Freelancing in the Media & Entertainment Sector in India
A Boon or Bane?Ranjit Thakur
The Indian Media & Entertainment Industry has played a pivotal role in contributing to the country's economy. Gradually over the years, this segment has grown manifold right from Radio, Print and Television to Animation, VFX, Music, Gaming, Films, and much more. Ever since there has been a satellite television penetration in the industry, along with the increase in the number of channels, HD format etc. there's a whole new revamp taking place which also increases the demand for getting the right talent to work on board.
According to the NSCD Report, the Indian workforce is dominated by freelancers. “There is approximately 25 percent of the total people employed in the M&E sector work with the film sector. A majority of them are contract workers/freelancers as opposed to full-time employees.”
The balance between the demand and supply of workforce in this sector has been pretty lopsided. While there is a rise in the need for skilled, talented and experienced professionals, with the lack of a formal training courses it leads to time and budget overruns. As the employer has to find and train the newcomer in technical or role specific skills, it leads to time and budget over costs; and that’s why it makes more sense for them to hire freelancers than full time professionals.
This is also a reason where production houses tend to hire freelancers for niche segments in the M&E Industry. In the absence of getting the talent/ to cut the cost of hiring a new talent, media houses hire freelancers within their network who have worked with them on a previous project before. This turns out to be cheaper for them rather than hiring a new talent which also helps them cut down the cost of fulfilling the liabilities that they might have towards a full time employee.
Now freelancing can work both ways – on the positive side it gives a freelancer a chance to dabble in a series of projects which also helps them in increasing their level of contacts and creativity. Not only does it help increasing their knowledge domain, but it also helps their understanding of a varied medium. Whether it’s an Ad film or feature or digital content, there are plenty of options available for them.
On the flipside, there are quite a few disadvantages to freelancing in the M&E Sector, primarily because the industry runs on contacts. One should have enough contacts to keep the incoming flow of projects. When that doesn't happen, professionally it can cast a shade of gloom in the life of a freelancer even after working on a couple of really good projects. The key here is to network strong enough as ‘Out of sight is out of Mind’ can result in a good talent going jobless in the industry. Also remember, freelancers can’t take vacations; which prompts them to start leaving the industry disillusioned thinking that this field is not meant for them. This happens because networking and execution is not only time consuming, but it also does not guarantee a project and that can eventually lead to immense stress levels for a freelancer.
Also what makes freelancing a bane is when the rules are not defined in terms of legal issues, deliverables, timelines etc. This can be both parties – when media house hires a freelance content creator and does not formalize the engagement on a legal document by listing out the timelines, the commercials, and expected deliverables including the fine print – that’s when something as creative and enjoyable can become a nightmare both for the freelancer or the agency that hires them.
Owing to the increasing numbers of the workforce in this segment, we realise the momentum of work and scope available is also going to go up. Sometimes owing to the availability of time, schedule or location, agencies or production houses choose to hire a specific talent as a freelance engagement if it can be executed from a remote location or on a short project based assignment, then nothing like it. But having a formal online platform that engages verified freelancers and professionals and helps them connect with reliable media houses across the globe can at least to some extent take the load off the struggle phase for freelancers in the industry.
The thing is, the scope of work as a freelance content creator in the media and entertainment segment is always going to increase and owing to the industry’s perennial and previous nature, it is on the path to regularize and formalize freelancing as an integral part of the industry; and having an online global exchange platform that helps bring all this together is definitely a way forward.