The idea will lead to a successful ad film, no matter the length: Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures

As Chrome Pictures celebrates its 20th anniversary, Director, Producer, and Co-founder Amit Sharma shares the production house’s journey. He talks about how it came into existence, adapting to the changing landscape, future prospects, and more.

Harshal Thakur
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Amit Sharma

In 2023, the Indian advertising sector held an estimated worth of around INR 916.32 billion. Anticipated to expand at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.0% from 2024 to 2032, the market is expected to achieve a valuation of approximately INR 2344.01 billion by the end of the forecast period in 2032.

In the dynamic landscape of the A&M industry, where trends shift as rapidly as consumer preferences, success is often measured by the ability to adapt, innovate, and consistently deliver excellence. As we navigate through the evolving world of advertisements, one name that has been consistent over time and churning out note-worthy campaigns is Chrome Pictures. 

As Chrome Pictures celebrates its 20th anniversary, director and Co-Founder of Chrome Pictures Amit Sharma speaks to us about the production house’s journey, exploring the highs and lows, pivotal moments, and the vision that propelled them forward.

Passionate youngsters looking to make a mark

In the early 2000s, when the foundations of Chrome Pictures were laid, the co-founders Aleya Sen, Hemant Bhandari, and Sharma himself, each with a rich background assisting industry stalwarts like Pradeep Sarkar and Shoojit Sircar, decided to embark on a unique journey. Fueled by an intense passion for directing and filmmaking, they faced the challenges of being young and untested in an industry that was not as welcoming to youth as it is today. Their response was the birth of Chrome Pictures in 2004, a decision rooted in a desire for autonomy, creating their own identity, and crafting a unique narrative. 

Recalling his initial days in the industry, Sharma says, “Aleya and I used to work with Pradeep Sarkar and Hemant used to work with Shoojit Sircar. We were around 24 years old and all of us decided that we would start our own production house. We had spent a lot of time assisting in the industry and all of us shared an intense passion for directing and filmmaking. At that time, youngsters were not welcomed as much in the industry as they are today. Back in 2004, when we were starting, it wasn’t easy for us to get work.” 

He adds, “Essentially, the reason for starting Chrome Pictures was that we wanted to create our own work, and by not working for someone else, we would get that autonomy. Hence we decided to create our company, our own identity, and started on this journey.”

Being relatively younger in the advertising industry, the three passionate individuals found themselves faced with stereotypes and presumptions. Recalling an anecdote, Sharma expounds, “There was a pitch meeting in Chennai when a client rejected our pitch because they thought we were too young and would not be able to carry out a full-fledged campaign. To tackle that, Hemant and I grew our beards to ‘look older and matured’. The feeling of starting Chrome Pictures was amazing.”

Early success and steady growth  

Despite beginning with brief 10-15 second projects, Chrome Pictures focused on quality, shooting on film cameras even for short commercials. Milestones emerged as they moved forward, including an unexpected success with a Hanes undergarments commercial shot alongside additional footage for a Junior Horlicks film. 

“We were assisting Pradeep Sarkar who had shot one film for Junior Horlicks called ‘Epang Opang Jhapang’. The film required additional footage for it to be released in Burma. The agency contacted us to ask if we’d be willing to shoot a scene with a Burmese mother which would be added to the film. While shooting for it, we shot another commercial the same day for free. This commercial was for Hanes undergarments which eventually went on to receive an incredible response and numerous awards,” the director of ‘Badhaai Ho’ recalls.  

Chrome Pictures has grown remarkably over the years having executed some of the most popular ad campaigns in recent years. Amit Sharma shares that Chrome Pictures' work culture is centered on a shared passion for filmmaking. With a team of eight directors, he says, the focus is on creating memorable films rather than prioritizing financial gains. The founder's commitment to storytelling extends beyond advertising to feature films, treating each ad film with the same cinematic dedication. 

Adapting to changing landscape

As the advertising landscape evolves, Sharma emphasizes the importance of adaptation without dwelling on whether one era was better than another. He elaborates on the change that has occurred saying, “When we started, there was no digital advertising per se. The mediums were restricted to television or cinema halls. There weren’t platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube that are widely used nowadays. At the same time, I cannot say which era was better. From a broad perspective, it is all the same. One just has to adjust and adapt as per the times you live in. If you adapt well, you will last long, if not, you run the risk of getting out of the market.”

With AI emerging as a disruptive force, the advertising industry has seen a swift adoption of the technology. Talking about the impact artificial intelligence and generative AI tools can have on the industry, the filmmaker expresses, “AI is going to disrupt things quite a bit. Artists, musicians, and writers are going to be affected by this. Although it does help in a lot of ways, the question we should be asking is how much help we need. Because people will lose their jobs. A lot of talented individuals would be deprived of getting a chance to showcase their talent.”

“There is a need to have proper rules and regulations laid out when it comes to the use of AI. There should be some kind of regulation on the extent of AI that can be used in a particular project.” - Amit Sharma

With the rise of short-form content, the attention span of the audience has decreased substantially and is continuing to decrease. It is becoming increasingly difficult for an ad film to hold attention amidst the reward-inducing, dopamine-stimulating content on social media platforms. Despite this, the director has an optimistic view on the topic. He says, ‘I believe that if you can hold a viewer’s attention for the first five seconds and engage them, they will watch the entire [ad] film no matter the length of it.’

He shares examples of ads that he directed such as ‘Pooja Didi’ and Google's 'Reunion’ and how they were able to successfully make a mark despite their longer-than-usual lengths. 

“The length of a film is secondary, the crucial part is the idea. If an idea has that power to hold people, it will lead to the creation of a successful ad film no matter the length,” expresses Sharma. 

Balancing different worlds and foresight    

Chrome Pictures actively produces feature films apart from its focus on conventional ad films. Amit Sharma has proved his mettle as a feature film director and ad director and has been successful in both arenas. On balancing both and how one thing helps the other, he says, “When it comes to shooting, both ad films and feature films are the same. I treat my ad films as feature films. In terms of storytelling and knowing how much time a particular idea might need to be executed aptly, feature filmmaking experience proves to be beneficial.” 

As Chrome Pictures looks at the future, the co-founder outlines long-term goals of expansion, venturing into feature films and web series while actively contributing to societal welfare through the 'Phool Versha' foundation. Chrome Pictures possesses a digital wing known as Minikin DG Works, boasting advanced capabilities. Additionally, there is a fully equipped post-production studio named "Planet Chrome" under their purview. In the preceding year, they successfully inaugurated their content lab, aptly named "Crimsen Tales." Short-term objectives remain grounded in the pursuit of consistently creating remarkable films, with each project selected based on the strength of its idea.

Aleya Sen Journey Hemant Bhandari Pooja Didi adaptation Advertising goals Chrome pictures trends ai technology IDEA