The March edition of POST magazine pointed out MAYA Digital Studios for its collaboration efforts with Hollywood DI, the post-production house on the 3D stereoscopic feature film, “Static”. This horror film was originally shot with a 3D dual camera/beam splitter rig and required several shots to be corrected via post conversion from 2D to 3D as well as numerous 3D visual effects shots. The film is now making the film festival circuit, was completed surprisingly for under a half Million dollars all in, a fact that few people would realize when watching this suspenseful paranormal saga.
Also in March, MAYA was invited to speak at the India Conference presented by the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy Center, Boston, Massachusetts. MAYA’s, Frank Foster was joined by “Sholay” clients Sascha Sippy and Siddhartha Jayaka, to address the topic of “Outsourcing and the Growth of the Indian Technology Industry in Entertainment”. Harvard professor, Bharat Anand moderated the discussion.
The American Connection
Frank Foster and MAYA
No other Indian studio can match the American connectivity of Maya Digital Studios.
For Frank Foster, Maya is a strange but appropriate combination of Dharma and Karma.
These Indian terms describe the concept of duty and destiny. Frank Foster reluctantly
added a speaking engagement to his Autodesk sponsored trip to Thailand in 1995.
That 2 day decision led to a 15 year relationship with the country that is now destined
to become the global hub of digital filmmaking for the world.
At a 3 hour lecture at the Nehru Center in Bombay as it was then known, Frank met
the royalty of Bollywood and many long lasting relationships began. His topic was
the emergence of personal computer workstations in Hollywood. As the founder of
Sony Imageworks he had already proven this concept in the United States. But for
India this was unheard of. Autodesk recognized this and since they were promoting
the use of PC s with their software they insisted on Frank’s presentation to the
Indian film industry.
At the end of the lecture many people from the industry and the Indian press lingered
for additional information. But two people waited till the crowd dispersed. They
were Ketan Mehta and Deepa Sahi.
Ketan made an emotional appeal to Frank , how his current production “Maya Memsaab”
(starring Deepa Sahi and new comer Shah Rukh Khan) was suffering due to the lack
of visual effects capabilities in India and attempts to achieve results in Hong
Kong were ineffective. Ketan persuaded Frank to return and help him start a studio
to bring high quality digital effects to India for the first time. Frank returned
to Los Angeles and consulted with the Sony Studio executive Ken Williams. Could
Frank set up a studio in India that might be a way to save Sony money in the future?
Ken Williams gave the project his blessing on the stipulation that Frank use his
vacation time for the experiment. That Christmas Frank went back to India and along
with major help from Deepa wrote the business plan for Maya Entertainment Ltd. (The
studio was named after the movie that prompted its creation.)
Two years later with help from the India’s Nation Film development Corporation (NFDC)
Maya had become an established studio; so as planned Maya’s directors and Ravi Gupta
from the NFDC came to Culver City to discuss the acquisition of Maya by Sony Pictures.
In the top floor of the Thalberg building the negotiation began. With the parameters
set an emergency call came to Ken Lemberger’s office. Sony chief council Beth Burke
rushed in and explained that a last minute plea from Yair Landau requested a delay
in the agreement pending the approval of Sony’s venture into India’s satellite TV
industry. To make a long story short, Intel saw Maya as a strategic investment and
basically took Sony’s place by acquiring a significant stake in Maya Entertainment
Ltd. In 2010 Ketan and Deepa regained control of Maya and again persuaded Frank
Foster to rejoin the studio and take over operations. Foster brought in another
Sony alumni Steven B. Cohen to oversee Maya’s North American operations completing
the American connection on both sides of the world.