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Telugu film producers revolutionary move

TFCC’s second important guideline is that producers should not mention their satellite and digital partners in the credits. The exclusive theatrical window is up to eight weeks.

TFCC is also discussing with the digital service providers to bring down the Virtual Print Fee (VPF). Representational image: Immayabharathi K

The Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce (TFCC) has surprised the entire Indian film industry with its new guidelines for film producers in the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

TFCC wants the industry to reduce production costs by not spending too much on the salaries of the support staff of lead actors and chief technicians, their exotic food, and luxurious stays. TFCC has also strictly instructed producers to not pay artists on a daily basis.

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Support staff and their demands

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On the new rules, Rajesh Danda of Hasya Movies, the production house bankrolling Allari Naresh’s upcoming two medium-budget Telugu films, said, “Some of these support staff order food at expensive restaurants. The star or the lead actor would only eat little but their staff orders sumptuous food for themselves even though we provide them with food through our in-house production catering. I don’t want to name the actress, but she insists that her exclusive chef should cook food for her and the cost is ₹20,000 per day.”

“If big-budget film producers implement these rules and regulations, it will be a big relief to small and medium-budget producers,” he added.

Rajesh said that the support staff asks for rooms on the same floor in the star hotel as their artists, and their accommodation and travel expenses are on a par with any other leading actors. Some of the support staff ask for rooms with a “pleasant view”.

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Shedding more light on how these support staff of the stars charges exorbitant fees, Sriram, executive producer of Rockfort Entertainment (Tamil) said, “A makeup man who works for ₹2,500 per day (as per FEFSI norms) charges ₹30,000 when he gets to work for a leading actress. For a normal actress, he does his work for ₹2,500 but for leading ones, makeup men charge a bomb. Producers are ready to buy all the makeup equipment and expensive items but the makeup men and leading actresses won’t agree.”

“I wholeheartedly welcome the guidelines of the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce and wish the Tamil film producers too follow these rules and regulations here. If the daily expense of the shoot is around ₹10-12 lakh, the salary and other expenses of these staff would be around ₹5-6 lakh.”

Reasonable rate card

Sriram also said that some of the comedy actors and supporting actors (leading ones) are charging around ₹10 lakh per day.

As producers would require these important actors to be there on the sets for at least seven to 10 days, they are charging around ₹70 lakh to ₹1 crore per film but these actors can’t charge such an unreasonable salary if we agree to pay per film and not per day, added Sriram.

Rajesh said TFCC will prepare a reasonable rate card for the accommodation and travel expenses of the support staff and the producers can pay it directly to the respective artists and technicians along with the salary. The actors should take care of their staff from this inclusive remuneration.

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When the industry was in a crisis during the COVID pandemic, actor Suriya agreed to take care of the expenses of his support staff and did not demand even a single penny from producers.

Karthik Gowda, the executive producer of Hombale Films (KGF fame) and producer of KRG Studios (Kannada), said, “When the film industry faces a crisis, the fraternity must come forward and help producers. Most of the actors are offering help. Also, we should find a way to make the movie-going experience more affordable by lowering food and beverage prices in theatres.”

OTT releases

TFCC’s second important guideline is that producers should not mention their satellite and digital partners in the credits. The exclusive theatrical window is up to eight weeks, which means digital platforms can’t stream any Telugu film for nearly 56 days from the theatrical release.

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“Yes, audiences have developed the mindset of watching films at their comfort on OTT platforms when producers allow streaming giants to premiere their films after four weeks. Having said that, audiences are rushing to theatres for films that they are eagerly waiting to watch on the big screen”, says Karthik.

He said the market is getting tougher and producers should make compelling content.

According to Rajesh, now Telugu producers don’t premiere their films soon on digital platforms and prefer a six to eight weeks gap from the theatrical release.

“When Telugu producers were premiering their films on digital platforms after four weeks, the box-office collections were not good. But recently, Sita Ramam, Bimbisara and Karthikeya 2 are big hits. The longer theatrical window is one of the reasons for the big revenue”, he explained.

But Karthik feels due to digital media and film reporting, audiences get to know the OTT partner even before the release irrespective of whether producers mention it in credits or not.

Exhibitor’s views

Besides producers, an exhibitor has also shared his views with The Federal on the longer theatrical window and the move to not mention satellite and digital partners in film credits.

“The moment producers mention their digital and satellite partners, audiences have the luxury of skipping a few scenes in theatre and watching them later on OTT at their homes. Leaving aside the monetary aspect, this also ruins the movie-watching experience. Previously, audiences would not step out much as they might miss an important action scene or grand visuals of a song. But now, they can always watch it later on OTT platforms and that too within four weeks”, says Ramasamy Raja of Ram Muthuram Cinemas, Tirunelveli.

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Sita Ramam‘s producers did not mention their OTT player. Though content is king, their move has also helped them to fetch more revenue and it also enriched the movie-watching experience. Films like Thiruchitramblam with long theatrical window is also generating career-best numbers for their respective stars.

“When producers increase the theatrical window for such films, it attracts more audiences in the third and fourth weeks. If a film runs more than two weeks in theatres, audiences feel it’s good content and visit us in the third and fourth week. Family audiences are particular about watching only good films in theatres. The longer theatrical window would give an impression that the film is too good and shouldn’t be missed watching in theatres,” Ramasamy said.

TFCC is also discussing with the digital service providers to bring down the Virtual Print Fee (VPF).

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