Industry needs to handhold to come out of this crisis

TV producers are set to resume production activities by maintaining social distancing measures

MUMBAI: The film and television producers are gearing up to restart shooting in the wake of guidelines issued by the Maharashtra government and the easing of lockdown restrictions. Film and TV post-production activities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana have also resumed, albeit with restrictions. reached out to leading TV producers to understand their plans in the days ahead.

Shakuntalam Telefilms founder Shyamashis Bhattacharya said, “People are eager to work; getting them on set is difficult but getting them to work is easy. We have new challenges before us like sanitisation and social distancing, but we will strictly adhere to all the norms.”

But how production houses with lower budgets will work with added costs of sanitisation and other procedures? According to him, Hindi GECs would be able to sustain and work as soon as the government gives permission. Budget constraints, however, will pose challenges to regional channels. In that case, they might take more time than others to think of suitable measures. He said that broadcasters and production houses are already in talks to find out if there can be deduction in production budgets.

Producers already have plans to start fiction shows with a lesser number of crew. Non-fiction shows, however, will be on hold as they require larger crews. According to him, broadcasters are also under pressure as there haven’t been any advertising revenues for many months.

Optimystix Entertainment founder-MD Vipul D Shah suggests, as a measure of social distancing, that editing rooms will require redesigning. A separate space will be allotted to editors with one in one room. Most preferably, they will be asked to work from home.

Makeup artists and hairdressers are constantly required to be with actors. But, to maintain social distancing, actors will now have to work without makeup artists at least for a few months. However, all these measures are still on paper; one has to wait till shooting starts to test the efficacy of their implementation. reached out to Vaishnave Media Works Ltd MD-chairman Kutty Padmini to understand how things have progressed in the Tamil industry.

She said, “Full-fledged shooting has not yet started in the Tamil industry as not more than 15 to 20 people can work together at a time. So, we have requested the Tamil Nadu government to grant permission for 40 people.” She adds that 30 people can be present inside the set and 10 outside; they will include drivers, generator operators and the rest.

She said that the pending post-production works like dubbing, CJI, and VFX have started.

According to Padmini, the Tamil Nadu government decided to resume shooting with 20 people after someone suggested that in Hollywood the shoot is happening with just 22 members. She says that this scenario is not relevant to India.

“Resuming shoot with minimum people is possible for me as I do my own scripts and everything else, but it might not be possible for other people. It is not quite difficult also. Today, the technology is so advanced that we do not need so many lights or technicians like in the black-and-white era.”

Padmini made it clear that she is planning to resume shooting only after 15 June. Currently, she is busy creating content for her YouTube channel.

On creating a bank of certain episodes, Padmini says that now broadcasters allow the creation of banks of only five episodes. Story narrations might change in accordance with other factors like change in TRPs. And then there are many other factors like availability of actors, who come from Karnataka and Kerala.

During the pandemic, a lot of production houses had to lay off employees, but the situation has been different for Padmini as she preferred to hire people based on projects.

Padmini is utilising this lockdown period to create scripts which are doable with lesser crew. She is currently working with MSN, Amazon Prime, Dangal and Aha Media in Hyderabad.

Creative Eye founder Dheeraj Kumar is positive that soon Maharashtra will also start post-production works like other states. Kumar’s 20-year-old show Shree Ganesh will make a comeback on Star Plus. The show will premiere on 2 June and air from Monday to Sunday at 6:30 pm.

“The show is going to start but I have to do some additions, promos, and post production works. So, I am giving whatever technological help that is required through constant communication with editors and technicians. Basically, my problems are very immediate. The bigger challenge is we cannot start our post-production works until and unless we follow all the guidelines imposed by Maharashtra government,” he added.

Kumar has his own studio, pro-cut machines, tools, equipment for mixing and sound. Apart from this, he regularly sanitises his studio building. He is bringing in place sanitise tunnels to effectively disinfect offices and equipment. In order to maintain social distancing norms Kumar has enough rooms that could be allotted to the technical staff.

Kumar is also going to implement an odd-even formula in terms of staff to begin shooting. He believes broadcasters and producers will have to support each other in these troubled times.

“Going forward we will have to think very carefully with regard to logistics and finances. Necessity is the mother of invention. We will have to learn to work with less crew and a tight budget. Industry needs to do the handholding to come out of this crisis,” he concludes. 

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