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Kenneth P. Silverman

President | 11 Oct 2005

I must admit candidly that my greater involvement in animation was born out of what was first my couple of decades in the entertainment industry, and secondly, my love affair with India. I had not been specifically in the animation industry. It was India first and animation second. I did have experience with animation over the years through my involvement with various motion picture companies, but I never considered myself in the an industry until I got involved with India.

Kenneth P. Silverman, founder and president of Interactive Teamworks, is a well-known media strategist and entrepreneur with over 30 years’ experience in the front ranks of the US entertainment and communications fields. He has participated in the acquisition, production, and distribution of content for motion picture theaters, schools and hospitals, commercial and public broadcasting, cable and pay-television, home video, satellites, interactive media, and the Internet. Among other diverse industry achievements, Silverman wrote the start-up business plan for Black Entertainment Television, which was acquired by Viacom in 2000 for $3.1 billion.

In conversation with Exchange4media’s Saurabh Niranjan Turakhia, Silverman gives a broad overview on the animation industry, the challenges and opportunities for the segment as well as the animation industry in India.

Q. What was your first exposure to animation? What excited you about animation?

I must admit candidly that my greater involvement in animation was born out of what was first my couple of decades in the entertainment industry, and secondly, my love affair with India. I had not been specifically in the animation industry. It was India first and animation second. I did have experience with animation over the years through my involvement with various motion picture companies, but I never considered myself in the an industry until I got involved with India.

Q. What is the scope for Indian animation in the US?

Currently, in its simplest terms, it is first and foremost all about ‘Work for hire’ – more directly, it is in the area of television series. Secondly, it is direct to video and DVD titles. Of course, the future would be theatrical motion pictures. Pentamedia did release ‘Sindbad’ and two other Indian-made CGI animated features in the US. However, they could not be called successful. The market is yet to be established for theatrical releases.

Through ‘Work for hire’ for television, there can be co-produced television series. For example, an American company will create the project – script, characters and design characters and put some of the fun – looking to Indian animation companies for some of its work in exchange for directly investing capital into the project. As a result, ‘Work for hire’ from US has become very competitive because many Indian animation companies are willing and eager to put up work in order to win projects. That same model will happen with Direct-to-Video. Many Indian animation studios are becoming more aggressive in terms of using capital to gain a foothold in American markets. Tata Elexis is one of them.

Q. Which are the areas where animation plays a very important role?

Animation in general is a major element of television programming. The scenario has been dominated by 2D animation in the past, but gradually is evolving into 3D animation and flash animation for television. Companies like Disney, Dream Works, Fox and Blue Sky, etc, have all been very successful with theatrical promotion pictures. I will single out CGI because it is a major component of medical and scientific teaching – in industrial areas, training films, demonstrations, etc. The reason is that it is very user friendly and makes some of the most difficult circumstances easier. For instance, before my son’s tonsils were to be removed, the doctor showed animated versions of how the whole thing would be executed – that removed his fear.

Q. What are the factors determining growth of animation globally?

Following are the crucial factors determining growth of animation, not necessarily in order:

- Cost effectiveness

- Creativity

- Expanding one’s imagination

However, one should use animation to do things not humanly possible. The other thing – besides what can be done using computers and all kinds of dazzling images, for it to succeed is a superbly written script – you can just make pretty pictures without humorous, engaging, interesting stories. So, ideally it should be a mixture of both content and technology.

Q. Name some global organisations set up to boost animation in particular along with the steps and initiatives taken by them.

In India there is Animation Producers Association of India, headed by Bhuvan Lal. In the US, Kid Screen is the one that first name that comes to mind. It is an annual conference assembled by publishers of the Kid Screen magazine, which is about to enter its fifth year.

Q. Analyse India as a market for animation in future.

What’s exciting about India is that it is just starting out. When I first came to India, it was very hard to find animation. The proliferation of satellite channels saw a lot of animation on television. There are successful television channels predominantly into animation. Someone will create Indian theme based animation movie capturing a global audience. Content wise also India will make its mark, but it will have to be very cognizant of the difference in Western audience. A balance should be struck.

Q. What is the contribution of technology to animation?

Animation has been reinvented through the use of technology. The ability to now create anything that the mind can imagine using computers in a cost efficient way has redefined the medium.

Q. What is it about programming that fascinates you?

I think it is the ability to communicate ideas and values to millions of people. It’s a remarkable opportunity and it’s a remarkable responsibility. I personally got attracted to films as a child, fortunate enough to have a television set in my room. So, I used to watch old movies showing values and attributes like caring about people on a global scale. So, programming to me means the television. Having a screen in people’s homes and the ability to talk to them on a one-to-one basis means so many relationships at the same time.

Q. What are some of the applications that you have developed?

In a broader sense, I developed a concept some years ago. I worked on a special interest cable television network to serve people aged 50 and above, which was later adopted by Black Entertainment Television (BET). It is the largest network in the world serving black people. It was acquired by Viacom four years ago for $3 billion. Today, BET reaches more than 100 million homes. It concentrates on programmes related to entertainment, information, lifestyles, etc, that meet the tastes of a specific audience.

Q. How do you foresee the future for programming and animation?

I think programming in general will be available everywhere from cellphones to computers, in short, across all media. It will also be customised. Thus, there will be several billion networks. My network is different than yours and so on. It will be a situation very different from the one prevailing in India many years ago when Doordarshan decided what people should watch. In the future, people will pick their own options.

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