Concerned about the direction — or lack thereof — of the media industry in Pakistan, Italian-born former actor, director and screenwriter Shamoon Abbasi has decided to take matters into his own hands and get stuff done!
In a conversation with Images, Abbasi revealed that he has formally joined PTI and is pushing forward some new policies to revive Pakistani cinema.
"I've joined PTI not as a politician; I've joined the development department of the media industry," he told Images. "We've created and forwarded new policies that the government has accepted and started implementing. Thankfully, Prime Minister Imran Khan is supporting us."
Opening up about the recurring issues in the industry, Shamoon said regulations were the need of the hour. "Because there are no formal agreements, lots of issues arise in payments," he said.
"We will be making this a legal issue. A department is being created which will visit sets without notice and make sure things are functioning professionally. If a producer has employed someone without an agreement, he will be questioned and we will work things out accordingly."
According to Abbasi, a summit was earlier held with stakeholders, actors, producers and technicians where everyone registered their concerns and grievances. "The most common complaints were that payments were not being made on time or that actors had taken money and left the producers hanging," he told Images. "So these things have to be regulated first and foremost."
Acknowledging that the global film industry is undergoing problems, he said that he has suggested the government to fund some projects out of their own finances. "Tradition, culture, sports, religion, history — whatever they would like," he said, adding that movies on the theme of military had been overdone and new, refreshing stories were needed for the revival of cinema.
"The biggest problem is that our industry has not been shaped properly, due to which actors are unable to get loans, cars or open accounts," he said.
"At the moment, we need to encourage OTT platforms and use the existing ones to promote local content. Most of our talented directors are being hired outside of Pakistan," he said, giving the example of ZEE5. "And it's a shame we haven't given them space or empowered them through our local platforms."
Shamoon added that content like Mirzapur and Gangs of Wasseypur was appreciated in our country. "But we never once think that even if we make such content, where we would we make it available as television is not an option."
The Waar actor disclosed that he has used his new designation to launch Caravan 2021 — a festival for fresh Pakistani filmmakers from all over the world, where they can submit their short-films. "This will be a fresh market, starting from a fresh mindset. The process of the festival will train them on how to be a part of mainstream media."
All people have to do is send in their submissions for pre-selection on any of Caravan's social media pages and the film will be forwarded to the jury. Even those not selected will be acknowledged and shared for the world to see. Winners would be awarded a cash prize.
Abbasi said he does not support only popular faces to be part of the jury. "Audiences sometime do not relate, and question their skills for judging such a showcase," he said, reiterating that only those who are absolutely well-versed veterans in the craft would be suitable.
Ultimately, these films would be played by Starzplay, a local OTT platform by Cinepax in Pakistan. "This [showcase] has the potential for Pakistan to establish its value on one of its own platforms. It may take time, but at least it will be the beginning of something," he said with optimism.
It would also give young filmmakers a professional portfolio online where they could show their work. "It should have been done long ago," he said, determined to finally make a change now.