UK-India co-production treaty can help good films

December 5th, 2008 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Dec 5 (IANS) Indian films being made to international standards could benefit from subsidies to the extent of at least Rs.16 million (nearly 220,000 pounds) and the profits can even go up to Rs.1 billion (near 14 million pounds) per film, thanks to opportunities provided by the UK-India co-production agreement.The bilateral co-production treaty will give producers access to tax breaks, fresh funding sources and practical support.

“While in rupee terms, the benefits through subsidies can arguably start from $320,000 (Rs.16 million), with some networking, a properly budgeted, professionally made film may reap profits of $500,000 (Rs.25 million, or 342,077 pounds) onwards per film through television premieres alone,” Carey Fitzgerald, managing director of High Point Media Group - a company that helps networking sales of films -, told IANS.

“There is no cap on profits. Re-issues, remake rights, releases of dubbed versions the world over, earn profits for classic films with a timeless quality beyond the $20 million (Rs.1 billion) within a reasonable amount of time. And from then on, the initial draw of those companies’ future productions can only go upwards,” Fitzgerald added.

Sans quick-fix solutions and low-key starts, deals can entail the complete process of filmmaking, said Isabel Davis, senior executive, International Strategy and Co-Production, UK Film Council.

“There cannot be any sudden dramatic changes, of course. After the necessary detailed paperwork is vetted by auditors, the subsidies will be paid in the UK only after several other stringent parameters are met,” Davis said.

“The immediate benefits will be pegged at 20 percent production costs of films partly made in Britain by Indian entities. But the deal will be sweetened further by other subsidies that will include creative and technical inputs for collaborative efforts plus the availability of a global market,” Davis added.

Public funding means stringent controls that may not satisfy egos of overpaid stars as their pay cheques may seem “over-lavish-expenses” to British auditors who follow stringent rules, opined Lee Stone, a lawyer who advises media entities in Britain.

“While none can curb creative instincts of filmmakers, controls of strict auditors who follow stringent rules will be discernible. On the flip side, most Indian films can pass the yardstick of 52 percent marks for cultural acceptability in Britain and become eligible for the 20 percent subsidy for realistic costs,” Stone said.

“International markets of films have various other policy susceptibilities against depiction of suicides, violence, cruelty against women and comments against ethnic groups. But these are standards followed by major international films which pass these tests with flying colours,” Stone added.

Said Fitzgerald: “A good film’s success depends a lot on its delivery to audiences at their conveniences. Electronic delivery at homes at predetermined, uniform global prices through physical or soft copies of movies will be the future since the so-called small screens at home are becoming larger and cheaper.”

Supran Sen, the honorary secretary of the Film Federation of India, said the figures, if translated into reality, would mean huge profits on the basis of 1,146 movies released in India in 2007.

“The Indian films that can be termed ‘timeless classics to appeal to the global market’ could be five to eight percent of the above number or some 80 films. Therefore, if the British claim fructifies into money, it can result in profits of round Rs.80 billion (1.1 billion pounds) from this business alone,” Sen said.

“In other words, the annual spread of Rs.90 billion (1.2 billion pounds) in Indian showbiz can almost double. That said, the English claim has to be tested (on the yardstick of the) harsh realities of filmdom,” Sen added.

A Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci)-commissioned report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers said the annual turnover of the Indian entertainment and media industry is expected to cross Rs.1 trillion in 2011. Of this, the film industry’s share is estimated to be worth Rs.90 billion.

According to Ron Summers, president of the US-India Business Council (USIBC), the Indian entertainment industry loses Rs.160 billion (2.2 billion pounds) annually to piracy believed to be the result of lacunae in proper distribution and delivery mechanisms.

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