An interval like no other

Film producer Siddharth Anand Kumar gives an insight into the production scene in India amid the global pandemic

The entertainment industry has not escaped the wrath of the Coronavirus pandemic. The film industry has come to a standstill, with cinema halls shut and production coming to a halt.

Film producer Siddharth Anand Kumar, Saregama VP (Films & TV) gives us an insight into the production scene in India amid the nationwide lockdown. 

Kumar is a producer at Yoodlee films, a production house that has emerged as a strong player by bringing films with strong themes (Hamid, Ajji, Kanpuriya, Ascharyachakit, to name a few), and has managed to receive critical acclaim and numerous awards. Excerpts: 

  • How has the ongoing pandemic affected the Indian film industry?

The lockdown has resulted in a considerable slowdown in the industry, just like it has for the rest of the economy. Entertainment budgets and spends are the first ones to get slashed in times of such uncertainty.  As producers, we can only try and minimise our losses. Safety – needless to say – is first. 

2.     How is Yoodlee Films functioning amid the crisis?


While things remain uncertain in the entertainment industry, the show, as the ubiquitous cliché goes, must go on. We are taking this chance to hold online auditions for our forthcoming projects. We have had entries from the smallest of cities, and the huge response to our online call for entries, undeterred by geographical boundaries, is extremely fulfilling. 

This is the best time to focus on good stories and quality writing – the very base of Yoodlee Films. When one has a team of enthusiastic, well-read young film buffs, regularly discussing different ideas, plot points, narrative structures, to pave the path for the future of the brand, it’s an immensely satisfying feeling. Also, for all our projects that are about to be released — we are ensuring our marketing strategy is in place and ready to launch, the moment this crisis averts and things start limping back to normalcy.

3.  How are film producers in India adapting to the WFH (work from home) scenario? 

For us at Yoodlee, WFH has appropriated itself to online meetings — that range from team members to writers to directors and actors and whatnot. These meetings assess what to do with existing projects and what lies ahead, to take auditions and discuss new stories and narratives, to seek solace in each other’s lockdown anecdotes, and to find some sort of method to this extraordinary situation we find ourselves in. We use Google Hangouts and Google Meets to stay in touch with the teams.

4. How are producers/filmmakers/distributors utilising streaming services during this time? Are more films being put online as cinemas are shut?

At Yoodlee, we closely monitor how audience viewing patterns change between theatre viewing and OTT platforms. With the major and obvious spike in OTT content viewing, Yoodlee is very much in front and centre of this trend. We are in conversation with OTT platforms for a slew of direct to digital films in the near future. It’s interesting to see the plethora of genres and stories that the OTT viewership commands, and it’s a good time to be a content creator now. And yes, you can also see a lot of films having their digital premiere on platforms sooner than expected, given the situation.

 5. Do you expect Indian film industry to make a full recovery? How long could it take? 

It’s a tough question to answer at this point. The Indian film industry doesn’t work in isolation. We are part of a larger financial ecosystem that determines our success. If people lose jobs, they are unlikely to watch films in theatres. If theatres are not allowed to operate due to social distancing guidelines, films don’t get released and newer projects don’t get green lit. If shoots operate with restrictions due to social distancing, then films get delayed in production and so on.  It’s a domino effect. I think analysts and producers like us will have a better idea once the lockdown is over. Right now it is an extremely fluid situation to really give specific answers. One can only hope that things get better soon, but that’s all producers and distributors can do: Hope!
 
6. How do you, as a producer, plan to move ahead with Yoodlee films as of now?

With each passing day, our timelines are changing. While the lockdown might end on May 3, indications given by the government are that the return to normalcy might take place in a staggered manner. Given the global scenario, things will take a while to come back to the old routine.

 So we are looking at a massive reshuffling of our projects – when to start shooting, when to release. I think we will have a better idea of things in the next 3-4 weeks.  We will never have such a luxury of time and space, where you can afford to go through scripts and screenplays, without worrying about deadlines. The team and I regularly go through new script proposals while also further tweaking our existing projects, if needed.  We place a lot of emphasis on stories and that’s what we are looking into right now – different stories and different approaches of telling a story.

7. How are you channelising your creative energies amid the lockdown?

By sticking to a routine. It may vary a little depending on circumstances, but by and large I tend to stick to regular work hours and have regular meetings with my head. I am reading a lot and watching a lot of international content. In the digital arena, you are competing with the best the world has to offer. In order to tell compelling stories, it is important to know your competition and it’s fascinating to see the kind of work that is happening all around.

 

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