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While market research to test films can be a way to get box office success, but the idea is yet to find many takers among Indian filmmakers who still rely on their experience.
Indians love their Bollywood films, everyone agrees. But what exactly is it that audiences enjoy these days—is it their favorite actor sporting a six-pack as he lip syncs to a catchy number, a tear-jerking family drama, an action-packed thriller, or something a bit more off-beat?
To tap the collective pulse of India’s movie-goers, film producers should be opening up to market research, proponents of market research say. But Indian filmmakers often say they already know what works. There’ll be more back-and-forth on that topic today as a business entertainment convention continues in Mumbai, the home of Bollywood.
When it comes to market research, Indian filmmakers rely more on their own experience, unlike the cinema industry in the West where films are screen tested to ensure box office success.
Farshad Family, managing director of the India operations at global marketing research firm Nielsen Media, thinks that filmmaking in India is not as “mature as in the West in the area of research.”
“In the West, the number of scripts, screen plays that get tested are many while in India this is a trend that is yet to become mainstream,” Mr. Family, whose company test-screens films for Indian clients, told India Real Time in an email.
Mr. Family will be speaking about market research later today at a session at Frames 2011, the Mumbai event organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
He added that there’s been an increase in investment in market research in the entertainment industry, but it hasn’t been “substantial.”
“There is a scientific approach that is being adopted in the case of marketing but this has not triggered measurements of the same. [Filmmakers] still don’t track perceptions about movies and the impact on overall expectations and buzz around large production houses, however prolific it may be”, says Mr. Family.
On the other side, screenwriter Jaideep Sahni, best known for hits like “Khosla Ka Ghosla” (Khosla’s Nest, 2006) and “Chak De India” (Go for it India, 2007), was agnostic on the topic.
“Any kind of research and pre-testing as a tool is ultimately only as good or bad as those designing it and those interpreting its findings,” said Mr. Sahni, who will also be on the panel, adding that its usefulness depends on the “teams involved on both sides and where they are on the learning curve about each others’ jobs.”
Another panelist, Siddharth Roy Kapur, chief executive of UTV Motion Pictures, says that market research has always existed, but it was informal, based on special previews and feedback from friends or colleagues.
“In the last five years, many studios have opened up to the idea of a structured market research approach,” said Mr. Kapur.
He says his firm tests its films on a focus group that may be formed according to age group, gender or appreciation for a particular genre, after which the film’s creative team decides whether to make changes or not.
“It helps the director to gauge audience reaction and if they feel there is a need to make changes, they can do so before the release,” he said.
Mr. Kapur says that they ask the director to be present at test screenings, but they don’t insist that he or she make changes based on the focus group’s feedback.
Audience research has been used as a marketing tactic as well. The title of the 2007 film “Jab We Met” (When We Met), directed by Imtiaz Ali, was finalized through an online audience poll from three choices that helped generate buzz about the film.
Of course, purists may be aghast at the idea of market-research driven creativity, and Mr. Kapur agreed that it was still worth being cautious as market research alone cannot guarantee a hit.
“Ultimately film making is a creative profession and thus creative people need to be given creative latitude to explore ideas that they think would work,” he says. “Market research is unable to evaluate that.”
Fuente: India Real Time