Gautam Chaturvedi, Managing Director, Pinetree Pictures, is an actor-turned-entrepreneur. He built Pinetree Pictures 13 years ago. While the Pandemic has been rather tough globally, Gautam Chaturvedi turned this into an opportunity. Find out how in this an interview he gave to ottwatcher.com. Excerpts:
How PineTree Pictures directed and produced a short film during the lockdown that won three international awards and three nominations?
Well, that was just a matter of dedication and passion for what we truly enjoy doing. Since the inception of Pine Tree, I have written, directed, voiced and produced hundreds of corporate films, TV shows and ad films, but it was much later we actually dabbled into the drama and short film space. Two months in the lockdown and an idea of creating a short film struck me in mid-May. It was just a thought of making a film that cannot only be created in these uncertain times but also where actors can work from their individual homes, yet seems like it is shot under one roof. I penned this thought creating the first draft of our short film’s story. I discussed it later with my dear friends Mazher Sayed and Mouli Ganguly (who is also one of the actors in the film). They loved the idea and egged me to go ahead and shot the film. Convincing Ridhiema Tiwari and Nilu Kohli to be a part of this film was a cakewalk. Appreciation for the story was so overwhelming that there was no going back from there.
I drew the storyboard myself and planned the shoot with my team. We had to ensure that the storyboard was descriptive enough to explain the frame, source of light, look, costume, etc. to match the frames of different locations. Efficient coordination between actors was the key to ensure everyone to be on the same page. Our biggest challenge was to edit the entire movie on remote control. As the film was entirely shot on mobile phones, dubbing too was required. We could only use limited available resources at home.
Once the film was ready we reached out to channels and also sent our submissions to various film festivals. Now our film ‘ Work from Home’ is streaming on MX Player and YouTube and has been viewed by nearly half a million people which is an absolute delight for us. The film has also gone one to win over eight international awards.
How the team worked to deliver over 500 minutes of film content for your clients?
This too was a challenging project. There was an important contract that was to be signed in the beginning of the year but was postponed and finally signed in the lockdown. We assigned four teams to work simultaneously on the project. We upskilled the team at Pine Tree; people who were event experts could now also make films. They learned new things every day and worked really hard to don this new hat. This gave us the flexibility and speed in terms of delivery and since the work was under expert supervision the quality wasn’t compromised. We also created animated videos, we have shot over 25 videos as the lockdown eased; so yes it’s been a very exciting journey.
How did you ensure that no staff was laid off during the pandemic despite being one of the worst hit industries due to the pandemic?
It was a conscious decision that we will not let go of our valued team members. We all agreed to a gradual pay cut; we continued working from home and kept tapping new avenues. Films gave us a push and as soon as lockdown was eased on June 8 we were back on our feet, and in office (in smaller numbers of course) working three days a week, but we kept taking new projects and delivering on time. We started shooting with a really miniscule team and also learnt how to make simple animated videos. That gave us a boost and within no time we were busy working on multiple projects. Though revenues are hit in a big way, we as a team are standing together and facing each day as it comes. Our teams, vendors and clients have been our biggest pillars of strength in these unprecedented times.
What are the ways in which OTT platforms are democratizing the entertainment industry by giving opportunities to budding artists, independent filmmakers, etc.?
OTT platforms have become a freeway for creativity. If you can, you have the opportunity to showcase it and no better time and no better platform than OTT. If your content is good it would be lapped up no matter what the cast is or which big or small production is associated with it. The viewer is the final decision maker and he enjoys good content. No stereotypes here, talent alone can make you a winner.
What kind of trends are you foreseeing to emerge in the film industry post-Covid-19?
I believe that as we return to what they call the new normal, a lot will be changed. The audience now demands innovative and cutting-edge content. They have been exposed to world cinema thanks to OTT platforms. Productions will have to revisit their strategies, relook at how they can provide better viewing experience to the audience.
The Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise for OTT platforms. With theatres shut, OTT release has been the only way out. But, once life returns to normalcy after the pandemic, do you think the audience will stick to OTT platforms as we see today? What is your take on this?
Yes, they would stick to OTT, not that theatres would go empty but I believe how every TV channel has some dedicated viewership, so would the OTT platforms. People would still like to go to theatres to experience cinema with families or friends, but they will find it more convenient to view their favourite content at a time and place feasible to them.
How do you view the proliferation of regional content on OTT platforms?
It is just the beginning. Good regional content is growing on OTT and soon it will be giving the mainstream content a run for its money. Your mother tongue always remains closer to your heart because it has more feelings attached to it; you understand emotions better in the language you think in.
Streaming services of late are coming under immense pressure, the recent one being the case against Netflix over a kissing scene. What is your view on such moves stifle creative freedom and the growth of OTT in India?
A lot of intellectuals are speaking about this; I may not be in a position to give any verdict on this, but my humble opinion is that creativity should be allowed to flow free. It’s for the viewer to decide what he/she likes to view. Yes, it must be clearly announced at the beginning of the film/series and still if you wish to view it, it’s your choice.
What is your view on the government move to regulate OTT platforms?
I haven’t really read about it so won’t comment at this point. My only submission is that it should not restrict creativity. We are a democracy and for the survival of our democratic values regulation might not be the answer. Enable people to make the right choices that would be a better path.
What are your upcoming projects in the pipeline? Have you signed up with any OTT platforms for any projects?
I am in the process of developing an interesting film script and hoping to start work on it by early 2021. We also manage corporate events (in today’s scenario- virtually) and produce ad films, instructional/educational and corporate films and are busy delivering the same for our clients.