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Oh! These Marketing Men!

A filmwallah’s worst punishment: ‘the PPT’

I call myself the ‘young old man’ of the film industry. I am in my 40s but I started the journey into filmdom when I was only 14. In the year 1982… Yep, the year of the song, Disco 82, which is now a part of the retro collection and I believe has a remix version as well, but now I digress. This is not about all that we call ‘nostalgia’ but about being the ‘young old man’.

Young old man! Now why do I keep saying that?  Because I consider myself the bridge generation. One confusing definition to explain the other but bear with me a bit.

The bridge generation is the generation of film folks that saw the transition from Mono to 5.1 surround sound. Computers editing a film instead of a grey-haired bespectacled gentleman leaning over frames of film on a pristine, glowing table. We saw the change from cassettes to CDs and from film to Digital. We also saw the single producer give way to the corporate – and here comes the essence of this piece – with the corporate came the marketing departments of the corporates. They are here to make your film run. Most of them do a good job of it and yet there is one thing that this young old man cannot figure. It’s called the PPT.

It was soon after the first Raaz that I was doing a film for a corporate. The film was all shot and the edit was in process. While rummaging through hours of footage, I got a call from the burly executive producer that I had to be present for ‘a marketing meeting’ the next day. ‘A marketing meeting?’ I asked perplexed. ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you mean, like, with distributors?’ Some clarity was needed, you see. ‘No,’ he thundered back. ‘Then?’ ‘With marketing people...’ He responded. I realised I wasn’t going to get much more out of him and let him off the hook.

The next day, I entered the room full of people, all dressed in formal attire and I looked at my torn jeans and slippers and said to myself, ‘Well... here I am.’ The producer of the film brought the meeting to order and someone said, ‘Can we see the PPT?’ There, I heard it! The bane of my existence so casually stated.

A laptop was quickly attached to a nearby television set and I saw the laptop person furtively dashing through some clicks. Right click. I knew that much. The burly executive producer sat next to me, the poor guy wasn’t being able to get rid of me. ‘What’s a PPT?’ I asked. Wonder of wonders, he had an answer! ‘It’s called a Power Point presentation.’ ‘Presentation for what?’ He looked away and said, ‘Marketing’. ‘What’s marketi....’ He looked at me and I shut up.

The laptop man made the screen come alive with the first slide and it said ‘Agenda’. Right, I thought. Now we’re getting somewhere. The laptoper read aloud what we could read as well but what the hell! Point one, to reach and recognise markets for the film. Point two, to gauge the strengths and weakness of the film. Point three, to strategise its release to its optimum potential. Everyone nodded. I nodded too. Damn these torn jeans, I thought. Keep up with marketing, said the burly man’s eyes.

Then the slide changed and it read ‘target audience: Males between 17 and 40, females of the same age group.’ This income, that eco strata and those states of the country. I whispered to the burly man, ‘Why is he telling us things we knew before we started the film?’ The burly man was shrinking visibly. He was at that point in the same boat or rather our little raft in the sea of marketing.

Strengths of the film, weakness, dates for music launch, print campaign... slide after slide after slide. The laptoper was relentless, I realised. After half an hour of this, I saw a slide that said, ‘the end’. Really? That was it. Stating everything we knew already? That was the PPT? I realised that a corporate marketing PPT was meant to tell you the reasons you made a film after you made it. I had encountered my first PPT and borne it with a patient shrug. Little did I know that my PPT journey had only just begun.

More films, more marketing meetings and more PPTs. Then something dangerous happened. PPTs began to spread like the common cold. Radio marketing PPT and Internet plan PPT and Promo roll-out PPT. They were coming at me fast and thick. I think I was being victimised. There was definitely someone trying to kill me, out of the boredom of stating the obvious. I balked, made excuses but PPTs had to be seen!

Then it happened. I broke down. I could not see another PPT. I was breaking out into a rash and my eyes began to tear. I looked at the young, this time a girl, laptoper and said, ‘Explain without PPT or I think I will jump out of the window!’ She laughed. I did not laugh back. She realised I was serious. She looked at me. I looked back. We were locked in a battle of wits. Then she said, ‘It will only take five minutes…‘ I looked at the setting sun outside the window and knew that there was no getting away from this prison. I sighed and
sat back.

Slide one, ‘Agenda…’ I might have imagined this but I am certain I stifled a sob.


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