Major multinational companies generally have corporate social responsibility programmes (CSR), but these are not always easy to create among small businesses. Zakir Hussain, the company director and a film producer at Icon Art Production House in Dubai, discusses how his movie production house rolled out an initiative aimed at aspiring filmmakers.
What kind of work does Icon focus on, and how did the CSR programme come to be?
We've done a lot of work in short films and TV programmes. A lot [of people] came to us and said "we want to do this. Can you help us with the equipment, discounts and special rates?" In the past few years, filmmakers were hesitant to do a project - so we supported them [with] cameras, lights or post-editing machines.
How can your business afford to lend all this equipment?
We have the equipment in-house. We were busy with other projects, so every month or two we used to try to support someone when we could. This became part of the problem I faced: everybody who comes to us says can you do this for free? That affected my business. If we do this, I thought, let's separate this and launch an initiative to help people who have potential and want to do a project.
How did you structure the formal programme, Universal Film Makers, within Icon?
What we decided was annually we will support four short films and four documentary films with all the equipment involved - cameras, sounds, lights and post-editing machines. Also, we tied up with another production house; they're one of the best who can do the colour-grading … It's a finishing touch.
What exactly should filmmakers have ready if they want your support?
They should have a copyrighted script. All they have to do is give us a small introduction or synopsis of the project if that content has social value - because we're trying to produce projects that go to festivals. The point is to help serious people with serious scripts.
And what does your business get out of this?
What we're expecting is if any project participates in festivals - and any money gets made - it goes toward projects for up-and-coming people. The intentions are very clear: there's no commercial [benefit for us], because if I want to do a commercial venture I can do it under Icon.
You hosted a free workshop recently. How is this particular initiative playing into your efforts to help aspiring filmmakers?
We brought in screenwriters, production managers, producers, did a workshop and saw the output. We didn't charge, but the next one we'll charge a nominal fee - but they get the camera free for one day. What happened is this workshop [occurred], but they did not utilise [their learnings afterward], so it's a waste. Knowledge is good, but you must go out and shoot something and materialise what you've learned.