Interview with Far Video Films director Jeet Surendranath
"Finally scripts are being written with potential for entertaining a discerning, bored and fidgety audience"
  Posted on 18 November 2003

His demeanour and profession are poles apart. For Jeet Surendranath, director of Mumbai-based advertising film production house Far Video Films, the hectic scheduling and deadlines of working on commercials is combated by his composed and calm nature.

Far Video's recent work includes commercials for Kinetic Velocity, Hamdard Joshina and JP burgers and jelly for the Middle East. Besides this, the production house has worked on major campaigns for Samsung, Yamaha Libero, Coke, Limca, Anchor, BSNL and Rasna among others this year.

The production house is not only busy in shooting commercials for leading brands but it is also venturing out of the country to expand its operations. Far Video, which had tied up with Australian production house Renegade Films to form Renegade East, has such arrangements on several counts in European and Asian countries.

Surendranath, who worked on his first commercial for Liril soap in late 70's, was involved in more than 1900 commercials before he and his brother Kailash Surendranath decided to expand their operations through individual efforts. "We didn't get separated but decided to expand our work in 1996."

Surendranath spoke in detail about Far's operations to's
Ritesh Gupta. Excerpts:

  Far Video has been consistently working with leading clients such as Coca-Cola India and Samsung India in the recent past. What would you attribute this turnaround to?
This has not exactly been a turn around in terms of quantum of films. We have always been managing two-three TVC's a month with various directors. The difference is that we have now managed more of the upper-end films, which have greater visibility and impact. I do feel the need for my director and my team to dwell on projects, one project at a time - total commitment. If there are two simultaneous projects then I do organise two teams for the directors and their projects.

These clients and agency teams have appreciated our commitment, integrity and passion as a production house, and also appreciated the fact that Rohini Pinto (my partner) and I have managed to work out projects at rock bottom, transparent budgets without any compromise.

Why do you think there was a lean phase? Take us through the operations of Far Video. How have you evolved as production house?
Once again I would like to reiterate that there was no real 'lean phase'. It's just that we were managing some fairly low visibility (non-mainstream) projects. With the high end/high profile TVC's we got more noticeability and hence our folio/showreel holds more weight. I would however like to point out, that whether it's a high-end theme film or a promo, we hold all projects in the same esteem and treat the project and the director with the same passion and commitment. All projects deserve our best.


How do you think working with Shantanu Sheorey has helped? Why do you think you gel so well with him?
Working with Shantanu has definitely helped put Far Video back on the map. In the post Kailash (Surendranath) days, we did not get enough high-end theme films/mainstream work, though we did manage quite well with our promo's and low-end work. Shantanu's work and name brought in the mainstream work which was noticeably executed well. We worked on transparent budgets and there was great compatibility between the producer and the director.

Rohini and I handled all these various aspects and left the director free to work with the creative team - unhassled. We also have a clear-cut and specific project wise relationship with Shantanu. That's the way I'd like to work with any director on any project to keep a lasting healthy relationship.

"The stakes are very high. An advertising film must fulfill its objective"

What do you think are the emerging trends in TVC production?
Finally scripts are being written with potential for entertaining a discerning and bored and fidgety audience. There is more of quality production values, and technical excellence are taken for granted by the audiences. They need to be entertained by a commercial and that too, repeatedly!


How have the clients' needs changed? Do you think there is more usage of visual effects and animation than in the past?
The stakes are very high. An advertising film must fulfill its objective. Clients and agency teams work on carefully developed strategies, and creatives. They definitely expect added value and excellent results from the production house and the director. The use of visual effects and animation is script specific. High end post facilities are easily available and there are lots more projects conceived with (or spruced with) animated, graphically generated and other high-tech effects.


What are the budgets with which you work on (let's say with leading clients)? Does budget hamper work in a big way?
All budgets are transparent. Directors/production house fees are clearly indicated. The magnitude of the budget depends on the demands of the script, production design and the project logistics. The producers and directors fee component depends on various factors and is also totally transparent. It varies with celebrity status, nature and magnitude of the project etc.

Everyone - clients, agency teams etc - is savvy on budgetting. If they aren't, then all they need is a production design note, and a cost break down. If the budget does not work one can always try and figure out a new route or production design, uncompromised, to make it work.

"Production house and directorial creativity is challenged with the simpler scripts. We really need to dwell on every department to add values - to make a difference"

Where do you think production house creativity comes into play?
Production house and directorial creativity is challenged with the simpler scripts. We really need to dwell on every department to add values - to make a difference. Great ideas/scripts also demand production house creativity and added value. However, great script ideas are inherently successful.


Which has been your most memorable work till date and why?
Some of our most memorable works, ironically, have been public service films from the past. A Story of Hope (which managed to get into the Clio 'hall of fame') with Kailash and Alyque Padamsee, the Mera Bhaarat Mahaan trilogy with Suresh Mallik and Piyush Pandey to name some.


Do you think producers get enough credit for their work?
It's the production team that deserve the credit - each and every team member. The producer's work is to provide the director and the project with a really effective team.


Which foreign locations do you shoot occasionally? Do you have any tie-ups with international production houses?
Thailand and Malaysia are filming-friendly and cost-effective. They are more cost-effective than outstation filming in India.

We also have tie ups with line producers, production houses, technicians, talent coordinators etc, in Mauritius, UAE, Greece, Prague, Moscow, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The idea is to facilitate cost effective facilities at these venues.

We have worked on projects for the international campaigns with international directors. Campaigns for Nesfit, Dirol, Diesel Jeans, New York Lotto, Mylanta, GEC, Mentos and ETC - filmed over the years have had award winning directors like Johann, Peter Flinth and Ken Naoum.

We offer various kinds of services. Besides fulfilling our own needs (in terms of production), through these tie-ups we also facilitate prospective clients' plans to shoot in either in India or other countries. We also offer consultancy on creative process, production and other related inputs.

We had the privilege to execute a television commercial for Toyota Qualis for Indian exhibition, Dentsu Tokyo, with the famous Antonio Saraceno from Sydney.

  How do you find the new crop of creative directors and copy writers?
The search is on. I have some amazing friends doing amazing work.
  What are your plans for the future?
To keep on making commercials with our regular directors, both Indian and international. The search is on for fresh, young talented directors and writers with the right sensibilities.
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