'This is a transition phase for both OTT platforms and content creators'
...says Piiyush Singh, India partner and co-founder of Vistas Media Capital, as he talks about how a production house deals with the change in ecosystem of film distribution, star value, and more
2020 was a trying year, and one of the industries that took quite a hit was cinema. However, the year also saw some hidden gems finally finding a spot under the spotlight. Among the standouts of the year were a sci-fi film about time travel, a hard-hitting social drama about the growing divide in our country, and a compelling social film about the inherent casteism in our society. Interestingly, all three films — JL 50, Bhonsle, Maadathy — were produced by Vistas Media Capital.
Piiyush Singh, India partner and co-founder of Vistas Media Capital, talks to us about how a production house deals with the change in ecosystem of film distribution, star value of a project, and more.
Considering the repertoire you are building, what exactly are the kind of projects you want to be attached to?
We started muvizz.com a few years back. The idea was to create a niche platform dedicated to content-driven cinema. So, that was the start of our journey. By default, we had an inclination towards content-driven cinema and stories. We strongly believed that content creation was key. The reach and expansion of digital has given us a kind of exposure to world cinema, and the audience evolved. Now, the run-of-the-mill, masala formula films don't do well at the box office as well as in the digital space. This is a new medium doling out new age content, and these definitely are good times for storytellers.
Would you still push “smaller” projects for a theatrical release, considering theatres have reopened? What is the kind of release plan when you make such cinema?
Six months before if you’d asked me, my answer would have been different. But now, we see changes in the distribution and exhibition prevalent post-pandemic. This was a change that was about to come in a few years time, but it was fast-tracked in six months. There’s a space for exhibition on digital space now. People have evolved and accepted this format. That's why we decided to release Bhonsle and JL 50 on OTT rather than wait for theatrical release. Also, nowadays filmmakers don’t create content for everybody. They are themselves looking at a niche segment. There is stabilisation in content creation now. We can now identify the audience, and with the large reach of the digital medium, use it to pinpoint and reach the audience we want to. In our production, we have a diverse range of content. We are doing Hollywood, regional cinema (Tamil, Marathi), web series, and regular mainstream Hindi movies, and the strategy will be different in each project.
There is a criticism that most OTT content is Hindi-centric and isn’t directed to regional languages. How are you planning to get across this divide of sorts?
There are roughly 30-35 platforms in our country, and they are not all mainstream Hindi platforms. So, I’d not accept this criticism. Now, content creators are operating in a very fragmented market, and in coming times, there will be loads of content in regional languages too. The localised market is ready, and there is nothing holding back creators from using that space.
As a content creator, how do you decide the kind of platform to showcase your product?
There is no sure-shot formula for OTT markets. Most streamers like Netflix or Amazon have clear-cut strategies that filmmakers are not made aware of. They have a lot of attributes that come from data mining and AI, and they don’t reveal their strategy. They keep tabs on what kind of content their viewer is rooting for and develop projects accordingly. So, in a way, this is a transition phase for both platforms and content creators.
With mainstream filmmakers making their presence felt in the OTT space, would you still make films with young and upcoming talents or gravitate towards the former, more glamorous names?
It’s kind of a deja vu. When TV came in the 90s, they said the biggies, the filmmakers would come and grab the satellite space. That didn’t happen. This is a new medium, and it has its own set of rules and has different dynamics altogether. Many established filmmakers have failed miserably on OTT because they came with their old school of filmmaking. It is important to understand the medium, its dynamics, and change accordingly. In successful OTT content like Jamtara, Paatal Lok... you don’t have big names or big stars. At the end of the day, it is the storyline and content that matters.
What are the kinds of sectors VMC wants to create a presence in?
At Vistas Media Capital, we do film production, film distribution, send films to festivals, and more. As a company, we want to create an entire ecosystem. We would like to invest in film schools too. Our goal is to become a one-stop-shop for everything related to entertainment and video.