Ahmed Deepto illustrates the plight of young teleplay and filmmakers of the country, who find it extremely difficult to break into and survive in the industry due to low pay
Teleplay and short film makers in Bangladesh have long been suffering due to the dearth of sponsorship and inadequate screening venues, which they say are two of the main reasons that make surviving as a filmmaker difficult. Although we love to flick through the channels to see what teleplays are on, the struggles that filmmakers, especially the young and aspiring ones go through to put their product out there are grave.
‘Talented young directors make great efforts and earn critical acclaim nationally and internationally, but sadly there is no one to take care of our pockets. I have made five short films and have come to know how difficult it is to recover the money that you have invested from TV channels. Producers are ridiculously offered 100,000 takas for a teleplay by TV channels, even though it costs around 180,000 takas to make one,’ says Sandip Biswas who aspires to be an independent film maker, and currently works as a graphics and set designer.
The unfair situations that teleplay makers face is that they find it difficult to air teleplays without star actors, but stars cost most of the budget, and the money that TV channels offer hardly covers cost, let alone making any profits. This is one of the major reasons why the quality of content is also compromised.
SM Fazle Rabby, a passionate independent filmmaker and a final year mechanical engineering student of Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology conveys New Age Youth that he has written two scripts but cannot start shooting yet for lack of funds.
Rabby has already made five short films and 10 documentaries and got ‘The Tareque Masud Memorial Trust Award’ and another award for a short filmmaking contest that was jointly organised by United International University (UIU) and Star Cineplex in 2013. He also worked as assistant director in commercial film Mahua Shundori, which is set to release in November this year. He conveys that it has become a familiar scenario that young filmmakers are left with no other option but to sell their teleplays to television channels for lower than the money spent on production.
Rabby also says that fresher directors who work under seniors do not get paid after the shoot.
In July this year, Rabby and his friends worked on a 93 minute telefilm. He worked as a cameraman and he is yet to receive his pay from the director.
‘I went to Channel i, ntv, Ekushey TV, ATN Bangla and Bangla Vision, none of them were even interested to see our telefilm. They said to direct four to five more telefilms, and then they will see what they can do. Now, if the TV channels do not even watch five minutes of our telefilm, and yet ask us to make four or five more, what sense does that make? This is why young filmmakers find it so difficult to break into this industry. They are offered no encouragement; rather they face scorn from the big offices. Moreover, some TV channels offered us 150,000 takas for the teleplay, but we spent 300,000 takas on it. On top of this, television channel producers will just roll their eyes to you if you haven’t got high profile stars on your telefilm, which will only add to the cost. This is why, the teleplay industry is exclusively open only for the rich, others have no hope of making it here,’ says Rabby with passion.
Forhad Uddin Masum, another young director tells New Age Youth that there is no professionalism in this sector. Youths who passionately work with teleplays, are deprived of pay due to the repressive market trends set by TV channels. He also alleges that TV producers always tend to depend on the safe commercial scripts, rather than bold, artistic works. ‘If a young director wants to experiment or in any way thinks to do something out of the box, TV producers lose interest and ask for clichéd love stories. I worked for the set design of a series drama that was aired on Asian TV. Astonishingly, the director who appointed me for the work didn’t recognise me after the work, let alone paying me,’ Forhad claims.
The scene for short filmmakers is no good either. They need to collect funds on their own and there is a severe shortage of screening opportunities. There are only a handful of festivals like the Dhaka International Film Festival, Children’s Film Festival, International Short and Independent Film Festival, where they can screen their films.
‘No one wants to invest in a young director. I have couple of good scripts that are lying around in my drawer. I will save money and someday work on those,’ says young filmmaker Sadia Preety, whose short film Jhorapatar Golpo won Meena Media Award and aired on Channel i back in 2009.
Many young filmmakers nowadays are relying on making a living by producing documentaries for NGOs, working part time as wedding photographers or even trying their hands on event management.
Nawazish Ali Khan, advisor programme of ATN Bangla conveys to New Age Youth that there is 100 per cent opportunity for the young directors to find a slot in the television channels but the quality of the production should be good. When asked whether they buy teleplays from young new filmmakers he declined to make further comments.
Belayat Hossain Mamun, 32, president of Moviyana Film Society says, ‘Cinema industry in this country is really not a sophisticated career for the elder, let alone for young directors. It’s a trap actually. No one is happy in this place except for a few directors who have somehow beat the odds and become popular. Commercial films are doomed because of brokers, the middlemen between cinema hall owners and producers. These middlemen have a lot of influence on what movies will be exhibited and which ones will get the boot. These middle men grab most of the profit and push producers to incur losses and discourage them from investing ever again. Since producers aren’t interested in investing seasoned directors hardly find work. Now if seasoned directors find it difficult, imagine how difficult it could be for young aspiring directors to find a job.’
Mamun conveys that there are at least 300 short filmmakers in the country. Moviyana Film Society is a platform where young filmmakers aim to be part of independent film movement and learn the craft of filmmaking. They also work on distribution and exhibition of films in Bangladesh.
Mamun also stresses that most of the young filmmakers nowadays do not know why they are making a film and there is much room for improvement as far as their content quality is concerned. But this is also true that if the industry looks as bleak as it does now, in terms of offering a decent pay, the young filmmakers will hardly find it feasible to learn the craft better.