“Who are we meeting again?” I ask Swati, our India curator. “I’ve kind of lost track. We’ve had meetings with movie stars and captains of industry. So what’s next?”
We’re weaving our way through the traffic on Marine Drive, Mumbai’s up-market seafront boulevard, heading towards the western suburbs, the home of Bollywood film.
“I’ll give you a hint,” says Swati. “The man we’re about to meet, or rather, his company, has received several Academy Award nominations in the visual effects category in recent years. Films like X-Men, Transformers, Tree of Life…”
“Wow, a big shot in other words!” I say.
“A big shot yes, but still not very well known among the general public,” says Swati. “His name is Namit Malhotra. We’re lucky he’s in town, because he lives in LA now. The reason he’s in Mumbai is that his company, Prime Focus, has opened a state-of-the-art 7,500 square-metre post-production facility here. That’s where we’re meeting him.”
“And Namit is the company CEO?” I ask.
“CEO and founder,” Swati replies. “Two decades ago, he founded Prime Focus as a one-room editing studio; today it’s the global leader in special effects, with clients ranging from James Cameron to George Lucas. It’s one of the largest global entertainment services company. They do everything from advertising to television post-production and from visual effects to entertainment business across the world.”
“The company must be huge!” says Anouk. “How many people work there?”
Globally, the company employs more than 4,500 people, with a flagship studio in Los Angeles.”
The taxi drops us in front of the Prime Focus building and a few minutes later, Namit welcomes us. “Nice to meet you. Let me show you around!” he says.
“I always dreamt of becoming a filmmaker,” he says as he leads us past the reception area. “My father was a film producer and my grandfather was a cinematographer. So I’m the third generation in the entertainment business.“
“Prime Focus started as a small editing studio in a garage next to my apartment in Mumbai.”
“Like Microsoft and HP! And we all know how their story unfolded!” I say with a smile. “But tell us more about Prime Focus, what is it exactly?”
“I’ll show you right now,” he says as he takes us into a large open-plan office. The place is buzzing with activity: small groups of people are gathered at the different work stations absorbed in conversation, while others are rushing past and disappear into the different editing suites that are hidden away behind heavy doors.
“Swati told us that your flagship studio is in LA,” I say. “Can you tell us how you broke into Hollywood?”
“In 2007 we bought Frantic Films and Post Logic in Los Angeles,” says Namit. “Both of these companies had good credentials in Hollywood. We had gotten involved in Journey 3D and we’d also done a considerable amount of work on Avatar. Following our success with Avatar and other work we started to gain traction among the studios and that prompted Warner Bros to reach out to us. We did a very good job for them.”
“Can you tell us what innovation you brought to Hollywood?”
“We were the first in the world to convert an entire movie into 3D: Clash of the Titans,” says Namit. “It took seven weeks. There was a lot of skepticism around the fact that the conversion had been done so quickly, but the studio was very happy with the job. George Lucas asked us to convert the last three Star Wars episodes into 3D. That was also a huge win for us.”
“So what is the secret of your success?” I ask. “Are you a creative person, a technical person or are you more business minded?”
“It’s a combination, I think. I’m both a right brainer and a left brainer,” he says. “I can talk to creative people and understand their way of thinking. And add my own creativity. But at the same time, I know the technical requirements to achieve the creative result. Last but not least: I’m good with figures and can oversee financial implications.”
“Your work is fascinating,” I say. “We’d like to learn more about it, so I have a proposition: we’re on a trip around the world, meeting ‘people with a vision’ and ‘brands with a purpose’. From here we go to Singapore, China, South Korea, Japan… and somewhere in January we’ll touch down in LA. How about meeting again in your flagship studio over there?”
“Sounds good,” says Namit. “I can show you the work we did on Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I think you’ll like it.”
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