Producer of fourteen Bollywood movies. An academic at Adelaide University with a PhD in movie entrepreneurship. Rajeev Kamineni is undoubtedly someone with insights we want to hear. Some of them quite startling.
“The movie industry has one of the highest rates of failure. So, out of every 10 movies made, 8 movies will lose money, generally all over the world, whether it’s Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood or Hong Kong.”
OMG! With such a dismal financial success rate why do producers stay in the game? This was the focus of Rajeev’s PhD.
“I went and spoke to 28 movie producers. I spent as long as a day or 2 with them, to as short as 2 or 3 hours, to understand their life’s journey. Out of those 28 producers, about 4 of them have stopped production completely. They are not producing any more movies because they lost so much money. But the others, all of them, are not in it for the money…… the resilience of these producers is amazing.”
“What I found is, if, as a movie producer, you don’t have passion for the project and for the industry, you will not survive.”
Ideal film producer
In a tough industry success is more than simply surviving. The combination of lengthy personal experience and PhD research has given Rajeev valuable perceptions into the characteristics of a successful producer.
The producer is the only person in the industry who has to have multiple hats. They should be a project manager to manage the project. They should be the banker, to bankroll the project and invest the money. They should be a marketing expert, because once the project is complete, it has to be released, and it has to be marketed and showcased, and they also have to have the creative knowledge.
“The producer must visualize it on the big screen. Writing a script is one art and converting it onto the big screen is a major art. That’s why 6 studios knocked back ‘Star Wars’ – they could not understand how the script could be translated onto the screen.”
Resilience and timing.
Key across the industry is this ability to visualise the characters and settings on the big screen, regardless of location or genre. There are about 300-400 movies made in Bombay (the B of Bollywood) and about 1,700 in other parts of India. Could there be a chance to lure some productions to Australia, even to Geelong? Our PM, Anthony Albanese, ventured to ask this question of President Modi recently. Perhaps Modi’s response was similar to Rajeev’s.
“For Indian audiences, it’s always good to see the singing and dancing part of the movie in foreign countries – in front of the Opera House or the Melbourne Cricket ground, or somewhere different for them, for example, the Great Ocean Road.”
“But now more and more younger producers are incorporating Australia into their story, and they come and film in Australia, so it’s the real location. They’re not just coming here for song and dance, but they’re having Australia as part of the script and using it. Australia is becoming part of the story narrative. That is because there’s so many Indian people coming to Australia to live.”
“But you have to make the script when it’s the right time. There are some guys who made the scripts which are far ahead of their time and lost money. There are some guys who made scripts which are outdated, and they lost money.”
So, the lesson seems to be, find the right script for the time and get on with it.
Be thick skinned about your own skill set.
Remember even the biggest producers have battle scars.
Words: Linda Carr