“General misconception is that visual effects are expensive, but it is cost-effective,” says Yugandhar Tammareddy, British Council YCE winner for screen in 2010
Yugandhar Tammareddy makes possible the hero’s effortless criss-cross across mountains in a film or anything that can awe you with open mouth. His company, Pixelloid Studios based in Hyderabad, offers visual effects for feature films besides quality production-based training to students. He founded the company in 2005 and there has been no looking back. This winner of the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur Award in 2010 for Screen shares his journey with Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist, YourStory.
To know more about the Young Screen Entrepreneur Awards, visit this page - http://www.britishcouncil.org/india-arts-iyfey.htm. To follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards on Facebook, click here - http://www.facebook.com/YCEAwards
YourStory: Thank you Yugandhar for talking to YourStory. What is your impression on winning the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur award for screen and what does it mean to your organization?
Yugandhar Tammareddy: As a first generation entrepreneur it’s a kind of boost that someone recognizing that you do have entrepreneurial skills. We started of as creative professionals and we worked for different companies for 10 years and started this company 5 years back. Since we are not management professionals, we had to go through a long learning curve. I’m thankful to British Council for recognizing our efforts in the industry. I personally feel that many parents still don’t encourage their children to opt for creative fields. Awards like these show them the possibilities in creative fields.
YS: What have been experiences during your travel to UK as part of the award?
Yugandhar: It actually gave us more exposure in terms of how UK industry works and I was able to see different aspects within the creative industry like film production, distribution, exhibition and screen. I was able to interact with people involved in these parts of filmmaking and understand how they run their businesses. The British Council’s idea of bringing finalists from all countries together and taking them on tours was a nice idea as all of us got a chance to interact, learn from each other and became very good friends. I’m sure one day we’ll surely do something together.
YS: As a first generation entrepreneur, what was the spark that made you become an entrepreneur?
Yugandhar: It was a natural progression. While I was working for other companies, I felt some possibilities and restrictions on the creative aspects. We felt we were stuck and unable to fulfill our aspirations so we thought why not start a company of our own where we will have the freedom to pursue our goals and explore our full potential. It was not an easy start but I’m fortunate to have loyal clientele.
YS: What are the challenges of working in tinsel town?
Yugandhar: The film industry in India is unorganized and the visual effects industry is still in its infancy. Standardization of processes is just starting to happen. Many filmmakers are still used to the traditional ways of making films. In Indian films they still don’t do the pre-visualization and storyboard kind of things. Many times they just come up with spontaneous and sudden requirement. That definitely is one of the bigger challenges. To create something mind blowing, you need to do some preplanning and work towards it. This is lagging in the film industry and maybe it is slowly changing. The new generation of directors seems to understand these processes better.
YS: What is the size of visual effects industry in India?
Yugandhar: About 150 Telugu films are made in a year and at least 40 films have big to mid-range budgets and around 30-40 films are using visual effects. Out of this, 2-3 films use extensive visual effects and remaining moderate visual effects maybe like 15 minutes or so. There will be small films as well where visual effects are confined only to title sequences. After the success of visual effects driven movies like Avataar, 2012 and Robot, Indian filmmakers are keener on making visual effects driven films, e.g . Shahrukh’s Ra.One.
YS: In terms of resources and creativity, what does visual effects demand?
Yugandhar: Visual effects require certain amount of creativity and knowledge of certain technical aspects as well. It’s the combination of creative, highly technical and some processes are very laborious where you need people who can sit and continue doing it. To make sure that visuals are good enough to present, you all the aspects blend well together. So someone who is good at photography can understand the lighting or how to create lighting for the 3D objects and scenes that you create in visual effects so that it will sync well with the live action shot.
There was a shortage of talent pool when we started; we decided to start our own training division and provide quality training. Our students get the experience of real time production and that's something, which gives them an edge over other students. The results are pretty good. It gives me happiness when I see my own students who started as beginners few years back, have now reached senior positions like VFX supervisor. This way, we have a good access to the talent pool and handling more and bigger projects.
YS: How many films have you done so far?
Yugandhar: Personally its 100+.
YS: What are the big ones to name a few?
Yugandhar: Recently we finished a bilingual project called Payanam(Tamil)/Gaganam(Telugu). We won some awards for Brindaavanam, Sainikudu. Other notable movies include Aarya, Pokiri, Bommarillu, Nenu Meeku Telusa, Billa, Jalsa and a few others.
YS: Do you work only for Telugu films or you work for other films also?
Yugandhar: We did some outsourced work for Hollywood films. We are doing some commercials for national and international market at the moment. We tend to work with other companies when they have tight delivery schedules and need a helping hand. One of recent ones includes Disney’s bilingual project Anaganaga O Dheerudu.
YS: How did you finance your company? Did you start by investing your own money or you took funding from outside?
Yugandhar: We started off with our pocket money by investing 2.5 lakhs each. We are four cofounders. We borrowed remaining money that totaled to Rs. 25 lakhs. The other three people are Nayeem Akhtar, Raj Potula, and Bala Shankar Reddy. One of them worked with me in a company were I worked as a manager, the other two were my long-term friends started off in the same institute back in 1996.
YS: What are the challenges in convincing film industry in general or directors in particular in going for visual effects?
Yugandhar: First, there is a misconception that visual effects are expensive. In reality, visual effects are actually cost-effective. They help you cut down the budget and the production cost. Visual effects help you realize your dreams without erecting huge sets. Whatever was not possible previously is possible now. It actually helps you cut down the budget. It used to be expensive but not anymore. Film makers started to realize the fact and coming forward.
YS: How do you feel is the ecosystem for creative professionals like you in terms of getting funded and in terms of getting help in running your venture when you come across problems?
Yugandhar: Running your own venture comes with lots of responsibilities. Sometimes we don't have right people sometimes we run into finance troubles. That’s definitely a kind of setback for any creative company. We are learning as we keep moving on.
Many of these creative companies depend on entrepreneur. When you start off initially, it’s all your personal clients who are happy with what you do, that’s how you grow business. After a while you will have to delegate the work and responsibilities to others. End of the day it’s a people business and not every client is happy with your absence. Balancing this part is very crucial. To very large extent, it is risky for investor to believe and depend on one person. So it is a good idea to diverse the business and better to have more than one person so that they can take care of certain aspects in the company. We divide the tasks among us so that stress is not on one person. We had a tough time 1.5 years back, when we were trying to expand and we spent a lot on interiors. After inaugurating new office, he backed off. That was a setback trying to manage our finances, luckily a long time friend who’s into stock market invested in the company and taking care of the finance part.
YS: What will you tell the young professionals in the creative field who are starting new?
Yugandhar: You need to balance creative aspect with finance or management. So if you are good at a particular aspect, focus on that and maybe you can have a partner or friend or hire someone for what you are not good at. So the synergies will be stronger. One has to identify committed people and motivate them. End of the day, everything is a collaborative process.
YS: Any final word...
Yugandhar: Where there is a will, there is way, I would say.