Shephali Bhatt
Nov 22, 2011

Live Issue: The checklist for collaboration in production

Shephali Bhatt speaks to five experts, from India and the UK, to understand how the intent can be made to work

Live Issue: The checklist for collaboration in production


'Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up in’, said Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the greatest writers of the 19th century. There’s hardly any field in the business of ideation which is alien to the benefits of collaboration.
This phenomenon could be seen across adland where  production houses from UK are eyeing a collaboration with Indian production houses to produce skilled work. A collaboration of this nature is an uphill task, considering the discrepancy in the cultural nuances of the two countries. But Roopak Saluja, co-founder, managing director, Bang Bang Films, says, “Collaborating enables opening up of the market. It not only provides high-end production services, but also gives you a great opportunity to learn.” Bringing in a freelance international director to work for a project is a practice which has been followed in India for quite some time now (Andrew Hardaway was brought by Future East to work on Yamaha FZ, Ben Hartenstein has worked on ads like Volkswagen and Axe, Juan Jaramillio has worked for Hyundai Verna,  i20); the other is where you co-produce with international production houses (Crocodile Films partnered with The Mill, London for Audi A8 L 3D campaign).  
An Indian idea combined with the technical expertise of production houses from UK, can definitely enhance the quality of work. But is it that simple? KV Sridhar (Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett, doesn’t think so. He says, “At this stage it is rather difficult to think about collaboration with UK production houses because of one critical factor, cost.” The production and post-production houses of UK are eye-wateringly expensive. 
Daniel Sapiano, global head, client services, Primefocus, shares, “In UK things work in a formulaic manner whereas in the last five months that I’ve spent in India, I’ve gauged that there’s supposed to be a quick turn-around reaction to everything.” Sapiano adds every new relationship brings in a lot of initial excitement but it is difficult to sustain the same for a long time. The initial verve dies down with time and rapid e-mail replies are reduced to weekly one line responses, in most cases. 
Simon Gosling, executive producer, Framestore (VFX company in London) adds, “For a post-production house the challenge gets graver because the agency, client and production house want different things, and the post production company has  find one solution for all of them.” Gosling admits having received projects from India but there’s been no progress on them because of the perennial problem of time and budget.
Tim Katz, managing director, Knucklehead (UK production house) says, “We have been facing these challenges for the last 15 years when we’ve gone into a new territory. If you’ve a good script, a desire to work and talented people, that’s all you need.” Katz mentioned how Amitabh Bhattacharya of Nomad Films is willing to work with good foreign production houses to raise his own game. Adds Saluja, “Indian market is opening up, post-production space is ripe for entry of foreign companies.”
As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”; similarly, despite different cultural nuances, paucity of time and money, one can always look at   collaboration as an opportunity to build relationships for future. 
Production house (India)
Roopak Saluja, co-founder, managing director, Bang Bang Films
“If you have the same standards, ethos, processes and values, the collaboration works perfectly fine.  I have heard that a few production houses are insecure about foreign production houses coming in and eating up their work, but that’s a very myopic way of thinking. These guys are not going to be competing for smaller jobs. Yes, a foreign director is not attuned to Indian culture but then you don’t bring him to do something that an Indian director can do, but for his expertise. Creatives these days are much more open to working with foreign directors than they were a few years ago.”
Post-production (UK)
Simon Gosling, executive producer, commercials, Framestore
“If we make an outstanding advert in India which is accepted by the Indian market and goes on to win awards, then the clients would be willing to make more ads like that. We’ve received enquiries from some Indian clients but nothing has been finalised as yet. What they are realising is that we are not patronising them, we are looking at an idea to see where we can take it within the given budget and time.  Eventually, I’m hopeful it’s going to result in something fruitful. As long as we keep in touch through mails, on Facebook, it’ll help us work together one day or the other.”
K V Sridhar (Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett
“India is a complex country. You can’t talk to people in this country by basing your communication strategy on demographics. It is tough for an Indian to adapt himself to the ever-changing dynamics of this country. God help a foreigner. We have so many network agencies but how many expats work here as creative directors? In fact how many expat creative directors have worked in India since 1950?  You have to be a part of the game to be able to change the game.  As long as that doesn’t happen, the idea of collaborating looks difficult. ”
Post-production (India)
Daniel Sapiano, global head, client services, Primefocus
“For UK production houses, the challenge would be committing  the time,  the energy and the right people.Things don’t always work out as planned in India, the culture is completely alien for someone from UK, and there’s a large disparity between  UK and Indian budgets.  But it’s about building relationship now and sustain them in future.  India has been doing global work and for that matter, the  budget really depends on what you’re trying to sell and who you’re trying to sell it to.”
Production house (UK)
Tim Katz, managing director, Knucklehead
“Money is always going to be a challenge. Secondly, would you want to work with somebody you don’t know? If I’ve worked with a local director on ten projects, there are chances I won’t like to break that association.  But we never said that we want to do every job for an Indian agency or production house. There’s some good work happening here in India, all we want is to do a bit of work in India because ours is a global production company, and to be truly successful global company, you need to pick good work from all around the world. Picking up one good script from India raises our bar in all other territories.”


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