A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, I POSTED A BLOG ON PRODUCING FILMS BASED ON INDIGENOUS STORIES AND CHARACTERS. I PROMISED TO FOLLOW IT UP, SO HERE IT IS:
You really need to pay attention because in the time it takes you to read a few hundred words, I’m going to tell you the future of producing animated films based on indigenous stories. I’m going to give you the formula for success.
This blog is being written from Mumbai, India, (aka Bombay), the home of Bollywood. I’m here meeting with several friends/independent filmmakers/entrepreneurs. All are considering animated film projects and most of them are focusing on indigenous projects. An animated feature film was just released here based on a fabled Indian character, Chhota Bheem, entitled Curse of Damyaan. It is slated for an exclusive Indian run, local languages and a record setting number of screens. The trade papers are calling it an unqualified hit and the producers, GreenGold, are ecstatic with the results. A highly successful series based on these characters has been running on television. So the characters and stories are well known to the Indian public.
Is this success just a one-off or is it the beginning of a trend? Last night an old friend, owner/director of Vaibhav Studios, Vaibhav Kumaresh, treated me to a run through of his upcoming feature, The Return of the Jungle. It’ll be another animated feature film based on indigenous tales and intended for Indian audiences. Not any sooner than I saw this project, two more studio heads revealed their plans for a feature animated film using the same formula and no less than six more animated feature films are being released to Indian audiences before the end of this year. You need to understand that previously, animated feature films for Indian audiences just didn’t happen. There wasn’t an established audience for this kind of fare.
What I discovered is there are several common denominators in most of these plans. So, what is that combination that has the Indian animation industry rushing into developing new indigenous properties? The big factor of course is money. Someone has proved that feature films made in India for Indians can be profitable. Here’s the formula: Films need to be produced for a budget that’s less than $1 million USD and, yes, this can be done in India.Films should focus on actual stories and characters from folklore and fables.Films need to be produced in local languages and eventually dubbed into English.The films need to be released in neighboring countries (where the stories are likely known).Distribute the film around the world where there are large concentrations of Indian nationals (London, Toronto, Los Angeles, etc.)
So, does it work? The combined revenues from wide domestic release, limited international release, television and DVD sales will put the film in the black within a reasonable period of time. Even the most skeptical VC’s will find the ‘roi’ acceptable.
But, you say, that’s not enough? You’re willing to pay a bit more if you can get full international sales? How do you do that or is it even possible? In my next blog I’ll tell you how to not only create a successful feature film based on indigenous characters, but also how to create an intellectual property with worldwide legs.