Bhutan’s popular film industry has incurred remarkable losses, as new film releases are postponed, film shootings are halted and theatres are unable to screen movies.
Tshering Gyeltshen an actor and a film producer said the pandemic has upended the film industry. He said the fact that cinema halls are very limited in the country has always been a problem since producers want to start off by releasing the films in the biggest market, but the pandemic has worsened the situation since the cinema halls are closed for very long time though more than 60 films are ready to be screened.
He said that the funding sources on the film industry is not organized like institutional lending based on the project and so the producers rely on the available funds in the market to invest in film making.
He added that before the pandemic the producers could access money through acquaintances and friends for producing movies, but since pandemic has affected everyone the source of income and savings have dropped drastically so it has become challenging for the producers to make films.
He also said that in any case the bank loans were very difficult for the film industry because of the fact that the film industry is not well organized and beside he said that there had been many defaults in the past and so banks have never been forthcoming to the film industry.
“Fortunately we had access to Kidu support otherwise everybody would have been out on the street,” said Tshering.
Tshering Gyeltshen has 3 projects on hold as some of his investor’s income has lessened and a project he has of his own requires scenes in the border and India and so he had to postpone the shooting for until the situation comes to normal. The project he is planning on would employ at least 100 Bhutanese for a year.
Producers who are relying on their income fully on the film industry said that they have been borrowing money to produce movies in the past years, but ever since pandemic has come to existence it has become a nightmare for them without any source of income.
A producer who wishes to remain anonymous said that he has borrowed money for his movie which was shot before pandemic and as the movie was ready to be screened the cinema halls got shut and he has been pressurized by the lender to pay his money back since the borrower is also having rough time due to the pandemic.
Tashi P Dorji a full time film actor said that since there is no other platform to screen the movies other than the theaters, the movies he has acted in could not be screened and so the producers are facing shortage of income and as a result the actors are not getting opportunities. He said in that way it has impacted the whole industry.
“Just like me there are other passionate actors and to leave a job you are passionate about is a very hard decision and so the pandemic has hit really hard for those making their living in film. His Majesty’s support towards the film industry has been very productive towards the film industry and we had opportunity to work in short movies during the pandemic from the budget released by His Majesty and we are very thankful for that,” said Tashi.
The Royal Office for Media also bought several older movies rights to support the film industry and screen them on BBS.
Passang Tshering who is running Lugar theater on lease said that he is blessed for receiving 50% of wavier on rent but he said that his business on the theater is totally shut because of the pandemic and since he has other modes of income he is sustainable but if he had to rely completely on the theater he would have had a hard time.
Yeshey Tshering, Chairman of the interim committee of film industry said that he and the board members approached Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering to discuss about the above matters and they were told that the theaters shall resume after the second jab is provided and the situation in the country improves.
He said that PM was kind enough to understand their grievances before the agendas were even discussed.
Yeshey said that they even discussed about the financial support in terms of soft loans for the film industry since till date no support from the financial institutions were forthcoming. He added that the films totally affected by the pandemic deserves some financial support as the producers invested huge amounts of money on the movies but the movies could not be screened and so the producers are running huge debts.
“Some producers have borrowed money through private money lenders and since the movie couldn’t be screened, producers are running up huge debts so if such genuine victims could be rescued from the debt it would be of a great help to the film industry,” said Yeshey.
He also said that PM immediately discussed the matter with the Finance Minister and they are hopeful that they will receive support from the government this time.
The film industry fears that they might lose talented and well versed actors, directors and film casts if they are not kept engaged in film making since the income source from the film industry has drastically diminished and already the few talented casts already engaged in other sectors to make their income.