Towards A Healthy Ecosystem For Children's Content - What Could & Should Be Done!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on February 15, 2016

While today Indian filmmakers are exploring almost every genre, one category that is still relatively untouched is that of children's films. Marketers across organizations understand the value of this increasingly powerful community of consumers, there are more than a dozen TV channels catering to this demographic, yet there are hardly any films been made for this segment of the market. Rack your brains hard and a Killa or a Kaaka Muttai comes to mind. Then there are films that have child protagonists, but aren't necessarily meant for children, like say a Chauranga. This despite the fact that India has had a Central body to produce & promote Children's films since 1955.

The problem is endemic & has been around for long. Filmmakers haven't really thought of children as possible audiences. Of course, one could argue that because most of our films are targeted at the family as a viewing unit, and have something for the younger lot, there wasn't really any need for separate films for children. But times are changing & there is a growing awareness of the need for content specifically targeted towards children.

To aid & abet the development of children's content, NFDC started the Children's Screenwriters' Lab last year. The lab is described as an opportunity for participants "to develop their stories under the mentorship of eminent writers from India and abroad. The lab culminates in Film Bazaar, Goa where participants have the opportunity to pitch their projects to prospective producers and investors."

The first batch with 6 stories concluded at the Film Bazaar last year and NFDC is back calling for scripts for its 2nd batch. If you've got a story that can get kids of any age interested & excited, then the Screenwriters' Lab is THE place to take it to. We were there last year & got to see first-hand the kind of inputs the participants at the Lab, get.

Also at the pitching session was Annette Brejner, who heads the The Film Financing Forum for Kids, an initiative that provides filmmakers with an opportunity to pitch their projects to producers & get them funded. She made some pertinent remarks & had a lot of feedback to give at the pitching session at the end of the Children's Screenwriters' Lab. Given her experience with the forum, we decided to reach out to her & get her opinion on things that could benefit the writing community here.

Annette Brejner 2

Annette Brejner at the NFDC Film Bazaar Pitching Sesssion

The following are excerpts from the brief chat we had with her.

The children’s film category is a small one in India. We barely have a few films targeting kids coming out every year. What, in your view, is needed to foster a healthy environment for children’s films to flourish?

It's not something one can change overnight . It takes years.

What is needed is: An outspoken vision, extremely precise goals of content and quantity, a plan for implementation, understanding of the industry, understanding of the audience and how to engange with it and how to build it, political will, funding, keeping the issue of the status of kids content high on the agenda, building industry network, collaborate across sectors, define what is meant by great kids content

We define The Financing Forum like this: “We are the industry's hotbed for works of art for the screen that represent childhood and children’s environment in a realistic, respectful and progressive way for the generation of media-clever kids that are growing up now”

How does the Film Financing Forum work? How does it promote films targeted at children?

We  convey useful inspiration and help kids content media businesses adapt and to stay relevant in an ever-evolving connected world

We nourish our partnerships and start new ones, that can help us exchange ideas, inspire our values and extend our knowledge of how to develop content for kids and kids as audiences

We have these four strategic areas: 1) Project funding through pitching and one-on-one mettings with desicion-makers 2)  Pitching as a way to sharper and bolder project development 3) New business models as way to thrive as kids content producer 4)  Inspiration on how to better engage and understand the target group

We connect industry professionals and encourage collaboration. Via open arena pitching events and one-on-one meetings we foster cross-fertilization of players from different sectors to support development and alternative ways of thinking high quality screen content for children

We achieve an increase of industry professionals competences, their desire for innovation and their ability to take the broader view via The Opening Industry Day in collaboration with KIDS-Regio: Based on the in-put we collect from the industry, we design key-notes, work-shops, debate and creative labs: Thus supporting the growth potential of the children's film and screen content industry

We keep ourselves closely connected to the industry via partnerships and attendance at significant other events in the industry. We are in constant exchange with them, so we transfer knowledge and contacts and also become constantly more educated ourselves.

How can Indian filmmakers benefit from the Film Financing Forum? What should they keep in mind while applying?

At the moment we are only open for Indian projects pitching through the collaboration with FilmBazaar. That said: Indian filmmakers can benefit from attending as Observers, to get inspiration from the other pitching projects (24) and the capacity building programme. The European funding structure requires a European co-producer when applying for funding in Europe. It's an intricate structure, that is very important to understand – which is the job of the producers.

Sagarika Banik

Sagarika Banik with mentor Rasmus Horskjaer, Children's Screenwriters' Lab

You were at the NFDC Film Bazaar & sat for the pitching session. What did you think of the pitches for Children’s scripts? Where did you think the pitches lacked?

Overall I was impressed by the very well prepared pitches and the quality of each project. It was very clear to me, that they had gone through a sequence of well-structured labs and tutoring. What still can be improved is to match the scriptwriters with the industry: They must be prepared to work with talented producers, that can take the scripts further. It seems this thought was new to all of the six participants and they could benefit from partnering with somebody who can navigate the world of development, financing, audience engagement, distribution.

At the Bazaar you spoke about the importance of been clear about the age-group the film is targeted to? Sometimes it is not possible to do that, given that a film might be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences? Why is it important to be precise about the target age-group & how can one do it properly? Are there some benchmarks to clarify this segmentation or is it based on a directors’ understanding of his/ her script?

We have the experience, that if the writer intends to include “all children” or “all families” etc, it most likely weakens the story. So it is important to have a specific target group in mind, which a producer can help flesh out. Decision makers require clear target groups, when they discuss a possible partnership. This does not mean, that other groups can't or won't enjoy, or be interested in a wonderfully made project. It's just not a constructive starting point for the creator nor the industry. The director must be in a close, close collaboration with his/her producer from the beginning (some of the first drafts even). We even recommend, that the distributor also comes on board at the time of development, to work with building the audience (engagement). This can actually end up with changes in the script.

Aamir Bashir 2

Shreyas Thathachari with Pitch Mentor Aamir Bashir

The Children’s Screenwriters’ lab is one of the few initiatives in India promoting kids content. How can it be strengthened to create a consistent pipeline of kids’ content?

This is a very important question: A larger structure needs to be built over coming years to support the Lab. The following things will be crucial:

  1. Producers must be attached, since they understand the industry and can navigate in it
  2. Funding – without access to funding nothing can be realized
  3. Political support to make kids content a priority & give it status. Initiators should do lobby to get this done
  4. Successful distribution for audience engagement to understand how the industry works
  5. Build a platform for the industry around kids content
  6. Make use of an impactful international advisory board and kids content ambassadors


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