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Reduced timings, covid protocols raise costs for content producers

The Maharastra government may have allowed resumption of shoots but doing so amid new covid protocols has led to an escalation in production costs, by 10-15% for film, television and web show producers.

As per protocols, shoots must be wrapped up by 5 pm and can happen only within bio-bubbles. Not only is the timeline unfeasible to deliver required output since most crews, across platforms, work in a 12-hour shift, it is also unaffordable given the safety and hygiene protocols being followed. Besides, smaller crews take longer to finish work.

Not all film and web show producers may resume shooting in Mumbai as a result, though projects that are urgent may be completed.

“Wrapping a shoot up by 5 is quite an onerous task and all film and TV producers associations are petitioning the government to allow for more time,” said Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-​president, films and television, Saregama India, which owns boutique studio Yoodlee Films that is currently looking to shoot a film in Mumbai.

Used to a 12-hour shift either from 7 am to 7 pm or 9 am to 9 pm, Kumar said there isn’t enough light for shoots to begin at 5 in the morning. Already working with safety and hygiene protocols like regular sanitisation and having some crew members stay around the set, companies like Yoodlee do not see the 10-12% escalation in budgets going away any time soon. On the other hand, periodic breaks and the fact that only a few people are allowed to enter the main set while others remain in make-up vans or outside studios to minimise interaction add to delays.

Film producer Anand Pandit said the expense of creating bio-bubbles or at least a safety bubble on location is considerable. “Not to mention the cost of covid-proof transport, food and accommodation facilities for the cast and crew. Sanitization crews, covid inspectors, safety protocols that delay shoots are all cost additives but we cannot complain because what is at stake is far bigger,” Pandit said.

A few international shoots have taken place during the pandemic and many producers are also choosing to shoot in local destinations where logistics are easier to manage, he added.

Nivedita Basu, content and acquisition head, Biiggbang Amusement, a video-streaming platform dedicated to short movies, said the platform is not starting shoot for any of its commissioned projects before the end of June.Many people they’re going to be working with are requesting deferring shoots to July or later so that there are more chances of people having taken the vaccine. “If you shoot locally, you don’t really know how people are coming and going. An outdoor set is a better option as it is a more of a controlled environment,” Basu said, adding that some of the bigger actors want to be doubly sure, and want to get an RT-PCR done if there is an intimate scene, besides asking for people to be vaccinated or tested if they’re shooting with a crowd of 40-50 people.

The other big challenge, Sanjeev Lamba, executive producer, Hungama Originals, Hungama Digital Media, said is getting the cast together. “Much of the talent is not just working on one show at a time and have different brand and promotional commitments so we’re trying to manage calendars,” Lamba said.

Unlike film and web, television producers were compelled to move quite a few shoots outside of Maharashtra to keep the content flow going. While a few are coming back to Mumbai, others have decided to wait it out in places like Silvassa and Goa. A senior executive at a broadcast company who had not moved shoots, however, said they will wait until July to resume at all, since they do not wish to put the health of their employees at risk.“There will not be enough quality output if the 12-hour shift is not permitted,” said J.D Majethia of Hats Off Productions and chairman of the Indian Film and TV Producers Council, adding that the industry hopes deadlines are eased. Live Mint

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