Madan. Even after the Central government banned PUBG, it is said many are using virtual private networks (VPNs) to continue accessing the game.

Trends of Creator Economy Tracked

Creator Economy is defined as the class of businesses built by over 50 million independent content creators, curators, and community builders including social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers, plus the software and finance tools designed to help them with growth and monetization. The three top trends in the creator economy, according to SignalFire’s Creator Economy market map, are:

  • Creators moving their top fans off of social networks and on to their own. websites, apps, and monetization tools
  • Creators becoming founders, building out teams and assembling tools to help them start businesses while focusing on their art.
  • Creators gaining power in the media ecosystem as fans seek to connect with individual personalities rather than faceless publishers.

Celebrating Music, the Universal Language

For music lovers around the world, today is a special day. For, June 21 is celebrated as ‘World Music Day’. It honours musicians and their contribution towards making everything all that more melodious. World Music Day was first celebrated in France in 1982. The Minister of Art and Culture, Jack Lange, gave this festival a green light, along with a renowned French composer named Maurice Fleuret. Every year, it is celebrated on the day of the summer solstice, which is June 21. The aim behind this was to bring people out on the streets and enjoy themselves listening to the music, however they like it. More than 120 countries celebrate World Music Day and organise free public concerts in parks, stadiums and public places. Music lovers organise different musical concerts and events on this special day.


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Accreditations Are Open For Cannes 2021

admin   March 18, 2021

For the first time in its history, the Festival de Cannes will roll out its red carpet in the summer this year.

The 74th edition will take place from 6 to 17 July 2021 and accreditations are open. Delegates can check the registration requirements according to their category, submit their accreditation request online and track their application.

The early bird accreditation (March 15-April 15) for physical Cannes Film Festival will be 20 Euros plus VAT, for physical Cannes Film Market (349 Euros plus VAT) and online Cannes Film Market (129 Euros plus VAT). For the regular accreditation beginning (April 16-June 22) physical Cannes Film Festival will be 120 Euros plus VAT, for physical Cannes Film Market (399 Euros plus VAT) and online Cannes Film Market (169 Euros plus VAT).

Details have not been spelt out on travel and visa regulations during Cannes Film Festival and Market. More details are awaited as COVID-19 vaccination drive has been globally rolled out.

The Festival continues to open its doors to the general public with “Cannes Cinéphiles”, and more particularly to younger audiences with “3 Days in Cannes”. These initiatives, which welcomed 7,000 film enthusiasts to screenings in 2019, will continue in 2021.

Applications for “3 Days in Cannes” accreditations will open at the beginning of April. Applications that were accepted in 2020 will be prioritised for processing.

In order to offset the journeys taken by visitors and their accommodations, which represent 89 per cent of the event’s carbon footprint, access to the Festival will now require each accredited person to pay an environmental contribution of €20 (excluding tax).

The Festival de Cannes is also committed to offsetting the other 11% of carbon emissions generated by the organisation of the event by making an environmental contribution. All proceeds will be donated to local, national and international carbon offset programmes.

For the 15th consecutive year, Pickle will have a special India focused edition for Cannes Film Market 2021 (Both print and digital version). As a run up to the market, there will also be dedicated newsletters and special focus on India participation at Cannes with the objectives of producers, filmmakers, buyers, locales, service providers, market reviews and film screenings.

 


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Thanu For Making Producers’ Mission Possible

admin   March 1, 2021

Kalaipuli S Thanu, President of the Film Federation of India, has lined up a series of initiatives to find solutions to the challenges faced by the film industry. “I subscribe to the school of thought of watching films in a big screen in pitch darkness among audiences,” industry leader and producer Thanu tells Pickle.

Kalaipuli S Thanu, is the President, Film Federation of India for the year 2021-22. He is one of India’s top film producers and distributors. His latest production ‘Karnan’ starring Dhanush, which comes after the duo struck gold in ‘Asuran’, seems to have struck a chord with the audience even before its release. The prolific producer says it all in his latest tweet- It’s 1 crore+ views for #KandaaVaraSollunga Thanks for showering your tremendous love and support for #Karnan.

This kind of response for his movies is not new, for Thanu’s track record boasts of several commercial and critically acclaimed films. The owner of V Creations and Kalaipuli Films International, also holds a special place in Tamil cinema’s history, for being the one who christened actor Rajinikanth with the title ‘Superstar’. Starting off as a distributor in the late 1970s, Thanu’s meteoric rise to one of India’s most popular producers is a success story by itself. Some of his highest grossers over the years include Cooliekkaran, Kizhakku Cheemayile, Kandukondein Kandukondein, Kaakha Kaakha, Thuppakki, Theri, Kabali and the recent Asuran. Not to mention his revolutionary ways when it comes to promoting his movies.

In 2016, movie-goers were in for a surprise, when they got to see posters of actor Rajinikanth and his film Kabali, on commercial flights. It was for the first time in the history of Indian cinema, an airline had dedicated an aircraft to a movie, thanks to Thanu. Apart from his work on movies, Thanu has also been known to voice his opinion on various issues related to the industry. Last month, when the Tamil Nadu government withdrew its permission to allow 100 percent occupancy in cinema halls owing to the pandemic, Thanu, being the president of the Film Federation of India, wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah, requesting him to allow 100 per cent occupancy at least on festival days like Pongal and Republic Day. As an industry leader, Thanu has implemented various reforms and rejuvenation measures for the welfare of the industry in general and producers in particular. He is also known for encouraging young talents.

The National-award winning producer recently added the State government’s Kalaimamani Award to his kitty, which was conferred in recognition of his stellar work in cinema. Excerpts from an interview with him.

What will be your major focus as president of Film Federation of India?

My major objective will be to fight for the rights of the film producers. We need more transparency and unity among various stakeholders of the film industry. This is critical today. We all need to work together to bring back film audiences to theatres to watch films.

The global interest in India and in Indian films has increased in recent times. We are still battling the impact of coronavirus pandemic. Globally, the vaccination programme has begun. It is a positive sign. While the mainstream commercial Indian film sector continues to grow, a new crop of Indian filmmakers has emerged in recent times. This is reflected in the Indian films that have been selected in various global film festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Venice, Busan among others. In recent times, global film festivals have celebrated works of all hues from the diverse movie-making traditions from India. We are extremely proud and happy to celebrate 100th anniversary of Satyajit Ray this year. This is a momentous occasion.

Indian cinema needs to expand its global footprint to get its films widely distributed in new emerging world territories. We need to export and showcase Indian films, heritage and culture to the world. We need to scale up the business and create content factories for the world.

What are your views on the OTT platforms for the film industry?

OTT is just another revenue stream for a producer to exploit IP of a film. It is similar to selling music rights to music publisher, selling DVD rights to a home entertainment company or selling film rights to an airline. OTT is just one of the platforms like a cinema theatre for exhibiting a film. India produces over 1,800 films a year. OTT platforms could afford to get just a couple of hundred films. Over 200 Tamil films are produced every year. Major OTT platforms have room to buy only a dozen big films. Or a small budget film, when it is successful. We welcome OTT platforms. It is a good medium for consumers and a refreshing home entertainment. I subscribe to the school of thought of watching films in a big screen in pitch darkness among audiences. That’s real enjoyment.

You have been very vocal on fighting against piracy…

When a new film is out in the market it instantly gets copied and released in pirated websites. By this Copyright infringement, the film and its producer suffer the most. It has been going on and on. No one could stop this menace. But, there is a way out. When the Government has the power to remove adult/obscene content, it could also stop films being illegally copied, uploaded and streamed in pirated websites and apps.

We will soon be meeting up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javdekar and Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad and emphasize the need to protect films and strict action against pirates (wherever they are). A team comprising celebrities, influencers, film industry leaders representing regional cinemas across India will emphasize the need to stop illegal exploitation of copyrighted films. In the post pandemic times, this is the need of the hour. The film industry has suffered the most.

We have been constantly fighting this menace for more than two decades. Today, we are confident that our prayers will be answered by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

What is the biggest challenge for a film producer today? In post pandemic times, what is the need of the hour?

In majority of the films made in India, the producer of the film suffers the most. The producer invests and facilitates in the making of the film. He risks in investing big amounts for the production and promotion of the film. An intermediary like an online ticket booking company gets a confirmed per ticket share than a producer. We want to fight this out. In current times, there are several challenges to movie exhibitors. OTT platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix have been innovating pricing models. We need to bring that flexible ticket pricing for exhibitors. The government should allow cinemas to deploy flexible ticket pricing. Various state governments in India should allow theatres to charge higher ticket prices for blockbusters, holidays and opening weekends. At the same time, there should be flexibility in offering discounts and flexibility in pricing for small independent films. We need to innovate to get people to get into cinemas. This would also result in net revenue tax collections for the government. This would bring cheers to the producer, distributor and exhibitor.

Indian film industry faces the biggest obstacle from Animal Welfare Board of India. We all know that a goat is slaughtered and its meat served for eating. This is same story for many land animals killed and eaten. But when we show a sparrow in a film, we are accused of harming the sparrow. We are asked to create animals on VFX and CG.


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www.cinemarket.io – Buy, Sell & Engage

admin   September 21, 2020

Cinemarket is an online film and TV market for buying and selling rights anytime, anywhere. It’s an innovative platform for film professionals, for both buyers (distributors, OTT platforms, broadcasters, festivals and cinemas) and sellers (sales agents, producers and filmmakers). Pickle chats with ADRIAN LUGOL, Founder and CEO, Cinemarket.io

Adrian Lugol and Florian Glatz met in 2016 whilst working in the technology and creative industries in Berlin. They both wanted to find a way for film professionals to buy and sell film and TV rights in a seamless and secure way, cutting out additional costs. The idea of Cinemarket.io was born.

Tell us about Cinemarket?

Cinemarket is the one-stop-shop for the film industry, the only place where everything from film screening to film licensing, license payments and material delivery can happen in days instead of months.

We began in 2016. We were one of the first to really try to combine the potential of blockchain technology and shared database in bringing the film industry come together.

At the moment what we can do is when you look for films rights, you can browse different filters, what kind of rights you are looking for —  theatrical, VOD, — or the countries or the continent, and for which period of time, exclusive or non exclusive, as entered by the seller to the buyer. It is automated. The Cinemarket platform generates a contract once a buyer and seller agree to buy or sell. The transfer of rights for the period is generated on the back end of the database.

How has been the journey?

The journey was not easy at all. We never gave up, because, we still see the potential. Our project was first presented at the development stage at the Berlinale Talents market hub in 2017. It was supported by the Creative Europe Media programme at the development stage. Our Beta version was unveiled at the Cannes Marché du Film’s NEXT programme in 2018. We went live this May 2020 during Marche.

We have built our team over the years. Our tech team is strong. But, the film industry itself is a bit complex. I will not say film industry is blocked, but a little bit controlled by gatekeepers. And the gatekeepers are people who are in positions for three to four decades and want to maintain status quo.

They like the business to be done in same fashion. They want like people to travel to buy movies. But COVID-19 has accelerated digital space in films. It is a little sad that a virus has shown the potential. But, now nobody has a choice. So everybody adapts. Some people are against our initiative. Sometimes, you wonder if they want to help filmmakers or just care about their own business. 

Sometimes a few people are rude to us. They say, we don’t want to help you and don’t contact us and so on. But, on the other end, there are young talented filmmakers in festivals and markets. For many, who take four or five years to make a movie, they don’t have good experience with the past. We met a producer in Rotterdam, who said that they don’t have sales agents and do everything on their own. Our digital tool can help buy or sell films. We are not Amazon or Netflix. We are a pretty small startup with passion for cinema. It is still going to take sometime for change. But, COVID-19 has accelerated everything. We see it.

Can you illustrate by example of how it works? Why is Cinemarket an exciting place to be?

It’s very simple. Buyers can watch  movies online. make an offer, scout for available rights, buy for a specific time period, or even for few days, exclusive or not, make payment in euro or dollar, revenue share, minimum guarantee or flat fee.

As a seller, you can check the summary of the offer and expected time of money transfer, preview contract. And you will be able to give your films to film festivals for just a few days. 

We have signed deals with Eurovod, T-Port Media, Filmdoo, Perspective Films, Vesoul Asian Film Festival, and Filmotor among others. 

It is a dream for a startup like us to realize that there is not a central meeting point for the film industry where people can make more than just exchanging some news, but also engage in business. In the coming times, we will have to have as many people as possible. We will also soon have four or five languages on our platform to facilitate buying and selling. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the time you have started to now?

When we were ambitious and naive about technology, we started a lot with blockchain two or three years ago. And I  will not say we made wrong investment. In 2017 and 2018,  there was still a lot of R&D to be done. We created a beta where you could login for security reason with your private key on MetaMask. We even stored files on the  blockchain. We could automate payments. In our demo in 2018, if someone is the right owner, and you have someone watching the movie, the right owner receive his/her share in less than three seconds. But we realized that there is too much of a gap for this to happen. It is a reality, that you cannot go directly to the future. It’s too early because the film industry is too slow to adapt.

Today, we are focusing only on the marketplace. We have a lot of interest from film festivals, institutions and big corporations. 

What is it that makes people come to this platform?

Two things. The first thing is filmmakers or producers who are looking to find new ways to promote their films and find distributors. Many look for new digital tools like us because, they give their film to sales agent, who puts it in their catalogue, and you have no option, but to wait. In many cases four or five years. That’s one kind of people who are interested in our platform. We also have buyers who are looking for new content.

We are the first digital European-based film market enabling rights-holders and sales companies to securely showcase new catalogue titles to potential buyers. All formats are permitted, from feature-length films and TV series, to documentaries and shorts.

Can content owners sell rights to universities in UK or USA who buy film rights?

Yes. We have one company with a special license that just looks for university rights, because it’s a specific rights. Producers and filmmakers can sell film rights to universities.

Is the Cinemarket registration free?

So we make sure that people who register with us are film professionals. We don’t allow people to sell porn or propaganda. We cross-check profile with different databases that exist in the world. The registration is free. We take a small cut (2% for works by young emerging filmmakers and 8-10% for big companies) if you sell your film on our platform. If you make a deal, we make a deal. If no money comes to you, we don’t charge you anything. 

How do you make sure that they do the deal with your platform after coming to you?

We can’t. That’s also not our business model. So when we talk to lawyer, they told us, that’s their business model. So when you believe in blockchain and you want to build transparency and fight opacity, you need also to take some risk and believe that people are not all corrupt. 

You always have access to information. When we see deals that happen on our platform, we will contact to see if they are honest. If not, we will kick them out of our platform.

Is film industry unique to digital transformation?

You can try to stop the digital transformation, you can try to stop technical improvements. Every industry has been transformed by digital. And the film is just one of another one. Everybody has their own job, you can use our platform as a sales agent. Everybody in the beginning said Linkedin is going to kill the job of people who are in HR. In the end, people who are in HR are using Linkedin. It is always the approach of how you have your mindset. Innovation doesn’t arrive if there is no problem to solve. And in the film industry, I think in every stage, from financing to production, distribution to exhibition, there are always problems. There are great people, brightest minds in the film industry. But there are also lot of in-between people. We believe in digital transformation.

Sometimes, do you get frustrated running this…  

Frustration exists, but it comes on any challenge. It there is no frustration it is super easy. Everybody would have done it before. And challenges are exciting. My team is great. We have 10 to 12 people who are intelligent, talented and passionate. People who love tech, movies, creativity and marketing. Startup has to be fun. If it’s too easy, it’s not fun. Finding solution to challenges is what makes our work rewarding.

Berlin is one of the startup capitals similar to Silicon Valley?

Yeah, well, but not for the weather. And, weather particularly this year was bad. The summer is horrible. But, the startup scene is about the brains that interconnect. We built our company in the beginning with three or four friends. I don’t think I would have found them in south of Italy or even in south of France. Because people who have ambition, go where the challenge is. That’s what Berlin offers.

Finally, what is the biggest challenge now for films waiting to be sold?

The saddest part is most of the films are created to die on the Hard Drive. And, Hard Drives are like grave of the movies. And it is very sad. I think films should exist. It should be made available to people across cultures. Like this rich history where everybody could have access at any movie anytime, more or less. And one should pay the film rights owner.