Telling a story is an art, because it takes a lot of time and effort to get the attention of your audience . But what if you had only 30-60 seconds to grab the attention of your millions of viewers across the world?
Siddhesh John, our next pathbreaker, Senior Creatives Producer for Discovery Channel & Networks, creates Promos and Short Trailers that promote upcoming shows/programs on the channel.
Siddhesh talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his work, pitching ideas and scripts for promos of movies and reality based programs, and then overseeing the execution by supervising post-production work of the promos that excite millions of viewers around the world.
For students, get inspired by the crisp, slick and stylish promos of your favourite shows and movies on screen! Creativity and Communication are the key !
Siddhesh, tell us about your initial years?
I grew up in Navi Mumbai studying in SSC board from Fr. Agnel School, Vashi. Back in my school days I used to love reading English Literature and History. Comic books played a huge role in keeping me entertained.
Extra-curricular hobbies also included outdoor activities like playing cricket, cycling, & participating in various school plays.
My parents have no background in the field of media. My dad worked as an engineer while my mom worked as a school teacher.
What did you study?
After completing my SSC I pursued Commerce for HSC. Upon completion I enrolled into the Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) course at SIES college,(Nerul).
My SSC and HSC results made me realize that I am not cut out to pursue a career in Science / Engineering/Commerce/ Banking!
So the next best option for me was to look at the field of Arts/ Media.
Luckily during this time new courses such as BMS (bachelor of management studies & BMM (bachelor of mass media) were being introduced.
During my BMM course i specialized in Advertising
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?
I came across a lot of World Cinema from Iran (turtles can fly), Brazil (Cidade de Deus (City of God)), and classics by filmmakers such as Akira Kurusowa, Alfred Hitchcock & Stanley Kubrick.
I was also introduced to brilliant classic movies from India by filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray/ Govind Nihalani & Shyam Benegal)
These movies were more grounded in nature, exploring themes which were centered around a slice of life situations that normally every person experiences.
Prior to this course I used to only watch typical Hollywood/ Bollywood movies with larger than life action. These movies were typically good vs evil but with very less depth in stirring emotions.
After watching world class movies I found my calling to pursue a career in Video Editing. The short form content of advertisements seemed to be a good stepping stone to understand the bigger picture of making a full length feature film.
After completing my graduation I did a few internships as a production assistant at 2 advertising agencies – Cartwheel Advertising & Via Us Productions.
Most of these internships were through networking through social media handles. I had also uploaded a basic resume of a fresher on job portals like naukri and used to get calls once in a while.
The role of a production assistant gave me an in-depth understanding of different aspects that are crucial while making any form of Visual content.
A production assistant is somebody who is involved in all stages of filmmaking.
Typically making a film has 3 stages.
Pre Production, Production & Post Production
The pre production stage is when an idea is conceived and different factors such as the number of days to shoot, locations , budgets, equipment & the casting for the movie Is fixed. The pre production stage helps in developing the final budget that would be estimated for making a movie.
The production stage is when the movie making happens. There is a defined production sheet that helps to track every day of the film shoot.
The post production stage is when the filmmakers have completed the shoot and editing / audio mixing/ graphics are added. Basically post production is when the final magic of technology is added to the footage, to package it like one seamless narrative.
As a production assistant you will go through the above 3 stages which will give you a better clarity on how much effort and time it takes to make a movie.
My 1st break in editing was when a placement agency happened to go across my portfolio and called me regarding an internship with MTV India as an Assistant Editor for some of their reality shows such as “MTV on the Job”/ Season 1 & 2
Looking back, I feel internships play a big role in shaping your career interest. Though I started with an interest in pursuing video editing my internship training made me realize that I wanted to pursue much more than just editing. Also, a Video editing job is confined to one space and you are stuck with going through tons of footage in a room isolated from the rest of the world.
During my internship phase I applied for a Post Graduation course in Mass Communication from Symbiosis International University. The Area of specialization I chose was the Television Production.
During this time I got a chance to meet a lot of professors who taught us Cinema Appreciation, explaining the language of cinema and the intricacies of storytelling and the different layers of logic while presenting a story on screen.
Tell us about your career path
After my masters , I worked for National Geographic as a freelancer where I wasn’t directly associated with the Channel but was involved as an Asst. Editor with the production house who created the show.
I was only involved in the post production stage, going through rushes of the entire show and footage data management.
My First Official break came at SONY Pix through our college networking group where a senior from Symbiosis posted about a requirement for a Jr. Associate producer). There was a test for creating a promo.
Promos are short trailers that promote any upcoming show/program on the channel.
The challenge of making promos is that I need to give the television viewer a sneak peak of a show in around 30 – 60 seconds.
The basic idea is to summarize a communication thought that the viewer will relate with.
As a producer you are in charge of presenting ideas to the marketing department. Once the idea is green lit the next step for a producer is to oversee the execution.
So a Television producer is responsible for Pitching ideas and scripts, then oversees it’s execution by supervising the editor / the audio mix & the graphical elements. These 3 departments are key areas for helping one make a promo.
I have spent close to 7years creating promos for Movie channels such as SONY PIX & MNX owned by Times television Network.
So some of the work links that I have listed below will give you a sneak peak into this rather simple form of communication.
https://vimeo.com/219087707 PROMAX GOLD INDIA WINNER FOR BEST SOUND DESIGN
Channel Movies Now 2 rebranded to MNX / Times network.
https://vimeo.com/239061944 HARRY POTTER
https://vimeo.com/228928898 MNX REBRANDING
https://vimeo.com/221716860 MAD MAX MAIN SPOT
https://vimeo.com/147323085 SONY PIX IMAGE SPOT
https://vimeo.com/146623617 STAR WARS LAUNCH SPOT
https://vimeo.com/146623316 THE HOBBIT 3 MAIN SPOT
What were some of the challenges you faced?
The biggest challenge with creative work is that you are only good as your last work. Change is the only constant. Every new creative brief of something old will need a new interpretation.
So with every new thought process you end up exploring a new path.
One should not be afraid in threading newer options. If you stick to the safe & sound path of just doing one thing over and over again you could slowly phase out or get stuck to something boring and routine.
Where do you work currently?
Presently I work as a Senior Creative Producer for Discovery Networks India. Discovery shows are more reality based and that poses a slight change in approaching their promotions.
The challenge of making a promo is that when you start work it is a blank piece of canvas.
But with the right thought process you start to think of ideas/ themes that can be projected to a viewer.
The final challenge is to ensure that the promo is not being made for your own self-indulgence but to excite millions of viewers around the world about something new that is coming to their Tv screens.
So it is important that every idea that you present needs to connect with an audience.
So for example my idea to promote a show based around the Indian Air Force Academy came from the phrase
“IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE”
This phrase seemed apt for the Indian Air Force as I wanted to project their “fast decision making process” .
So from this thought I wrote a script which went something like this.
“This is the sound of a heart…
Followed by the End page which basically reveals the Show logo
And the day / date & time of it’s telecast/
https://vimeo.com/277232543 IAF Teaser
https://vimeo.com/277238556 IAF MAIN PROMO
https://vimeo.com/277232014 IAF SHOW TITLE SEQUENCE.
So the first stage of making a promo is the most crucial :
To think of a concept/ metaphor and then taking it forward by writing scripts around these themes.
Once the scripting stage is done you have to create the edit and also initiate Graphic designs that decide the look of the show.
These graphical elements include logo designs/ title sequences & packaging elements.
I have been the producer for all the recent promotions that has been done with Bear Grylls (Man Vs Wild with Prime Minister Modi) & (Into the Wild with Superstar Rajinikanth)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4JpNWpOs1w INTO THE WILD *Teaser
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRBxgCmH8gs INTO THE WILD RAJNIKANTH Main promo
The greatest feeling was when the promos I created were applauded by these big personalities.
Also the greatest challenge in all this is to adhere to fixed timelines. A promo producer is always racing against time to meet deadlines.
Tell us about a work that was very close to you?
BREAKING POINT: High Altitude Warfare School
https://vimeo.com/298108174 MAIN PROMO
https://vimeo.com/298108209 SHOW TITLE SEQUENCE.
https://vimeo.com/310048556 INDIA’S CITIZEN SQUAD LAUNCH PROMO
https://vimeo.com/310048258 INDIA’S CITIZEN SQUAD MAIN PROMO
JOSH GATES LAUNCH CAMPAIGN :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB9ovuDD9as MAIN PROMO
https://vimeo.com/277232406 RUSSIA TO IRAN : LEVISON WOOD
THE JUNGLE LEAGUE : a programming stunt on Animal planet created around the Indian Premiere League cricket fan base.
How does your work benefit society?
When you choose to work at any field of your own choice it empowers you to become self-reliant.
It is the key that unlocks a door for unlimited possibilities.
Your advice to students?
On a closing note my advice to all you youngsters is to
Keep pursuing new fields of interest.
Find what you love doing.
Keep exploring new things / hobbies.
Every new interest will open new possibilities.
In life everybody faces ups and downs.
When facing a crisis Never stress yourself out.
Always have fun and Never let failure bring you down.
Every mistake is a learning process and I sincerely hope that all of you enjoy this journey of exploration and have the greatest time of your life. You don’t need lots of money to have fun…the idea is to make every moment that you experience a positive one.
Remember your academic marks can only take you to a certain rank. But in the journey of life it is your nature on how you make productive use of your spare time that will take you forward.
The most important of all: Listen to your parent’s. Your parents will always be your true guiding force.
Stay Positive. Stay Healthy.
And In the words of the Mighty Yoda from Star Wars
“MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU”