-Miriam Joseph

The digital landscape has transformed filmmaking, offering both challenges and opportunities. Producers now navigate a world where technology streamlines production but also demands new skills and considerations, balancing the benefits of digital tools with the timeless principles of storytelling.

The advent of digital technology has irrevocably transformed the film industry world over, streamlining workflows, democratising film production, and opening myriad new platforms for more inclusive and imaginative storytelling. Understanding the nuances of these changes is crucial for today’s film producers.

For example, I remember a time when we used scissors and tape to make film schedules – cutting strips of different coloured paper – one for night interiors and one for night exteriors, one for the day interiors and one for day exteriors and sticking them all together to make a stripboard schedule. It was labour intensive and making any changes (film schedules change all the time) was very time-consuming. But with the advent of Movie Magic Scheduling and using Final Draft, the screenwriting software – with a few clicks, you can create a digital stripboard that allows creativity and flexibility and improves workflow capabilities – making a producer’s job happen more efficiently and cohesively. So yes, digitalisation has changed much in filmmaking – some things for the better, and some…well, let’s say change takes getting used to.

Cost ka Chakkar: Digital Saves Money...Or Does It?

Let us start with the misconception that when cameras and editing went digital,filmmaking became cheaper. Well, it is not so simple. Sure, the cost of actual celluloid and processing it has gone, but that has been replaced by the need for memory cards, hard drives, backup drives and many more. I still remember breathing a cautious sigh of relief when we would send our exposed cans of film to the lab because that was pretty much that. Today, it is not just about shooting the material - it is also about backing up the footage three times over, having a DIT (Digital Imaging Technician, a whole new job title, by the way!) on set at all times, and editors working with massive amounts of data – since directors shoot a lot more material today because of the misconception that all is now cheap. But cheap isn’t always about money – other things, like time and creativity, cost too. Bottom line - commercial filmmaking has always cost money and always will. Whether it’s the price of a location or massive cloud storage subscriptions. So, while streamlining certain processes, digital technology has introduced new expenses and steps into the workflow. The need for copious amounts of data storage, multiple copies of shot footage and specialised technical personnel represents significant budget considerations.

However, digitalisation can provide producers more control. With digital work processes, the true advantage, at least for some producers, may lie in increased control – digital filmmaking empowers producers with more direct oversight of processes previously managed by external vendors. However, if you can’t afford to keep it all in-house, the risk of piracy is greater with digital than it ever was with physical celluloid reels.

Digitalization has changed much in filmmaking – some things for the better, and some…well, let’s just say change takes getting used to.

Let’s face it, technology is merely a tool, not a crutch

The magic of digital cameras has made many filmmakers quite trigger-happy. No more counting down those precious minutes of a film roll for them. “One more take, one more take… it’s all on the memory card, no worries!” But here is what a seasoned producer knows – an endless supply of takes doesn’t guarantee a good film. Yes, shoot smart and use the freedom that digital gives you, but don’t assume that quantity means quality. All those gigabytes of footage still need to be sorted, stored and, most importantly, shaped into a compelling story. You can have 1000s of shots, but if they aren’t the right shots to tell the story, the whole exercise is pointless.

Digital tools have helped virtually every film department in the last quarter of a century. Design software like SketchUp, MAYA and AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator and Sketchbook Pro, and previsualisation software like FrameForge or Previs Pro provide immense value in designing and planning for expensive set builds or intricate action sequences. However, I personally believe that an overreliance on digital tools can sometimes make creators lazy or less resourceful. So successful producers must find a balance - using technology as a tool rather than allowing it to dictate the entire creative process. They must always retain the ability to adapt to the dynamic, human-driven, innately creative world of filmmaking.

The Rise of the Data-Driven Producer

As much as filmmaking is an art, digital tools bring a whole new level of data and analysis into the picture. Gone are the days when we used to rely on gut instinct and box office figures to figure out what audiences liked. Today, there is so much more information at our fingertips – past project results, industry trends, audience behaviour, etc. Some producers I know swear by algorithms that help them decide which scripts to greenlight. Analysing trends and patterns can facilitate decision-making for script selection, budgeting, and even casting choices. However, data analysis cannot and should not replace a producer’s intuition about a story and their own industry experience. Successful producers use data to enhance rather than replace their knowledge and instincts. Data should only be an extra tool in the producer’s arsenal, and wise producers will learn how to use it smartly. At its core, filmmaking should always be about creative instinct, teamwork, and crafting stories that move an audience.

Inclusivity: Rewriting the Rules in the Digital Era

Greater access to information about filmmaking, fuelled by digital platforms, has helped demystify the role of the producer in India. For the longest time in India, the word producer automatically brought a wealthy man with a briefcase to mind. No one, not least people within the industry, understood what a professional producer does. This is demonstrated best by the fact that India’s premier film schools did not have a course to teach the craft of producing until a little over a decade ago. India’s first comprehensive Producing course began at the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute in 2013. Slowly, the industry started to understand that professional producers, unlike financiers, do much of the work of turning an idea into a film. They are the ones who manage and execute the overall process of creating a film. This shift in perception is attracting a wider range of talent, including more women, who, I think, possess the inherent organisational, communication, and resource management skills that are so fundamental to being a good producer. It is true that the industry is still very much male-run, but I see quite a definite change, which has helped partly because of more digitalisation.

The future of film is undeniably intertwined with digital technology, and the most adaptable producers will be those who harness its potential while maintaining a deep understanding of the timeless principles of filmmaking.

Democratizing Storytelling

The proliferation of digital production tools has empowered individuals who may have yet to have access to traditional filmmaking resources to tell their stories. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and the formerly-available TikTok have created platforms for self-expression. This direct connection between creators and audiences underscores the democratising power of digital technology, reshaping how stories can be told and consumed. The film industry used to be the playing field of wealthy men. Digitalisation has brought some much-needed egalitarianism to this otherwise skewed playing field, and as a woman, I could not be more excited about the possibilities that this holds. India’s first Oscar for a film went to a women’s team of Producer and Director.

Never forget to trust your intuition

Please make no mistake, I am hugely grateful for the way digitalisation has streamlined filmmaking. Pre-visualisation lets me see complex shots before even stepping onto the set. But, there is a lot to be said for the way things used to be done. Having experienced both the analogue and digital eras of filmmaking has given me a unique perspective. There was a discipline we developed while working with celluloid. While digitalisation brings undeniable benefits, there’s value in the constraints and limits imposed by celluloid, because they made each of us far more creatively resourceful and more reliant on our own innate skills and talents. Today, there’s a danger of becoming overly reliant on technology. Too much focus on special effects and cleaning up every little flaw in post-production can sometimes make us lazy storytellers – going down the ‘style over substance’ route. The heart of a film has never been about pixels or VFX but of the human experience we put on screen and the way we make our audiences feel. The most effective producers will strike a balance, embracing the possibilities of digital technology while preserving the value of craft, passion, and well-structured narratives.

In sum, here’s what I’ve learned as a producer riding the wave of digitalisation: Embrace the technology; it’s here to stay. Use the tools it gives you to make your job easier, reach broader audiences and tell stories in ways that weren’t possible before. But never let the technology overshadow the craft, the human connection and the timeless power of a well-told story. The future of film is undeniably intertwined with digital technology, and the most adaptable producers will be those who harness its potential while maintaining a deep understanding of the timeless principles of filmmaking.


Mariam Joseph

Mariam Joseph

Consulting Producer