Trust me, if you are going to read this story of How Vishwajoy and his team made to the top ranks with their successful Web-series, you would find yourself seriously contemplating on taking a shot at the Web.
Web series is the new sexy
Here we go!
Before the start of Baked, as a director, what was running in your mind?
After working as a journalist for a bit, I realized that I was interested in making movies and films, so I decided to join this small production company in Delhi. I worked there for two years, from 2012 to 2014, and it was mostly about corporate films. Initially, everything was really exciting, and I was learning a lot, but then I got really tired of doing corporate films. It was a pretty long metro ride from Gurgaon to Delhi, and every day, on the metro ride back home, I used to think of something to do, something that I could do myself. That’s when this idea of three young college guys, who are failures in life, and who start a midnight food delivery service and cook, which also doesn’t go very well, came to my mind. This idea of a comedy of errors started to spring up in my mind.
How did the idea of making online as your platform come around?
I saw people watching these comedy sketches made by AIB and TVF, like 5-minute and 10-minute spoofs, and parodies which were becoming viral. The audiences were clearly there, and I thought of pushing the boundaries of what online entertainment can be and making a full fledged online show, with over 7 episodes of 25-minute duration. And then, I got in touch with Akash Mehta, and we both decided to form Pechkas Pictures and do this professionally and properly. We somehow finally managed to raise the money independently, and started shooting the series in October last year. This took over a month, and we edited it over the next couple of months. Later in around January, once everything was done, we thought we need to make sure a lot of people know about this, so we needed a publicity partner like ScoopWhoop who is good at reaching out to the masses. We went to them, they liked the series a lot, and they wanted to be more heavily involved in the whole thing. That’s how they ended up hosting the content on their channel and promoting it.
Clearly, the production part of ‘Baked’ was all taken care of by you. So, tell us about the problems and challenges you faced during that one month of filming the series.
Because we had little money, we had an extremely small crew working on it, and the crew was even outnumbered by the cast, on some days. Raju, my friend from my journalism days came on board as the cinematographer, and Shweta, who is also an FTII alumnus became a part of the technical team. It was a very odd group of people, for instance, our sound recording guy, Sahil, used to record bands in a studio but he came and started doing the sound recording on the location as well as post production. It was crazy because we were a crew of 5-6 members who were trying to do this at the level of an actual TV show. Time was the main constraint for us at that time, because we were continuously working for 20-22 hours a day, every day for a month. We all ended up being mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the whole exercise and I think the only reason behind everyone being so charged up, was the fact that if we do this right, it can be very special and something new and unique. All of us were at the start of our careers and trying to do something interesting and new, and that’s what kept us going despite being on a tight budget and tedious work schedules.
This whole concept was new to India, and unlike other short films that people make, this was on a whole new level. What was your inspiration, not as an individual but as a team, to do it the way you did it? And, where did you get it from?
I think everyone had their own reasons for doing it. They saw it as a good opportunity to showcase their talents and skills and really get involved in a bigger project rather than just a short film or playing a small part in an advertisement or in a big film. This was one of those things where they could truly express themselves as actors and performers and the aesthetics through which we were approaching it was to their liking. Apart from that, I think everyone had their own motivation for pushing as hard as they could, like for Akash and I, as filmmakers, we wanted to put out some good piece of work, or something that people would watch and say “Oh, this is some good work. We’re waiting for more stuff from them.”
Share with us your process of casting. Was it natural or did you go for the usual way of holding auditions and then selecting the cast for the series?
Akash is from a theatre background, and knows a lot of people in theatre. We had 40 people who were involved in theatre in Delhi and were good at it. We got a vast majority of them to come and act and be a part of ‘Baked’. As for auditions, we shot a short 10-minute pilot before we shot the whole thing just to show people what we were trying and to test it out ourselves, and at that time we got the three main leads, and a bunch of other people were cast for that pilot. Because we all worked well together and I liked what they were doing, it became a good audition for them and we got what we wanted.
Every character had its own importance in the series, be it the inspector or the lady. The script was done by you and Akash Mehta, so, was it locked before shooting started, or did you keep making improvisations during the whole procedure?
Most of the time, we stuck to script. There was very little improvisation, mostly, we stuck to the script. Even if one of the actors did something outside the script, we wrote it down in it, and then asked them to proceed with it. So, basically, we finished the script, and passed it on to the actors for their inputs and any changes required, so that it was almost locked before shooting started. Sometimes, because of a small hassle in location or prop, we had to alter the script a bit, but largely, it went with the script.
Your first series has received high views online, including each episode getting an average of more than 3 lakh views, which makes you a successful director. So, as a director who has successfully completed his first series, what do you think is the future of this ecosystem and the others who also want to try out the same medium, like you did.
Well, I think the internet is a very strong medium for people to put out their words. Unlike a television channel, where they decide what content goes on air, and the government’s interference with bizarre rules and regulations of what can be shown, the internet helps you get out of the whole mess, and you are free to create whatever you want to and how ever you want to. Also, you are in direct connection and relation with the audiences and viewers, and you also get instant feedback and opinions through comments and shares. This intimacy and immediacy and a sense of freedom of doing what you want is what I like about this medium. A monetary ecosystem has to come up for people who want to experiment online series and there are some set ways in which the production happens, for example, in case of Netflix, distributors who have the big money to back online distribution and promotion networks. All this has to increase to push a filmmaker to dare to experiment. I am not much of a business brain myself, but I would say that the ecosystem can definitely benefit the new filmmakers in creating a system in which one can operate.
Lastly, any practical advice you would like to give those who want to try out something like a web series of sorts.
I suppose, that with DSLR cameras which shoot HD videos and laptops with professional editing software which are available for lesser money than other professional equipment, and with distributing networks like Youtube which reach out to the entire world, and with promotional biggies like Facebook and Twitter, a filmmaker today has no excuse left to not reach there. They just need to get there, come up with a strong script, get help from their family and friends, create a video put it up, and push it as hard as they can. I just feel that the digital age has provided people like us with such fantastic opportunities and we need to exploit these online resources which are so cheap and easy to use, and it is just a matter of taking that plunge and putting ourselves out there. I learnt all my filmmaking online, and the first thing I ever produced went online and I now realize, that the only reason why this happened was our decision to just go ahead and do it. We just need to find a way to make it happen, that’s it !
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking to you. I hope we interact again in another interview, maybe discussing your next web series. Thanks a lot, I’ll look forward to that.