A graduate in Economic Honors and an MBA in Marketing and I.T, Girish Johar has worked with leading players like Balaji Motion Pictures, Sony, UTV Disney, PVR and Zee Studios, and has immense experience in marketing, production, exhibition and global distribution of films. He has defined the business and market for films releasing in various languages – Hindi, English, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi.
Johar, a YOUNG VETERAN, has an experience of around 20 years in this field and was involved in more than 140 films, in various capacities. Jodhaa Akbar, DevD, A Wednesday, Ragini MMS, The Dirty Picture, Jazbaa, Rustom & many more form part of his repertoire within the industry.
Film distribution in India is undoubtedly a tricky business. In an attempt to simplify the abstruse, cineMArkets got in touch with Mr Girish Johar for this compilation of answers that every producer can benefit from.
As a general rule of thumb, what factors should a producer keep in mind to ensure that their film is “viable” for distribution?
Any producer should pay keen attention to three things – budgets, storyline and casting. Budgets are important not only to ensure a good quality product, but also to create ample awareness during promotions, a factor that directly influences distribution viability. Storyline and content is of utmost importance and a good cast helps grab the eyeballs of the consumer.
What other factors govern the number of screens and shows that a film gets, which would be beyond the producer’s control?
Sometimes if the concept of a film is widely liked, it leads to a good hype, which the producer may not have even anticipated. Another similar factor is music; if the songs are promoted well and the acceptability is good, the movie could get a good opening. On the other hand, competition from other releases is a factor beyond the control of a producer, which could influence the number of screens and shows adversely.
What would be the minimum budget for getting into film production, below which it would be infeasible to create a quality product and/or market it sufficiently to recover the investments? How would this budget be split or allocated?
I believe that anyone getting into film production with a theatrical release in mind, should start off with a minimum of 4-6 crore as a budget. This could be split almost equally in creating the product and marketing-distribution. Below this, I feel, the producer will have to compromise either on the cast, or technicians, or equipment or in some cases, even the promotions.
If there was one thing that you could change, with respect to the current Film Distribution ecosystem in India, what would that be?
The one thing that disturbs me the most is content-piracy. Unfortunately, a lot of people would watch a film on a mobile phone or laptop instead of experiencing it in a theatre. Another concern is the high taxes on entertainment, which bleeds the industry more than it should.
With aggregators like Netflix paying good monies for digital rights, do you see “straight-to-digital” as a viable option for small-budget films, skipping theatrical release altogether? If yes, how should a producer plan this route?
Absolutely. I would, in fact, recommend skipping a theatrical release if budgets are scarce. A theatrical release involves marketing at a certain scale, which warrants a good promotional budget. If that’s not available, a straight-to-digital model makes perfect sense. Again, story and content is paramount.
Girish Johar talks about Film Distribution in India in 2017