Made in lockdown: The story of Airtel's ad film

Cooperation, coordination helped Equinox make the film, says producer Annum Waris

NEW DELHI: Covid2019’s impact on ad houses and production companies has been massive. It’s been quite challenging with all shoots halted for more than two months now. However, many production houses showed great resilience against the odds, drafted newer ways of working and came out with some exceptional shot-at-home campaigns, because the show must go on.

Recently, Equinox Films with Taproot Dentsu launched a new campaign for Airtel, shot across Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Noida while adhering to all the lockdown norms and guidelines.

The film’s producer Annum Waris talked to and shared how different the experience was for her to get the whole film ready. “It was a very challenging job as everything that we had learnt about production and shooting ad films over years stood at test. Production department’s job is to pre-empt problems that might occur during the whole process of creating a campaign and be ready with solutions. However, this time, the feeling was handicapping as there was no way we could have guessed the problems that we could be facing.”

She added, “However, it was very thrilling to manage things remotely, work across hurdles, and come out with the final product.”

According to Waris, the coordination within the team helped them create the film in around a week. “We had to work with a much smaller team than we are used to. So, we decided that we will involve all the HODs to process the workflow and ensure a pro-level quality. We were 5-6 people, including the cinematographer, the director, and the production design. We all worked in close collaboration.”

While each and every moment of working on the film was challenging, what was most difficult was to find the right cast. “As the process goes for ad films, we audition for people, do screen tests, and that’s about it. However, this time we did not just require the right face and good acting skills, we wanted people who had a good house, the right wardrobe, and room to shoot the way we wanted to.”

Waris feels she got lucky with the cast she managed to get, as all of them were very supportive. “They knew and understood that they would have to go out of their way to complete this. They were so beautifully cooperative, I must say, from presenting wardrobe options to learning ‘jugaad’ for keeping the camera still, they worked really hard.”

She continued, “And not just them (the cast), even people around them were so supportive. The old lady you see in the film, her husband was handling the camera and we were facing issues to find a spot where he can sit and record. I must mention that their house help, a young boy, did so much of running around for us, finding the right frame and spot. It was heart-warming.”

Asked if she would continue shooting remote projects like this, even after lockdown, she replied, “I don’t think that it can become a norm, as being on a set is a different feeling altogether. You get to manage everything on your own, you can plan the frames on your own, discuss with the team personally, and it just eases the process. While we are capable of giving a pro-quality film shooting remotely, it comes at the expense of time. So, I believe we still could be working on a few special projects now and then, but it will not be a regular thing.”

Though she feels that it will take some time to get back to the same routine and hustle. “The ray of hope is that our government is open to dialogue and we are hoping that we will be able to give a slight start soon. However, it might be some time before we get there.”

She added, “Right now, we are looking for smaller crews, and safeguard measures on the sets and offices to start. At Equinox, our belief is that we don’t organise a shoot but host a shoot and we share the responsibility for everyone involved in the process. This is how it is going to be in future as well.” 

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