Content strategy could take a new turn post lockdown: Goldie Behl

Behl, Indian filmmaker & TV producer, speaks about the impact of the lockdown on content production, the shift from traditional filmmaking & TV production to OTT content making, and more

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: May 20, 2020 9:15 AM
Goldie Behl

Goldie Behl, noted Indian filmmaker, TV producer and Director of Rose Audio Visuals Pvt Ltd, is the man behind some of the popular commercial films and TV serials.

After producing 15 feature films, and almost 1500 hours of programming content for TV, his production house, which has been in business for almost five decades, has taken a digital-first approach and has been producing content for some of the leading OTT platforms.

In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Behl spoke about the impact of current lockdown on content production and consumption, the shift from traditional filmmaking and TV production to OTT content making and more.

Edited excerpts

From a prolific film and TV content production to a digital-first content house, what explains this shift?

In the last two years, our focus has been digital and OTT content. I have decided not to do linear TV, GECs or films for the moment and all my energies are focused on digital. Fortunately or unfortunately it is the way forward and everybody is looking at it and we have the early movers advantage. It's a very tricky medium, you have to master the TV and cinema as a medium very well to dominate this space.

I believe storytelling on digital platforms is like films but the telling of it is very television-like because it is episodic. So you have a very restless audience which is ready to skip, which they cannot do in a theatre.

Is there a playbook for making good content on OTT?

There is no playbook. But I would call any content good if everyone attached to it benefits from it - whether it is the viewer, the investor, the platform or you as a storyteller. And I have understood that it is a team effort at the end where the producer is one of the pieces in the jigsaw and he or she is not the complete jigsaw. Simply put, you have to make money for the people involved.

What are the don'ts as far as content creation is concerned?

There was a movie which I made called ‘DRONA'. It was a very ambitious film. At that point in 2008, it was budgeted at Rs 50-55 crores, which is equivalent to Rs 150-200 crore today, and I did not listen to people. It was a big lesson. Similarly, I faced a tough time with a TV series after that movie and I learnt not to overextend oneself. I would say if you want to experiment do that as new things come out of that experiment but keep an eye on the budget and keep an eye on who you are catering to.

How will the business of content production shape up in the post covid world, will the production budgets shrink?

I don't see any reason why the OTT platform budgets should shrink. I have heard that GECs have been considering cutting budgets because their advertising revenues have gone down. Since content making in India is so low cost already, I don't know how much will they exploit an individual producer. Today it has become more difficult to make a TV show than a movie because there is no safety net for producers. If that budget cut happens it will be very unfortunate. Maybe they should produce less content and not cut budgets.

Has OTT put an end to the star system which is quite rampant in mainstream filmmaking?

Bit of a yes and no. When I started OTT everybody used to tell me that we don't need a star but it has come back to the same thing. Now they want a known face to attract attention. So I see it turning into a star system of a different kind on OTT in the coming days.

What is your advice to independent content creators on Tiktok, YouTube etc?

I think it is the authenticity that will work. As long as you are authentic to yourself and your brand, it will stand out and work otherwise it won't. There is nothing more to becoming successful digitally.

Do you believe the viewership habits have changed in this lockdown period? Also, how will it pan out in the post-COVID?

There has been a change in the screening front. Since there is a lack of fresh content on TV, we are witnessing family audiences coming to OTT while it was supposed to be a single screen where everyone watches their own preferred content. Now because of this lockdown, it is becoming more of a community viewing. Whether that will remain in practice is something that needs to be seen and accordingly the content will start getting shaped for that.

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