The Netflix phenomenon that emerged in the mid 2000 in North America has completely transformed the structure of the entertainment industry in that part of the world. No longer are producers, directors and actors bound to the diktats of monopolistic studios, as viewers have happily taken to the digital streaming service and its many alternates (also referred to as “OTT”/over the top media services), putting cable television and even cinema on the defensive.
However, even a decade and a half later such platforms still have to find their footing in Pakistan. One wonders that what exactly is amiss. Well, one of the sine qua non for any digital streaming is the availability of locally produced content that attracts paying subscribers. Foreign shows streamed digitally will only attract the miniscule audience that they already have.
That brings us to the supply side of the equation – where everything from quality control to production budgets has been an impediment towards OTT platforms purchasing content from local media houses.
Enter Shamoon Abbasi and the Caravan film festival he is planning to organize. “Our intention with the film festival is to find and groom talent for the OTT market. We already have a select set of directors and filmmakers who will exclusively work for cinema, and almost no one is considering producing for OTT. The medium is new and unique and requires the upcoming crop of filmmakers to be groomed and think seriously towards gearing up for the digital medium.” So what does the “Durj” director plan on achieving with the initiative? “We plan on engaging student filmmakers and emerging talent, and empower OTT platforms with their product.”
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Currently, not many avenues are available for the independent filmmaker targeting the OTT market, according to Abbasi. “At present , the only alternative for first-timers is YouTube, which as you know has its limitations in the sense that the content, even if it is well made, will likely not go beyond a few thousand hits as the makers lack the market muscle and that sellable nametag.” And beyond YouTube is where the Waar actor plans to take the content of such filmmakers. “We have cash prizes for the winning projects, besides the recognition that will come with being the top contenders at the festival. Plus, we intend to stream the winning films on OTT platforms, which will hopefully enable these filmmakers to hit the ground running as they gain traction into the media industry.”
The response so far has been pretty overwhelming with over 150 digital shorts received. “We will be screening selected films for the jury – ideally at a physical venue in a cinema, although with the prevailing Covid crisis that’s not going to be an easy task. However, developments on the logistical end are still fluid, so we will be in a better position to talk about that shortly.”
The Festival has an eclectic set of acclaimed filmmakers, actors and musicians on its jury that will make the judgment call on the screened projects. Filmmakers Sarmad Khoosat, Amena Khan, Shahzad Nawaz and Usama Ali Raza are onboard, as are powerhouse performers Saleem Mairaj and Sherry Shah along with journalist Omair Alavi and music composer Abbas Ali Khan. “We have a well-rounded jury to analyze the films from all angles, and all of them are immensely creative artistes who like to work beyond what is conventional,” he comments, adding “None of these people produce run of the mill work.”
Besides organizing the festival, Abbasi remains active on the filmmaking end and adds that he will be making an announcement about an upcoming project for the OTT market, shortly. Stay tuned to PakistaniCinema for the latest on Caravan Film Festival, and a lot more!