Now that Pakistani cinema is getting back on its feet, the film fraternity wants to do things right.
In the works is Pakistan’s "first film guild", a professional body comprising cinema owners and producers, directors and writers, actors and crew members, that will work together to create a professional environment that respects the rights and appreciates the efforts of all the stakeholders of the cinema industry.
It's a welcome move from Cinepax CEO Hashim Raza and Eveready Group of Companies Chairman Satish Anand, but turning the ongoing initial chatter into action will take some doing.
What would this film guild really do?
Raza and Anand first floated the idea to some of the industry's greats at a dinner meeting in mid-March, where the guild's purpose was discussed in a brainstorming session.
Some of the ideas shared during the dinner meeting include the formation of a film academy, organization of a neutral award event, scholarships to film schools, mentoring platforms for new entrants, invitations to international guild members and the influence/contribution in film legislation, Raza shared with Images.
In addition to these points, industry members have other ideas in mind.
Dekh Magar Pyaar Se director Asad ul Haq said he'd like to see the guild ensure his taxes are put to good use while veteran actor Bushra Ansari would like to see better regulation of actors' wages.
In conversation with Images, veteran actor Bushra Ansari, who worked in Ho Mann Jahaan and Jawani Phir Nahi Ani, talked about the need for the regulation of actors' wages. She explained that actors often work in films "out of goodwill" for their colleagues, and their remuneration packages can be unfair. Producers quote limited budgets during the casting process and convince actors to come on board for low pay. When the film goes on to make lots of money in the box office, actors don't benefit from those profits.
Dekh Magar Pyaar Se director Asad ul Haq said he'd like to see the guild ensure his taxes are put to good use. "In the '50s and '60s, the Karachi film infrastructure was developed with the help of the government. They gave lands on which the studios were built, they provided discounted cameras. Where are the taxes going now?" He added that the guild should push for Pakistani films' exclusive run at the box office when they are released.
A lot of the industry members' grievances are partly a result of the lack of communication between stakeholders. The same was noted by Raza, who sees the guild as a remedy for that.
"From all of our conversations with film fraternity we realized there is a clear disconnect between them. Between old and new directors, actors, crew etc, everyone is speaking his/her own language. [There is] no standardization, no family feeling, no sense of common goal/ objective. We were forced to look at other countries as to what did they do when they reached such a point in their respective industry. [Forming a guild] is what they did so we are taking this initiative. Not sure if this is the right time but if not then we are surely getting there. Someone has to take ownership and take the first step.”
Do people harbour reservations about the guild?
It is said that the idea of a film guild received widespread approval and "only constructive opposition".
"People doubt sincerity and commitment because nobody has [formed a guild] before," said Raza. "If we are able to prove our commitment and sincerity, then nobody would oppose [us]. This is going to be an all-inclusive initiative; the purpose is to include everyone, not exclude [anyone]. So I don’t foresee any significant resistance."
However, "the right time" appears key to the formation of the guild. According to cinema owner and film producer Nadeem Mandviwala, it may be too soon to form a guild.
Cinema owner and film producer Nadeem Mandviwala says its too early to form a film guild in Pakistan. On the other hand director Asad ul Haq believes that the proposed guild should just comprise of directors and producers, specifically those who were involved in the "seven films produced last year and the 20 being made this year".
"A guild is formed when different associations, such as an association of film directors, an association of film producers, an association of writers and so on, come together," explained Mandviwala. "At the moment, there is not enough work happening, not enough people in the film industry to even form the associations. Associations existed in the past, and were operational until the '80s, but with the decline of the industry, they became defunct. Currently, there are only 4-5 major distributors and exhibitors in Pakistan, so there's no question of forming an association [of distributors and exhibitors]."
"For comparison's sake, if you look at Pakistan's TV industry right now, there are so many people working in it. Just a technicians' association will have 1000-2000 people alone. There would be 50-100 directors who could make up the directors' association," he added.
Mandviwala went on to suggest that the defunct associations should be revived first, or if the guild seeks to replace them, then its purpose and agenda should be clear.
Asad ul Haq also had reservations about the focus of the guild. He believes that the proposed guild should just comprise of directors and producers, specifically those who were involved in the "seven films produced last year and the 20 being made this year." There's no need to bring on the guys who haven't produced a film in 20 years, he added. "We're the guys who are going to take the industry forward."
"The agenda discussed at the dinner meeting was too long; it should just be three to four core points. The guild should ask the pool of directors and producers to put forward their points and there should be a vote. The majority should be the chief concerns of the guild."
As Pakistani cinema continues its rise in spite of the absence of infrastructure, a film guild could serve to bridge some gaps and remedy some of its flaws. The next logical steps would be define the agenda of the guild, so as to clearly indicate its purpose and constituent members. It's then that the all-important questions of the guild's leadership can be addressed.