Milkshake Media whips up television commercials and videos for corporate clients today, although its business model has had to evolve since it was launched four years ago in Dubai. Dev Vaswani, the production company's founder, discusses the business's changing ingredients.
Why did you start this venture?
I felt there were a lot of creatives who were not able to find the right directors for certain scripts or storyboards. I really wanted to start off Milkshake as a director representatives service. It works in the United States. The concept started with agents representing directors in Los Angeles and New York. Initially, I wanted that to be my major offering. However, things started to change with the recession, and people did not get the idea.
So how did you go about trying to change that?
I had the experience to produce but evolved my business plan to get into production as well. I am still very confident of the level of directors I have; we offer a full range of styles - animation, graphics, high-level imagery, which is what the automotive industry looks for. I expanded it also to provide production services, which meant we had our own in-house casting.
How competitive have you found this market?
It is fairly competitive. A lot of work is being done in Beirut and Cairo, because they have cost advantages. Cost of living in those cities is far lower than in Dubai. A lot of agencies prefer shooting in Cairo and Beirut. We've countered that by having freelance producers there. We do about 60 per cent of our work in the UAE. The rest comes from outside.
How else have you tried to get more business?
We also offer other services in other parts of the world. We have associate companies we work with in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Mumbai, where, if you do casting and researching properly, you can find Arabic-looking cast. We also have one company in Amsterdam with their own directors who work exclusively with us if they want to shoot in the Middle East. Given the situation with the recession, a lot of companies find it easier to tie up. They find themselves in the same situation and need to pull in business as well.
Does your strategy differ for enticing production partners that work on TV commercials versus feature-length shows?
We focus on the commercial business because that's my core strength. We have another producer who does our TV - but TV is another ball game altogether, a different set of skills and directors.
Is there enough demand from the local TV sector for that side of the business?
No, not as much as there is for commercials. This is a worldwide phenomenon. A lot of production companies find it hard to break into TV networks; a lot of times they have the resources in-house - production teams, writers and directors. It's hard for an outside production company to go there and say "do work with me".
* Neil Parmar