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Vistas is out to disrupt film financing in India, but no one’s worried!

“People who make films are great in terms of creativity but not so while negotiating for funds. Investors want to invest in content but don’t have access to the industry. I could be the bridge,” says Abhayanand Singh, Co-Founder & Director, Vistas Media Acquisition Company.

Producers and distributors of films like Bhonsle, and Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai? are betting big on India and are looking to disrupt the way film financing is structured in the country.

But who are these producers? They are Singapore-based NRI entrepreneurs Abhayanand Singh and Saurabh Gupta, who founded Vistas Media, a company which invests in media and media-related assets, and has its strategic focus on Indian content.

The company’s in-house production company called Golden Ratio Films has so far done 8-9 and its recent project was Bhonsle on SonyLiv.

On August 7, Vistas Media Acquisition Company (VMAC) listed a $100 million SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) IPO (Initial Public Offering) on NASDAQ .

What’s interesting about the SPAC IPO is that VMAC is putting lot of focus on India for its acquisition strategy of a media and entertainment company.

“While our mandate is global, nobody can ignore the growth potential that lies in India. SPAC IPO is a strategic way to look at India differently when it comes to investments,” said Abhayanand Singh, Co-Founder & Director, VMAC.

Content creation

When it comes to content production, Vistas Media Capital (VMC), since its inception in 2018, has produced over 10 projects in India, out of which 4-5 were Web series.

“We have a portfolio of 18 films for the next 2.5-3 years. Along with Bollywood, we have done regional content as well. They include five Tamil films and two Marathi films. The next Marathi venture is going on the floor once the shooting resumes (shooting is on halt for many projects even now due to Coronavirus),” said Singh.

VMC is giving a lot of importance to Web content. This is because Web series is a de-risk model, while films are still risky, said Singh. Hence, streaming is an essential platform for VMC.

“I was an ex-banker and running a hedge fund in Singapore a few years back. I was passionate about films. What I observed was that people who make films are great in terms of their creativity but they are not the best guys in terms of talking to investors to get funds. On the other side, I knew a lot of investors who wanted to invest in content but they didn’t have access to industry because film industry is a very close-knit industry. So, I thought I could be the bridge between the industry and finance and started our venture,” said Singh.

He pointed out that in the west a lot of funding is institutional or from high-net worth individuals. “So, if Hollywood films are funded by banks, it is much more structured. But in India, producers have to put in all their money, which is not the most efficient way of deploying capital.”

When it comes to VMC producing films, the company has fully funded films and for many projects got co-producers on board.

“There are big budget ventures for which we are seeking some of the studios to work with us. While we are capable of fully investing in most projects, it is not the wisest thing to do. It is not just money but also the expertise brought in by studios and I see an increasing trend in India where a film has multiple producers,” said Singh.

Singh pointed out that while films, internationally, have 40 rights to sell, including dubbing rights, airlines, TVoD (transactional video on-demand) even before SVoD (subscription video on-demand), in India, most filmmakers sell only 4-5 rights.

“In the US, from theatre, before SVoD, movies go to pay per view. Home entertainment is huge in the US. So, they give themselves more opportunities to monetise,” he added.

VMC is also exploring newer international markets to distribute Indian films.

Beyond traditional overseas markets like the US, the UK, Gulf countries and the recently added China, there are more foreign territories where Indian movies are finding strong traction, believes Singh.

“Japan is interesting. Taiwan is picking up. Some pockets of Europe have interest in Indian films. In all these markets, you are looking at high-ticket prices,” he said.

Greenlighting projects

It is Piiyush Singh, VMC’s India partner, who develops, acquires, manages and executes all production and distribution projects for the company, across Bollywood and regional content in India. Piiyush has a team of close to 25 people.

Every film is evaluated on parameters like the potential of the film, commercially and critically, relevance in today’s time, budget justification, and whether VMC has a similar film in its portfolio.

VMC’s current focus is to get back on track all projects that are on halt due to the pandemic. Money Control

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