This statement applies to film business also if one assumes the business head to be the director, who is the ‘Captain of the ship’ as he is the one who drives the entire filmmaking process once the script and budget is cleared by the producer.
Recently, the young filmmaker of the successful Dhruvangal Pathinaru, Karthick Naren was appreciated by everyone for his well-made film, that too in just 28 days, which kept the budget to the minimum, thus ensuring its commercial success. Legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra once said, ‘Films don’t fail, but their budgets fail them
commercially.’ The key is keeping the budget to minimum in filmmaking. To keep the budget low, execution excellence, combined with speed and imagination are the key factors.
History has several examples of execution excellence in films. BR Panthulu, legendary filmmaker, in order to ensure the film Bale Pandiya (1962) was completed before Sivaji Ganesan travelled abroad, finished shooting in just 15 days (Sivaji shot his portions in 11 days!). MMA Chinnappa Thevar completed many of his blockbusters with MGR within 30 days, by shooting non-stop in one schedule. Eminent director of over 75 films, SP. Muthuraman shot the super hit Guru Sishyan (1988) with Rajinikanth, Prabhu and others in just 25 days in Mysuru, which remains a record for a Rajini film!
In the recent past, appreciated Tamil films like Metro and Athey Kangal were shot in just around 30 days, which clearly shows their execution skills. While these are social films, a historical Telugu film, Gau tamiputra Satakarni (2016) with actor Balakrishna (his 100th film) with a lot of VFX work was shot in just 79 days and the entire film was completed within 8 months of commencement! This led to Bahubali filmmaker SS Rajamouli commenting on social media, “How in the heaven could you make this epic in 79 days? Unbelievable! I have got a lot to learn from you. What you achieved in 8 months or so is absolutely mindboggling Director Krish. Hats off!” What greater recognition Krish and his team could get beyond this for their execution excellence?
A brilliant idea with poor execution leads to cost escalation and commercial failure of films. This has been witnessed in Tamil cinema often. Almost 90 per cent of big budget films go over-budget. Some production houses proudly state their film has gone overbudget by 25 to 35%, which is actually poor execution due to bad planning. A brilliant idea or screenplay combined with brilliant execution makes the film a commercially successful venture. Brilliant execution means completing the film within the time and budget, without compromising on quality and magnitude targeted.
In simple words, execution excellence is a systematic process. It is not the result of a single decision or action. It is the result of thorough planning, series of integrated decisions or actions over time from script to screen for a film. It requires rigorously discussing ‘how to achieve’ and ‘what to achieve’ within the budget, questioning each step, meticulously planning the steps, tenaciously following through, ensuring accountability and discipline among team members and delivering the quality what has been targeted, on time and within budget. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance (6P’s) in execution. Working simultaneously on multiple tasks, entire team aligned to the goals of the filmmaker, having alternate plans (Plan B) to achieve every goal and knowing the bottlenecks and removing them in time are important requirements for success in execution excellence.
Films succeed commercially when there is excellence in execution. Hence, filmmakers, who are known for this skill like PVasu, Sundar C, KS Ravikumar, Hari are always in demand even after 20 years in industry. New filmmakers can learn a few lessons from them and imbibe their skills to achieve long term success.
— The writer is a film producer, National Award winning author, column ist and Founder-Dean of BOFTA Film Institute in Chennai