Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Planning is crucial in creative fields too

A business plan is important not only in a conventional enterprise but also in unstructured fields like film-making. The idea is just sinking in as the 254 finalists of ET’s Power Of Ideas programme fine-tune their business plans for a presentation at the investor meet. To prepare for this crucial meet, the participants will soon undergo one-on-one mentoring.

For a close look at a typical business plan, ET decided to go behind the screen for a peek at the process of film production.

Meet Rohan Sippy, the director and part-producer of Bluffmaster. Sippy planned and executed the film project, and earned a neat sum at the box-office. The film was produced by Adlabs and Ramesh Sippy Entertainment in 2005.

Since a movie’s objective is to narrate a story, it all begins with the script. “Sridhar (Raghavan) had a great draft in place, and it became the pivot around which we worked out our business plan for Bluffmaster,” says Sippy. Once the story idea was finalised, it was time for the film’s casting. Sanjay Dutt and Abhishek Bachchan seemed perfect fits, and Sippy signed them for Bluffmaster.

This is the point where important decisions are taken. Being a creative field, planning and executing to the plan is important, but the flexibility to take judgement calls must be factored in because many aspects are beyond one’s control, adds Sippy. And this is exactly what happened: the filming of Karan Johar’s
Kabhie Alvida Naa Kehna was postponed, which resulted in a lot of free time for Abhishek.

“This is the point where you need to take judgment calls. Since Sanjay Dutt was busy during that period, he was replaced with Ritiesh Deshmukh. And we were rolling within five to six weeks,” says Sippy. The rest of the cast was already in place.

Now was the time for the most critical decision: the budget. This required the skills of a line producer who prepared the film’s budget after looking at the requirements of the script. The budget for Bluffmaster was finalised at Rs 8-9 crore, but it spilled over on two additions towards the end of the film, one of which was Abhishek’s video for Sabse Bada Rupaiya. The cost: Rs 40-50 lakh.

Music is the soul of every Hindi film, but it was not taken into account while preparing the budget. So, Sippy decided to turn this to his advantage. He struck a deal with Trick Baby of the UK for their three existing tracks to be used as promotions in the movie. The group also remixed Mehmood’s Sabse Bade Rupaiya which was already a part of Saregama’s catalogue. Similarly, a barter deal was struck with the Swedish producer representing Arash and Anila Mirza, who sang Boro Boroand Sena Sena, to use their music in exchange for their performance in the film. As a result, a different genre of music was introduced in the film at virtually no cost.

For a movie to stick to its budget, it is important to adhere to timelines. By August, less than six weeks into the film’s shooting, Bluffmaster had worked out its release and the team took an unprecedented step: the film’s release date, December 16, was printed on the posters.

“We sat together and worked on really tight schedules. we brought in a good location manager as we wanted live locations, not studios, and we needed a new location everyday. Critically, if you delay shoots, you can overshoot your budget and time. So, we shot for 12-15 hours and after wrapping up the shoots, we did a recce of the next day’s location. This is how we wrapped up the shooting in 50 days, Mumbai’s nightmare floods of 26/7 notwithstanding,” says Sippy. After the film was canned, the next part of the plan was logistically easy, he adds.

“The last part to be shot was Abhishek’s music video which was postponed because he fell sick,” says Sippy, who was tricked into appearing in the video by Abhishek. As far as planning is concerned, declaring a date and sticking to it worked. The film was well received, and it is one of the few films in the US that received better collections in its second weekend than the first, on sheer word-of-mouth publicity.

The film’s success proves that all enterprises work towards a plan, that of turning a profit for the business, and film-making is no exception.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Failure as a Stepping Stone

The one emotion that binds the applicants of ET’s Power of Ideas programme is passion. The 746 contenders, who couldn’t make it to the final list of 254, are keen to pursue their dreams, despite a temporary setback. At the elevator pitch stage, ET and angel partner Indian Angel Network had decided that 746 ideas from the list of 1,000 did not make the cut.

For instance, Delhi-based Dr VK Singh and wife Dr Nandini Singh had submitted an idea of a simple product that can detect brain development disorder in children at an early stage. While Dr Singh has been instrumental in setting up the National Brain Research Centre, after a research-based job at UC Berkeley, IIT-K graduate Dr Singh works for a startup as CTO and vice-president.

“Our healthcare and technology backgrounds helped us come up with an idea that will improve the health of millions through technology in a cost-effective way,” said Dr Singh. An undeterred Dr Singh is currently pitching his idea to other investors.

What has helped those on the negative list to chase their entrepreneurial dreams is the set of learnings gained through group mentoring and feedback from the mentors during the elevator pitch.

Similar is the case of 26-yearold Naresh Prajapati whose idea of digital menus and billing at restaurants was not cleared. However, Mr Prajapati is pursuing his idea in a different manner, thanks to the mentors, who helped him polish the business concept. “I feel that this technology is convenient and will be widely used in restaurants across the country within three years,” he said.