Pakistani cinema on cross roads
Performing Arts has been the most effective and proven method to build narrative in modern history. Motion films has been the most powerful element of performing arts, which has not only successfully served the objective but helped economies and states around the world to achieve their goals. Films have transformed not only the nation’s image but also supported national economics. Hence, it is defined as the most vibrant and lucrative industry.
In America, the total output from arts and cultural production, another measure of economic activity, was $1038 billion in 2013, analysts found. That includes contributions from creative development in advertising, arts education and trainings,cable TV and $333 billion from movies and video services. In fact, arts and culture sector outpaced the U.S. travel and tourism industry, which was 2.8 percent of GDP in 2011, based on the federal estimate. That finding surprised even the researchers. Researchers also believe that arts and culture in the broader heading has contributed 3.2% to Gross Domestic Product in US. Therefore, the yardstick has been devised in partnership with the Bureau of Economic Analysis drew on figures from Hollywood, the advertising industry, cable TV production, broadcasting, publishing, performing arts and other creative industry areas. America’s creative sector will be measured annually, much as statisticians calculate the contribution of tourism, health care and other sectors to the nation’s economic parameters.
India, the second film capital of the world now is expected to grow by $3 billion in 2015(excluding TV, advertising, digital marketing). Producing well over 700 films each year, they are not only supporting the GDP by 0.5% but creating approx. 1.8 million jobs (findings by Deloitte). Their growth is phenomenal and expected to cross $10 billion barrier.
Similarly, Chinese and British film industries are significant part of their overall national economic plans. However, all the above governments have substantially helped their industries to grow by offering various rebates and tax incentive for film investments. British tax incentive under ‘ENTERPRISE OR SEED ENTRPRISE INVESTMENT SCHEME’ is great example of institutional support for British Film Industry. Moreover, there is generous rebate available for film productions taking place in UK. Recently, UAE (ABU DHABI, DUBAI) has introduced unbelievable CASH REBATE PROGRAMME to enhance their tourism, appeal and emirates business image. This is one of the key reasons why you see many Bollywood and Hollywood productions are actively using the above countries as their foreign locations. It does not only add substance to their project but proves attractively cost effective. These rebates offered are the easiest way to promote soft image (business image, tourism and culture) and economic support (jobs and infrastructure).
Apart from the economic objective, cinemas and films are widely used to manage and design perceptions in strategic affairs. Americans have earned the title of ‘good guys’ massively due to their film industry despite their embarrassing military blunders and hugely criticized foreign policies. Hollywood has helped US military to draw that positive image despite their disastrous war history starting from The Invasion of Canada to Bay of Pigs and from Bay of Pigs to The Battle of Bataan. Their failures from pearl harbour to disastrous Vietnamese war and annihilation of Iraq with false claims of WMD’s. The list is too long to go into detail, the fact is that they have managed those failures by effective propaganda films concealing the truth from the world.
India has created their colourful image around the world through films which has helped them promoting their cultural and economic appeal.
They have controlled national perception on Kashmir and other strategic affairs through films. It is also seen that Indian films have played key role in creating national mastermind alliance around issues of sensitive nature in India. It has also developed and enhanced patriotism to support the federation of 1.2 billion people through 1500 cinemas.
Pakistani cinema has miserably failed to achieve its glory due to incompetent Government’s vision and selfish short term gains of film industry stakeholders. It is encouraging to see the survival and revival of Pakistan film industry despite all the adversities and atrocities. Thanks to Indian content who have set the track when they were allowed to be released in Pakistan, which has changed the whole cinema going culture in socially suffocated society with minimum social recreational opportunities available.Cinemas are providing an alternative platform of social activity and becoming a regular component of household expenditure list. Luxurious cinemas with maximum comfort is providing a 3 hours activity in a country marked with energy crises and lack of family outdoor activities. Fledgling National Box office growth is a good sign, where the gross revenue records are consistently broken with upward trends. Infrastructural growth with more cinemas being built is a healthy sign of brighter future but it has to be carefully nurtured and regulated. It is a good sign to see many universities are setting up creative faculties with state of the art facilities which will ultimately produce a good finished product.
Creative Village in University of Lahore is a potent example of an intelligent vision which is not only equipping students with the most updated syllabus but also giving them much needed hands on practical experience through their production facility. These training and educational programmes along with more films on floors will ultimately produce skilled professional pipeline which has been tamed by continuous decline in the past.The increased number of commercial advertising directors are also entering into film making business with limited expertise but huge commercial ads experience. Some of them successfully evolved their professional experience with the ever changing digital film making technologies whereas other are turning the films into cheap amateur commercial advertisements. However, it is essential to layout the growth plans with care and due diligence in infirm Pakistani Film Industry. Following steps are absolutely imperative in long term sustainable growth of Pakistani cinema and turning it into an industry:
Tax incentives to investors will create a financial structure to boost growth. Following 18th amendment, it is the provinces who can take the lead to draft legislations for a mechanism in which businesses can be encouraged to invest in films. There are various methods which can be introduced from deferment of percentage of income tax for certain time periods to direct/indirect tax reliefs. The fact is that film finances have to be institutionalised to support the growth objective. Film investments have to be attractive for corporations to be involved in it. World’s best practices are available for guidelines.
Regulations are inevitable to turn Pakistani cinema into industry. Without compliance, monopolies can emerge to threaten the growth. Strict compliance through effective regulatory regime will erode those fears and create a healthy environment for industry to grow in sustainable order. It is surprisingly disappointing to see that Pakistani Cinema and their owners are emerging to be a major threat due to weak or no compliance. High ticket prices to expensive film meals despite the incentive on cinema income are proving to be key irritants. Cinema owner’s treatment of Pakistani films by giving those poor contractual terms i.e. showing times and time slots is appalling. Across the border, Maharashtra state in India has recently passed the legislation for the cinemas in the state to must give one peak showing slot to Marathi films pushing the growth of Marathi cinema. Maharashtra Government also introduced a financial support plan for Marathi film makers which is great example to be learned from. There are many Pakistani cinema owners who are turning into distributors as well, strengthening the monopoly in this exhibitor/distributor model. This mafia in the making is a bad news for film makers and eventually the film industry. It will badly effect net revenues for film makers and set negative precedents. Pakistani film industry can only grow if film makers are making returns on their investments and that will encourage them to multiply their projects to achieve upward growth objective. Henceforth, it is required now to establish new regulatory bodies and make the existing ones potent enough to deal the challenges.
Content plays a key role in subjective film making and leads the image of Industry. It is also accounted for international distribution demand. Pakistani content is in state of confusion at this important junction of film industry’s journey. There are two opinions formulating within Pakistani cinema, one of which is to support separate identity from the neighbours and others following Bollywood trends of commercial masala/rom coms. The law of change is gradual and not instant.Therefore, certain moods of audience needs to be catered for in pursuit of establishing identity and transforming film industry in to corporate sector, ultimately forming third opinion. Third opinion is combination of the first two to support the law of gradual change and respect the audience for whom the films are being made for.
“Journey to million miles starts by taking the first step”
The good news is that first step is taken in the right direction but to get to the destination, the whole journey needs to be managed carefully to avoid getting out of breath or wrong direction.