It was the initial days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everything was under complete shutdown and all conventional shoots had come to a halt. As other sectors were innovating with business models and people were adjusting to work from home, the entertainment industry, too, began experimenting with the made-from-home content.
In March itself, the team at Bodhi Tree Multimedia, a Mumbai-based production house, began brainstorming. They wanted to come up with something different, but they knew the story had to be relevant-yet-practical to implement. Soon, they settled on a thriller set during the lockdown.
“It started as an experiment, so we needed to build that self-confidence on whether we could execute a project of good quality, considering the restraints,” says Mautik Tolia, CEO, Bodhi Tree Multimedia and producer of the web series The Gone Game. The team first made a trailer, then devised ways to improve on the idea, and later pitched it to the studios. The thriller, set during the pandemic, where there is more than meets the eye in the death of a coronavirus victim, was shot remotely.
Ordinarily, completing a web series of this scale would take a 100-member team and six to seven months of writing, then another couple of months in production and post production. But for The Gone Game, writing to post production was completed in two months, all with a team of just 20.
Most actors were apprehensive when first approached for the remote filmmaking process. The cast had to go through a workshop to understand the technical aspects of shooting and using cameras as they were going to work from home and would have to take care of multiple things: Set design, camera, lighting and acting. “We were suddenly the heads of all departments. You had to make sure everything was ready before the shoot,” says actor Shweta Tripathi, who plays Amara Gujral, the Covid-19 victim’s sister who believes her brother is still alive.
It was not an easy task, she adds. “I live with family, and I had to ask them all to put their phones on silent, not to watch anything on loud during the shoots—it’s not easy especially when you are stuck at home,” she says, adding that her husband shot most of the scenes for her.
Like Tripathi, the entire cast had just the director’s voice guiding them, and sometimes, a family member helping out with the shoot. “Acting is all about reacting,” says Sanjay Kapoor, who plays Rajeev Gujral, the father of the Covid-19 victim. “No matter how good you are as an actor, the other actor complements you. Here, there was no actor around me. They were doing their part and I was doing mine. For some of the selfie shots, I was looking at myself act, which is very unnerving,” recalls Kapoor, adding that he had to ‘bribe’ his 15-year-old son to help out with some shots. For some other shots in the bedroom, he remembers how Nikhil [Nagesh Bhat, director] would ask him to make the room messier. “And my wife would look at it and say, ‘Why don’t you pick up the clothes from the chair? It looks so bad’,” he says laughing.
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