Rajat Goswami is a director, a festival programmer and most importantly the face of indie and the content-based film distributor.
He has served as a programmer and a consultant for a wide range of film festivals including Osian’s CineFan, IFFK, Bristol India Film Festival, Marmetraggio Film festival, among numerous others.
Q. What is the role of a distributor?
What we usually do is to look for independent films and regional films of India and strategize their festival round and if possible, we also handle the sales for digital platforms and satellite channels. First, we decide whether we can promote them in film festivals because usually, the festival journeys are around 11 months. So what we try is to promote the film for the first 6 or 7 months and do the festival rounds as many as possible. At times the festivals do offer the screening fee to films and more than that. What the festivals do is invite the filmmaker and give the exposure to the audience in a personal interaction. Once the festival audience is there and the film is critically acclaimed at festivals, we try to reach out to satellite channels and digital platforms to do the sales of the film.
Q. Distribution and Promotion: Budget
These independent films usually don’t have a promotional budget because they are shot in low budget. So what we try to do is get them a distribution partner or sometimes, private channels and buyers are there, who want to buy the film on a perpetual basis or for particular rights, for example, satellites, digital or theatrical. So, we try to bridge the gap between the buyers and the filmmakers so that in, either way, both can have profit and make films together and distribute them together. Hence, to be honest, for filmmakers, there’s no particular budget, but yes, for the festival round, we try to convince the filmmakers that they should visit the festivals regularly and keep some budget for their own travel and know the festivals and the professionals out of the entire circuit.
The annual count is somewhere around 12 to 15 films that we pick up every year and accordingly, we do the sales on them.
Q. What’s your take on the online streaming of movies?
Well, they have opened up a new platform for us because there are times when you cannot release every film in a theatre. So all these digital platforms actually help you in releasing your films online, digitally to a wide range of audience throughout the world.
Q. What’s the biggest task when it comes to distribution?
Finding the right film that can be sold. In India, with this digital revolution, everyone is a filmmaker now. So, I feel looking out for the right content is a task, and every day there is a new filmmaker coming up in India and every day there is someone who is making a film. So, for us to reach out to the right filmmaker and that we feel that can be sold or can be shown at various international film festivals around the world is a major task for us. With a small team and filmmakers not having that experience with the international market or not knowing about the festivals is a task to convince them to give us their whole support in promoting the cinema.
Q. What’s your take on the distributing multiple rights of a film?
So, initially, it was difficult because channels always preferred buying the satellite and digital platforms wanted the world premiere and other statuses for their platforms. But now with channels opening up their own digital platforms, at times it’s very easy because we can always go to a channel and sell the film and we also buy their digital rights. So, at one go we can do the whole deal, but when it is not happening, we have to reach out to the digital platforms and give them their own time, and as per their convenience, they do the deal.
Q. Is personal relationship a deal maker?
Well, so far we have not used this because what we believe in is the content the filmmaker is making. So, if a film can speak its own language, and it can have its own journey, I think anyone who’s buying a film will go and support the cinema and we do not have to influence them to buy a particular content that we are supporting. It’s not about the content that we are promoting, because at times its been there that we are not promoting yet the filmmakers are coming to us and saying “hey, I need this help”. So, we are always open and we link them to the right buyer because we may not give the justice but we can always help the filmmakers in connecting with the right buyer or the aggregator that they are looking for.
Q. When is the right time to approach a distributor?
Usually, filmmakers approach us once they have finished the films but we try and always tell the filmmakers that once you are on your post-production set up, I think it’s the right time you should approach us and we should start working on that, so that if something is there from our end, and our expertise can help you with the final output of the film, then I think before the first cut is out, is the right time that you should start working with us. When we pick up a film for film festivals, what we try to do is look out for the right festivals and give the premiere status of that film to that particular festival. What happens at festivals is that mostly because of the competition and various sections that film festival has, what they want is a premiere status, which is very important for a film because the audience is always interested in a film which is premiering for the first time in their region.
Q. Word of wisdom for aspiring filmmakers.
The filmmaker should make what they feel like making because it’s their vision, their cinema and it’s their story. So, they should tell the way they want to tell, and eventually, we are always there to support you, to bring out their roots and their culture to the world. We can work together on the same.
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