Biswapati Sarkar, Executive Creative Director at TVF talks about his work on...

Biswapati Sarkar, Executive Creative Director at TVF talks about his work on Pitchers, Permanent Roommates, and more.

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This article has been curated from this Q&A session on Quora.
.1. 
What is your creative process? How do you start thinking about building a character in a particular way?

It’s still early for me comment on my creative process. I’ve been writing professionally for not more than 4 years now. I’m still learning and discovering how to make my writing process more efficient.

When it comes to characters, I focus on desires. What a character wants and how it changes with the course of the story. Before writing, I have a loose reference of the character in mind based on the people I’ve met or heard. I try to give all the characters their own individual journeys, however small their parts are in the story may be. Once you see a character make a choice or react against a conflict, you immediately figure new aspects of their being. And of course, the actors bring in a lot of their own while they are playing those characters. I love talking to actors and noticing their voices and speech patterns. That helps me a lot in writing dialogue which suits that particular character.


2. Was switching careers a difficult choice for Biswapati Sarkar? What challenges did he face? And what does he recommend to budding writers?

1. Not really. I figured writing and film making was the only thing I was good at. Luckily, I had a pre-placement offer at TVF. So, it wasn’t difficult to make that choice.
2. Convincing my parents. The first year in Mumbai was tough. But, once newspaper articles and money started coming in, my parents realized I was doing something worthwhile.
3. Write. Narrate. Re-write. Read the best authors/screenwriters. Repeat.  That’s the only way.

3. What are your favourite books?
I feel as a writer I tend to get attracted towards the careers which great authors have had and all of their works in entirety, rather than their individual successes. So I’ll just make a list of authors (and screenwriters) whose books (and scripts) I keep going back to. I enjoy reading pulp, so there are very few glorious literature writers here.
Agatha Christie, Satyajit Ray, David Mamet, Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Albert Camus, George Orwell, Coen Brothers, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Linklater, Dan Brown, H.G. Wells, Wodehouse,  J.K. Rowling and Kurt Vonnegut.

4. What is good advice for someone who wants to make a viral video on YouTube?

I would first want to know why one would want to break a viral video on YouTube. I have different pieces of advice for different reasons.
1. I want to make a career in creating content and a viral video would really help: Don’t aim to make a viral video, try and make a good video every time. About something you like, something that bothers you or something you just want to create. Start making stuff first, you’ll learn what works for the audience and what you are good/bad at. The viral video will come to you, if you keep at it.
2. I work for a startup/big brand and want to promote it by creating a viral video:  If you don’t have a lot of money, try and create a messaging which integrates your brand essence while telling a great story. Get in touch with creative people, not just creative agencies. A bunch of college students with a lot of enthusiasm might actually do a much better job than several agencies put together. And if you have a lot of money, contact TVF.
3. I have no interest in pursuing this as a career, just want to make a video which gets millions of views: Get a dog or have a baby. Shoot it (with a camera). Upload.

5. What was the biggest problem TVF faced while making Permanent Roommates or Pitchers?
The fight against time.

We are trying to do a create a lot of good content featuring really good (but extremely busy) actors with a limited crew. We finish a season in almost half of the ideal time needed. Although that is a great accomplishment, it usually involves putting 12-14 hours every day for the entire unit. I have lost a lot of friends as there is no time to finish work and meet people outside of office. The only respite we have is when an episode releases and you see a lot of that hard work paid off.

To get everything together in a limited period of time, once we finish writing is a daunting task. Not to mention, the frequent audience queries like ‘Why is Season 2 so late?’ just adds to the pressure. At this stage we have almost all the technical resources we need. But time is still a luxury which we can’t afford.


6. What is the main revenue source for TVF? What percentage of it goes for the team’s salaries?

It’s no secret. Branded content always has been our main source of revenue.

And the ‘team’ has close to 100 people right now. Since, I’m from the creative side, and not from the accounts department, I have no clue about the percentage distribution or anything such. I’m not even aware if such a thing can be disclosed by any company anywhere.

7. How can one pursue a serious career with TVF?

 1. Dedication. Tenacity. Knowledge of the job they are applying for.
2. Screenwriters. People who don’t just give ‘ideas’ but actually develop them into screenplays.
3. Apply with your resume at careers@theviralfever.com. We start hiring around March-April again, I think.


8. What do you think should change in Indian engineering colleges?
I’m not really qualified to speak for all the engineering colleges in the country. My suggestions are merely based on my academic life and the few interactions I’ve had with students of other engineering colleges.

1. To begin with, I think there should be fewer of them.  There is no point of having a degree in engineering, when there aren’t enough job requirements in the market.
2. Inter-department switch should be easier and perhaps the curriculum needs to have the flexibility for one to change his/her department even in the 2nd year.
3. Electives from other departments should be encouraged, at least till the pre-final year.  Perhaps half or two thirds of the credits should be from one’s own department and the rest can be chosen by students depending on the subject/course of their choice.
4. A lot of engineering colleges look down upon extra-curricular activities and students are generally discouraged to have any life apart from academics. This should definitely change across the country. And students should be persuaded towards sports and cultural activities.
5. Entrepreneurship opportunities should exist  within colleges to incubate and nurture early startups.

9. How difficult was it for Biswapati Sarkar and crew to budget their very earliest videos when TVF was kind of new?
It was tough, but a fun process. The good thing was I learned to write keeping the budget in mind. Only the things that we could show were written. I know the importance of any form of resource and now that we can afford a lot of things, the budget still plays plays a huge part in my mind while writing.

Initially, we never used to book any location for shoot. We mostly shot in and around our old office and friends’ houses. There was a time when we were shooting Chai Sutta Chronicles – Ep. 1. The cast and crew comprised of 4 people. Naveen and I were acting. Amit (Golu) was directing and operating the camera. Anandeshwar was holding the audio mic. We would stop the shoot, eat some snacks for lunch at a nearby shop and continue shooting.

I’m not trying to create an image of struggle because that’s how I thought I would get to make what I want. But the one big problem was that we could not focus on the creative process alone. We had to handle a lot of production/social media/marketing stuff simultaneously.

That has changed a lot with time. Arun Kumar Sharma, our executive producer, has overhauled the entire production process brilliantly. And we have great support from our social media and marketing team as well.  Now on set, we have a crew of close to 50 people at times. There is a guy on-set whose sole job is to provide tea to everyone. I really value that cup of tea being handed over to me so that I can focus on purely the creative work. Seeing all these people on set who are there to transform your vision from the page to the screen, makes you feel more responsible towards the work that you are doing.

10. How different has the approach been towards making Permanent Roommates’ season 2 after the huge success of Pitchers?

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