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You are as good as your last film, says Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures

In a conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Chrome Pictures Co-founder Sharma talks about the changing landscape of the Indian ad film production industry, the need to retain talent and his journey to become one of the most sought-after directors

Amit Sharma

Getting good talent on board and retaining it in the organisation is one crucial issue the advertising industry, or for that matter every sector, is facing. But maintaining good relationships at every level and producing good work can help curtail this problem a bit.

Amit Sharma, Co-Founder, Chrome Pictures, says good relations and good work are inter-linked. “You have to have good relations with everybody, whether it is the agency or the spot boy on your set. Having good relations with the agency or client comes organically. Ultimately they will come back to you if your work is good. You are as good as your last film,” he said.

Sharma said, “There are two kinds of good relations – one just good relations and the other, good relation because of your work. And I believe in the second one.”

Sharma thinks that the onus of producing good work further increases if the script is good and the idea is amazing. “Every script that is good and has an amazing idea is challenging.”

At the age of 24, along with his partners, Aleya Sen and Hemant Bhandari, Sharma launched Chrome Pictures in 2005. Because they were young, it was difficult for them to gain clients’ trust in the beginning. But one of their earliest films for Hanes undergarments went viral and since then there has been no stopping.

On a lighter note, Sharma and Bhandari had to grow a beard to look mature. Sharma added, “So age played a very big obstacle in front of us. Hence, in order to look older and mature, Hemant and I grew a beard. Aleya couldn’t grow so we had to.”

Sharma, over the years, has always upped the ante with respect to his work whether it’s the Silent National Anthem ,  Google Search Reunion TVC, Chonkpur Cheetahs and J&K Tourism ad.

Excerpts:

How has the role of an ad film director in the making of an ad transformed over the years? Is it still limited to the execution?

It has definitely evolved and to the extent that agencies and creative give us the right to suggest ideas and make changes in the script. Ad filmmaking has become a collaborative effort between the writer and the director. Technically also, it has evolved. Every day, new equipment comes in the market.

Indian film ad directors have amazing film craft and creative qualities at par with the global market. But when it comes to using technology and animations, in India, we are far behind the international directors. What do you think are the reasons for this?

It’s not that we don’t have good animators in the country; the fact is that we don’t give them enough time to give us the right quality as they are working on deadlines. It is said that we are far behind international films, but the truth behind is that some of the best work like Avatar has happened in India. Also, the budget is a problem. Animators will definitely charge a premium as they are investing a lot of their time on a single project at a time.

A lot of creative agencies have started executing films in-house. Do you think this model of having in-house production house will work in the long run?

The most important thing is to keep the quality intact. The day the quality goes down; the clients will stop working with the in-house agency’s production houses. Ultimately, it is about quality what you are giving and getting.

In the plethora of ad production houses budding and flourishing in India, what is the secret sauce that India’s major creative agencies and brands want to work with Chrome Pictures for their biggest campaigns?

God has been great. It must be because of some good quality work that we have done.

Fetching good talent and retaining people in the organisation is one big issue that the creative industry is facing. How grim or good looking is the situation in the ad production houses?

You have to have good relations with everybody, whether it the agency or the spot boy on your set. Having good relations with the agency or client comes organically. Ultimately they will come back to you if your work is good. You are as good as your last film. There are two kinds of good relations – one just good relations and the other, good relation because of your work. And I believe in the second one.

In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com at Cannes, Piyush Pandey said clients want a massive film to be shot in the least time period, which hampers the quality of filmmaking. How well do you resonate with his thoughts and do you see the situation changing ever?

Quality will definitely suffer if you don’t give enough time and it goes for every aspect of the film, be it writing, script, camera or music. But at the same time, sometimes we have to deliver our work and still maintain the quality. If we get enough time, it is always better for us. So I agree with Piyush Pandey.

How difficult and easy is it to shoot with celebrities? According to the industry grapevine, a lot of celebrities interfere in the scripts and even end up changing the storyline and execution.

I don’t believe in that. In my career and experience, all the celebs that I have worked with have been very good. They have never created an issue. It is actually how you handle them also because if you are giving them the right logic, they understand. They are also intelligent and creative people. I have never had any bad experience till now.

How you got interested in ad filmmaking and how did Chrome Pictures come into existence?

I had no idea about ad film making. In school, I wanted to be a hero and used to do theatre in Delhi. I did an ad with Pradeep Sarkar in Delhi and while shooting that ad, I told him that I wanted to work with him. So, after finishing school, I joined him and worked with him for six years, which got me interested in direction. After working for six years with Sarkar, I started Chrome with Aleya Sen and Hemant Bhandari in 2005. We were 24 years old and during those days, very few people trusted youngsters. So age played a very big obstacle in front of us. Hence, in order to look older and mature, Hemant and I grew a beard. Aleya couldn’t grow so we had to.

Which has been your ‘turning point in your career’ kind of a campaign and the most challenging piece of work?

In the first year of Chrome Pictures, we didn’t get enough work. People didn’t know us and our footing was not that strong because we were new and young. Then, we did one ad for Hanes Undergarments and that film went viral everywhere. It got many international awards. So from that point, there was no looking back.

For me, every campaign is a challenge. The Idea’s number commercial was given to us by R Balki and that was one thing that helped prove ourselves. We wanted to prove everything that we had in us. That was one challenging project for us because it was our first film for Idea. At the same time, the script was amazing. It’s always challenging when you have a good script. Every script that is good and has an amazing idea is challenging.

Other examples are ‘The silent national anthem’, where I shot with 500 mute kids. Lifebuoy’s ‘Help a child reach 5-Gondappa film’ was also very challenging. For the film, we went all over India to find men who can walk on their hands for a long time and finally found someone in the South. On day one of the shoots, he got ill and we had to stop the shoot for a month for him to get fine. Then, again, when we went to shoot, a cyclone struck and we had to defer it again. It took us three months to complete the shoot.

Recently, we were shooting for Axis Mutual Fund’s film ‘Responsible Bejoyda’ in Vietnam and it was a wildlife area. We were in water, mud and there were spiders and crocodiles. That was quite challenging. So I feel every film and every script has its own challenge.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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