Cinema and the music industry | Sunday Observer
Silver lining in a dark cloud

Cinema and the music industry

5 March, 2023

This week the ‘Youth Observer’ takes a look at two of the most popular professions in Sri Lanka. The cinema and the music industry.

To understand the concerns these fields are facing during the economic crisis, we spoke to the talented Yureni Noshika, Dinara Punchihewa, Veteran Director Susiran de Silva and musicians Shehara Jayathilleke Napoleon, Dinupa Kodagoda, Hirushi Jayasena and Raini Gunatilleke.

In conversation with the professionals here’s what the ‘Youth Observer’ found out;

Q: Do you feel like your pay and your talent and experience are compatible?

Both sets of professionals from the cinema and music industries believed that there is a lack in the pay received especially due to the economic crisis.

Our actors believed that when they make a name for themselves in the industry the pay would become compatible. Yureni said she believes she makes enough to live a comfortable life now since she has been in the field for 15 years but she’s had to branch out and find more opportunities for herself.

Dinara was of the opinion that as Sri Lankan cinema is a very small industry compared to the rest of the world we cannot expect the same benefits that come with it in other parts of the world. But things are slowly improving.

Q:  What is the biggest challenge being in the cinema industry right now?

This question was directed at veteran director Susiran de Silva.

He said that while the economic crisis has put a halt on many things the biggest issue is that we need to change the system. “Currently the system is such that after a movie is done it takes many moons for the producers and directors to get the money, there is always something holding it back, in the film company in the theatre.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in the music industry right now?

The musicians believed that the music industry was severely affected. Raini told us that she initially planned to start a cosmetic line with one of the leading brands in Sri Lanka. “We were all set up and good to go but unfortunately COVID got in the way. Therefore, during COVID I realized that my cosmetics plan would go to waste if I started and had to start some other business in a new direction.”

Hirushi added to this sentiment saying, “We had a time when an artist’s success was judged based on ticket sales and cd sales. Now everything is screened so times change constantly and the music industry is affected by it all, we simply have to be resilient. As artists there has been a lot of adapting that was required to be done. we have had to increase visibility in social media and find ways to remain socially relevant.”

Q: Have you had to say yes to projects/movies that you usually wouldn’t have said yes to during this time, because you needed money?

Our actors exclaimed that they have been fortunate to have been presented with many promising opportunities and that they may have had to take on a job in order to maintain a body of work. “I’ve been fortunate to have been offered quite a few opportunities even during the difficult times. I’m very selective with the projects I choose and thankfully haven’t had to agree to anything that I don’t like,” said Dinara.

Q: How do you think the movie industry was affected by COVID and the subsequent economic crisis?

Our actors said that the industry has had a couple of really bad years. Dinara said, “We were just recovering from the Easter attacks, when COVID struck. Cinemas closed and the industry came to a near standstill. Even after everything else had started to recover, it took a little longer for people to feel comfortable enough to visit cinemas again and then the economic crisis didn’t help either. Things are definitely getting better now”.

“But this year is one of the best years Sri Lankan Cinema has seen. For the first time in Sri Lanka international movies haven’t made enough money because of a Sri Lankan film, ‘gajaman’”. I am so proud of our industry and I think we are slowly but surely improving”, added Yureni.

Q: How has the music industry been affected by COVID and how have you had to adapt to those changes?

Shehara said, “I’d be lying if I said ‘oh the industry suffered but we made it through with no scratches’. Because we all lost something, be it gigs, momentum, opportunities and even people. These all resulted in major shifts musically and in life.

“The mentality that was required in order to move forward was hard to acquire thanks to back to back obstacles but, it was necessary so today, for those who are willing to go the distance, the industry is bouncing back and we’re working our hardest to make things work, as we will always do!

“Personally, I feel blessed in a way to live a certain lifestyle as a mom who relies on online communication and phone calls to get things done in most cases, which was how I was able to film and release a music video with the support of amazing people including ZimZimY who made a music video from a totally different continent for us,” she said.

Dinupa said the Covid pandemic changed the climate of entertainment in Sri Lanka as we are in a country that considered art only as a form of entertainment. so everything came to a halt for a while so we all struggled. She added, “Something I have noticed is that whatever happens the music industry bouncers back, we see concerts happening, gigs happening however it is a challenging time for people in the industry who are working towards a positive social influence . I am facing this issue right now.

“There is also an eternal financial struggle, especially if you are picky about the work you do and projects you take on. I have tried my best to work hard and improve creative input from my part. I try to work on live performances and shows together with my band ‘Theevra’. I believe we are responsible for where we are as a nation right now and it is up to us to pull ourselves out of it,” she said.

Q: How do you think digital content creation has affected the Cinema Industry?

Yureni answered this question and said, it has affected a great deal. I personally haven’t been affected by it too much because my work hasn’t been entirely content based. But a lot of brands came into digital branding and this has been a challenge to us. But if a brand wants to specifically work with you they will come to you.

Q:  Do you think a Sri Lankan actor can find work as an actor overseas?

“Our actors believed that if necessary there are plenty of opportunities to find work. “It is a lot of work but if there’s a will, there’s a way! It is an option for us. There are many platforms to find work and many opportunities. I don’t personally have an idea to migrate right now but if there is work abroad I am open to options,” Yureni said.

Q: Do you think there is a light at the end of the tunnel?

We directed this question to our professionals in the music industry and Shehara said, “As long as we keep believing in ourselves and keep working towards achieving what we want to do, knowing in our core WHAT we really want, any obstacle becomes just another hurdle”

Dinupa believed that she is someone who always lives with hope but it is not possible to reach this light unless you walk through the tunnel. “But the thing is you have to work for it, want to get out of it and then I think we will be able to come out of this. Personally I believe that art can cause social change for the better or for worse and if we use it wisely it can go far.”

Hirushi was of the opinion that light is where we are and it is up to us to find ways to make things work. “We have a lot of opportunities now, especially with the digital platforms available for us right now. I think it is important to build connections with people and work on your creative voice,” she added.

Raini said that everything happens for a reason. “There was no period in time when people on this earth actually lived a completely happy, calm and fulfilled life. I personally don’t think Earth is a place for peace. We are here temporarily, just another training session before we move on to the next life,” she said.

Q: Do you have a message for the young generation, to cope with these tough times?

The actors believed that the younger generation of actors should not give up. Dinara said, “There are dreamers and then there are dreamers who make their dreams come true. Choose the latter. Use your free time to study your craft and develop yourself. Get involved with as many projects and opportunities as possible.

“Every new experience is a learning opportunity. There are so many free courses and videos online and this will definitely help with your future, because if you’re at the right place at the right time, you have to be ready and with a bit of luck, the sky’s the limit,” she said.

Yureni added, “While there are many things to say. You have to be very practical about the industry. When you are talented you will find opportunities, so trust the process, come with an open mind,have immense patience and network whenever you can and you will be fine.” The professionals in the music industry also believed that working hard and having hope is the way to go. Shehara said, “Just do what you love, work hard and have fun achieving your goals with supportive people around you”.

Dinupa said that the art industry is extremely serious and important to a nation but I think these marketing strategies used to gain popularity should be avoided and simply focused on working towards causing a positive social change with your art.

Raini said, “We have to know our self worth, believe in ourselves and help others. “Unfortunately we have created this ourselves “money” and now we cannot survive without it. so we have to save up! And use it wisely and put it towards growth.”