With the NFDC’s production initiatives steaming ahead, the government body has turned its attention to distribution and industry development. Liz Shackleton reports

India’s mainstream film industry is one of the most commercially driven in the world, and there are some within that space who question the strategy of funding independent films if they have no chance to be distributed and recoup.

Outside India, international sales agents are starting on the long journey of positioning and selling Indian content. Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur has been one of the biggest successes so far, selling to several territories including the UK, France and Germany following its premiere at Cannes.

But a bigger challenge is the local Indian market where indie content is squeezed out by mainstream Bollywood, Tamil, Telugu and, increasingly, Hollywood films. The National Film Development Council (NFDC) has begun to address this with a Cinemas of India distribution label launched earlier this year. Films such as Gurvinder Singh’s Alms Of The Blind Horse, Bengali drama Maya Bazaar and the Assamese-language As The River Flows have received an Indian theatrical release through this label, which is also releasing films on DVD and VoD.

NFDC is also ramping up its industry development programmes and has tapped Marten Rabarts [pictured], former artistic director of Netherlands’ Binger Filmlab, to head its development initiatives.

“Every part of the film business also has a developmental aspect and it’s our responsibility to address that,” says NFDC managing director Nina Lath Gupta. “We thought training was one area that needs attention - mid-career professional training, screenplay development, content development and fine-tuning specific roles. In India, it’s been the practice that writers are also the directors and producers are thought of as financiers. It hasn’t been recognised that producers have a specific role to play.”

Shortly after relocating to Mumbai this summer, Rabarts held a think tank with local film-makers to discover their needs and is launching a programme of workshops covering areas such as creative producing, screenwriting and editing. He dislikes the use of the word ‘training’ and prefers to see the workshops as an exchange of ideas. He is also rolling out a documentary film-making programme, Doc Camp, to reach out to film-makers in remote areas of India such as the north-east states and Ladakh.

“We are also looking at setting up a script development department, as at present you can only submit completed scripts that are looking for funding to the NFDC,” says Rabarts. “That’s another gap the industry have recognised themselves.”