Film-maker Sandeep Varma, who has worked in the Indian film space for over 20 years, found it difficult to adjust to the production process. He calls it chaotic as hiring talent is not easy.
A producer depends on a line producer (daily operations manager), who, in turn, depends on his/her network. This means that the producer and the director get limited options for both talent and services.
And, if the right talent or equipment are not booked, there will be budget overruns, and the project timeline will be affected, he said.
Varma cited one example. “This was a shoot in Rajasthan that had to be completed in 40 days, but was stopped in 20 days,” he said.
“For the shoot, Rs 25 crore was allocated but the money got over mid-way. The line producer called the studio and sought an extra Rs 9 crore. He warned that without the money, the project will be stalled because the star will not be available anytime soon,” Varma said.
Things are more difficult for bigger projects. “Studios check if a director has a line producer. If the director is in touch with a line producer, studios transfer money to the director's account and the director gives the money to the line producer. Money is not transferred to line producers directly. Due to this process, studios have no visibility of their investments. They don't know where and how their money is being spent,” he said.A solution evolves
These pain points prompted Varma to create a platform for production services called Filmboard.
To streamline the process, bring in transparency and control costs, Varma, with his friend, Rajesh Butta, came up with a marketplace for production services in 2017.
“Rajesh and I are batchmates from BITS, Pilani. I went into film-making and he into the technology space. I spoke to him about creating a platform that will make film-making more process-driven,” said Varma.
Thus was born Filmboard, an aggregator for production services where one can look for actors, technicians, camerapersons, models, dubbing artistes, caterers, among others, with quoted price, work references and reviews.
The one company offering similar services has no quoted price and reviews.How the wheels roll
“Producers can post their requirement and service providers can respond to that. So, if there’s requirement for a location, the notification will go to all those offering location-based services,” said Butta, who is the co-founder at Filmboard.
Varma explains this further with an example. “If there is a shooting in Kolkata, a producer will typically seek references from line producers, mainly in Mumbai. They may refer people they may not have worked with, but know through someone and that person will organise the shoot in Kolkata.”
With Filmboard, a producer can directly check for agencies in Kolkata listed on the platform.
There are over 10,000 listings from across the country now. In 12 months, it will touch 1 lakh, said Varma.
Limited listing despite inception in 2017
“While Filmboard was incorporated in 2017, we started working in 2018, and, for a year and half, we were in stealth mode because we wanted to be strong enough on the supply side, so that there are enough options for producers. We came out into the open last year,” said Butta.
He explained the challenges they faced initially.
The first challenge was onboarding a large base of suppliers to the platform. “The problem was the different parameters we have. People need to give the right information. If a cameraperson has five cameras, they need to tell us about all the five and the lenses they have.
“The second is that you must have a quote. We initially faced issues because people told us to get the producer first, and then they will negotiate with him. We refused that,” said Butta.
However, now word of mouth is working for us and getting people on to the platform has become easier, he said.Is Filmboard helping in lowering cost?
“We are not offering to lower a project’s cost but to help producers complete projects within the allocated budget,” Varma clarifies.
“Our internal survey found out that 90 percent of all films and TV projects go overboard with their budgets. But we have a detailed template to make budgets,” he said.
Mitchelle D’Souza, a consultant with an NGO called Sneha, which works for women and children, recently took Filmboard’s help for a project.
“We wanted to do four animation films for a programme called ‘Prevention of Violence against women and children’. We, being an NGO, had budget constraints. We took quotes from other agencies but hardly found anything within our budget. When we approached Filmboard, they asked our budget upfront and sourced people accordingly. Plus, we had a one-person contact, and there was no need to talk to 10 people for different services,” she said.
The other option is to contact a film production agency, but it is expensive, she said. One can also approach an agency that does marketing, but it outsources the work, which means a markup.
Jaichelle Barretto, who has worked as an assistant director and currently works at an ad agency, said: "To find talent, we can put out the requirement on WhatsApp groups of film directors or rely on our network or sometimes search the Web and make random calls.”
Barretto has associated with Filmboard for animation films, short films, photo shoots and has hired a Director of Photography (DoP), editors, composers, actors and models.
However, an actor who has worked in Web series, and TV and film projects for eight years wondered whether Filmboard will be able to scale up or not.Only 13 projects so far
The concern is right as, so far, the platform has only 13 projects to its credit, and most of them are ad films, short films, and animation films.
So, will big film-makers, producers or studios approach Filmboard to streamline their production process? While only time will tell the answer, for now, the platform is lucrative for independent film-makers who lack networking.
Plus, small recording studios, post-production companies and even local talent can get more visibility.
Jai Tari, who has a post-production studio in Mumbai, called Cutpoint Pro Studio, said that through Filmboard, they are getting more discoverability, which, otherwise, would have been possible only through networking.
In a year’s time, Filmboard has done business worth Rs 85 lakh through two main revenue streams, and aims to turn profitable in three years. Filmboard has attracted investments worth Rs 1.7 crore so far.Revenue streams
“One way of earning money is through the commissions we charge the producer for the line production work we provide. The other is the charge from the location provider,” said Varma.
Varma and Butta are now exploring more avenues. “We may also charge listing fees and there can be sponsored listing,” said Varma. Filmboard is also trying to simplify the process of selecting locations which costs lakhs.
Here's how. “We have onboarded location providers, so that we have local people. For example, in Uttarkhand and Himachal Pradesh, we have local cameramen. At a pre-appointed time, the local cameraperson can go to the location and the cameraperson in Mumbai can virtually check the location,” said Varma.
Filmboard is planning to charge a fee for this service, making it another revenue stream.