KARACHI: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) hosted the first day of FocusPK – Pakistan’s first production and entertainment conference on Saturday. Twelve sessions were held. The event was inaugurated by a breakfast, sponsored by Lipton, where Atiqa Odho addressed the audience on the purpose of FocusPK. Unilever Pakistan Chairperson Shazia Syed, appreciated the efforts put into the two-day conference and promised that, like always, Unilever would support creative initiatives to build a better Pakistan. Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb, said that the government will continue supporting the entertainment industry in the future and is looking forward to what lies ahead. FPCCI Senior Vice President Khalid Tawab, congratulated Atiqa Odho and stated that this is the first year of Focus and many more will follow. Anwar Maqsood was presented an award on the behalf of FPCCI and FocusPK for his undying passion dedicated to the industry. During his speech he mentioned the launch of his wife, Imrana Maqsood’s new book. The breakfast ended by a musical performance by Sachal Orchestra. The first three sessions were Scriptwriting/storytelling, Theatre and The Rating Game. Scriptwriting/storytelling featured a panel of speakers that included Misbah Khalid, Vasay Chaudhry, Hasina Moin, Bushra Ansari, Iram Parveen Bilal and Kamal Khan who spoke about the essence of a good script in making a successful film or TV series. Vasay Chaudhry emphasised the issue of royalties for writers as being the most discouraging factor of it all in producing exceptional quality scripts. The writer is the backbone of a good film and channels need to understand that new ideas and scripts with newer ideologies need to be communicated to the audience and given a chance to air regardless of ratings. “Ratings tell scriptwriters what kind of stories are a hit. We don’t want women crying or being beaten but our ratings show the audience likes that, sadly. We are yet to challenge and overcome that,” said Misbah Khalid. In the theatre session, the speakers were Yasra Rizvi, Zain Ahmed, Sheema Kirmani, Nida Butt, Salman Shahid, Jamal Shah and the moderator was Khalid Anum. One of the issues discussed was the monetary issue in theatre. Salman Shahid spoke about hall prices of places like Arts Council increasing, ticket prices need to be kept higher and eventually that leads to the word reaching fewer members of the audience. Sheema Kirmani said, “Audience is there, people are there, when you give them good stuff, they love it. So you do it in schools, playgrounds, parks and compounds and you keep doing it till people keep coming.” The speakers agreed that it was because of ratings that the content which goes out is usually under the same genre, which is monotonous and lacks diversity. Fouad Hussain commented that the reason why content is generated according to ratings is because, “When the rating goes up, the producer gets more money but if the ratings fall, the producer loses money.” However, the panel agreed that innovation comes out of swimming against the tide and curating content that is sometimes risky. The second three sessions were Parallel Cinema vs Commercial Cinema, Censorship Policies and Marketing of an Idea. For the debate between Parallel Cinema vs Commercial Cinema, a diverse panel was seated that included Salman Shahid, Maria Wasti, Sarmad Khoosat, Jerjees Seja, Syed Noor, Kamran Yar Khan, Nadeem Mandviwala and Iram Parveen Bilal as moderator for the session. The debate revolved around the key issue of who defines what is commercial and what is parallel and is there a winner between the two. Syed Noor voiced that the Pakistani film industry hasn’t been able to establish itself in one category yet. “We are deprived of festivals as we never held any nor were we called. Nobody had the audacity to produce or direct a film so when anyone did, they were all independent films,” he said. Maria Wasti said, “A flop film is not an independent film. All types of films need to be made and encouraged for a diverse audience which is hungry for a variety of content.” Salman Shahid contributed by saying, “It’s not true that independent filmmakers don’t want to make money, they want to break a particular control that a studio puts on them. The filmmaker making an independent film wants the independence of freedom over their film.” The Censorship Policies session featured speakers Imran Aslam, Hameed Sheikh, Usman Pirzada, Bushra Ansari and moderator Samina Ahmed. Discussion focused on issues such as Has the industry succumbed to self-censorship?