Road to Oscars
In a free-wheeling chat Nisha Joseph, manager of the All Lights Film Services, explained the Oscar process, the hurdles faced by filmmakers and how the organisation she represents has made the dream possible for over 10 films from the sub-continent in less than two years. By Team Viva
Indian films have made their mark at major international festivals. And achieving the Oscar dream seems to be plausible too.
The race to the Oscars is a mad rush which sees lobbying, promotions and what not. Indian cinema, despite its rich storytelling tradition, has not been able to decode the Oscar secret, until now.
The All Lights Film Services, which broke into this niche scene two years ago, is leading the Indian charge, helping filmmakers attain international recognition at the Oscars.
Says Nisha Joseph, “Under the foreign film category of Oscar, ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ is the only category for the foreign filmmakers. The entry to this category is just one per country and is recommended by the film federation/film apex body of the country.”
But there is a catch. “Under the mainstream category of Oscar, any filmmaker can send their entries. There are around 26 category competitions under this including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and so on, she adds.
To be in contention for these awards, the movie has to go through a process. “It has to go through a series of qualification criteria including Los Angeles screening for seven consecutive days and if it is not in English language, it should have English subtitles,” says Joseph.
However, while Indian films have been featured at the festival, they fail to grab eyeballs and are often nudged past by other players when being considered for awards. “The key,” says Joseph, “is to get noticed. According to a recent report, an Oscar campaign is said to cost approx $3 million to $10 million which includes mass PR campaign and publicity generation through adverts, holding lobbying parties at LA, New York and the film’s parent country, sending out screeners to Oscar jury members, special review reports/critic reviews in famous film journals and publications and so on.”
But then the odds are stacked against Indian movies as the Hollywood movies are funded by big studios who undertake these exercises (and opt the bill) for their respective movies’ publicity campaign. On the other hand, it is difficult for Indian movies to cough up such a large amount.
And the company works towards surmounting these obstacles. “We have helped 12 Indian Films so far which have all vied for contention under the mainstream category. We have a full-fledged team and industry affiliations to screen the movies in LA and carry out other necessary documentation,” says Joseph. Some of these movies included Ballad of Rustom, Kamasutra 3D, Pulimurugan, DAM 999 and Color of Sky. Apart from Indian films, they recently helped send a Sri Lankan movie for contention, which is a first for the island nation. “Besides conducting rigorous campaigns to help movies get into the very prestigious ‘Oscar Race’, we also help Indian filmmakers to take their movies to film festivals, film markets and film awards around this world. Thus we make sure that such movies don’t go unnoticed at any film circuits,” she adds. An initiative has also been launched to help filmmakers sell their movie rights in a more customised format and ensure that they receive a comparatively higher amount.
The company is currently working on three films, which include a dance documentary (short) titled The Serpent Wisdom from India, a feature film titled The Frozen Fire from Sri Lanka and a Malayalam feature film titled Aikarakkonathe Bhishaguaranmar’ (Doctors of Aickarakkonam). All these projects are unique, both in content and production.
But how does a filmmaker who wishes that his/her movie is taken up by the company, approach them? “Filmmakers usually approach us directly or by participating as delegates or submitting their works for the All Lights India International Film Festival, which we conduct annually at Hyderabad. We forge partnerships with movies screened here that we find special. This year, the four day film festival will be held at PVR Inorbit Mall.” So all those want to give Oscar a shot, you just know where to begin.
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