The Maharashtra government has allowed shooting for films and TV and web series to resume from June 7, but the move comes with its own set of challenges, mainly higher costs arising out of working shorter hours in bio-bubbles.
With Mumbai, the hub of media and entertainment in the country, falling in level 3, shooting in the city can take place only under strict restrictions.
The state government has allowed activities in cities and districts based on their COVID-19 positivity rate and availability of oxygen beds. Areas classified as level 1 have no restrictions on activities, while those classified as level 5 have the strictest curbs.
Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice president – films and events at Saregama India, who has produced films such as Jitendra Kumar-starrer Chaman Bahaar, Hamid, Ajji and Aparshakti Khurrana’s Kanpuriye, said that while there is some sense of relief as things slowly return to normal, there are challenges in terms of restarting film shooting in Mumbai.
“We can shoot in a bio-bubble till 5 pm in level 3. And what makes it difficult is that a film or TV shoot is a 12-hour shift,” said Kumar. “A lot of freelancers and daily wage workers have to be paid full-day salary, whether it is a 12-hour or eight-hour shift. To stop shooting at 5 pm means a producer has to bear a loss of certain number of hours of productivity and that will escalate the budget because in film shooting, time is money.”
He said shooting with COVID-19 protocols has already increased costs by 8 to 10 percent.
Talking to Moneycontrol, Gautam Talwar, Chief Content Officer at MX Player said, “Undoubtedly, shoots have suffered a setback and the 5pm deadline is a challenge because this restricts storytelling that requires a night setting or an outdoor shot after sundown. Given this impediment, we will continue to plan and prepare while awaiting further updates on the easing of restrictions as it isn’t viable creatively or monetarily to shoot only day sequences.”
Filmmaker and producer Akshay Bardapurkar pointed out that actors would usually go back home after a shoot, but now there would be expenses on their accommodation.
“Because of the bio-bubble, the cost will escalate by Rs 20-odd lakh. While TV (producers) and filmmakers are kicked to restart shooting in Maharashtra, I think this could prove to be a costly affair,” Bardapurkar said.
Timings are a major restriction because losing three to four hours a day means every three days you are adding one day of shooting, said Samar Khan, chief operating officer – OTT business, at Juggernaut Productions, who produced web shows such as Avrodh streaming on SonyLIV.
“A 30-day shoot will go on for 40 days. Plus, night shoots are still not allowed unless you have an indoor shoot where you can control lighting otherwise it is not possible,” Khan said.
Bardapurkar said if night scenes have to be shot during the day, post-production work would increase and that would result in higher costs.
Veteran producer Anand Pandit, with films such as Abhishek Bachchan’s Big Bull and Chehre starring Amitabh Bachchan to his credit, said it will be tough to work in a stringent timeframe.
“Shoots are not usually time-bound and are more often than not long-drawn affairs that continue late into the night. We pull off all-nighters all the time, but right now we must understand the circumstances that we find ourselves in and agree to take baby steps towards normalcy,” Pandit said.
Although restarting the shooting of web series and films will be tricky, studios and producers are planning to resume their projects.
A fresh start
“I can actually see production work having restarted in multiple areas. Yes, it is slow at this point but it is picking up fast and all film units and production units are working as per the protocols set by the government,” said Pandit. “The production work on some of our projects is almost over and we have also greenlit a few new projects which will go on the floors soon. We’re still working out the modalities and figuring out locations and other details.”
“If I were starting a new production, I would definitely wait,” said Kumar of Saregama India. “But as production had started in full force (before lockdown this year), there are films which are half shot and some with patchwork left. We have one film with two days of patchwork left and one film which still has one week of shooting left. A producer in the middle of making something is in a hurry to finish projects. So, those producers are very eager to restart.”
Even Khan of Juggernaut Productions said there are about three shows that are currently about to resume shooting in Maharashtra.
MX Player is also planning to restart shooting in the state. “We have a lot of shows in the pipeline that are ready to go on floors soon, but we will be waiting for the restrictions to lift further and then begin shooting in the state of Maharashtra,” said Talwar.
Kailash Adhikari, managing director at Governance Now, a multimedia initiative of Sri Adhikari Brothers Enterprise, noted that they have a couple of productions slated to go on floor.
“We’ll see what is good for the show and then we’ll take a call to start from mid-June,” Adhikari said.
Focus on vaccination
There is a certain degree of unpredictability while shooting, said Kumar. This is why the entertainment sector’s focus is on vaccinating their employees.
“We are also in the process of organising a vaccination camp. The aim is to get as many people vaccinated before we restart shooting. We are hoping to vaccinate 200-250 people who are working on our shows directly or indirectly. There’s a strong push from TV, OTT and the film industry to get people vaccinated,” said Khan. Money Control