Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From 30 seconds to 2 hours

With more advertising guys finding success in the longer format there is a tacit acceptance within the film industry about the ad filmmaker’s ability to communicate effectively over the duration of 2 hours. This was not always so. I remember when as a cub I happened to be shooting with a big name Hindi film cinematographer on a tire commercial. Being the production papplu I was the most responsible person on the set and I caught it from all ends especially from the esteemed cinematographer. I was subjected to a constant barrage of disparaging comment and criticism because I was an advertising guy and advertising guys were considered idiots. It was another matter that the big name DOP didn’t know his ass from his elbow and took three days to shoot a simple commercial that was probably the worst lit I’ve ever seen.

At that time I couldn’t understand why advertising people were so looked down upon. From what I’d seen they worked much harder (in fact shooting around the clock followed by editing was not unusual), were more tech savvy, were very organized (storyboarding was unheard off in the Hindi film industry then) armed with shot breakdowns and managed to tell a complete story in 30 seconds. I’d noticed that the Hindi film biggies of the time didn’t have a script on set in most cases and generally did not manage to tell a story even after 3 hours. Still the caste system in the industry was such that ad filmmakers just didn’t stand a chance. Yet it was always a dream for ad filmmakers to make a feature film. It always has been I guess.

15 years later much has changed. Today if you announce that you are an ad filmmaker with a script for a feature film the doors are not automatically slammed in your face. They are not opened either lest you think being an adfilmmaker is a shortcut into Bollywood, but lets just say that it is less impossible now. There are some who still believe that the film industry “belongs” to the film wallas but they are a dying breed. The film industry is relatively more open for outsiders now.

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