Posted on 1 February, 2016 by Team Wishberry
We were barely getting over the end of 2015’s hangover, when we woke up to news that Netflix had finally made its way into 130 countries around the world, one of them being India. As a country, one section of whose population has its eye firmly glued to trends and cool things happening in the Western part of the globe, we couldn’t help but rejoice on finally being in on “Netflix and Chill”. Our curiosity took us to the Netflix website, and we were delighted to find a good number of Indian indie films (although a lot more is left to be desired). This immediately brought us to the next question – what does Netflix mean for Indian Indies? Is it the big break indie filmmakers have been waiting for?
Why is this great news for independent films? The one, single most important reason? Screen space and exposure. Let’s face it, independent films rarely get the screen space in theatres and multiplexes. The race is often lost out to the big players. Additionally, it also encourages the system of paying for the content viewers want to consume, some more. Putting indie films on a platform such as Netflix, gives these films the exposure to a wider audience base too! Filmmaker and critic Sudhish Kamath explains, “Netflix is a great platform for indie films because it lets you access films at your convenience, without making you feel like it would cost you anything. Moreover, because of the pricing mechanism, all films big and small get a level playing field and get watched purely on the basis of engagement”.
The promise of fresh, high quality content Netflix is known for its original shows such as Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, House of Cards, Marco Polo among others. Additionally, you’ll also find interesting shows, documentaries and films by creators from all around the world. By opening its gates to the Indian market, it presents creators with opportunities to innovate and come up with the kind of content they’ve been itching to create! (Netflix doesn’t have censorship, yet!) Indie Filmmaker Prashant Sehgal is optimistic, “I think it could open a lot of doors for independent filmmakers here in India, just like it has done for our western counterparts. Some indie filmmakers are planning to especially create shows/series targeted at platforms like Netflix”. Prashant himself has plans to convert his film Diary of an Overly Reactive Middle Aged Teenager into a web series soon.
But, two problems remain: It’s not unknown that Netflix is an internet-data guzzler. One hour of Netflix in HD is sure to take up at least 3 GB of data. So, Netflix is a great experience for those with no fair usage policy on their internet connections. But, those with a data cap will have to watch their wallets. Secondly, Netflix has to compete with the largely prevalent user habit of downloading torrents. But, Sudhish remains unfazed, “Freeloaders will be freeloaders. But there are people who take pride in paying for content, and that number will increase. Paying for the content you like is a cool thing, and everyone wants to show off how cool they are”. Of course, the wide array of content in good resolution available on Netflix is the biggest win-win, even though the Indian version has a far limited content library compared to its American and British counterparts. But obviously, that’s sure to improve overtime. As for the dent in the wallet everyone seems concerned about, Prashant gives a simple example, “I currently pay Rs. 900 for my regular HD TV subscription. And more often than not there isn’t a single thing to watch on TV! Netflix promises to change that”. For creators, with a strong and clear direct-to-viewers distribution platform such as Netflix and the Indian consumer’s constantly rising appetite for fresh and edgy content, the floodgates of creativity are open and it’s time to get innovative like there’s no tomorrow! Young independent filmmaker, Aniket Dasgupta speaks of the possibilities, “As a filmmaker, I am slightly more excited because Netflix has picked up quite a few indie films in the west and it does offer a selection of Indian Indies. In fact, I got to watch a lot of these films because of Netflix - at times they didn't get a theatrical release and at times I didn’t make it to the theatres. Then there's Netflix Originals - which will hopefully give space to a lot more indie content created from India for the Indian audience”. We can only wait to see how this pans out for the indie film space in India! What are your thoughts?