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Film Locations: Our Most Neglected Assets

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We, the Government

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

Most of our 54 half-hour TV episodes, and many of the others for the International Airports Authority of India and the Government of Kerala, were created with a crew from Chennai. We learnt a proverb from them. Its gist is that the baby who cries loudest gets most of the milk! The Garhwal Post has written about the subject of this column in at least two editorials and we have also dealt with it. Now, however, a VIP has joined us. The Prime Minister, when promising a new era of development to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, said he would encourage our great movie industry to shoot in J&K & L. And so shouldn’t we, in Uttarakhand, learn from his initiative? Uttarakhand has many advantages over its competitors. We are a peaceful state. Our capital has easy access by air, rail and road. Thanks to our Chardham Yatras, the remotest regions of our mountains are visitor friendly. Between Garhwal and Kumaon, we offer an unmatched range of locations from deep river valleys, through snow-clad peaks, wildlife sanctuaries, lakes, high meadows, picturesque villages, Raj-era hill-stations to famous temples, mystic shrines, gurdwaras, churches, ancient pilgrimages and little-known but colourful festivals. Plus, Uttarakhandis are a very good-looking people. Also, Dehradun District is the education hub of India so script writers have access to more knowledge and more experts in more fields in a smaller area than anywhere else in the world. Yes, that includes Silicon Valley! If you don’t believe us, take a little time off and think of it. We have the FRI, the Wildlife Institute of India, the LBSNAA, the ONGC, the Survey of India, etc, etc and etc. Then there are our amazing range of schools, colleges and professional Institutes. The two things that have stopped us from becoming a major shooting hub of the film industry are our lack of creativity and the astounding timidity of our leaders to think out of the box! Here, then, is a way for our timorous netas and babus to use our Greatest Asset without getting their delicate fingers wet. Start by creating a simple Film Policy to attract film and TV Producers. This Policy, written on not more than two pages, should welcome Producers to shoot in our beautiful state but that we will not permit Disaster Movies to be set here: so no movies based on Earthquakes, Landslides, Forest-fires, Floods or Epidemics. But, apart from that it is for the Producer’s local agents to handle local problems. That’s what they are paid to do and so we shall refer to them as Film Facilitators and give them Photo Identity Cards so that they can easily contact local authorities. We shall not hold them responsible for the content of the movie, TV episode or commercial: that is the domain of the Producer. Facilitators can be held accountable for location shots as they appear in the final product. How they discharge this obligation, or safeguard their interests, is for them to work out with their Producers. The state should be an enabler, not a participant, because it has no business to be in business. Our fellow citizens are greatly influenced by the moving image. Locations featured in films and TV draw more potential tourists that any other medium. But quite apart from boosting tourism development and revenues and the employment of local unskilled labour, Film Facilitation can become a major skill developer. Location shooting generates the employment of Transporters, Caterers, Guides, Para-medics and Security Staff to start with. Later it can create a demand for more specialised equipment like generators, lights and drones to scout for further locations. The bottom line, however is that if we want to tap the vast resources of our Film and TV industry, we must keep the process as simple as possible. If we do, it will pump money into our economy, spur development, give a major boost to the learning of new skills, cause the return of our good-looking and talented young people and revitalise our dying villages. So, netaji, climb out of you protective cocoon and hear the voice of We, the Government: make it worthwhile for Movie and TV Producers to shoot in our wonderful locations.

Hugh and Colleen Gantzer (Text above, excluding Titles and Authorship, exactly 700 words)