Industry must scale down together to ensure one party does not cannibalise another: Bodhi Tree CEO Mautik Tolia

The production house is busy creating scripts even during lockdown.

MUMBAI: The TV production industry had to hurriedly drop everything and wrap up shoots in order to comply with government directives to stop shooting and avoid large gatherings. With shoots re-opening in the near future, production houses will have to implement several changes in the way they function.

Bodhi Tree Multimedia CEO Mautik Tolia says that production processes will see drastic changes. “Crews will have to be made smaller. Sanitization stations will need to be put up on sets. The temperature of the crew will need to be monitored. Set areas will have to be kept under very strict controls to make sure all areas from the food getting served, props, equipment used are disinfected on a recurring basis.”

He feels that the decision to halt production to curb the spread of the COVID-19 had to be taken immediately, but it has left almost everyone grappling for solutions as the media and entertainment fraternity has never witnessed a standstill like this. A strong ecosystem consisting of clients, vendors, technicians and talent relationships will help them get through this testing phase.

“This lockdown is bound to have a ripple effect across the entire chain from broadcasters to the very last worker on sets. We are anticipating the industry to lose close to a few thousand crores in the wake of this lockdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak,” he says.

This pandemic has also robbed the daily wage workers of their livelihood. Unfortunately, layoffs and pay cuts will be the grim reality that cannot be denied. Tolia says: “We have 40-50 daily wage workers. Some of them have returned to their hometown and are waiting for the lockdown to end. Some of them are in Mumbai. We are in touch with them and make sure of their well-being, ensuring that relief reaches them. We will not lay off people. Instead, we are finding ways for everyone to come together collectively as a company and finding a balance to ensure that everyone is taken care of in the interim with feasible measures.”

Even though budget cuts are on the anvil, it will be mindful about not compromising on the quality of the content.

Tolia suggests that the entire ecosystem will have to find a way to scale down together in terms of current market rates.  He says that it is not a matter of an individual company but the entire industry which will have to make corrections across the system from actors, technicians, vendors, set rentals, etc. to come out of the crisis.

“It will have to be done in a manner where all stakeholders have to come together in the spirit of co-cooperation and solidarity keeping in view the long term and making sure that one party does not cannibalise the other. That is the only way the industry will be able to tide this over,” he adds.

Due to the lockdown, the company had to halt the shoot of two projects which are on the floor. But the teams are utilising this time to focus on pre-production, research and development.

The creative team at the production house is keeping busy with ideating, developing new content, continuing with the scripting of existing shows so script banks can be put in place. Casting is also going on with actors sending self-tests from home.

“We are constantly ideating and brainstorming to understand the changes occurring, both at a practical and philosophical level. While nothing has changed for us with these processes, we will continue to create storylines for our future shows with an understanding of the fact that content value can never go down. In addition, we are also building our bank in terms of scripts for our current on-air shows,” says Bodhi Tree Multimedia founder-director and CCO Sukesh.  

As creative professionals and writers, Tolia and Motwani feel it is a good time to create a development slate of content that can be pitched to platforms over the next year. It is a time to think and reflect on what kind of content will work in the coming years.

According to Motwani, COVID-19 is a part of reality and the organisation will have to embrace the new normal. The idea is not to exploit the pain of this time but rather get inspired and inspire and create hope for society with the kind of stories that are created. 

Tolia adds, “The entire media and broadcast fraternity will be compelled to integrate this reality in some way and it will definitely reflect in our ideas and in our current stories. While some shows may use the impact more subtly in the background, some shows could entirely be centred on the new reality of our pursuits to counter COVID-19. Constant brainstorming sessions on how we as storytellers can capture these times are being implemented.”

Elaborating more on their OTT venture with Voot’s Marzi and The Raikar Case, Tolia and Motwani say it has helped them immensely with the learning curve on original shows. While Marzi is an adaptation of an international format, The Raikar Case is an original creation that took 1.5 years to write.

Motwani adds, “It is one of those shows which has a combination of interesting characters, dialogues and twists in each episode. It is probably one of the first ‘whodunit’ in the Indian digital space.”        

Marzi revolves around the importance of consent with a psychological touch to the storyline. While it has been adapted from a British show called The Liar, Motwani says that it has helped them find the art of science in adapting an international format.

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