If you’ve ever been to a movie set during a shoot, you know lights, cameras, and hundreds of people are running them. The star cast consists of two or three people. Someone makes the makeup and the other makes sure the character wears clothes according to the scene.
There is one designated person, called the ‘focus puller,’ who changes the camera’s focus. Boom boys operate the boom rod which has a microphone on its tip to record dialogues. Then there are trolleys, jimmy jibs, tracks, harness men fitted with heavy cameras and often even drones and choppers.
Imagine now producing a series of four episodes, with the producer and the photography producer (DOP) never seeing the actors stuck in their respective rooms. No flashy lights or collections, and single-lens cell cameras.
Viacom18 has recently announced its next release, ‘The Gone Game,’ streaming on its premium VOOT Select offering. Set during a global pandemic, the story begins with a sudden disappearance, with a country in lockdown. Did the virus get prey to him? Or, is there more dangerous stuff at play? Created by Bodhi Tree Multimedia, it is a thriller with lots of characters involved.
“We realized early in the lockdown that full-scale production would remain a problem for a long time to come. And we began to think about what we might do during the lockdown,” says Ferzad Palia, head of VOOT Select, Kids, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18.
All the actor filmed the scenes using their iPhone and MacBook. First, the DOP took a tour of the house of the characters and then, depending on the illumination, suggested the time of the day when the filming could take place. “The director, DOP, and creative producer connected with the actors on Zoom calls,” Bodhi Tree Multimedia’s Sukesh Motwani revealed. The production team arranged an iPhone for the one who didn’t have one with them.
After the lockdown began Bodhi Tree Multimedia presented the show. It was a “one of a kind experience,” Motwani says. As they continued to move forward with the episodes, the entire cast was getting used to the new techniques and adversities. Motwani agrees that if they got their sets and normal workstations, things might have been better. But, he says, the final product is a commendable one which can live up to expectations.
Motwani admits that there’s not much difference in costs of production, “There wasn’t a set, and however there were long hours and days. When we saved on sets, we spent on people.
Digital medium currently contributes 8% of the Rs 4,000 crore turnover of Viacom18. The premium offering of VOOT Select is an attempt by the network to increase the contribution made by digital to 24% of the Rs 8,000 crore turnover by 2024. VOOT Select would need to pile up the paying subscribers for that to happen. Does ‘The Gone Game’ help? Well, that’s still to be seen.