The third edition of Film Bazaar kicked off in Goa on Tuesday (Nov 24), with delegates discussing how to package projects for both India and European markets, and how Indian filmmakers can increase revenues by exploiting digital rights.  

At the opening of Film Bazaar’s three-day Knowledge Series, Janet Brown, COO of New York-based Cinetic Rights Management, outlined how digital distribution is working in the North American market, and how these business models might eventually be applied to India.

Brown explained that three major digital platforms have emerged in the US: transactional or ad-supported online services, which are usually only accessed by computer; cable VoD/IPTV, which can be viewed on a TV screen; and mobile phones, which still aren’t widely used to distribute feature films. 

“In terms of the back-end for producers, it’s still early days for digital distributors, and they don’t pay up front, but the fees and expenses are less and they’ll split revenues with you from the first dollar,” Brown said.

She added that online services are still some way off for the India market, where broadband has a tiny 0.4% penetration, but that mobile platforms have potential. Indian filmmakers could also consider digital distribution in the US, where theatrical distributors are buying much less foreign product, especially following the withdrawal of the studios’ arthouse divisions.

At a seminar organised by Germany’s Primehouse, filmmakers and lawyers from Europe and India discussed how to package projects that can work in both markets – which are hugely different from each other, and internally extremely diverse. Primehouse is hosting the first edition of Primexchange at Film Bazaar – a MEDIA programme-backed initiative that is work-shopping a slate of Indian and European projects.

Jeremy Gawade of UK law firm Lee & Thompson outlined the pros and cons of working under co-production treaties and accessing European tax credits, while Primexchange participants Sunil Doshi and Richard Bohringer described how they are packaging their upcoming projects to work in both regions.

Indian producer/distributor Doshi’s project, Naye Joote (New Shoes), has added a German element to the story and cast, in a bid to widen its audience, while German filmmaker Bohringer’s Mumbai Cab is a cross-cultural love story between a European woman and an Indian taxi driver.

However the panellists agreed that while it can be relatively easy to combine cross-continental creative elements, there is still a huge rift between the European and Indian financing systems. In particular, Western producers have problems sourcing finance from India – even for India-themed projects – as local producers prefer to work with expensive Bollywood stars and retain global rights.

This issue was also addressed by UK producer Leslee Udwin in a session about West Is West, the highly-anticipated sequel to 1999 UK hit East Is East, which again stars Om Puri and wrapped last weekend in northern India. Udwin found it difficult to access Indian money, despite the $48m worldwide gross of the original, and financed the sequel out of the UK.

“Indian financiers said they wanted to get into the UK market, but I felt they were intimidated by the whole system, including working with sales agents, so they were reticent to go down that path,” explained Udwin. She added that although the film was shot in India, which stands in for Pakistan in the script, she didn’t see any reason to set it up as a UK-India co-production.

In addition to the Knowledge Series and Primexchange, the three-day Film Bazaar (Nov 24-26), organised by India’s National Film Development Corp (NFDC), also features a co-production and financing market, Work-in-Progress Lab and Screenwriters Lab, co-organised with Amsterdam-based Binger Filmlab.

Projects in the co-production market include Santosh Sivan’s Sri Lanka-set drama Ceylon and Ketan Mehta’s sci-fi satire Inside-Out (see full list below).

Screenwriters Lab mentors including Binger Filmlab’s Ido Abram and Marten Rabarts, New Zealand producer Philippa Campbell and UK-based filmmaker Udayan Prasad. Work-in-Progress mentors include UK critic Derek Malcolm, South African director Darrell Roodt and UK producer Olivia Stewart.

Full list of Film Bazaar 2009 projects:

Ceylon (Tamil/English) – Dir: Santosh Sivan

I Am (Hindi) – Dir: Onirban

Inside-Out (Hindi/English) – Dir: Ketan Mehta

Keep off the Grass (Hindi/English) – Dir: Ben Rekhi

LSD (Hindi) – Dir: Dibakar Banerjee

Manjunath (Hindi) – Dir: Sandeep Varma

Obsession (Bengali) – Dir: Suman Ghosh

The Virgin Goddess (Telugu) – Dir: K.N.T. Sastry

The Return Of The Tiger (documentary – Hindi/English) – Dir: Mike Pandey

Twosome (Hindi) – Dir: Siddharth Sinha

Screenwriters Lab 2009:

Duets In Violence (Tamil) – Writer & director: Vinod Veera

F 20 (Hindi) – Writer & director: Aparna Pednekar

Gangoobai (Hindi) – Writer & director: Priya Krishnaswamy

Synchronicity (Hindi/English) – Writers: Sidharth Singh & Lalit Ajgaonkar

The Deaths Of Ray (Bengali) – Writer & director: Pratim D. Gupta

The Prompter’s Son (Hindi/Bengali) – Writer: Somen Mishra / Director: Vasan Bala

Work-in-Progress Lab 2009:

As The River Flows (Hindi/Assamese) – Dir: Bidyut Kotoky

I Am Kalam (Hindi) – Dir: Nila Madhab Panda

Soul Of Sand (Hindi/Punjabi/Haryanvi/Gujarati) – Dir: Sidharth Srinivasan

The Legend Of The Holy Net Potato (Malayalam) – Dir: Vipin Vijay