Asian indies get the hang of global finance
By Patrick Frater
Mon, 06 February 2012, 09:45 AM (HKT)
The marginal utility of project markets may have decreased as many film festivals have added a funding, co-production or business matching event and the same unfinished projects make multiple stops around the globe.
But some adept film-makers are able to use the expanding number of project events to quickly add overseas partners and assemble finance.
And as project markets extend their reach into Asia, it seems some of Asia's independent producers are able to exploit the 'soft money' and co-production merry-go-round as ably as the Europeans who invented the game decades ago.
One such production is The Lunchbox Dabba written and to be directed by first-time feature director Ritesh BATRA. It is shepherded through the co-prod maze by Anurag Kashyap Productions Pvt Ltd, a fast moving boutique built around Anurag KASHYAP, a director, producer and actor who has become a totem of the 'Hindie' film-making movement.
The project made its debut at the Film Bazaar Screenwriters' Lab, a Dutch-backed training programme held within the Indian project market, Film Bazaar, which takes places every year in Goa.
Produced by Guneet MONGA at Anurag Kashyap Productions, Lunchbox was then presented last month at Rotterdam's CineMart, the grand-daddy of project markets. There it claimed a jury 'special mention' and was selected as one of a handful of CineMart pitches that will now transit to next week's Berlin International Film Festival and the Talent Project market there.
Already set up as a US-India co-venture, involving Lydia Dean PILCHER and her Cine Mosaic company (producers of 2006 Indian film The Namesake (2006)), Lunchbox has recently seen Monga and Kashyap attach France's ASAP Films as a third partner. ASAP's Cedomir KOLAR was at Film Bazaar, where he became interested in the project.
While Monga and Batra will next use Berlin to seek a German co-producer and a sales agent, they already look able to add in a private equity source. They are in advanced negotiations with DAR Media Pvt Ltd, an Indian finance company that is part of the DAR Capital Group. DAR Media was previously a backer of 2008's City of Gold Lalbaug parel (2010) and DAR Motion Pictures signed a three film deal with City's director Mahesh MANJREKAR.
DAR has also recently boarded Monsoon Shootout, another Anurag Kashyap Productions title, which recently saw Hong Kong's Fortissimo Films come on board as sales agent. Shootout is a thriller directed by Amit KUMAR, co-produced with the UK's Yaffle Films, The Netherlands' Pardesi Films and French broadcaster Arte.
Making the most of project markets means understanding the connections that exist between them, like a virtuous circle or positive feedback loop.
The involvement of experienced Dutch production advisers in the Film Bazaar Lab, and the presence of CineMart selectors in Goa, for example, is likely to have helped Lunchbox find its way to CineMart. And having gained recognition at this year's market, the finished film has a strong chance of being invited to a future edition of the main International Film Festival Rotterdam.
The same kind of connection exists between the Hubert Bals Fund, another Dutch finance pool for art films, and the main Rotterdam festival. And there are similar parallel connections between the MEDIA-backed EAVE fund and the Udine and Pusan festivals; between Hong Kong's Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) 香港亞洲電影投資會 project market and Bucheon's Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) 아시아 판타스틱 제작네트워크; and between the Cannes festival and its Cinefondation and Residences programmes.
Nor did Batra come to Goa as a complete newcomer to the project market circuit. In 2009 he had been part of the Sundance Film Festival's Directors Lab.
Although Sundance is predominantly American it has long had an Asian connection through its bursary programme with Japanese public broadcaster NHK. Last year it sought another Asian foothold, when it teamed up with Indian financial services conglomerate Mahindra and launched the Mumbai Mantra / Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab.
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