One of the most enjoyable, informative, and entertaining panels I have attended over the past 10 years at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles featured valuable insights by producers inside and outside of the studio system. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this particular panel is that the information provided by all the panelists is completely relevant and informative about the state of the Studio system in Hollywood in 2012 and an instruction manual on how to be successful in the system, both inside and outside of it! Moderated by Rupak Ginn (The Cheetah Girls: One World), panelists included Universal Television Vice President Bela Bajaria (Producer, 30 Rock with Maulik Pancholy, The Office with Mindy Kaling, Parks and Recreation with Aziz Ansari), and Producers Sunil Perkash (Enchanted,Premonition,Salt) and Adi Shankar (Judge Dredd, Taken, Machine Gun Preacher).
Each spoke of what they look for in judging qualitative content, whether it be sourced from the Indian Diaspora or otherwise.
Ms. Bajaria (on being pitched television shows): “The pitch process is about being a performer and be a storyteller. Looking for a distinct point of view. The Mindy Kaling pilot POV is a very relatable perspective and voice. A combination of voice, twitter and book. You have to get your ego out of the process. Look for the best of the show, writers have to write at the end of the day, write more than one (script / project).”
Mr. Perkash (on working in entertainment): “Take the best idea since your name is on the project. A business about relationships, you have to build them, nurture them and manage them over years. Getting a lit agent or manager is one of the hardest things to do. Go to parties and get yourself seen.”
Mr. Perkash (on funding Salt, which starred Angelina Jolie): “I put everything together myself. You waste two years of your life putting a project together. I felt like a grinning idiot. Tough experience, don’t compromise. Aim really high with the money you are given. For Salt, getting involved with marketing was so something I got involved with. We have to be involved so well with all aspects of film.”
Mr. Shankar (on the remake of Judge Dredd and his approached to the business): “I avoid studios all together, know how taxes and studios work. As an independent film producer we have to make movies for distributors. Further adding, agents have facilitated introductions with filmmakers and help me place into films. What an agent does now is evolving thanks to the recession, so it’s changing. An agent or manager can’t help you unless you have written an amazing script. When you are hot you are like a candle the town are like moths which will come to you. Be entrepreneurial right now in the business, business meets art. This isn’t a day job. It’s a 24/7 way of life.”
After the panel, I caught up with Adi Shankar to gain further insight on his perspective, experience, and insight into the business.
Harish Rao: (With a focus on India and China) - Do you have an interest in producing a film on India or Indian themed subjects anytime in the near future?
Adi Shankar: Absolutely. There are two movies I want to make, the first one is a Die Hard set in India, in English with an Indian cast and a young up and coming Indian director and I will leverage all my distribution contacts to get this film made. The second movie I want to make is the Ramayana, done like Immortals.
HR: In reference to Die Hard, what do you think of the (Luc Besson produced film) Lockout (starring Guy Pearce)?
AS: Luc Besson is my hero. People forget that Taken and Lockout, guys like Pierre Muirelle, guys like Olivia Megaton, these guys are product of the “French Independent system” and these are French movies that have global themes. They have a storyline that anyone anywhere in the world can relate too and there are in English.
HR: You talked about the future five, 10 years from now, do you see yourself based somewhere specifically or do you see yourself based in different places in the world making films and are you going to go into other avenues beyond films as well?
AS: I have a reality show that starts shooting in three weeks, I’m exploring that, that whole business and trying to elevate it and hope that works. In the foreseeable future I have to be in LA, this is where all of the business happens. This is where all the distribution companies are based, until that changes I am stuck in Los Angeles.