Help each other to bring the industry back on its feet: TV producers

An initiative by to understand the challenges faced by content makers

MUMBAI: The television producers believe that helping each other to revive the business, as and when the state government allows production to resume, will help the industry get back on its feet. This was the unanimous view of a virtual round table conference organised by to discuss the challenges faced by TV producers.  

The panel, moderated by founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, had Swastik Productions & One Life Studios producer & managing director Rahul Kumar Tewary, SOL Productions founder and managing director Fazila Allana, Contiloe Pictures founder and CEO Abhimanyu Singh, Endemol Shine India CEO Abhishek Rege, Fremantle India Television Productions managing director Aradhana Bhola, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah producer Asit Kumarr Modi of Neela Films, and ANM Global managing partner Nidhish Mehrotra.

It was a two-hour-long animated and insightful discussion that touched upon the issues which are afflicting the production community during this pandemic. Towards the end, there saw a question-and-answer session between the moderator and panellists.

The majority of panellists agreed that the lockdown has prompted them to think about the future, watch enormous content. And the further extension of the lockdown is adding to their financial stress. The country has been under shutdown for over two months now, the total cases across the nation surpassing the one-lakh mark with around 4000 deaths due to the Covid2019.

SOL Productions founder and managing director Fazila Allana says that the lockdown has been interesting so far, it gave the producers a time to plan for the future. They are in a wait-and-watch mode.

Contrary to the Allana’s view, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah producer Asit Kumarr Modi says: “We were expecting 10-15 days of lockdown, but the situation is getting grimmer with the extension. There is no positivity remaining and I don't have a happy mindset after two months of lockdown.”

The producers expressed the view that they somehow tried to stretch the fresh content on TV until March, but with the beginning of April every other broadcasting network started showing re-runs of archives and are doing the same even today, except with some error-and-trial work from home shows.

Many producers had predicted lockdown, shut their offices and stopped shooting before prime minister Narendra Modi announced the official lockdown on 24 March.

Expressing his concern that prolonged lockdown is taking a toll on businesses, Swastik Productions & One Life Studios producer & MD Rahul Kumar Tewary says: “We can’t be in lockdown forever and the nation's economy needs to be revived. We need to have ways, initiatives, and measures as an alternative to start businesses. It's an evolution and a new way to do business. We need to evolve.”

Sharing Tewary’s view, Fremantle India Television Productions managing director Aradhana Bhola says: “The lives of the people are important but we need to revive business and try different ways to find the solution. I think this is the time to reset, and need to find ways to do it collectively.” She doesn’t believe that the producers will have a typical set of doing a production from home; rather it will have a hybrid studio setup of producing content remotely.

And in these testing times, to guide the panellists on the legal front, ANM Global managing partner Nidhish Mehrotra says that nobody had thought of adding pandemic as force majeure clause in the contract globally. He adds that if insurance talks about the pandemic in your contract then you're covered, but if it doesn't mention it, then you are not eligible for the same.

With over-the-top media having taken the centre stage amid the pandemic, Modi says, “The audience’s behaviour will drastically change after post-Covid2019 situation. And, I am positive that producers will come with more creative shows. We need to create shows which make viewers happy. Both fiction and non-fiction will have their own challenges.”

Listing out the challenges post-lifting of the lockdown, Contiloe Pictures founder and CEO Abhimanyu Singh explains: “All the stakeholders will have to understand each other’s problem. It has to be a healthy discussion, which helps us find a solution. We will face multiple challenges once the lockdown is lifted, and the budget cut is going to be a collective problem.”

He adds, “Our biggest challenge as a producer is to ensure the continuity of the shoot. Once you have started the shoot, don’t stop it”. Singh is of the same view of Modi that the viewing patterns of television audiences may change. According to him, AVoD will co-exist with television and SVoD is here to stay as many OTT platforms have proved their mettle.

The Maharashtra government has listened to the television fraternity’s concerns. Endemol Shine India CEO Abhishek Rege, who was one of the producers who attended the virtual meeting with the chief minister in this regard, said: “The state government has formed teams to do surveys at shooting locations and will also come up with final SOPs.” Rege hopes that by the first week of June the government should come out with a concrete plan and shooting would resume soon.

The other challenges that were discussed by the producers were pay cuts and shooting locations. According to Rege, there is no specific regulatory body to monitor pay cuts; it’s an individual decision. Similarly, Modi highlights the fact that television producers don’t have a proper shooting infrastructure in India, and “it should be our next focus once the pandemic ends.”

During this lockdown period, with no work to do, television producers are using their free time to either binge-watch some good content and/or planning the future course of actions or trying to find an alternative way to deal with this situation once the lockdown ends.

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