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Producers talk about shooting in the 'new normal'

The second session/day of 'Television Week,' the new online initiative by afaqs!, was titled 'Shooting In The New Normal'.

Everything came to a standstill in India. Most people ran out of work. There was no action at all in the filming world of Mumbai. First the Coronavirus pandemic struck, followed by national lockdowns. Television channels across the country were forced to air archival content.

In the last week of June, the Maharashtra government rolled out standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the film fraternity to follow. From slashing teams to only 33 per cent (of what they originally were) to strictly adhering to the social distancing norms, this was the 'new normal' for the world of television that reaches 20 crore households across the country.

The second session/day of 'Television Week,' the new online initiative by afaqs!, was titled 'Shooting In The New Normal'. It was moderated by Anirban Roy Choudhury of afaqs!, and saw participation from Abhishek Rege, CEO, Endemol Shine India; Ranjit Thakur, co-founder, Frames Productions; and Siddharth Kumar Tewary, founder and chief creative officer, Swastik Productions.

Abhishek Rege
Abhishek Rege

Speaking about the 'new normal', Thakur of Frames Productions said that it was a learning experience for the film fraternity. "We realised we were always overstaffed," he opined, adding that his experience of shooting with fewer people has been a good one.

"We have become more efficient, we are packing up earlier than we ever did, and the final product is at pre-COVID level. Yes, I would have been happier to have a few more specialists, but things are very much doable with whatever I have."

Siddharth Kumar Tewary
Siddharth Kumar Tewary

The challenge is not only in terms of manpower. Swastik Productions' Tewary, whose series 'Radha Krishna' is currently on air, says the storyline is also getting affected because of the SOPs. "We are not shooting outdoors, and not filming anything extravagant." Tewary is optimistic that things will improve and the television fraternity will have a good second half of the current financial year.

Endemol Shine, with 'Khatron Ke Khiladi' in its final stages and 'Bigg Boss' scheduled next, is taking a cautious approach. "We have agencies at play to ensure that the standard operating procedure is strictly followed," informed Rege, adding that the SOPs won't affect 'Bigg Boss' much, as the show is shot in isolation.

Ranjit Thakur
Ranjit Thakur

In the Indian broadcast ecosystem, the channels commission production houses to produce shows. The broadcasters pay a per-episode fee to the production houses and monetise it through advertisements.

With ad spends on television taking a hit, there is pressure on the producers to cut costs. But the panellists opined that it is a temporary aberration. They believe that the costs will return to normalcy as ad spends increase.

Another shift that took place during lockdowns is the surge in the consumption of video-on-demand (VOD) content. However, the panellists feel that there is nothing to worry about as it is the TV shows that are being viewed on OTT...

Television Week (August 24-28, 2020) is a webinar series organised by afaqs! and sponsored by Nickelodeon.