Civic Studios is a production house, located in Mumbai, India. Focussed on producing socially relevant content, Civic Studios is a fiction content powerhouse which was incubated at the MIT Media Lab under the Civic Entertainment research project.
Leveraging the power of storytelling, Civic Studios aims at bringing alive solution-oriented stories that throw light on various systems in the country. Through power storytelling, Civic Studio endeavors to encourage citizens to be a part of the change they wish to see in the India of tomorrow. Pocket Change by Civic studios is the production house’s all-new Hindi YouTube comedy channel that creates relatable, short form, comedy content for young Indians with civic engagement at its heart.
Anushka Shah – Founder – Civic Studios in an exclusive chat with Medianews4U.com speaks on the launch of the studios, the power of infotainment and much more
The aim of Civic Studios and what made you launch this?
Media & entertainment has been key in influencing the ways in which people think and act. For example, a 2019 study we conducted at Civic Studios titled Crime and Punishment in Indian Entertainment, found that viewers of movies like Jolly LLB 2 and shows like Criminal Justice showed greater faith in the Indian judicial system. It’s with this fundamental at our core that Civic Studios was born.
We firmly believe that one can never underestimate the power of a good story in transforming actions. A good story can attract attention to latent and ignored issues, create awareness of rights and duties, and model exemplary actions to help ‘fix-the-system’. Through our media production activities, we aim to build bridges between citizens, government and public institutions, and in turn help strengthen the democracy we live in.
Our business has two verticals –
Civic Studios, a media production start-up based in Mumbai and incubated out of the MIT Media Lab creates original content around democracy and social change that is engaging, inspiring and entertaining. The topics are focused on laws, policy, governance, and policing with the objective of strengthening our public institutions through increasing citizen awareness and engaging decision makers.
Our YouTube channel, Pocket Change, creates relatable, comedy content for young Indians with democracy at its heart. We have created videos around diverse themes, such as, obscenity laws in India, renters’ rights, reporting potholes, reviewing public toilets and women’s representation in Parliament.
What would be the vision and mission for Civic Studios?
There is more content available to audiences than ever before and in so many different forms. When it comes to films, there’s been a shift from hero driven films to story driven films and web-series. There’s been an effort to take up different stories and increase representation on screen, from LGBTQ+ relationships, stories that are led by women, inter-caste relationships, stories of specific subcultures and more. However, there are a lot of content highlighting problems, but there is not enough focus on solutions and practical actions we can actually take as citizens. This is a gap that we at Civic Studios aspire to fill. Further, portrayal of diverse themes is not enough, it’s important for these stories to be treated with sensitivity and to go beyond the general tokenistic representation on screen. Our hope for the future is to create media which makes India a better place to live. We are committed to bringing previously untold stories and good narratives to the forefront.
The studio is majorly into educating the public on various issues, how do you ensure that it reaches the right audiences?
At Civic Studios, our content creation is a multi-staged process involving Research, Message Design, Concept & Scripting, Production & Distribution, Audience Testing and finally Campaign & Advocacy. Our in–house team of researchers, writers, editors, producers and directors work together to transform ideas into short-form content for Pocket Change. For every content piece, we design our ideal target audience that we aim to cater to. Through our YouTube channel Pocket Change, we specifically target Indian youth in the age group of 18-35 across tier 1 and tier 2 cities. We create comedy sketches, police comedies, family dramedies, news shows, etc. that will empower young people and make democracy a dinner table conversation.
Beyond infotainment are you exploring other content as well?
All our content is focused on storytelling around change. We’re not strictly defining our content as infotainment however – we’re creating content across genres of comedy, drama, etc. in formats from short digital content to features films to web series.
What are the kinds of audiences who are interested in Infotainment and is it an urban phenomena or is it appreciated across tier 2/3/4 markets also? –
Stories with messages have been around since time immemorial and have existed in all forms across the world. Indian theatre and nukkadnatak, especially in villages, is deeply social message driven. So no, it is certainly not an urban experience, but the form and format has to vary and be palatable to the audience you’re talking to and the media habits they’re used to.
You say India will lead in storytelling in the next century……can you elaborate?
We’re a country which is fueled with talent and it is only lately that creative knowledge has gained its due recognition. Today content creators and storytellers have found a platform to showcase their stories and the undiscovered potential. The proliferation of OTT, smartphones and mainly data – has opened avenues for both users and storytellers to hear each other across the globe. As content gets increasingly global, we have a deep and diverse pool of stories from South to North, East to West to dip into. We have a rich history as a civilization and the story of India has been shaped by so many influences from around the world. This plethora of connected, local yet global narratives gives us an advantage and fantastic offering to take the world.