AVM Productions recently announced plans to step into the web series segment
We learn that top regional production houses are all preparing to take the plunge
Bored with rewatching Narcos, House of Cards and Stranger Things? Binge-watched Indian web-series like Inside Edge and Breathe already? Don’t worry, for your options look set to explode in number, given how successful Tamil film production houses are now looking to step into the web series bandwagon. Dream Warrior Pictures, the makers of Aruvi and Theeran Adhigaram Ondru, is already bankrolling a one starring Bobby Simha and Parvatii Nair. Last week, one of our most prestigious production houses, AVM, invited proposals from upcoming filmmakers.
Aparna Guhan Shyam, granddaughter of AVM Saravanan, and partner at AVM Productions, explains that the organisation has already produced an hour-long YouTube film called Idhuvum Kadandhu Pogum. “It was our way of testing the digital space. We are quite happy with the results, and want to take a stab at it." She explains how it’s important that film production houses realise that the making of a web series is quite different. "We've done films; we’ve done a lot of serials too, but web series are not the same at all. It’s important to come up with something interesting that can hold the audience's attention over multiple episodes. I think it’s both easier and harder when compared to a feature film."
She rubbishes the notion that this could come as a threat to feature films. "People go to cinemas for a different experience. But as far as budgeting is concerned, I approach it the same way as I do films. It all depends on who we're doing it for, and the script."
Producer SR Prabhu of Dream Warrior Pictures affirms that web series aren’t a threat to films, and that they cater to a different market entirely. "It's another avenue for producers. The production methodology is the same. Ultimately, it’s about creating a product and then selling it to an entity that wants to show it." Prabhu believes there is a bright future for web series in Tamil. "After Hindi audiences, I’d say our people have really taken to digital content. Our consumer capacity is high. The cost of production has gone down because of this medium and I foresee more production houses stepping in."
Hema Rukmani, CEO, Thenandal Studio Limited, has had her hands full with big projects like Mersal, but is still quite keen on doing something for the streaming services. “We considered it very seriously about two years ago, but felt that the time was not right then. If portals such as Amazon and Netflix show interest in working with us, I think there’s money to be made. It seems to be the future." She feels the medium is also great to introduce new talent. "Gautham Menon did a brilliant job with Weekend Machan and I love those theatre artistes who were a part of it. I'm elated to see them getting recognised." She also adds that web series could give creators more freedom. “I think there’s more flexibility to reach a niche audience, and the creative freedom to pursue a variety of subjects."
Sashikanth of Y Not studios, the makers of Vikram Vedha, feels that this evolution is simply a natural extension of storytelling. "The consumption of content over the web is definitely increasing. The markets are changing for sure and the scale that is required for theatrical releases puts pressure on the producers to consider an alternative medium. I think the problem though is that till now, we haven't yet had a spectacular home-bred web series in terms of writing or production value."
He can’t stress enough on the importance of the writing. “The problem in our industry is that many don't yet know how to write well for a feature film — there’s no writer community here,” he says. “On the web, we'll be competing with shows like Narcos and Game of Thrones, unlike in the feature films category where we only compete with those that get released on a Friday. Will our presence be felt on the web? I think only our quality will define that."
The writers at Y Not Studios have apparently been developing skills to write for a web-series for the last two years. "We've set a certain benchmark for quality in feature films, and this is something we would like to continue on the web too. We've cracked it on paper and have a couple of concepts that we're interested in doing. In the next six months, we will begin producing our first web-series."
Dhananjayan of BOFTA Media Works calls web-series "the future of entertainment” and sees in them the potential for making use of markets across the globe. But it’s not all hunky-dory, he says. “Web series don't get traction and viewership unless the casting is good. Just like in films, people look out for known faces. That's why Breathe that starred Madhavan turned out to be successful. Similarly, youth icons like Gautham Menon and Balaji Mohan (As I'm Suffering From Kadhal) were successful too."
Bringing a star on board, however, is easier said than done. “The moment a star steps in, the production costs shoot to around Rs 3-4 lakh per episode and so, an independent producer can't really invest in a web series unless with the backing of an OTT (over the top) platform,” he explains. “If such a platform asks me to pitch one for them, I would happily do it. But it won’t be viable if I’m expected to do it all myself, and then finally, look for a buyer. At least in films, I can create hype, but I can't do the same with web series." But the producer is still confident about the newest form of storytelling, and assures that he will be stepping in too. "I’ve already got a couple of interesting ideas," he shares. Well, bring them on.