Featured in the May 2020 issue of The World of Apu film magazine.
Last November, I attended a panel discussion, titled The Future of Cinema, organised by the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). It was going to be about web series and serialised storytelling. About a 100 years ago, D.W.Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Charlie Chaplin were shaping the foundation of this new medium called cinema. Griffith came up with the technique of continuity film editing—the idea that people can follow a story even if we juxtapose two different images one after the other—while Eisenstein stumbled upon communicating abstract ideas through montage. Today, the medium has come a long way, with the advent of sound, colour, special visual effects, 3D, 360 degree, virtual reality.
So where will cinema be in a hundred years from now? Will AI begin to write our stories? Will algorithms rehash existing classics and make new films out of them? Will a completely new art form take over? Will the supposed shortening of attention spans make short films or Tik-tok videos the storytelling medium of the future? I stepped into the National Archives building in Singapore with these questions, and the mild excitement of getting to see Anurag Kashyap, one of the panelists, in person. (I had attended his talk a few years ago and was fascinated by the anecdotes he shared then.)
Moderator Lillian Wang kickstarted the panel by asking what was the key difference between making feature films for cinemas and episodic content for OTT platforms. It was an apt question to begin with, since every member of the panel had worked on feature films as well as serialised content.
One such panelist, the Singapore-based Thai filmmaker Ekachai Uekrongtham, said that the essential difference between the two formats is that, in feature films you aim to distil and condense, while in a series you look to expand and add depth. “It’s quite fun to imagine a big universe with many, many characters, and a lot of story threads,” he explained, “You think about making people want to see subsequent seasons and decide what to reveal and when. In many ways I think the Marvel movies are a series, it’s just that they’re shown in cinema. The fun of creating a series is to build a creative structure which allows you to add without destroying its core. I made a series called Bangkok Love Stories, and you can make it forever because the core is there, you allow it to be as specific as possible in one season, and in the next season you can be specific about something else, because the thread—I call it the thematic core—is always the same.”
Anurag Kashyap said he began his career as a naive filmmaker, who made a film unaware that you cannot make an openly political film in India, identifying people by their real names. It came as a surprise to him because he grew up watching cinema thinking you could talk about anything. This experience taught him to camouflage everything in his work. He had always felt this approach did not create a healthy discourse, and it changed with Netflix. He wanted Sacred Games (an original series made for Netflix) to be provocative, and he went further in Season 2, making it less crowd pleasing and more political. Anurag felt OTT platforms empower mainstream filmmakers, like Karan Johar for instance, who could address taboo topics in Lust Stories (an anthology of four short films directly released on Netflix), that he could otherwise not do due to his popularity in mainstream cinema.
India doesn’t do documentaries. We don’t screen documentaries in cinema. We don’t create political discourse in public.– Anurag Kashyap
Ler Jiyuan, a Singaporean filmmaker, said that like Anurag, he too enjoyed creative freedom while working on Invisible Stories, his debut series for HBO. He had worked for many years with Singapore television before and had always grappled with working his way around restrictions, whereas OTT platforms like HBO did not limit his content. For example, he was able to use certain Hokkien swear words for the first time in his dialogue. “For years we’ve been hearing swear words from western countries and burying our own unique swear words. That’s why on my set when that (Hokkien) word first came out of the actor’s mouth I actually felt touched.” The audience shared a laugh with him as he declared, “It was television history!”
The moderator Lillian added that it is not only the creators who have found freedom on OTT platforms but the audience too. “Old film catalogues are beneficial and you don’t have to wait for a particular time slot like you do on television. You can watch anytime, anywhere and on any device.”
Data, Data, Data
OTT platforms track viewership data—the shows being watched, the buttons clicked, the moment when a video is paused, and so on. Content producer Tanya Yuson mentioned that this data is proprietary and platforms will definitely not expose it to the content creators or producers, at least not all of it. But the data definitely plays a role in determining what gets produced and procured next. As a producer, she does not attach much importance to data. “We consider only the quality and see if the story connects with an audience. We don’t want to pander based on data. You need empathy to put yourself in the audience’s shoes. What are they going through now? Do they want to escape? Does this issue, represented in the script, mean something to them? Do they want to listen to a perspective on it?”
When asked if this data matters to creators, Anurag shrugged it off, “I have made two seasons of Sacred Gamesand I haven’t received any data. In France they have forced everyone to give out the data. I’m genuinely not interested in the data because it limits your thinking and pigeonholes you. It works the same way it used to work with feature films when you analyse the box office, find a formula and want to repeat that. I just know that if my season has done well, then next time they will give me a bigger salary. I’ll get better budgets and more freedom. That’s what matters to me.”
In every stream of art—be it painting, film or book, anything—that artwork with which any artist finds success, they start repeating it for the rest of their lives. They hit a peak, start repeating themselves, and then it’s downhill from there. I’m very wary of success.– Anurag Kashyap
Anurag revealed that his early films, which were bereft of stars, found ten times more patronage when they released on OTT platforms. “People wrote to me about a lot of my old movies because they discovered them on OTT platforms. It made me realise that there is a larger audience—an educated working audience who are not going to line up outside the cinemas. OTT has become the home for arthouse cinema. Most of the Sundance movies go straight to OTT and they find a larger audience there. Lots of filmmakers around the world are finding much more freedom. I’ve just made my first Netflix movie, which will be out next year. For the first time I’ve made a movie which is political, subverting everything, and I got a budget which is three times the normal budget I’d get if I made it for cinemas, without a star cast. So I could do it the way it should have been done.”
Anurag added that on OTT platforms you can have true representation of characters. You don’t need to make everyone speak in a common language. You have subtitles and dubbed voices. Audiences can watch it the way they want. “I don’t have to cater to a requirement that everybody has to be forced to speak in English or Hindi. Every character has their own language and culture and they can truly represent that. That kind of honesty has also come in because of OTT platforms.”
Tanya agreed, “The filmmakers on this panel have made content with their local perspectives but there is a global audience as well for their films.”
Working with restrictions
When one of the audience members asked about the difficulty to find funding for films on taboo or offbeat topics, Anurag’s suggestion was, “Watch a lot of films from countries which are much more repressed than where you are. If you watch Iranian films from 15 years ago you’ll realise how much more creative they became because of the censorship. Singapore in the past few years has come out with films like A Yellow Bird, Apprentice, A Land Imagined, Ilo Ilo. I haven’t watched Wet Season (the opening film of SGIFF 2019) yet. All these films have travelled around the world and each of them pushed boundaries. Singapore is the place to be now in the whole of Asia. So technically you should not be asking this question, someone from India like me should be asking this question. I’m living in a regime where I’m fighting to put my point across. The most creative films come out of regions with most restrictions. People find ways to do things. If you’re really dying to say something, you’ll get more creative and you’ll find a way to say it. For example, in my last movie, we created words that don’t exist because we can’t say ‘sex’ in Hindi cinema. So we created a word ‘fyar’, it takes f from fuck and yar from pyar [love in Hindi]. It doesn’t mean a thing but we had to find a way to do it.”
Ekachai’s advice was to find the right producer who’s interested in the kind of content you want to do. When he made his indie documentary Pleasure Factory, he found Fortissimo Films, who were looking for cutting edge content at that time. Ler felt that in Singapore you can say pretty much anything you want in films, as long as you don’t touch politics. He added that violence is heavily censored in Singapore television and shared a sneaky tip to work around it. If he wants to have a violent scene for 30 seconds, in the first cut submitted to the censor, he includes 1 minute 30 seconds of violence. Once they recommend cuts, he shortens it to the 30 seconds he actually needs. A director like him, who has to work within the system to survive, must find such ways to work around the restrictions.
Lillian, who is also from the television background, added that young filmmakers should not simply sit back and complain about restrictions. She shared an anecdote of how she tweaked dialogues in a television show to make it sound close to Singlish because Singlish was not permitted to be used in public television.
Your creativity should not be held back by whatever you perceive is going to be a hypothetical restriction on you.– Lillian Wang
“Didn’t Eric Khoo make Be With Me much before Ang Lee made Lust, Caution in Taiwan and Park Chan Wook’s The Handmaiden?” Anurag asked. “We were surprised to see this film come out of Singapore. It spoke to many filmmakers like me from Asia. There are restrictions but people actually go out there and do it. You just need to look in the right direction and you’ll find inspiration.”
Another member of the audience asked Anurag for his take on the threat of censorship in India for streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Anurag simply shrugged his shoulders, “Nobody will come to you and say that do whatever you want with no consequences. Everything you do will have consequences and if you can’t deal with them then you have to learn to deal with them or don’t do it. Nobody likes to get uncomfortable. So if my films are making people uncomfortable, then I will listen to the abuses. I will have to go out and stand up for what I’m doing, argue and reason with them. I can’t just turn my back and say it’s not my problem. I can’t make a film which is palatable to everyone because it will kill me.”
India is a country which gets easily offended by anything. So whatever you do, somebody will get offended and you have to deal with it.– Anurag Kashyap
Advice for young filmmakers
This is an inevitable question in any panel discussion. What’s the one word of advice for a filmmaker who is just starting out? Ekachai’s advice to budding writers is to find the story which if you don’t tell you will die. Mentioning Living with Yourself as an example, he explained that if the story you want to tell is mundane, then you need to find an interesting narrative structure for it. And then with a fond smile he said, “Make a short film. I made my first short film many years ago and submitted it to SGIFF. It didn’t win but I was so proud of it. I showed it everywhere, collected money and even made a profit!”
Before giving advice, Anurag asked how feature films were produced in Singapore. Are they produced by a cultural body, a film body or individuals? Is there any film fund? The moderator explained that the Singapore government, especially the MDA, is a big source of funds for films and most television shows.
“This is one big difference between India and Singapore,” Anurag said with emphasis, “In India, the government supports nothing. Since the government supports nothing, we fend for ourselves and that’s why we make more films. To make a short film you need to go out there and beg, borrow and steal. Let me tell you how I made my first short film. The digital cameras had just come in. MTV had brought them in. I had no clue what digital cameras were. I just knew you don’t need lights to shoot with a digital camera. That’s all I knew. They had one such camera in the MTV office. I gave the man in charge of the camera the lead role in my film. His job was to steal the camera and bring it out, we shoot, and then we replace the camera. That’s how I made my first short film, I won an award and my career started. If you really want to do it, you can’t wait for somebody to give you a fund. I know a lot of great filmmakers who were rejected by film schools because they didn’t fit into the format of what a filmmaker was expected to be like. It’s entirely up to you. If you really want to make a film, you will make a film.”
Tanya’s advice is to build a solid education in films by watching classics. She pointed out that Anurag is a cinephile, which gave him a strong foundation. Anurag nodded and spoke about how he came to Singapore for the first time many years ago and waited for hours outside Eric Khoo’s office to meet him. “I stayed in a hotel right next to his office because I wanted to meet him as I had seen his film. I finally met him last night. I have chased filmmakers across the world.”
“That’s the education,” Tanya pointed out. “I find a lot of young people today don’t know any movies past even the 90s, which is shocking. When I was growing up we didn’t have Youtube and online streaming. Still we’d try to find movies from the 30s, the 40s, the 50s. Without this easy access, any film you could get your hands on was worth it. Now there’s easier access to watch these films, but when I talk to young people they haven’t seen even the classics. That’s the first level of knowledge you need to have.”
When asked what is the one thing that makes for a successful, powerful story, Anurag replied without pause, “It’s you, the storyteller. It’s your perspective that makes it unique. Accessibility makes it successful.”
“Stories that have been successful in my career are very local and specific, but have some universal resonance,” observed Ekachai, “You don’t think about it right from the start but realise it when you look back. I made a movie called Beautiful Boxer. It is about a transsexual kickboxer and his transformation into a woman. Once I put it out there, I found that people don’t see it as the story of a transsexual. They see it as the story of a person who has a peculiar dream that the whole world doesn’t agree with, and he, now she, believed in it right from the start. If we can find something that is so locally specific but has some kind of universal appeal in the way you present it, I find that those stories tend to have lasting power.”
Tanya agreed with Ekachai and Anurag, adding that there’s one more ingredient to the process, and that was perseverance, in crystallizing and clarifying the story you want to tell. “You have to look at the script from different angles. Every change you make in successive drafts affects your story backwards and forwards.”
Ler was quite candid when he said that most of the work he had done cannot be considered successful because their TV ratings are low. “I made a telemovie called The Love Machine. I pitched it and felt very passionate about it. It was critically well-received but ratingswise it was abysmal. Nobody watched it on the linear channel. This affected me. The feeling that nobody wants to watch the stories you have to offer to the world is a terrible feeling for a filmmaker to go through. You feel like a storyteller with no audience. That’s how I always felt in my career. That’s why when Invisible Stories came along and HBO believed in it, saying people want to watch it, I was surprised. You need to believe that the story you want to say has an audience out there. Maybe it’s not the auntie and uncle sitting in front of the television right now. Our audience is international. The definition of mass appeal is different now. We need to find our kindred souls. We just need to continually be ourselves and tell the stories we believe in.”
How to Pitch a Web Series
When asked how to make a successful pitch for a web series, Anurag revealed that he got the opportunity to make Sacred Games because he made a five and a half hour movie (Gangs of Wasseypur). Netflix serialised it as six episodes and released it in the US. Once it became successful, Netflix reached out to him in 2013 to make an original series. “I was lucky back then. Now I’m going around pitching a series. It’s similar to pitching films. You have to excite them.”
Anurag went on to explain that different platforms have different expectations when hearing a pitch. For instance, Netflix wants to look at the script early, before you start writing. Amazon will look at it after you’ve done writing. HBO prefers content that is far out while Apple and Disney will not look at anything that is adult content. They do not want to push the boundaries or have uncomfortable viewing. Netflix works differently in different markets because they have an office in every country.
Ler said that when he started out as a young filmmaker, a lot of his pitches were not read or even heard. “After you’ve done a lot of work, suddenly people are reading your proposals. I work hard to be heard. HBO didn’t come to me just like that. I worked on many series before that and then they hired me to direct one episode. One precious episode that I sunk my teeth into, and did it so well that I got to know the commissioners and developed a relationship with them. When I had the idea for Invisible Stories, I did not approach them first because they are not known to work on such low-concept series. I first pitched to Mediacorp but it didn’t work out because of their restrictions in terms of language. My producer convinced me to pitch to HBO. I sent them the pilot I had already written out and they liked it. There’s an ongoing relationship between MDA and HBO that supports local producers. I’m one of the benefactors of that system.”
Ekachai emphasised the need to do a lot of homework to understand what the customer using the platform is looking for, because the same story can be pitched differently. “Look at your story and carve out a twenty five word pitch. If you can’t distil your idea into a very short sentence then it’s very hard for you to get attention. If you’re smart, the same story can be told in so many different ways. I just turned a murder mystery that’s very female-focused into a romantic action that’s male-driven within one week. It’s the same story, the plot is the same but you completely change the way you tell it, tear down the structure and create a new one.”
That’s when Anurag declared, “Pitching is like a con job. You know what you want to make and you have to get it made. I always do a lot of homework. I pick up examples, I tell them how Korean cinema changed everything, how a thing that nobody believed in really worked, how things everybody believed in didn’t work. I will have all the information collected and when I go there I will talk to them like if they don’t do this then it’s their loss. It always works.”
Once the laughter died down, he continued in a serious tone, “One thing you have to understand about the cinema business across the world,” he paused, “nobody knows anything. They buy into you, your confidence and your clarity of vision. Nobody knows what works. They are the same people who worked in some other studio, which closed down, so they moved to this studio. Once this closes they will move to another studio. Nobody really has had a success rate like say… John Lasseter or Kevin Feige.”
“This is a story I like telling—the success of Marvel movies and the philosophy of Kevin Feige. Every single Marvel movie is made by an indie filmmaker. They’ve never hired a successful filmmaker. They’ve always picked up an indie filmmaker, from Jon Favreau to Taika Waititi. Marvel films did not have characters that were iconic; they gave the filmmakers freedom to explore them. Taika Waititi improvised on Ragnarok. You don’t improvise a visual effects movie at that budget, but he improvised it. They created a universe and said to the filmmakers, “Now go play with the characters.” They are not iconic characters who have incredible fanboy filmmakers. They convinced every independent filmmaker to make their own film, make an indie film in the Marvel universe, which is why the movies became fun. The problem with DC movies is that the characters have such hardcore fans that everyone sees them a certain way. Everyone sees Batman a certain way. They disagree very strongly. Everyone thinks the other one is killing My Batman. And that’s why they don’t work, because everything is written in stone. None of the Marvel characters are written in stone. Their comics never sold! You should go out there, be confident and have a very clear vision of what you want to do. Trust me, they’ll buy into you.”
Tanya interjected, “But is confidence enough? The filmmaker needs to deliver. That’s the other half of the pitch. Anurag, you can deliver. Many people are very confident but they cannot deliver.”
Anurag pointed to the audience member and smiled, “But she was asking about pitching. Once she gets the offer it’s up to her!” and then turning to the audience member, “One thing you have to do is lie to everybody in the world. But don’t lie to yourself.”
Relevance of Film Festivals
Are film festivals still relevant, with the emergence of OTT platforms and online streaming? Anurag gave examples of how festivals are adapting—series are being screened at many festivals, including Sundance and the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. The first two episodes of Delhi Crime Story premiered at Sundance. Anurag also mentioned an Indian OTT platform called myNK, that’s based out of Singapore. myNK plays festival films from across the world. “What should eventually happen is—sometimes we don’t get enough screens for a film festival. Maybe during the period of the festival if there is piracy-free solution for people to watch movies online, then that’ll be great.”
[Interestingly, at the time of writing this article, major film festivals have announced to unite and have an online festival on Youtube from May 29 to June 7.]
Ekachai felt that the human contact at film festivals between film connoisseurs and young filmmakers cannot be replaced. “I remember many things said by big filmmakers at SGIFF, making me want to be a feature filmmaker. Just listening to Anurag speak makes me feel inspired! When I was a lot younger, the Singapore Film Festival opened my eyes to cinema. The role of the film festival is to inspire wannabe filmmakers. SGIFF is unique because it showcases an excellent variety of Asian films, which are hard to find anywhere else. The curation is fantastic.”
Tanya stressed the importance of curation, “You look for something at Cannes and something else at Berlin, Sundance or Busan. I think it’s a place where we all come together from different parts of the world. Asian film festivals are really gaining momentum because we have more content and the stories are authentic.”
Anurag added, “The Singapore Film Festival, Busan and Critics’ Week are crucial because they find new voices. It’s so important to find new voices and new filmmakers. There are a lot of festivals that pick films only by the masters. The new voices matter because that’s where cinema is changing.”
Lillian remarked that human curation is definitely better than any algorithm that’s going to recommend the same kind of things to you over and over again.
The death of rambling stories?
While I relish the breathless pace of Netflix shows like How to Get Away with Murder, my concern is that the editing and storytelling patterns of most Netflix shows are aimed at hooking the audience and tempting them to binge. I am worried if this will lead to the death of a rambling storytelling style, something like Tokyo Story or Satyajit Ray’s The Apu Trilogy, or something like reading the first few chapters of The Lord of the Rings. When I expressed this concern, Anurag suggested mubi.com and myNK, which cater specifically to the kind of movies that I asked for. He explained that every platform will have its own requirements and target audience. “Netflix has shows like Love, Death and Robots, which is different from the typical Netflix content. It also has films like Atlantics, The Irishman, Three and a Half, Earthquake Bird and the Singaporean movies I mentioned earlier. If you expect the same from Disney, it won’t happen. They’re all very different. Nobody is killing the other. They all co-exist.”
Tanya mentioned that Asian filmmakers need to study the differences between Asian and Western literary traditions. This reflection will help them interpret stories and narratives in new ways, which retain traditional narrative patterns, and are still engaging for a modern audience.
Ekachai said he understood my concern that the more traditional way of storytelling will disappear. “I grew up watching slow cinema. I have a nephew who won’t watch anything except films that feel like Marvel movies. My job is to take him to watch independent films so that he doesn’t think bingeable content is the only world within the world of cinema. That is where the role of film festivals like SGIFF becomes important.”
“There are days when you come home and you want to watch Roma,” Ekachai went on, “There are other days when you want to buy popcorn and just binge watch something until the end, no matter how it turns out, and feel successful that you finished watching something. There are days when you want comfort viewing like watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory. OTT platforms feature different content to match your moods. So I don’t think slow cinema will disappear. I would be very sad if it does. We can help by continuing to watch those films so that the data proves they should still be acquired by executives.”
When the question of how to manage budgeting discussions came up, Anurag answered in a lighter vein, “In my experience, there has never been a case where somebody will not tell you that it is too costly. It is the first job of the producer to tell you that it’s too costly, bring it down. Don’t pay attention to that. There are four things as a filmmaker you should know—water, fire, children and animals—which are a big no. They are very difficult to shoot with—not impossible—and they cost money. Shooting with animals and children takes time and time costs money. Ang Lee once said, “Everything that a filmmaker must not deal with, I had to do that in Life of Pi.”
Ler declared, “It is an eternal problem, whatever you write will always cost too much!”
He went on to share an example. “I wanted rain in one scene. But rain costs so much. Then I had to write it out. It was a week of arguments with my producer and I lost eventually. You go back to the writing and try to solve the problem creatively. You learn how to restage the scene to give the same emotional climax but without the rain. Rain is a cliché. When I look back, I feel that because of this budget problem, which I whine about, I ended up with something that’s even better.”
Local vs International
A budding film student expressed his concern that Singaporeans have always preferred outsider stories, international films over local films. He gave an example that a movie like Avengers is able to make much higher box office revenue as compared to Ah Boys to Ah Men, which is considered to be the most commercially successful Singaporean film. He wanted to know if OTT platforms could solve this problem.
Tanya was candid. “Let’s face the truth. Movies like Avengers are going to do multiple times in box office and admissions in every territory in Asia, as compared to locally produced films. In Indonesia, producers are more afraid of other locally produced films than Marvel movies. Frozen and Avengers are going to make what they make. But once they’re out of the cinema halls, there needs to be counter programming, which is us. Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves is one of the top all time box office grossers for horror in Indonesia. Luckily his latest film Impetigore released this year just before Frozen came out. Avengers made 4 million admissions—that’s how they count in Indonesia. With Impetigore, we made 1.7 million admissions by week four, and the film was made for a fraction of a cost of Avengers. This shows that there is still appetite for local content. You can’t really compare box office figures of local and foreign films because they are apples and oranges.”
Anurag’s contempt for box office figures was obvious. “One of my friends asked me once, when you go to a restaurant, are you interested in how much money they made yesterday? Why is everyone interested in how much money a movie made? You go to see a movie to experience it. Leave the money business to the trade and let them figure it out. Don’t get into it, especially as a filmmaker. You’ll forever become a slave to it.”
Ekachai answered this question by pointing to Korea as a role model. “In order to envision a future where Singaporean films do well, you need interference from the state, like they did in Korea. You know how they started with a quota system to guarantee that the local industry can grow. If you let it happen naturally, it’s not going to happen in a lifetime. You need to create a window for local filmmakers to have a chance to develop the industry. It’s not like people don’t want to see local films. It’s maybe not the kind of film they want to see or it’s not the quality they want to pay money to watch.”
Ler seemed to feel passionately on this subject. “As Singaporeans, we don’t consume our own art. We don’t read our own books, we don’t watch our own TV and films. This is a very big problem. It has deeper historical roots. When we were a small nation struggling to survive, we had to pander to what the world needs. The world needs more engineers, we give them more engineers. The world needs us to be something, we become that. But art can’t be done this way. One thing I feel we have not done too well is to establish ourselves as a cultural entity. Our cultural identity has been lost over the years because we keep trying to be something that we’re not. We keep making films that look like Hong Kong films and we suck at it. This cultural seed had to be planted ten years ago.That’s what Korea did. They planted it a long time ago and now it’s bearing fruit. I think with the recent indie film movement the seed has just been planted. I guess you are poised to be part of this new wave.”
The Medium of Watching
An audience member, who has been watching films from the times of Dolby Stereo to Dolby Atmos, expressed his angst that the experience of watching films at home on his laptop or television simply did not match the theatre experience, specifically in terms of sound. Anurag replied that the industry is in the midst of evolution. A lot of companies—the OTT platforms, companies that manufacture televisions and sound systems—are looking at the future of cinema where audiences are going to watch content in the comfort of their homes.
“Disney is working hard so that you can watch Marvel movies at home and feel as if you’re watching it on an IMAX screen. They’ll work out the ratio of the distance at which you’re sitting from the screen and the screen size, so that you feel as if you’re sitting in a cinema and watching it. In the next four to five years, we’re getting there.”
The audience member pressed on, “But my main concern is the price I have to pay. I watch Netflix on laptops and it’s not cheap.”
Anurag responded, “You could buy a VR device and a headset! They’re cheaper than laptops! When you get an Atmos headphone that’s under development and pair it with a VR device, you’ll feel like you’re watching in IMAX. VR is more max than IMAX!”
Lillian asked a related question, “With OTT platforms, we have no control over how the audience consumes content. They’re watching on handphones, laptops, VR devices. How does this affect you as creators?”
Tanya said, “It’s all about choice. There are certain films like End Game, I don’t watch it for the sound and the screen. I want to watch it with people for the shared experience with a community. The choice of medium varies from film to film.”
Anurag remarked that it is also a question of adapting. “I have a daughter who is nineteen years old. When she is watching a film on her laptop, I tell her that the same film is running in cinemas and I can take her there. But she chooses to watch it on her laptop. This is a different generation. The difference between me and my father is one generation. The difference between me and my daughter is nineteen generations because with every new phone, the generation changes. Once I went to a child psychologist and asked, “How do I get her off the phone and laptop?” He told me very simply, “You have to understand that the world is changed. You, as a parent, are a migrant to this new world. They are the natives. You have to adapt to their world.” And since then I have been adapting.”
I guess this is something I need to remind myself—to keep adapting my perspectives as the medium of cinema keeps evolving. Let’s see what the future holds.
Special thanks to Leck Choon Ling and the SGIFF 2019 team for making this article possible.