Festival director Christina Marouda says IFFLA's explosive growth has largely been triggered by the collaboration between her and entertainment attorney Arnold Peter, IFFLA's general counsel. Her take: "Through his business acumen and countless entertainment industry contacts, Arnold has allowed us to reach to the top rungs of the Hollywood business community." Arnold's take: "What I lack in creativity skills is well balanced by Christina's understanding of both the art and business of filmmaking."
As a teenager on the Greek island of Crete, Christina Marouda's childhood fascination with Indian cinema led to the formation of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles eight years ago. It stands today as one of the most prominent showcase of Indian cinema in the world, a centre of creative collaboration between Bollywood and Hollywood, and a portal for Indian and American business executives in the entertainment business.
Christina Marouda, an MBA graduate from California State University, Long Beach with a BA in International Relations from Athens University of Economics, launched her career in the entertainment industry working in the marketing department of Lion's Gate Entertainment, and in programming of the American Film Institute's AFI FEST. Living and working in the entertainment capital of the world, Marouda decided that Hollywood needed a forum that celebrated the monumental developments which were then occurring in the Indian entertainment industry.
Arnold Peter, despite his name, has roots in Goa, India, but grew up in the United States. He followed a fairly typical path for rising stars in the legal profession. He worked for a Federal judge, a highly coveted position, and then was hired by a Wall Street firm in New York. Eventually, Peter was recruited by Universal Studios, one of the world's top entertainment companies.
When the two met, Peter was handling projects for Indian companies operating in the US and US-based companies operating in India. The idea of reconnecting with his cultural roots intrigued him. The resulting collaboration between Christina and Arnold propelled IFFLA into the big league, providing a highly visible and prominent celebration of Indian and Indian-themed content.
"What we have done is to construct a synergy between Bollywood and Hollywood through several innovative and creative programs," Marouda clarifies. "We saw the lack of a communication pathway between the Indian filmmakers and Hollywood's business executives‚ and paved the way for the two to meet." IFFLA's several constructive and positive initiatives, include:
The IFFLA Industry Leadership Award, now the leading forum in which to recognize the tremendous contributions of business executives who have helped shape and continue to define the business structures that have made the Indian entertainment industry so vibrant and profitable. Recipients of this prestigious award, who travel at their own expense to Hollywood to receive the honor, include the head of PricewaterhouseCooper's Indian Entertainment & Media Practice, the heads of Disney and Warner Brothers International and Amit Khanna, the Chairman of Reliance Big Entertainment, the media arm of the $75 billion Ambani Group that recently completed its purchase of Dreamworks.
Educational Seminars held at Creative Artist Agency, the world's largest and most successful talent agency. These sold-out events provide insightful discussions with executives from Disney, Fox, Hyde Park Entertainment, Film Independent, and ITVS, all of whom have produced or are in production for Indian-themed films for the international market with an Indian cast. Last year, an honoured invitee was Nina Lath Gupta, Managing director of India's National Film Development Corporation. IFFLA prides itself on featuring the leading experts based on their prominence and not on the basis of a financial contribution.
IFFLA partnered with Korn Ferry International, the world's largest executive search firm, to release the list of the 25 Most Influential US-based South Asian Business Executives in Entertainment and Media.
Recently, IFFLA announced the IFFLA Film Fund, a new program that seeks to help emerging filmmakers realize their feature-length narrative and non-narrative film projects that reflect universal themes inherent within Indian culture. The IFFLA Film Fund will support projects in all phases of the filmmaking process including development, post-production and distribution. A development grant of $10,000 is the first step of the IFFLA Film Fund, a program which is transforming the organization into an institution. If this exciting announcement is any indication, IFFLA 2010 will be another great year with cutting-edge developments, both Marouda and Peter predict.
Christina Marouda and Arnold Peter will be attending 2009 IFFI-Goa on extending yet another India-based program and creating IFFLA inroads for mutual benefit.