Watching television might be a leisurely, laid-back activity, but a career in this field is quite the opposite. Vatsala Chhibber tells you more about the fast-paced life of a television producer
If you ask Aritra Mukherjee, Editor-in-chief of Bigg Boss Season 6, to summarise his experience of directing the immensely popular show, his immediate answer is “I would do it all the time”. Mukherjee confesses that as a television producer you never know what’s coming your way. “Every day has been a new experience while working on Bigg Boss,” he says. Over the last decade, television has seen the rise and fall of several trends such as game shows, daily soaps and most recently, reality television. While the nature of work varies according to ‘genre’, what remains consistent is a team of producers who are responsible for the development and execution of the show.
One job, many roles
“Very often, as a TV producer, one needs to be a writer, director, cinematographer, editor and a producer, all rolled into one,” says Sakshi Khanna, Executive Producer at Channel [V]. In addition, it helps to possesses people skills as one needs to effectively coordinate with various departments and quite often, there are fragile egos involved. From briefing stylists and make-up artists to supervising lighting and camera placements, there’s a reason why television producers see grey hair a little early in life.
As a television producer, there is only one thing you can be sure of and that is chaos. There will be celebrity tantrums, shooting schedules will go haywire, deadlines will be pushed around and there will be sleepless nights at edit studios. “It is a highly dynamic job where you look at every aspect of the show from its inception to its completion”, says Khanna. “The various stages include ideating, scripting, budgeting, pre-production, casting, art, setting a look, tone and feel for the show, execution of the idea, and finally the editing of the show.” Talking about the most challenging part of directing Bigg Boss, Mukherjee says, “The contestants on the show are human, therefore, if they decide to not talk to each other, you can’t force them to do otherwise. So you need to create tasks and spikes to generate content. There are also times when there are fights and one person in the house turns really aggressive, then bringing back stability in the house can also be challenging.”
Does a Degree help?
According to Khanna, who has more than thirteen years of experience in the field of television, a degree in television production is not a pre-requisite to enter the industry. “I didn’t have a degree in television back in the day when I joined,” she explains. “And I know a whole bunch of superbly talented people from the industry who have gone on to achieve a lot without having as much as a graduation degree. Having said that, I believe these are highly competitive times we live in and that television is now looked upon as a respectable, viable and lucrative career option. It would probably help to get a little know-how from a good institute before you enter it as it could give you an edge over others who don’t take the education. It could also help eliminate wastage of time in figuring out what you’d like to do within the television industry”.
Let’s talk money
When asked about the biggest perk one enjoys as a television producer Mukherjee’s candid reply is “Lots of money!” Although he goes on to list other perks such as the dynamic pace of work, the opportunity of travel and meeting new people, he’s not kidding about the money. Television production is a highly lucrative field, once you work your way up that is. As a fresher, you will mostly start as an assistant producer and earn around Rs 2 lakhs per annum, depending on the organisation you work with. As you work your way up to senior designations (supervising producer, executive producer, etc) your earnings could go up to around Rs 12 lakhs per annum. But with deadlines staring you in the face while you try to tackle constant road blocks, you definitely will be earning every penny.
The Thrills of TV
Money is not the only gratification one enjoys in television. The opportunity to develop and execute a show has several rewarding moments: when you come up with that great idea during an arduous brainstorming session, when you hear the two most soothing words in television (pack up) or when you experience that nervous anticipation minutes before your show goes on air. To be able to successfully entertain millions of viewers is challenging, exciting, exhausting and rewarding. Those who can handle the ride find themselves relishing the many thrills of television.
• Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune
• Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata
• Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai
• Amity School of Communication, Noida
• New York Film Academy (NYFA), various branches
Sakshi Khanna, Executive Producer, Channel [V]
“It is definitely a fabulous industry with lots of drama, excitement, travel, glamour, but it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It requires real hard work, diligence, investment of time and energy, like any other industry. And lots of talent, without which you won’t survive the big bad world for too long.”
Aritra Mukherjee, Creative Consultant, Endemol India
“To be a successful TV producer, you need to have common sense and some amount of technical knowledge. In the past 4-5 years, I have seen young people enter the industry without basic knowledge of lighting and camera techniques. It is important to have a strong technical foundation and the common sense; the rest can be learnt on the job.”
Volume 2 Issue 9