Madhvani, Dhaimade on the nuances of ad filmmaking

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 25, 2008
At a workshop organised by Spatial Access Media Solutions, Ram Madhvani and Milind Dhaimade of Equinox Films offered some interesting insights on the nuances of ad filmmaking

It was & #BANNER1 & # almost like a classroom for those clients who always wanted to know the nuances of ad filmmaking, but didn't know who to ask. At a special workshop organised by Spatial Access Media Solutions, ad filmmakers Ram Madhvani and Milind Dhaimade of Equinox Films shared their experiences of filmmaking - both the challenges and the exhilaration.

Madhvani began with a case study of one of his own immensely successful films, Happydent White Palace (created by Prasoon Joshi of McCann-Erickson). The film had a lot of detailing to it that an ordinary viewer wouldn't have guessed: the bridge in the film was constructed specially for it, shots of the sun and the hill area were put together after production, the chandelier had two tonnes of weight on it (counting the men on it), and the ceiling from which it was supposedly hung didn't exist - it was thrown in post-production. The light on the men's teeth was shot separately and then juxtaposed.

Ram Madhvani
The initial plan was to do a montage of 20 shots, but Madhvani discussed his concerns with Joshi, and a narrative was decided upon. The idea hit Joshi quite suddenly. Joshi was at an airport when he discovered that he had forgotten his luggage behind in the hotel. Waiting for his driver to bring his luggage to him before he missed his flight, Joshi thought of a man running late, and how he happens to be the last piece in a chandelier required by a king. In this manner, the idea of people serving as light bulbs remained, as the daring client - Sameer Soneja of Perfetti - wanted.

"Initially, Prasoon wanted to go to a foreign director to make this film, and that really got me all wired up," revealed Madhvani. "For the first time in my life, I pitched my own self for a film." Well, as they say, it all turned out for the best.

Madhvani advised clients not to go for the cheapest director because 'May the best bid win' is perhaps the most pathetic way of doing things. He also cautioned that the script should not be treated like the bible. "It is just a roadmap; one must always allow room for freedom of thought," he said. Furthermore, it is important to not say no immediately to an idea. "Hearing a no right away is such a dampener; over time, I have learnt to be positively critical," Madhvani asserted.

Madhvani said that an ad filmmaker's true job wasn't so much about the 'what' and 'how' of advertising, but about the feel of it. "The question an adman should ask is how his audience will feel on seeing this ad," he explained. "Do the actors live on after the ad is done in the consumer's mind?" After all, he said, it is the emotional objective of an ad that matters, not the informational one, as the 'sur' or tone of voice of an ad is way more important than costumes and design - those will follow automatically.

"The Big Idea concept is passť; it's not so much about brand building as it is about brand bonding," Madhvani concluded, adding that the most important trait of a filmmaker's psyche is "humility".

Milind Dhaimade
Dhaimade took over then and, in his inimitably humorous way, said that often admen themselves are so critical, they take the place of clients! "As a filmmaker, one tends to get wedged between the viewpoints of the clients and the copywriters," he said. "But a filmmaker should be true to only one thing - the soul of the script." The job of marketing is to sell, while advertising has to convince. "And in order to be convincing, a film has to be real and honest in its expression," explained Dhaimade.

He cited the example of the Tata Tea Agni ad in which a male member of the family praises the tea, and each person who has had anything to do with it (including the servant who serves it, the wife who makes it, and the shopkeeper down the street who sold it) tries to take the credit for its taste. This ad has a rustic, earthy feel to it.

"Imagine, a shop-mart instead of a neighbourhood kirana, and a modern aspirational wife instead of the real woman in the ad," Dhaimade grinned.

Another example he offered was of ING Vysya Mutual Fund, in which some 50 villagers with absolutely no acting experience were made to sit in a state transport bus. Using the villagers added to the rustic feel of the film. "Trust me, making a film real doesn't automatically mean it has to be the ugly kind of reality," he said.

Other real ads that Dhaimade saluted were SAIL's Saubhagyavati Priya and School ads and the I-Pill ad (created by Whitelight). "Till today, I get requests from clients to show the I-Pill kind of husband and wife," said Dhaimade.

One major problem that ad filmmakers face is that of sticking to the duration specified by the agency and the client. "Most people can't stick to 30 or 20 seconds because of inexperience," he said. It's all about crisp editing, and finding the gaps and eliminating them. The Tortoise 'Kya aapke paas yeh power hai?' films all stuck to their 20-second time-frames, thanks to filmmaker Abhinay Deo's foresight.

Another point that filmmakers need to watch out for is an obsession with "a twist in the tale". "Abroad, people are moving away from having a single twist to layering," Dhaimade said, because this helps retain interest even after having seen the film a couple of times. The Venus Soap (Commerce/Science) and Tata Tea (Siachen) ads are examples of this, with perfect casting adding to the entertainment.

Ad filmmaking is an expensive process, and Dhaimade said the filmmaker needs to spend time to save costs. "Allow more time for a film to shape up," he explained, citing the instance of the recent Pest Control of India (PCI) films, where his client was patient enough to allow for the pest costumes to be made in Australia, even though it delayed the film by a few months. Another film that reflects a client's belief in his filmmaker is the Lead India film, in which a child starts a social movement by taking the first initiative to remove a tree that is obstructing traffic.

"We believed that childlike innocence is the only thing that cuts through today's cynicism, and the client was kind enough to put his trust in us," concluded Dhaimade.

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