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Lennep Media planning to push kids edutainment content in India

MUMBAI: Lennep Media, a Netherlands-based production company that creates and distributes edutainment content for children and their families, is looking to make a mark in India. Its aim is to push children’s content that both entertains and educates.

The company has already made a start with the recently concluded first edition of the Lennep Kids’ Film Fest (LKFF). The company tied up with Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF), Cinekid Amsterdam and the Consulate of the Netherlands, Mumbai for the initiative.

Dutch documentary, live action and animation shorts were screened. The festival reached 12,000 students in 15 schools across Mumbai. The festival featured film screenings and post-screening discussions by educators to encourage children to watch, discuss and learn from content.

Mr. Gerard Van LennepBacked by entertainment entrepreneur Gerard Lennep, the company plans to take the film festival to different Indian cities such as New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.

“We are grateful to the Mumbai International Film Festival for giving us this opportunity. We are looking at like-minded partners to create edutainment content for kids. The partners could be schools, television channels and other organisations. We will reach out to different schools through the festival which we plan to organise in different cities.

“Outside the festival, we will look at tying up with schools and conducting workshops for content creation. We would look to create a format that the schools could implement. We would look at bringing down Dutch talent like directors and actors who have expressed interest in coming down to India and making local edutainment content in conjunction with schools maybe for free as they know how important it is,” said Lennep.

At the film festival, children with the help of professionals produced a short film. On the television side, the aim is to create educational children’s content based on adventure. “This way, children get interested and also become familiar with things like washing your hands, be nice to one’s parents and other educational things that exist below the surface. In the adventure films, you would see the main characters adhere to these healthy habits. We are open to suggestions of working with television channels. Our focus is not on animation but on live action.”

The company has started discussions with channels like Pogo, Nickelodeon, Zee and Discovery. “We have found out what they are looking for. The channels are looking for entertaining content. We look to offer content that blends education with entertainment but the space for this type of content on television is limited in India due to economic reasons. We have also spoken to Doordarshan but things have moved slowly. So, we are looking at other ways as well of having edutainment content directly reach out to kids. The film festival is one way to do that. We are looking at India from a long-term point of view.”

The idea of the film festival originated after the company was disappointed with the mismatch between what it offers and what the television channels are looking for.

“Creating edutainment content requires time and investment. The challenge is that the audiences initially might not be huge. Advertisers chase audiences. It is strange that India has a large children’s population but there are no educational shows for them. School television could be used in India. It does not exist here but does abroad.

“We felt that if it was not feasible to create new programmes on television, then perhaps a festival would be a good way to reach out to kids. The Mumbai festival was our pilot project and it was great to try a new format. We are evaluating this first project and then will plan the way forward.”

The company roped in actor Anupam Kher and Amol Gupte for the festival.

“Mumbai is the entertainment capital of India. The country makes more movies than anywhere else in the world. If kids get into this profession at an early age, then they should get jobs later on as many opportunities would be there. We would like to play a role in this through working with schools on productions for edutainment content. Kids could play a role in working alongside the crew in creating this content and would get a certificate for it. Kids can thus see how a production is done and they would have learned something.”

The shows that the company hopes to make for television are similar to what CBeebies offers. “We are also looking to distribute foreign children’s formats in India. This is another way to create a market and promote new ideas. Channels are interested but no sales have happened yet. We are confident that it will happen, though. The challenge I don’t think is the economic slowdown. It is about economics and that channels are old fashioned. They like things as they are. Anything new faces resistance. There are different kinds of educational content for children that are made abroad but are not present in India. School television is one.

“Children’s news is another where you have news bulletins specially prepared for children. This is done in Europe and other parts of the world. We are looking at ways to bring children’s news to India. At the same time, edutainment content is gradually getting more interest from Indian kids channels.”

In terms of creating content for children, he adds that it is important not to underestimate the audience.”A content producer should focus on not being childish. Also, one of the good things about being in India is that everybody speaks English which is not the case in a country like China.”

Creating content for the digital space is another area that the company is examining. However, here, too, the economics is not in place just yet. “We spoke to a mobile service provider for this. But there are issues that need to be resolved. One of them is that there are not enough mobile users who have the kinds of phones needed to be able to offer the kind of content that we want to provide,” said Lennep.