We engaged 500 schools through IKFFI, thats 1 million+ children- Syed Sultan Ahmed, LXL Ideas

From the rationale behind organizing a film festival exclusively for kids to revealing his plans on engaging more with his audience, Syed Sultan Ahmed, the Managing Director at LXL Ideas, erstwhile Edumedia, sheds light on various aspects of organizing an event like the International Kids Film Festival of India (IKFFI). Excerpts:


Q. How did the idea to organize an event such as IKFFI strike you?

We at LXL Ideas are India’s largest producers of short films in India for children and over the past 6 or 7 years, we have traveled to over 300 international film festivals all over the world. One strange thing we noticed was that children do not attend a lot of film festivals including children’s film festivals and there are many reasons for it. The children's' festivals which attract a large number of children are the ones where the organizers spend a lot of time, money and efforts. So, the questions I asked myself were if children don’t go to film festivals then can we take the film festival to children and this was the genesis of IKFFI.

Q. What was the need that you felt to organize an event such as this?

One was to take the beauty and the concept of film festivals to as many children as possible. Second was the kind of films that are being showcased in film festivals which are called ‘festival films’ and these films are not readily available for children to watch on any mainstream platform, whether on internet or theater or through television. As an educator, I wanted every child to have the chance to watch some of these amazing works of art that are showcased in these festivals. Along with accessibility, the need for children to be exposed to the good quality cinema is important and that is what we were trying to do with IKFFI.

Q. How do you differentiate yourself from other event companies?

We are not an ‘event’ company but we also do events. We at ‘LXL Ideas’ are teaching children about life, we are trying to change the education system. The focus of our work is to enable children to live a better life and in order to do that we need to educate children and the best way to educate children is through experiences. What we are doing here in LXL Ideas is we are creating an experience through our events via our films. So, the focus of our work, the intent in our work and the innovation in our work make us stand out among anyone that works in this space. Through our events brand Krayon, we manage to create some of the best events.

Q. What has worked for your business and what has not?

What has worked for our business is the sheer focus of the domain to work with children and to add value to that. Our focus has given us deep-rooted insight into the idea of education into the realm of children which very few people have a remote idea of.

We are very happy with the positioning we have and the direction we are headed into and the growth and accolades we keep getting. Of course, a lot of projects haven’t gone as planned but the direction we are headed is right. We are still in the early years of our growth graph and things will change multiple folds.

Q. Why a film festival?

There are two reasons for that. One is because we are already a film producing company for children. The other reason is a pedagogical reason which is, for thousands of years’ education meant that you had to read and write. We gave a lot of importance to writing and reading because all knowledge resided in books and the cheapest and the easiest way of propagating knowledge was in the written words. Over the past five or ten years’ things have changed dramatically and technology has accessed us to the visual and audio medium like never before and it's only growing. In this era, it is only basic education for children to understand good quality films. It’s like film appreciation program and that’s the reason why we chose to do a film festival. It was a need, it was a part of our vision and it’s a part of our growth strategy.

Q. How was the response for IKFFI?

Fantastic response! We were expecting 100 odd schools but we ended up having 500 schools and over 1 million children watching our films. The schools became hosts and the centers where the films were screened in their auditoriums. Some schools reported that along with the neighboring schools coming together to one venue they had over 15,000 children watching in their school’s premises. So, the response was overwhelming, what was heartening was that we had 5 to 6 schools outside India that took part in the Middle East and other countries. This only opens opportunities for us for the next year to host it in as many countries as possible. And the internal goal is 20 more new countries next year.

Q. Which are the other experiences you offered in IKFFI other than films?

The long-term strategy of IKFFI is to have three parts to it, ‘Watch Cinema’ which is the film festival and ‘Learn Cinema’ which is the filmmaking and the art of filmmaking workshop, and ‘Make Cinema’ which is the filmmaking competition. Next year we will be adding the film learning workshops for children. So, this will be an entire experience around cinema.

Q. How do you plan to engage more with children, parents or educators in future?

For IKFFI this is just the beginning and we have got phenomenal growth in the region. We can have festivals in regional languages and go international. We can add a lot of art into it, be it acting, music, scriptwriting etc. which are integral to cinema and to films.

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