CA. M R Ranjit Karthikeyan
I was closely involved with the Malayalam Film Industry since the Mid 1990s. Certainly not as a producer, cast or crew but as an advisor who could possibly see film making closely. Counting the number of films that I was involved has lost its meaning, but this gave me an opportunity to have a bird’s eye view of the industry, the players and also the trade bodies. It was as fascinating as a well made feature film.
During a channel discussion, in the heat of the moment, I did come out with something which made me think later. The statement was like – film production is probably only legal business which does not require any prior licenses from any authorities and is the most unregulated sector! Yes, i am yet to come across any permit or license or registration with any Government Authority if you are getting into the business of film production. You just need your PAN Card and not even a Tax Deduction Account Number if you are starting off as an individual businessman. Does this make the industry vulnerable or is this a boon for the entertainment industry. To start a small corner shop would require a shop and establishment permit from the local authority.
However, the industry in fact regulates itself. The producers association and the film chamber of commerce do have a say in the film making process and one has to get a membership in these trade bodies for being able to successfully complete the film, get a CBFC censorship and also an effective mediation for any trade disputes with the artistes, technicians or other industry players. This certainly gives a new entrant into the magical mystical world an opportunity for peer – advice before he actually gets into the thick of things.
For the past couple of decades the film production in Kerala has been churning. This certainly has not been in the quality or quantity of the films alone but major technological changes did happen. The cost of film making has dropped, but the fees to be paid grew. The industry did not gain financially taking advantage of the technology. However, all other than the Producer stood to gain. The associations and trade bodies became increasingly relevant in decision making and even started having a say in the Policy Making by the Government. For good or for bad!
In any business, the investor is not seen as a mere ATM. Did the industry create a special status to the producer who is relevant only for pulling out the cheque book and signing the dotted line. How many of those who decide to adorn the role of a Film Producer knows about their responsibility? From concept to story board, acquisition of funding upto the artwork for the release comes under their overall responsibility? The professionals that assist the producer such as Directors, Cinematographers and Editors will make sure that the Producer succeeds in coordinating the production components through the entire process of film making. Producers are also responsible for ensuring that deadlines are met and that film projects comply with budgetary guidelines.
I for one will not be a vocal advocate of gaining a film school degree to don the hat of a film producer. However, a basic understanding certainly helps. One has to understand that the business of film production is certainly complex and to untangle these complexities, experience is essential. it would be nice if at lease some of those who wish to enter this arena obtain some entry-level positions before taking a decision to stake their own funds or borrow. I would go a step forward and exhort them to even take up jobs like Production Assistant, Grip or Runner! This will give the aspirant an opportunity to gather inside information that may prove to be crucial to understand the business of film making! Being flexible helps in this make believe world.
Equally important is to develop contacts within the entertainment industry to scale the heights and be successful as a movie producer. Would it not be nice to know whom to connect to put together a film project rather than being an Any Time Money machine? Many producers are unaware of how a movie project is financed, made and distributed. Investors will have to get educated and more importantly – trained!
There is no single business that can be a sure-shot success. However, going by the statistics, I often wonder why this industry has never seen a decline in investment. One has to check the numbers to know the growth rate in the investments in Malayalam Film Industry. I think it shows a very healthy growth rate year on year!
If you have spend a few minutes to go through this and would like to get involved with films for reasons that are mostly business, then consider a closer look before you take the plunge.
From “Vigathakumaran” the march towards “Mahabharatham” this Malayalam Film Industry has seen it all. 89 years and counting… and the road ahead is certainly long and winding and there is no such thing as a final destination. The show will go on… within you and without you!