We'll be done when we stop feeling shivers before making a film: Chrome Pictures founders

As Chrome Pictures completes its two-decade journey, interviewed Co-founders Amit Sharma, Aleya Sen, and Hemant Bhandari. They share insights into the inception of one of India's most celebrated production houses, the significance of producing quality films, the next frontier of growth, and more

Shreya Negi
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We'll be done when we stop feeling shivers before making a film: Chrome Pictures founders

Chrome Pictures Founders

With Amit Sharma and Hemant Bhandari being childhood buddies who’ve stuck around each other since Class 2 to work with Shoojit Sircar, followed by Sharma and Aleya Sen working together under Pradeep Sarkar in their initial days, it was only a matter of time that the three of them with shared interests towards storytelling and filmmaking united to start something of their own.

The three of them, having worked with the top shots of the Indian ad film-making industry for more than five years and on projects not just in India but globally as well, made good money for themselves but it was their hunger to do something on their own that made them go independent.

Back in 2004 when starting at the age of 24 years was considered a big deal, it was for valid reasons. Therefore, the three of them also had their fair share of challenges in making their mark in the commercial filmmaking industry.  

Highlighting their naivety and youthful nature at the time, Sharma laughingly mentioned, “When we were discussing amongst ourselves the logic behind keeping the venture’s name Chrome Pictures and Sen mentioned that if we hide the three alphabets- C, H and E, it becomes ‘Om’ and that was it. We decided to go with the name Chrome Pictures!”

And even though they have completed 20 years of existence now, none of them is ‘satisfied yet’ as the hunger of wanting to do something different is still left, even more so than when the trio started. 

“We still feel that there is a lot of work in us which is still wanting to come out and be it me, Hemant or Aleya, we want to show people that we can do more not just as directors but also producers. The directors and producers in us don’t want to be limited to traditional advertising units but prepare and go further in digital and feature films as well,” Sharma said.

With this, he also mentioned that, at Chrome Pictures, what the three of them also want to do is bring in new talents at their younger age and allow them to showcase their work, something that the trio didn’t get a chance for during their initial days.

That being said, Sen highlighted that the one thing that unites the three of them in their relationship with each other is that they’re not just the biggest fans of each other’s work but also the biggest critics as well.

“Being the biggest fans and critics of each other’s work is something that keeps us together and helps us move further in consistently wanting to strive for more and more. It is because of this very healthy provocation in our relationship, which also is our duty, that we constantly better ourselves individually,” she added. 

Commenting on the challenges that they’ve faced in the past two decades as a production house, Sharma pointed out that since any filmmaker is as good as his or her last film, making a good film in itself is the biggest challenge.

“Whether a film wins an award or doesn’t, the idea is always to treat the script and make the film with equal love and that is precisely what keeps us alive and going. I still feel the shivers in my legs when I go for making a film and I believe that the day it goes away, we’ll be done,” he pointed out.  

Sharing his views from a financial lens, Bhandari mentioned that when Chrome Pictures was just born, for the first six months, there was hardly any work and all that the production house was getting at the time was a mere 10-15 seconder promo which was worth somewhere between 1-2.5 lakhs in INR.

“When we started, I was the one who was producing and Amit and Aleya were directing. But what actually worked magically for us was that with every job that we were doing, the passion of Amit and Aleya was just growing as they didn’t want to just stick with one job but go beyond and create small stories or public service films, initially with their own pockets, just so that they could showcase their work,” he remarked.

Recalling the early days, he also mentioned that when they approached the agencies after two of the films produced by Chrome Pictures- one for Hanes and the other for Old Man, won awards and therefore people assumed that they were made by already established directors but when they realised that they were made by the new production house on the block, more jobs came to them.

“I think the way we had our big break into this market was by picking up work at whatever cost we were getting and then delivering quality every time we were doing something. And I think that's what worked for us, but we had our fair share of challenges, but the best thing was that our motto was always to make and deliver the films beyond people’s expectations,” he highlighted.

To this, Sharma also added that when people with a budget of say three lakhs wanted to make a film, they expected it to be a three-lakh film and not a thirty-lakh one, and what Chrome Pictures managed to do was make films which not only looked good but exceeded their expectations at that time.

Ironically, in times like these when people’s attention span has gone down to as less as 5 seconds, and digital mediums themselves suggest that short-form content, probably a 5-10 seconder works best when the production house was tasked with coming up for a film for Facebook, Chrome Pictures came up with an eight-minute film because the script demanded just that and not a 2-minute version.

“I think what’s important is to not communicate a message in 10 seconds or short duration just for the sake of it, but come up with something meaty that is attractive enough to communicate your message because if you manage to get the viewer’s attention in the first 5-10 seconds, the viewer will stick around and complete watching the whole film,” Sharma opined. 

That being said, for Chrome Pictures, profitability has never been a priority and even though there has been strict control on cost, as per the trio, they haven’t made a film to make money. The utmost priority has always been to make a great film because if that happens, money follows. 

“We are doing everything within this profession- advertising, long format, feature films, music videos, etc. But outside this profession also, we are trying to explore and develop some new things which can be beneficial not just for us but for everyone. We are already working on more feature films wherein we’re not just doing the direction but also producing them with other directors. But going forward, we will also be getting into web series,” Bhandari said. 

The three of them also stated that while they’re one happy-go-lucky production house, it is their culture and principles which have made many people stick with Chrome Pictures in its 20-year journey.

“We’ve taken the chapter of goodwill also very seriously and we believe in the fact that it goes a long way. That it is not just doing one good ad film together, but the journey that people enjoy and the kind of shared comfort in working together that matters,” Sen said.

We'll be done when we stop feeling shivers before making a film: Chrome Pictures founders