Start the presses
India’s print media boom
While the rest of the world’s quality press smarts from economic downturn and alternative free content, India’s burgeoning middle classes will breathe life into paper and ink in 2009. Good news, provided the reporting matches up to the promise. “Every day, 50,000 Indians are learning to read and write English,” says veteran journalist Sandipan Deb. “It’s an endless supply of readers.” Deb is editor-in-chief of RPG Publications, the new media arm of the Kolkata-based RPG Group, an Ru1.4trn (€22.4bn) conglomerate with interests in power, technology and retail. RPG plans to launch four magazines by the middle of 2010, starting with the release of its flagship, Talk, in December 2008.
While most current media offerings in India are poor – print is dogged by poor training, editors with a political agenda and television’s fatter paycheques and greater visibility – Deb is aiming higher, modelling Talk on the New Yorker. Reporters are mostly in their twenties and thirties, many of them lured away from high-profile spots at leading Indian outlets with the promise of fewer political retreads and more in-depth features. “We’re trying to discover the next generation, who are hungry and ready to take Indian journalism to another level,” says Deb. “We’re putting our money on the fact that India is ready for serious journalism.”
Generally, publishers are struggling to meet unprecedented demand. With 15 per cent annual growth since 2004, India’s print media is the fastest growing in the world. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study forecasts continued 14 per cent growth, leading to a $6.2bn (€4.8bn) industry by 2012. Over the same period, advertising revenue will zip along at 16 per cent, resulting in a doubling of 2007 totals. And, assuming a continued economic growth rate of just over 7 per cent, McKinsey predicts the country will have a middle class of more than 580 million by 2025 – quadrupling the country’s consumer market to $1.5trn.
Among those consumers is Deb’s ideal reader: a globally minded, college-educated 25- to 45-year-old uninterested in local politics. “I don’t know who rules Bangladesh, and I don’t give a shit,” says Deb, mimicking a potential reader’s thoughts. “But I really care about Obama; I think that will have a bigger impact on my life and it’s more interesting.” He adds: “There are huge aspiration levels out there, and part of that is being seen carrying around an English-language newspaper or magazine.”
Digital killed the videotape
A revolution in film
The launch of the reliable digital still camera changed the landscape of photography. Now, a new digital motion picture camera, simply called Red One, is revolutionising the film and television industries. The popular Red One records at resolutions higher than any HD camera on the market, it is also the only cheaper alternative to 35mm film stock that doesn’t compromise on colour or picture quality. “We were in the Grampian Mountains and had a six-minute Steadicam shot to do,” says director Jamie Rafn, fresh from shooting a Johnnie Walker commercial with Robert Carlyle. “Normally this would take 1,000 foot rolls of film, but on Steadicam that would have been practically impossible and cripplingly expensive.”
Costing just $17,500 (€14,000) and weighing a relatively light 10lbs, the Red One records straight onto flash or hard drives, cutting out bulky tapes. It has found fans in producers and high-profile filmmakers such as Peter Jackson and Steven Soderbergh, who shot most of the Ché Guevara biopic Ché on Red One. The Red One was developed by Jim Jannard, founder of eyewear company Oakley. His business partner, Ted Schilowitz, says: “My instinct is you are going to see a crop of independent films that will hit the festival circuit next year, all shot with Red.”
Once upon a time in Latin America
Argentina’s star director
“I am part of the Latin American movement. I’m proud of this idea of a group of filmmakers trying to make films by not just following market rules,” says Argentinian director Pablo Trapero, whose latest film Leonera (Lion’s Den) is his country’s entry for 2009’s foreign-language Oscar. The film – a Palme d’Or nominee – follows a young pregnant woman, Julia, played by Trapero’s wife, Martina Gusman, who is jailed for murder and must bring her baby up in prison. Trapero has injected Leonera with a raw edge by filming in one of Buenos Aires’ maximum-security prisons using real inmates as extras. “It took about a year to get filming permission. It was a strange exchange because the inmates were asking us about filmmaking and we were asking them about prison life,” he says.
The release in 1999 of Trapero’s unlikely first feature Mundo Grúa (Crane World), about a man trying to make a living as a crane operator, was a turning point in Argentinian cinema. Screened on the international festival circuit to unanimous critical acclaim, it inspired a generation of Argentinian directors to make features. Trapero has come to spearhead a movement that critics are calling the buena onda (good wave) of Latin American cinema. Work and scripts are flooding into the Matanza Cine production company, which Trapero set up in 2002.
In 2009, he shoots anew. Like many of his films that address social issues in inspired ways, Carancho (Vulture) will focus on a doctor and a lawyer caught up in the corruption of public health and medical insurance. “It’s a thriller and a film noir, but more than a film noir,” he says enigmatically. We can’t wait.
A thrilling new adventure for the humble book
After iPod, comes the e-book generation
With Amazon’s Kindle still not available outside the US and sales of Sony’s Reader respectable but not yet stratospheric, e-book reading devices are still the preserve of the early adopter. Publishers continue their wait for the technology’s iPod moment: the holy matrimony of form, function and price, sprinkled with a little fairy dust of indefinable desirability. It will happen, though, and publishers and literary agencies have been preparing the ground – thrashing out terms, speculating on market share, trying to cover their backs. What is a fair royalty for a market nobody knows anything about? Agents think at least 25 per cent, publishers are trying for 15. Of course, the big authors get what their agents ask for – and everyone agrees we will review this in two years’ time.
Why all the fuss? Digital download is potentially the biggest change in publishing since the invention of movable type, but how long will it take to become the primary means of distribution, and therefore revenue? It’s surely a generational thing, with many under the age of 20 having a less emotional attachment to books. Anyone whose life has straddled the analogue/digital divide will probably feel differently, and perhaps use e-readers only for those genres they regard as either useful to have at hand (reference books) or “disposable” (beach reads). I, for one, want one for Christmas, but whether I’ll use it for pleasure as well as business remains to be seen.
Andrew Gordon is a literary agent at David Higham
Return of depth in journalism
Finally, quality is back
Created by a veteran war photographer, a foreign correspondent and a financier nostalgic for a quality news journal, Dispatches provides the depth missing from the fast-paced sensationalism of what passes for journalism nowadays. With the feel and look of a small paperback, Gary Knight, Mort Rosenblum and investor Simba Gill launched the publication in June 2008, with the inaugural issue focusing on America. Noted travel writer Paul Theroux penned an essay on how the decline in hitchhiking at the end of the 1960s mirrored a rise in suspicion of the rest of the world. Respected author Samantha Power contributed a piece on US exceptionalism, and Muzamil Jaleel did a turn as a modern-day de Tocqueville, criss-crossing the country to report on the major issues affecting ordinary Americans.
The journal’s second issue focused on Iraq and coming issues will tackle Russia and poverty. The writing is authoritative and accessible, and the photography stunning. “We’re looking to reach people who want depth, who want to be informed,” says Knight. “I hope Dispatches will become something that people in the industry will rally around,” he adds.
McQueen and country
Artist’s big year
“I lived through it when I was seven years old, it was just one of those moments that resonated with me until I felt ready to grapple with it,” says artist Steve McQueen of Hunger, his first feature-film, depicting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands’ dying weeks. The visceral portrayal has won acclaim and the Caméra d’Or at Cannes (he’s the first British director to do so) and is set to provoke and engross the US when it opens early next year. McQueen won the Turner Prize nine years ago with his black-and-white video pieces and, while working steadily and successfully since, his star has never burnt brighter than now. He is “honoured” to be representing Britain at 2009’s Venice Biennale and he is also the official Iraq War artist, a post to which he was appointed in 2003. His Queen and Country project, a proposal to put photographs of every British soldier killed in Iraq on to stamps, has taken on a life of its own. “Seeing a conflict like this first-hand without the filter of the media was irresistible. This is neither an anti-war or a pro-war statement,” says McQueen of the project, which currently sits in limbo, with sheets of stamps shown around the country. “You can only be on stamps if you’re royal or dead. These people died for queen and country, and should be honoured correctly.” McQueen remains hopeful that the Royal Mail will finally give him a “proper dignified response” and sanction the work; monocle hopes to receive a fragment of McQueen’s deeply moving memorial on our doormat in 2009.
Welcome to Dhabiwood
The Emirate wooing the film industry
With its year-round sunshine and cloudless skies, Abu Dhabi is pitching itself as a location and production centre for the film industry, refashioning itself as Dhabiwood. Realising its oil resources cannot last forever, the Emirate is pouring petro-dollars into celluloid. “The key to the movie business is money, nothing happens unless you have money,” says Edward Borgerding, CEO of Imagenation, a key Arab-run production company in the new landscape. Borgerding’s background as a former Disney executive has led to Imagenation deals totalling $1bn (€777m) in 2008 with National Geographic (March of the Penguins), Participant Productions (The Kite Runner) and Warner Bros for whom Robert Rodriguez has just wrapped his next movie, Shorts, in Abu Dhabi.
A slate of further productions in the region will be announced in coming months, one of which is a Bollywood film headed by the pre-eminent director David Dhawan. Film service industries – limo, catering and casting companies – are also flowering, while the infrastructure centres on a new multi-million-dollar media zone, named twofour54. The tax-free media park, housing production and broadcasting facilities and a training academy, will pitch itself as a hub for international broadcaster or filmmakers. So far, the centre has attracted, among others, the BBC, CNN International and the Financial Times. Establishments such as the New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi (NYFA-AD) are paving the way for a new generation of talented local filmmakers. “Our initiative is to ensure that Emiratis and other people from the region are being educated in a world class film education,” says Michael Young, director of the NYFA.
A new frontier for Parisian art
Art centre unveiled
The north-east of Paris has long been a no-go area for many of the city’s gallery-goers, who prefer to stay in the exquisite confines of the centre. Until now. The wilds of the 19th arrondissement welcome a new contemporary art space that promises to be the most exciting addition to the capital’s cultural landscape for a very long time. The Centquatre, housed in the vast, arcade-like building that used to act as Paris’s principal funeral parlour, has been beautifully renovated and is now home to dozens of artists’ workshops, rentable studios and display spaces. “This is the poorest, the youngest, the most cosmopolitan part of Paris. Setting up a contemporary art space in an area like this was pretty brave,” admits Frédéric Fisbach, co-founder of the project with Robert Cantarello, “but art should not be just about what looks nice but about what’s necessary.”
Paris is a “museum city” reliant on its manicured centre for its artistic staples and that, Fisbach says, “hasn’t really known how to grow”. But in time, he hopes, the outskirts will become as integral to its artistic spirit as the Louvre or Pompidou. “We never claimed to be able to change everything,” he says. “But if we can change anything at all, it will be worth it.”