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After pondering for a couple of weeks, on what topic to kick start this new column, I finally decided to take you through the economics of movie making on a ‘First Copy’ basis. This concept is unique to the Indian Film Industry.

This is probably the biggest gamble a producer takes, when he ventures into making a movie on a first copy basis. On the other hand, the producer is saved from micro management of the shoot and crew on a day to day basis.

In this method of film making, a producer hands over a fixed amount to a studio (usually owned by the chosen director), who takes center stage, and the studio would be responsible for every penny spent and the responsibility vests on the studio to make sure that the budget (including the director’s own remuneration) does not exceed the fixed amount as inked out in the contract.

The final outcome and quality of the movie is what makes all the difference. A lot of corporates have adopted this methodology, and quite a few have folded up or have stopped making movies altogether.

Directors feel that this increases their creative freedom as there is no frequent interference from the producer or the Production house.

A very recent occurrence is a very good example of how this mechanism can end up in a mess.

The Tamil remake rights of the blockbuster Telugu movie Arjun Reddy was bought by “E4 Entertainment” owned by Mukesh Mehta for around 2 Crores. The production house decided to launch Dhruv Vikram (Son of Chiyaan Vikram) and the chosen director was none other than the National Award winning Bala who made Vikram a star to reckon with. E4 Entertainment signed up a Contract with B Studios (owned by Director Bala) to direct the movie on a First Copy basis for an agreed sum of 12 crores. On completion of the project, when the ‘First Copy’ of this movie titled ‘VARMAA’ was handed over to E4 Entertainment, to their utter shock all they saw was a final product with a run time of two hours (the original had a run time of close to 3 hours). As per the producers, the filming cost apparently could not have exceeded 3 crores, thus the director making nearly 9 crores in this deal.

With a stubborn director who was not ready to tamper with his creativity, the whole project was scrapped and E4 Entertainment went on to make this movie all over again with Dhruv Vikram helmed by a new director and an altogether new crew with an altogether new title ‘ADITHYA VARMA’. However, when the movie released, it tanked at the Box Office. This is the first such instance in the history of Indian Cinema, where the same movie was made twice in the same language. Now the production house, is apparently in talks with OTT platforms to release the first version.

Arjyn Reddy 
Adithya Varma
Poster boys for “First Copy” mess

 Acclaimed actor Aravinnd Iyer, of Kirik Party and Kahi fame, sums up this mechanism;

 “Films are an expensive art form and the business implications play a huge part in green lighting a project. The more number of revenue streams your project caters to (theatre, satellite, OTT, remake, dubbing, music) better the chance of your project being sanctioned.

50 % – 60% of overall budget is spent in production. Around 20% -25% in post-production. 5% – 10% for pre-production. 10% – 20% of the budget is spent on remunerations. These percentages vary completely once a star actor or director, or a big banner is involved.

Collaborations like these play a huge role in reducing the overall cost of making a film. The digital format has made it easy to shoot movies, however it has hugely impacted the process and planning of film making. Most productions bleed for this very reason.”

Anand is a Finance Professional based out of Kuwait. His interest in movies, as he puts it is hereditary in nature. He is also language agnostic when it comes to movies - covering Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and English. He probably owns the record of watching most number of movies in Kuwait Cinemas and the OTTs have only made his interests in this media grow wider.

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