How did Pakistani web series Clickbait make it to Amazon Prime?

How did Pakistani web series Clickbait make it to Amazon Prime?

Writer and co-director Rida Zahra gets real on the future of Pakistan's digital media, YouTube, and how they did it.
Updated 19 Mar, 2021

Pakistani web series Clickbait, produced by Imagine Nation Pictures, can now be streamed on Amazon Prime! While the country still awaits its first Prime Original show, this comes in as part of a new wave of Pakistani content finding its way to the world’s leading streaming platforms.

The show is only available on Amazon Prime in Japan, the US, the UK and Germany. Everyone else catch watch the show on YouTube.

The show is premised in the world of YouTube content creation, telling the story of a rivalry between two creators, Sara and Asad. Writer-director Rida Zahra stars as Sara, while Sami Rehman, who gained great fame via his association with Bekaar Films, plays Asad. The rivalry is shown to be fuelled by toxic fandom and ruthless numbers, highlighting just how ugly it can get in competition.

With the ever-increasing popularity of YouTube in Pakistan, creators on the platform have become integral agents in contemporary Pakistan’s pop culture, and their lives have become subject to much public interest and attention.

The show — written by Zahra, and directed by Zahra and Rehman — was shot in Pakistan and Thailand. It was initially released on YouTube last year, and features cameos from popular YouTubers Ali Gul Pir, Mooroo, CBA (Comics by Arsalan), Junaid Akram and Kashaan of The Idiotz.

Zahra spoke to Images about her new show, Pakistan’s developing digital media entertainment industry and internet fame.

“We've seen a lot of web series on YouTube but we've never seen one about YouTubers themselves,” Zahra said, adding, “We thought it would be cool if people could see what goes on in their [YouTube creators’] lives behind the scenes.”

Digital media platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram have gained great popularity over the years, and in many cases, successfully replaced traditional forms of media. During the pandemic, these platforms saw a general boom in their active users throughout Pakistan, with viral content originating online taking over society by storm. TikTok sensation Jannat Mirza making it to the big screen recently is reflective of just how much glamour now surrounds digital creators.

“Some people might think that YouTubers have it easy; that making a video and uploading it isn't exactly hard work. Not only do viewers get to see how hard and tirelessly these creators work for the platform, but they also get to look at how things are once they're no longer in front of the camera,” Zahra said.

She went on to discuss the toxic race to be internet’s next viral trend. “In Clickbait, you get to see how two top YouTubers battle it out on the trending page and end up becoming sworn enemies due to an unintentional feud, fuelled by the fans.”

Pakistan is no stranger to online feuds. Or offline feuds, for that matter. We had seen fan-fuelled rivalries in pop culture long before Ducky Bhai or Sham Idrees could even tell YouTube and Vimeo apart. On the internet, however, it is true that these feuds have found new fertile ground, in many ways contributing to the entertainment on offer.

“The only way 'digital fame' is different from traditional fame is how these celebrities engage with their respective fan-bases. Influencers or YouTubers, in general, are much more approachable,” explained Zahra.

She recognised the differences between the content on both platforms, arguing that the internet is more experimental, churning out fresher, newer stories. She believes that in creating youth-oriented content lies the key to unlocking Pakistani media’s potential.

“The type of content being created for TV is a little done-to-death and it would be nice to see more relatable stories, especially for the youth. More than 63% of Pakistanis are under the age of 30 and if we can create content targeting them, it would only allow us to push our boundaries even further,” she said.

Clickbait's inclusion on Amazon Prime is a major win for small-scale Pakistani creators. “A professional acquaintance of ours linked us with a distribution partner called Beats Ventures & Consulting group, who had contacts in Amazon Prime. They got in touch and proposed that they become our distribution partners and have our web series on Amazon Prime,” explained Zahra.

She casually dropped some more exciting news. “We're also currently in talks about getting our very first web series BFFs on the international streaming platform as well.”

If you’re a Pakistani creator aspiring to reach these platforms, Clickbait’s team has this advice: “Keep creating the type of content you're proud of without any loss of enthusiasm. It sounds nearly impossible but we're a good example of just that. Nothing came easy to us.”

Zahra, Rahman and their team remain optimistic about Pakistan’s developing digital media space, believing there is much to be done and achieved.

“The future is digital. Almost everyone in the world has switched to creating work for digital platforms and although Pakistan is a little behind, it will catch up soon,” she said.

The Imagine Nation Pictures story is one of commendable dedication. Summing it up, Zahra said, “Whether it was the lack of funding (we funded everything from our own pockets) or recognition, we didn't lose hope and kept pushing until we released our work for the world and hoped people would at the very least, enjoy what we put out. That's one of the main reasons me, Sami Rehman, Ghania Asad and Sidrah Jamil co-founded our company Imagine Nation Pictures. We couldn't find the type of content we wanted to see from Pakistani creators so we decided to do it ourselves."