A research writeup of the current issues / corruption in the film industry and important reforms needed to save cinema / art and to create an environment where there is an ease of doing business and an investor friendly market even for the new / upcoming talents.
An Article by Arunkanth, Independent Filmmaker & an Entrepreneur. " To the Attn. Indian Ministry of Information & Broadcasting "
1. The title name registration of the content must be made online with facilities to search for the availability with restrictions for the no of titles one can register and a validity which can be extended only with genuine proof that the project is under work in progress. The title registrations must be under CBFC and it must allow producers, writers, directors to register on its portal and these 3 parties names must reflect on the censor certificate. Currently the titles are applied through a "bit / chit paper" to know its availability and if available they give a form. But the producer has no transparent access to know whether the applied title is really available online. If a catchy title comes for registration, it is often said that someone else has registered and the same title will be registered backdated by xyz companies and then resold to the producer who wishes to apply in Black / under the table. This has been a menace in the film industry. Many court cases are being tabled to fight for the rights of the title registered by multiple parties.
2. As per the Cinematography Act under Indian Constitution any one can perform an activity of filmmaking independently and no association / councils can give pressure to any filmmaker to use the members of such bodies. It’s is the will and wish of the filmmaker. Such a filmmaker should not be given pressure during the release of his movie. Also an independent filmmaker should be able to obtain the censor certificate on the CBFC portal under the available option "Independent Filmmaker" without the mandatory need to submit "Publicity clearance certificate and title registration certificate of some external association / council" as he is an independent filmmaker. This conflicting workflow under the CBFC portal (Tamilnadu perspective) must be eliminated or the independent filmmaker must be given a option to apply censor without the mandatory requirements of such a document. Else the censor board must create a common body to issue such a clearance to any independent filmmaker and not force him to be a part of any council just to obtain such a document.
3. With regards to film release in theatres / cinema halls, content owners / distributors should be able to directly deliver the DCP content open or encrypted just like how he already delivers to the censor board for viewing. The cinema halls must accept such a content from the content owner when the censor is obtained. Choosing a digital delivery mediator company should be optional and not mandatory. Also the cinema halls must accept the content delivered by anyone individually or by any content delivery partner irrespective of whom they have outsourced their projector maintenance. Cinema Hall owners outsourcing their projector maintenance has got nothing to do with the content owners file delivery as long as the file play back is smooth. Cinema Halls must share the server certificate of the projector for KDM creation purpose in case the content owner wishes to encrypt the file himself. An NOC or an Undertaking can be obtained from the content owner by the cinema halls with regards to the security of the content and piracy issues, if the producer wishes to project an Open unencrypted DCP. The cinema halls should not force the content owner to become a customer of some third party private firm and pay them charges in the name of VPF to deliver the content in their cinema halls. The C-Form license clearly states that the cinema hall must own the equipments needed for projection with an operator. Just because the cinema halls have outsourced their operations, they should not force the content owners to become customers of the companies that they have outsourced to. Severe action must be taken agains cinema halls who are involved in such activities. Currently the content owners who have the capacity to have their own DCP creation and delivery mechanisms are forced to spend for mandatory mediators which makes the revenue potential less than the expenditure and many cinema halls use this opportunity to get free equipments from such digital cinema companies and put the EMI on the content owners in the name of VPF and they also swindle the advertising revenues during the intermissions and they eliminate trailer playback facilities and they also make the audience Pay to watch advertisements and not movies. Note : The concept of VPF is eliminated in most parts of the globe except India. As most cinema theatres have got free equipments from digital cinema companies, the cinema hall has lost the rights on how the projector must be used and what content needs to be played there. This has transformed into a burden for the film producers who are forced to become customers of private companies to project their censored content in a desired cinema hall. The cinema hall has obtained license to operate with a clear undertaking that they own the projector and they have their own operator. But what they tell the producers is totally different.
4. Online Ticket booking companies have been selling the products of the content owners without their permission and without giving them any share in their profits. The online ticket booking API and facility must be made available to any entrepreneur who wishes to enter into the online ticket booking businesses. They must either make agreements with the content owner and not with cinema halls or there must be a tripartite agreements as 3 parties are involved. Currently they make agreements with cinema halls only and sell the products of the content owners which neither of them have any ownership, which is illegal and a crime. The online ticket booking companies must be prevented from lobbying with cinema halls with huge amounts to stop other companies from entering into the online ticket sales businesses. The convenience fee charged by the online ticket booking companies are being shared with the cinema halls to adjust the amount paid during the lobby process. This must be stopped. Only if the ticket sales is available at 100s of websites, the visibility of the content increases thereby it reduces the promotion and publicity cost of the content owner. This increases the revenue for the government, content owner, exhibitor and the online ticket portals. This also creates healthy competition and prevents monopoly. Ease of doing business which is the most important aspect to create an investor friendly market can be established. For movies of small budgets and new / upcoming talents, the online portal shows that there are many seats available before the show time. Hence people tend to walk into the theatre directly before 5 minutes and book the ticket. But the cinema halls think that there is no one interested in the movie and initiates the cancellation of the show before half an hour. This happens because of the high convenience fee charged for every ticket booked. This makes people buy tickets just before they walk-in and these audience end up not having a show as the theatre owner removes the movie 15 minutes or half an hour before the release. There must be a regulation to this. Opening ticket sales in 100s of websites shall guarantee the minimum occupancy and sometime ever more as each portal may give 1 or 2 bookings to make a show full and all the stake holders benefit. The customer data base of the online portals are obtained by a massive advertising expenditure of the production companies. Such a database of the production houses is being locked up by the online portals and preventing the production house to reach its targeted market and reply back on these online portals who charge a hefty amount to send notification to the intended target audience which are generated by the production house. There must be a common database to store the customer database encrypted and should be made available and accessible to send email / sms notifications to promote the movie. Currently it’s being misused by the online portals to increase the expenses of the content creator but they forget that the database itself is obtained by the expense of the production house. Cinema Halls here make hay when the content owner suffers. Their advertising budget for the business is Nil throughout the year and they live on free advertising. They target the footfalls that are brought by the production house and they sell other products in the cinema halls and give importance to the food and beverages more than movies. The spots which were available in theatres to advertise the upcoming movies for the subsequent weeks are also swindled by the cinema halls and the digital mediators to playback advertisements and the intermission duration is also being missed and this diverts the attention from the content that is being projected to the audience and it becomes a menace to the audience that they pay to watch advertisements instead of movies. This reduces the further visibility of the content owners as the trailer playback during intermissions have also been ripped off and the trailers of the big production houses are only being played and the other small production houses are forced to spend to the theatres again to target their own audience as the footfalls to theatres are already brought only by the production house’s expenditure. This section must be addressed and proper suggested methods of marketing, advertising and sales must be implemented on a war footing to save cinema, art & talents of our country. Note : Other than cinema, every industry like (Bus, Rail, Hotel etc) has online ticket booking facilities in multiple websites, and entrepreneurs who wish to start any online ticketing site gets an API for free and this helps business a massive visibility. This workflow must come to cinema. Only then cinema can move forward and tapped the 95% of untapped prospective customers. This issue is the main reason that footfalls to theatres is under a poor 5% of market capacity. This is why the industry is crumbling down. The cinema theatre owners are purely the reason for such stagnation as they involve in taking the lobbied money from just one or two ticket booking companies who stop other entrepreneurs from getting into such ticketing businesses to take the industry forward.
5. There must be a release regulation committee / body set up under the censor board or a body appointed and monitored by the central govt. Content owners must approach this body to book their release date and for such booking the censor certificate must be provided. The release date should be blocked 30 days before to enable cinema halls and content owners to plan schedules accordingly. If the content owner does not keep up the release date by releasing his movie, he should be suspended for the next 60 days post which he can request a booking date again. This release regulation body ensures, unplanned content owners never disturb the schedules of the planned content owner. This eliminates the last minute barging in of sudden movie release that destroys the efforts and marketing of the movie release that is already in schedule. Currently a movie release in a cinema hall is confirmed by the cinema hall management just 3 days before the release. Big budget movie production houses will have the capacity to advertise in this short span that their movies are releasing in the next couple of days. How can a small budget movie maker be able to advertise in this short span and reach the masses ? What if the movie has been doing marketing and advertising continuously over the weeks suddenly get a No-Show from the cinema hall owners, just because an unplanned production house decides to release their movie ? Will it not destroy the efforts of the planned production house ? Similarly what if the production house waits for the confirmation of the show from the cinema hall owners, and then advertises his content release date, is 2 days enough to reach as said earlier ? Will it not create an empty cinema hall during the first few days ? Such low occupancy results in the removal and replacement of the movie. Hence such a release regulation committee / body is a desperate need of the hour. Even for a birthday we plans days ahead with the venue confirmation. Shouldn’t the movie business which involves a high investment need 30 days at least to plan their release to avoid the last minute unprofessional release workflow which destroys 90% of the prospects of the movie.
6. Review of Art is a subjective matter and movies are not tailor made to suit each humans taste differences. This must not be used as a tool to destroy the other’s persons self judging capabilities and preventing them from watching the content by injecting prejudiced opinions. This tool without any self regulations has caused high levels of corruptions and wrong influencing mechanisms. Spreading negativity and hate has become a fashion and a trend to talk on social media and online forums. Such a situation has caused article writes and even national daily newspaper’s online portals to write negative content and open comments section to spread even more negative engagement without flagging inappropriate comments, to increase click and drive online traffic and earn from online advertising on those articles. This destroys the life of Artists and it has become a demotivation factor. The content creators are cornered and pressurised to pay these fake reviewers and organisations with a huge sum of money to influence the audience. Majority of such an earnings of people evade the tax laws and they do not comply to any legal / ethical way of pursuing their profession. The Press and Media must celebrate the new / upcoming talents on par with established talents. Press and Media is suppose to be a pillar of the constitution and today it has been stooped down from that level to a situation that they can survive only by talking about famous people. It’s high time that the Press & Media must have a press meet to first establish themselves. If the entire population are media personnels and unregistered journalists, where will the world go find an audience ? Checks and balances must be in place and the governments must have a body to monitor the reviews of influencers and prevent corruption.
7. There must be a portal for the content owners to sell / lease / license their content to buyers across the globe. Currently the mediators lobby with the buyers of satellite / digital / overseas and other markets to hide the buying rates and they abase the content using shell companies to buy the same content at a throw away price and resell the same to the buyers at high prices. Employees in the buyer’s organisations take heavy kick back to enable such malpractices. The content owner is forced to sell his creations at a lower price as the mediators create an atmosphere as if the content is not in demand or they threaten that the content is of low quality and cannot be sold at right prices. Many production houses are also involved in such such mediating activities and it is a cause of worry. The content of new comers / upcoming talents are the main victims of such practices. The content owners must be made aware and educated of the different kinds of rights available to them in selling / licensing their product across the globe.
8. Many OTT platforms are involved in swindling the content in the name of revenue share. A detailed explanation is given in the article. “The Dark Side of OTT Platforms” on the Art Knowledge Portal Link :" https://artknowledge.in/articles/the-dark-side-of-ott-platforms " Many employees owning in these organisations take heavy kickback to push the content for purchase irrespective of the content quality just because their close aids in production houses favour them in such kickbacks. This depletes the working capital of the companies and it also fools the end users of unworthy content being pushed to their library and the users end up unsubscribing to the platform and the company goes into a loss. This also creates an atmosphere where a new / upcoming talent can never make it to the limelight without the support of such mediators or the support of such production companies who are involved in abasing the content and reselling to the same platforms. Most of these OTT platforms do not accept the content if pitched by the production houses themselves and it is often rejected unofficially and the same content is acquired officially when sold by parties of their choice. A transparent way to market content must be in place. Only then the Pay-Per-View or Pay-Per-Movie model can take off and a real market value for the content can be obtained. Only then people will also respect content and pay to watch content instead of using piracy.
9. The local cable tv networks play the movie with pirated copies thereby reducing the footfalls and the earning potential of content creators. Remember the theatrical footfalls cannot cross 5% of the population. 95% remains untapped due to lack of visibility and availability of piracy. Ministry of information and broadcasting must do their long time due check on such networks and demand documents of ownership to telecast such content. Else strict action must be taken on this. If each cable TV MSO buys the content at a small price, most content owners can profit as the number of networks and MSOs are in high numbers.
10. Set up hundreds of Micro-Theatres and cinema halls will capacity less than 100 seats to support the small budget filmmakers exclusively and provide a self distribution, delivery & ticket sales mechanism. Provide a flexible ticket pricing option to the filmmaker to decide his product price keeping a minimum and a maximum bandwidth and allow him to choose the offers he wishes to provide for his film watches so that there is no bias between the way people watches a film. Reason : A new comer's film and a so called superstar's film cannot have same pricing. If it does people will never watch a new comers film at a maximum price. Such pricing methods purposefully deny the prospects of an upcoming filmmaker to survive and without the support of the biggies he / she can never succeed. This gives the biggies an easy option to abase the content of the small creator and swallow his hard work by cornering him by scare.
All the above points must be discussed with the ministry of information and broadcasting to implement the suggested reforms to create an ease of doing business, making the film industry an investor friendly market and save new / upcoming talents of the country, eliminate corruption and save cinema / art at large.
If these reforms are implemented and once corruption is rooted out, then banks will respect the film industry and we can eliminate unregistered financiers who scavenge the content creators.
A research and writeup by Arunkanth, Independent Filmmaker / Entrepreneur to expose corruption, implement reforms and to save Cinema / Art and to create a future for new talents.
Official Website of Arunkanth, www.arunkanth.in