Spatial Access

Large budget films have nothing to do with length

Brand Equity

In conversation with Geetanjali Bhattacharji, CEO, Marketing Services, Spatial Access, which runs a TV commercial audit

What price bracket does a film need to fall into in order to be considered “expensive”?

Over Rs. 2.5 crore. It also depends on who the client is and the medium. Procurement experts have set the threshold at Rs. 1 crore. The threshold is at Rs. 1.5crore for a telecom major we have been auditing. We have auto clients who spend Rs.60 lakh to Rs.80 lakh; for them even a crore is expensive. On the digital medium, we have a company that’s done 12 films at Rs. 1 lakh each. But if you look at the law of averages, across the 800 odd films we have audited, the average production cost for a 60 second film shot in India without celebrities has moved from `Rs. 75 lakh in 2007 to Rs. 1.25 crore, today. It’s a small increase technically. Add the inflationary cost and it doesn’t matter. It’s possible to do enough and more budget films.

What are some of the most expensive film projects that you’ve heard of ?
In our context, there was a three location international shoot for a two wheeler client at Rs. 3.5 crore. And a telecom film with a lot of animation which was again Rs. 3.5 crore. Celebrity films work out to between Rs. 5.5 crore and Rs. 6 crore, if you include the cost of the celebrity.

Typically, which categories spend the most?
Beauty and skin care since they tend to take in celebrities, import stylists and shoot at exotic locations. We work with the thrifty auto spenders, but know of auto companies who do a lot of global shoots. Breweries want to show extravagance since it’s one piece of communication and they don’t know where it will air or how often and so want to put everything into it.

How does the entire process of a film becoming expensive begin?
The people setting budgets at the brand level need to have a clear context. They should consider the number of films they make a year, the creative lifespan, how they can slice the film and if they
can do multiple edits. Budget setting should be done with reference to an objective that’s not just marketing related but considers strategy and media scheduling. There are not too many brands looking at that seriously.

The brief that goes out at a macro level is ‘I want the best film ever.’ As a producer when I hear that, you are cuing me to a direction that says ‘let this be my award winning film.’ Brands come to us saying ‘We don’t want to affect the quality of the film.’ Or ‘We want to work with Grade A production houses.’ My question is who defines that grade? When a director makes a great film, he
moves up the grade and the production margin increases.

Where does the impulse to make a big budget film usually stem from — agency or marketer?
The buck must stop at the marketer. It is important for the agency to have complete clarity on why the film is being made. Once during a conference call with a client and a creative head, the creative guy said ‘I request you to clear this since I see it as an award winning film.’ I turned to the client and said this is the reason you need to look at the costs.