What role do you play in helping filmmakers choose location?
Shooting of films in various overseas locations has been going on since time immemorial. But as the film industry itself becomes more and more professional and as the young executives begin to call the shots, they take very pragmatic decisions based on the commercial value and not just the cinematographic or creative appeal. In this situation, there is a need for a catalyst with a very structured and scientific approach to choosing locations based on the criteria of the film studios is very essential.
We have been hosting a programme where the locations and the film studios come together and explore collaborations. And that way, if you see we are trying to scale it up, we are not happy just introducing one tourism board to somebody. We are looking at the big picture, bringing in the ambassadors, bringing in high commissioners, bringing in the Ministry of External Affairs to understand the potential of this segment. And I think in its eighth edition, we have kind of reached somewhere there.
How have you scaled it up and what are your takeaways?
We started off with one small panel discussion on cinema locations. Today we had half the industry here. So in that sense I do not look at any takeaways, but yes, more ideas for what we can do next time to better it. And that’s probably a takeaway.
How important is the India market for outbound destinations?
It’s a very interesting question because post-Covid it is not three or four, it is probably 20 or 30 countries which are chasing the Indian pie for films and weddings. I myself am talking with about 12 to 14 embassies and consulate heads, each trying to look at how we can curate the film tourism vertical. So in that sense the emerging market is seeing a paradigm shift. You have a destination like Saudi Arabia which is coming in such a big way. You even have a South Korea which is looking at Indian films. But each has its own niche way of attacking the industry. Probably Korea may want just to select films which can change the complexion. Saudi Arabia may want to carpet bomb everybody to come and shoot there.
Which vertical of Indian cinema has the biggest demand for outbound locales?
See, the industry in South India has always been very strong and professional. It is just that of late, post-Covid, that they have really rocked the Bollywood boat in a manner that nobody anticipated. But knowing that this is such a strong industry, we had already made forays with them. Then the advent of OTT platforms has also changed the dynamics. Today you have probably 400-500 scripts going to Yash Raj studio in a month. I mean, that’s a huge amount of content being developed. If that is what is going to one company, can you imagine how much shooting is going to happen in the coming years?
Should locations look only for big banner films?
I actually tell many of the tourism boards that while you’re chasing the big guns like Yash Raj or Dharma, you must look at verticals of regional cinema, the OTT play and television. As, each of these offers a potential for shooting in their locations and destinations customise cost effective usage of various platforms in various verticals to leverage the best results for themselves. You don’t need only the Dharma or the Yash Raj. But, of course one hit song in a Dharma or a cameo in a Yash Raj film can change the entire complexion of tourism to that destination. I don’t deny that, but why miss out on other opportunities, while waiting for the big banners?
What lies next?
It is an ongoing process for us and it is not over just because we have done an event. The event is a platform to make people meet. The post-event work is actually our work. We actually have lined up about 30 meetings for the presenters to meet the production houses on one-on-one basis and things keep evolving. For instance, a particular production house may have been looking at option A, but after a discussion or a presentation, they may want to meet destination B. This has to be done with a thorough follow up after the initial discussions. That’s our role.