Believe it or not, the ad film market sees as much of a rush as conventional cinema. Of the estimated 2,000-3,000 ad films India makes a year, about 500 involve big budgets, brands and companies. Of these, just about 20-40 ads involve celebrities. The budgets for these are typically Rs 50–60 lakh, compared to the usual Rs 15–25 lakh for other big brand films. As the ad film registers ring, what happens to creativity?
While most filmmakers join the run for big bucks, there could be instances where an original script makes way for an un-original ad film. The vision of the scriptwriter may completely be at loggerheads with what the filmmaker has to offer. Call it a miscommunication of sorts or a generation gap (perhaps a giant leap), but the filmmaker’s vision may just not be what you expected out of your copy.
National Creative Director of McCann Erickson, Prasoon Joshi asserts, “It’s a common problem in the advertising circles. You have a script in hand (a piece that’s close to your heart) and a certain vision that accompanies the script. Yet the filmmaker’s onus on the entire deal is contrived or construed and just doesn’t carry the depth that you had envisioned. What are you left with? But after you emerge as a seasoned agency man, you have a fair inkling of the filmmakers that actually do justice to the job at hand. You identify your partners (people who think like you) and then you sit with them, and become a part the proceedings. That’s the only way to bridge the creative gap (if any) Communication and close collaboration, those are the key words.”
One filmmaker who comes to mind is Prahlad Kakkar. He puts his two pence on the entire issue and argues, “There’s no such thing as a compromise of sorts. Honestly, if ad agency guys feel that I don’t direct my film too well, they should stop making use of my services. Since they know what they want and they also know best, why can’t advertising agencies take the onus on to themselves to direct the film as well? Why come to a Prahlad Kakkar? Having said that, I must also mention that if a film doesn’t succeed in the market, you can’t possibly scapegoat the filmmaker. If you offer a mediocre idea and expect the filmmaker to make magic out of it, I think that it’s asking for too much.”
He sums it up, “The important thing with making a good film is to have conviction in the product. Then all your ideas will fall in place. For an ad to be successful it has to be honest. And this piece of advice goes for both filmmakers and agency men.”
Ravi Deshpande, who runs his own production unit St Baptist Road, has a slightly different take on things. He states, “Success in the creative world lies in your ability to capture the simple, identifiable, everyday small things. My definition of what might work may be slightly different from yours but the basic premise is the same. Plus, we are working towards a common objective. The way, I do the balancing act is I discuss every aspect of the film with the creative director and jointly we try and work out a compromise in problem areas. Often I drill some sense of how a film would look after incorporating such and such changes, and then of course, there could be a counter view on why those changes might not look good. Either way, there are two sides to a story and you need to strike a balance between the two. Listen hard and don’t get caught up in a rigid mindset (as in try and enforce your expert opinion even when the other person may have a valid point). Compromise is the definitive word here.”
He adds, “Having said that, it must also be told that every agency deserves the creative output that comes out from the filmmaker. If you are proactive, you might extract that much more.”
Meanwhile, Sean Colaco, Creative Director, Mudra asserts, “In the formative years of my career, I had to face film directors who clearly didn’t live up to my expectations and preferred to do things their way. As a result, I had to put up with films that quite didn’t live up to the original idea. The only way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to sit with the filmmaker through the proceedings and give your inputs while he is at the job. You have to be completely aware of what’s going on at the shoot; you can’t possibly leave a script in the hands of a filmmaker and be done with it. A pro-active filmmaker would always welcome your participation and interest his job, and in the end, it’s a collaborative effort. There would of course be areas where I wouldn’t tread and give the filmmaker his complete freedom. But I would have to be in the know and would have to be kept in the loop of things.”
Filmmaking is a fine art. More so in the case of an ad film where the story needs to be summed up with a few quick takes. And when it’s a war of words, between the filmmaker and the creative man, compromise is clearly the order of the day.