Mumbai: There are those who attend the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) for the sake of cinema. Then there are those who travel to the Film Bazaar for the sake of the business of cinema.
Film Bazaar was set up in 2007 under the aegis of IFFI to create a market for co-productions and script development. It has since developed into an important destination for filmmakers who want foreign money to get their projects off the ground, writers who seek professional help to polish their screen plays and international companies and funds that are sniffing for interesting Indian movies to co-produce for the foreign market. Film Bazaar is run by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) which, under the watch of chief executive officer (CEO) Nina Gupta, has made IFFI the only such event in India with a properly developed market. Twenty-six films will be hawked around for co-productions this year, including Antaraal by Umesh Kulkarni, Superboudi by Q, Fourth Direction by Gurvinder Singh and Tasveer by Ashvin Kumar. The registration-only event will be held from 21-24 November in Panaji, where IFFI will also be held from 20-30 November. “The guys who go to the film markets internationally are not the same guys who go to the festival,” said Gupta. Edited excerpts from an interview:
How do you see Film Bazaar’s progress since it was initiated?
When we started out, it wasn’t easy to convince people to come there because of the gap between India and the international community. The years 2007 and 2008 were experimental—some people who came in 2007 didn’t come back in 2008. In 2009, we started getting an inkling of a change that was happening. Last year was a big step, in terms of the number of co-productions that were selected.
Nothing succeeds like success, especially when you see projects coming out of Film Bazaar that work. The big change has been that the Indian film fraternity has started taking the event seriously. This is a completely new thing and it takes time to accept.
What have been among your successes?
When we set up the Screenwriters’ Lab in 2007, I wanted to create a platform where people who have written scripts can fine-tune them from an international perspective and be able to sell them in the international market. Two scripts were picked up last year—Dabba and Sebastian Wants to Remember. Two out of six scripts on the spot is a very good strike rate. There were 60 applications for the Work-in-Progress Lab, of which five under-development films were picked up, including Ship of Theseus, Miss Lovely and Mumbai Cha Raja. We also launched a new initiative last year called the Viewing Room, where we screen a curated section of the latest in Indian cinema. Films like Miss Lovely, That Girl in Yellow Boots and Shanghai have come here for co-production. Bangladesh filmmaker Mostofa Farooki got a co-production deal for his script Television because of Film Bazaar.
Our endeavour is qualitative rather than quantitative. We would like to focus on a greater number of projects with international viability. Ultimately, the work has to speak for itself.
Did any existing film market models inspire Film Bazaar?
When I set up Film Bazaar, I took inspiration from the co-production section of CineMart (the co-production market organized by the International Film Festival Rotterdam). We picked up the basic concept from there and adapted it to Indian and South Asian needs. We realized that there was a gap in content here, so we set up the Screenwriters’ Lab. In trying to understand why Indian films don’t get picked up, we released where we were going wrong—it was a case of, the story is great, the visuals are great, but if only the edit or the background score were better. We also introduced initiatives like the NFDC Knowledge Series, which includes discussions and seminars about cinema.
The concept of international collaborations does not begin at the sale stage, unlike in the past. For small films, especially, collaborations begin at a much earlier stage. For instance, the moment you have an Indo-German project, it also qualifies as a German production and gets an advantage in terms of sales. It’s not about the budgets—it is about the long tail of the film.
NFDC used to be known mainly as the leading producer of art house cinema. What role does the company now play?
We were high on production at one point in time. We have now taken the idea from one end to the other, from developing a film to exhibition. We have made fabulous films in the past. We are looking at development, which is not confined to production. The films we now make get funding in the market. We are not in competition with the private sector, but we supplement the role of the private sector.