A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Licensed foreign comics: Who really benefits?

It is common knowledge that local movie production outfits such as Solar and Viva, have now become distributors of foreign films. They rarely produce films anymore. Overall, the local movie industry, like our local Filipino comics industry, is in the doldrums despite the recent hype of digital filmmaking. Even the inane "bold" films with ludicrous titles such as "Mapagbigay" and "Patikim" are down and out.

For this year there have been very few Filipino film productions made. Almost no local film jobs for actors, actresses, directors and film crew. No business activity. No real industry to speak of. How then do the former "mainstream" movie producers survive? By engaging in more lucrative non-film production work such as television production, post production services and the local distribution of foreign films. Let's focus on that last part.

Its evident that the local movie industry as a whole is not benefitted when these former movie production companies promote and distribute foreign films. After the Filipino moviegoer plunks in his hard-earned money to watch "The Bourne Identity" for example, the only one who is benefitted financially is the local theatre exhibitor (SM and Robinson's cinemas), the distributor/movie production company (Solar Films), the foreign movie distributor (United International Pictures) and the foreign film producer. No local actors, actresses, and directors are hired. No local film crew is engaged. No local pre and post production services are availed of. In effect, there is no local movie "industry" to speak of.

By analogy, the same thing applies when we look at local publishing outfits who license, reprint, market, and distribute foreign comicbooks from big name foreign comics publishers such as Walt Disney, DC, Marvel, and Japanese manga publishers.

Can we honestly say that many local Filipino comics writers and artists are employed on an ongoing basis whenever a several months old issue of say, Dragon Ball Z, Witch, or Justice League, is reprinted and sold in the local comics market? Of course not. Is Filipino readership and support for original Filipino comics works generated? Not by a long shot. Does the licensing money paid to foreign comics companies redound back to the printing and publication of local comics works? Are you kidding? The money goes directly to the foreign publisher! Is the profit obtained from these licensing activities poured back into the production of varied and original Filipino comics titles? Don't bother holding your breath.

No Virginia, these licensed foreign comics do NOT create, much less HELP create, a local comics industry.

Local publishers need to be persuaded and convinced of the viability of a local comics industry. And you can't do that by just concentrating on making good stories and art. Business-minded creative people need to come out of their rabbit hole. Especially those business-minded creative people who have adequate financial resources.

You can't convince a local publisher of your "artistic" worth, unless you yourself jump in, be part of the game, and actually sell a gazillion copies of your comics masterpiece. And it takes a knowledge of BUSINESS not "art", when one goes into the comics business. We need more independent, far-sighted, concerned, and business savvy PUBLISHERS not bohemian, tunnel-visioned, comics writers and artists.

Want to jumpstart a local and moribund comics industry? Concentrate on the BUSINESS of publishing for once, which involves marketing and distribution. Its what the comics industries of Japan, Hong Kong, France, and the United States do.


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