KidzCinema: How this project of passion born out of the pandemic got noticed in one-third of the world

By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur. 

Praveen Nagda is the Festival Director for KidzCinema and we’ve known each other through his work at the Peregrine PR agency in India. He joined me in an episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur and shared how he’s helping other entrepreneurs, specifically filmmaker entrepreneurs, get noticed. 

Image from LinkedIn

How KidzCinema was born

The COVID-19 pandemic presented one good opportunity to Praveen in 2020. 

The whole world was locked down, kids were sitting at home, families were living in closed spaces, and people were switching on to online media consumption like they never did before. At the same time, kids were also suffering emotionally because they’ve always been used to being in playgrounds, being with friends — moving out of their homes. 

He has a kid of his own who was then eight years old when COVID hit. He saw him so restricted and feeling claustrophobic at home because his kid would always be out with his friends five to seven hours a day. 

This is the same thing that’s happening around the world. Many of his friends — whether they’re in America, India, or Europe — have the same experience. 

That was one angle. The second was, COVID also provided a lot of challenges in terms of the traditional businesses that people were doing. It prompted people to be constantly exploring new opportunities and avenues. 

Praveen thought about doing something that is an act of passion but can also become a long-term mission for him, personally; at the same time, something that can also bring in some kind of additional business opportunities. 

Hence, he and his team planned to create KidzCinema, an online film festival for children.

Image from KidzCinema’s website

A Film Fest for Kids

Film festivals are there but there aren’t too many kids’ film festivals. India has a few, Europe has a lot. But most countries will only have one or two of them. 

According to Praveen, kids need a wholesome, healthy form of entertainment wherein they can learn a lot of things and get values education and life lessons. All these things are very important. However, there aren’t so many children’s films that are made compared to films that are made for the older demographics. There’s Hollywood and Bollywood, but for children, we don’t have so many films.

The European market is pretty much evolved — there are a lot of film festivals for children that have been running for 30 to 40 years now — and it still evolves. India’s market is still evolving. They have a few good film festivals for children, but not many of them. 

Doing one online is an opportunity wherein one could earn cash. This is why he decided to create one around kids. 

Film festivals also give a lot of opportunities to filmmakers to exhibit their work theatrically. But it’s a big expense. Many people don’t even have the stability so they reach out to debtors. As exhibiting is a humongous task, festivals provide this chance for them to showcase their work at a very minimal, or even free, cost.

Image from Unsplash

In the case of KidzCinema, he and his team don’t charge any entry fees from filmmakers. They let them submit their films. But they only accept films that are recently made, those that were created within one year’s time, coinciding with the year of the festival’s edition. 

An Overwhelming Response

For their first edition, which took place in 2020, they approached UNESCO. They helped them connect with people and reach out to many constituents. They also connected with many embassies in India, which helped extend their outreach. 

It’s interesting to note that for the first-ever KidzCinema, they received about 1,100 films that came from 87 countries. About one-third of the world participated. In 2021, the second edition had more than 1,500 films from over 90 countries. 

For Praveen, it’s overwhelming to see how one-third of the world is actually coming together and joining this cause. There were films that came even from filmmakers living in remote areas such as small countries in Africa and very small islands from different places. There were a number of films from Europe and lots from Iran. 

While there were countries that have sanctions and economic conditions that don’t allow this kind of culture (but is still there to grow), they still got huge participation.

For the second edition, they also partnered with the International Centre of Films for Children and Young People (CIFEJ), which is one of the largest organisations of filmmakers who are making content for children. It has members from around 45 countries — hundreds of established filmmakers who have made films, documentaries, dramas, and animations for children. 

KidzCinema’s Film Categories

KidzCinema has categories for live-action and animation films. They also have one unique category for films made by children. Under it are two sub-categories: one for films made by 6 to 13-year-olds; another, by 14 to 21-year-olds. 

The festival got hundreds of people from all over the world participating. And you can see an amazing amount of creativity there — in small and large stories, beautiful animations, and other very interesting creative work from children.

Image from Unsplash

Praveen considers film as a universal medium. It can bind people. It doesn’t even require audio. You can see kids watching films without audio and they’ll understand what’s happening there. It’s a really powerful tool of communication; a pretty overwhelming experience for people to really connect the whole world together. 

Learnings from the First Edition

KidzCinema’s first edition was a lot of learning for Praveen. 

It was the beginning of a task that he didn’t know how to unfold. Because when they started the festival, they didn’t really know how many entries they’ll get and how many participants there will be.

They started and finished the first edition within about 52 days. Every day, they’d get 50 entries from different countries. It was overwhelming that they had to constantly add more people at the time of the process of their curation because they have to make sure that they see each film submitted. 

There was a 10-full-member curation team to see each film, evaluate it on certain parameters, and get it for the next process of the selection committee. The committee is composed of well-known and experienced filmmakers. 

From there, the next step would be for jury members. Some of the members were from Bollywood and some senior bureaucrats. They have a mix of some judges, who will then award the best films across different categories.

Evolving in the Second Edition

For the second edition, they upgraded a couple of parameters in terms of the whole experience of the festival. 

According to Praveen, they had to run the first edition of KidzCinema very fast so they used YouTube and other platforms to showcase the film for the three-day festival. In the succeeding year, they increased the duration of the festival. The main festival activities ran from three to seven days; the exhibition, from three to 30 days. 

If you want to see all 40 to 45 films that are part of the official selection, you can see them very comfortably on the couch, bedroom, dining room, or wherever you want to. You can even watch it in your garden using your mobile phone. 

Image from Unsplash

They tied up with a US-based platform called MovieSaints, which delivers films via the internet. You can register, log in, and watch the film just like you’d watch them in the theater. You can choose the films that you want. There are synopses and trailers of the films available. So you can actually have a bit of experience first, then watch the whole film. And there’s also a bit of revenue generation from there. 

Though it’s a project of passion, it still requires a certain amount of investment — both in terms of time and money — because there are things that you have to do. The exhibition itself is expensive. How do you show the films? How do you get people from across the world to watch the films? 

In festivals, on one hand, you also support the filmmakers. You give them a platform to express their creativity. There are also other things for kids because it’s eventually a kids’ event. In the kids’ event, Praveen and his team did a lot of workshops about filmmaking, scriptwriting, and cinematography among others.

One of the interesting workshops was conducted by Ritesh Taksande and he had created a specific course called mobile filmmaking — how you can use your mobile phone to make films. Youngsters loved it because, nowadays, everybody has mobile phones. 

There are also nice apps out there and, interestingly, these apps allow you to do good work akin to professional editing. These are tools that allow you to edit films, put overlays, and give special effects without any kind of watermark or any other distraction. You can really put together a nice story. 

Last year, they also had one more very interesting concept. Typically, what happens is that adults make films for children and it’s also the adults that judge them. This time around, they created a specific child jury of five kids and they asked them to review two short-film categories. 

In the live-action category, they have long and short films (the former is full 30 to 90-minute long; the latter is less than 30 minutes). They also have long and short animation films. As mentioned, they also have categories for films made by kids. They got the child jury to judge the short films in the animation and live-action categories. They all discussed and evaluated, and the organisers also had a proper jury meeting with them. 

For the second edition, there were child jury awards and regular jury awards. The regular jury judged all the categories. The child jury, which judged the two aforementioned categories, was a good mix comprising a celebrated child artist, a classical dancer, a young author, a poet, and a theatre person. They had creatively inclined children to come together, form a jury, watch content made by adults for children, and give film awards. 

It was quite an interesting exercise in terms of involving children and bringing them together. It’s a wholesome package that they have created for children.

Promoting the Festival

KidzCinema is a Herculean effort to curate so much content from around the world. But how did they get people to come and watch?

Image from Unsplash

Praveen shared that the primary promotions were done through social media. They have a lot of active social media pages on Instagram and Facebook among others. They also involved the filmmakers to create the buzz within their markets and get people to watch the films.

He pointed out that their promotions were mainly on social media because it’s the best way to reach out to people. But you can also put up billboards and other physical promotional things. 

MovieSaints also provided them with a good platform to exhibit anywhere in the world. In terms of the audience figures, though he couldn’t disclose the actual numbers, he revealed that they had hundreds and thousands — good numbers — of audiences who logged in.

Making it Financially Sustainable

From an entrepreneurial perspective, KidzCinema needs to generate enough money to at least fund itself and be sustainable in the future.

Praveen considers the festivals like it as large-scale events that require a huge investment. However, COVID and the online environment gave them an opportunity to create something like this at a very minimal cost in terms of financial expenses on the organisers’ side. In their first edition, they got a bank to partner with them (the bank has a product for kids). 

As you go ahead producing an event like KidzCinema, you can also scale things up in different ways — one of which is to involve a lot of schools and create certain programmes for them. 

In those programmes, you can teach children various aspects of filmmaking and show them other films. You can also have a film director come in and talk about his experience. These kinds of things will mean revenue. Though it’s not something that’s immediate, good revenues will come in their own time. 

What the Future Holds for KidzCinema

Praveen considers KidzCinema as a long-term mission for him, even a lifetime one. He needs to keep building this activity. And as it goes on, he sees KidzCinema being brought to the ground. So you will see on-ground and online both coming together, with a pretty good audience, at that point in time. 

This project of passion started with COVID. In the first year, their theme was “Togetherness in Distancing Times.” This time, as we’re still going through COVID, their theme was “Stories of Positivity.” When we come out of this pandemic, he plans to create some theme about it — how we survived the pandemic and what lies ahead in the future.

Image from KidzCinema’s website

They’ll also try to reach out to more partners such as banks and other corporate partners that would want to be a part of the journey. There are brands that want to catch their audiences young and they can possibly be good partners that can be engaged for the more intensive activities. 

He also shared that they will always keep KidzCinema global. As he said, the festival has global participation, both in terms of filmmakers and judges. The entire team that’s involved also comes from all over the world. 

In a couple of years, they also hope to have a firm footing within local markets and make it a travelling festival. They might do the festival in some other country every year. And this is when they’d require some support from cross-country governments and other related things. 

Praveen believes that all this will happen when the time is right. He’s in no hurry. He believes in taking baby steps, then bigger steps, then leaps. 

To get hold of Praveen Nagda, Festival Director of KidzCinema, you can reach out to him via his email (praveen@peregrinepr.in or praveennagda@gmail.com) and the festival’s website and social media (Instagram and Facebook) accounts.

This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.

Cover image by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.

The post KidzCinema: How this project of passion born out of the pandemic got noticed in one-third of the world appeared first on EASTWEST Public Relations.

About Jim James

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.

Leave a Reply