Like so many others, we've learned the hard way that the commercial TV and feature film industry was not built to be pandemic-proof. With a business platform primarily built on large groups assembling from around the world, traveling, and working in close proximity together for days to months on end, we as an industry have had to do some major pivoting to re-think what production will look like from here on out.
And we all have had to ask ourselves the same question: what the actual ...? Sorry, the print-friendly question: how do we create content in an environment where our creatives can thrive and ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees, our clients and the communities we serve in the midst of this global pandemic?
This was the question we marinated on when our first major production was cancelled in February of 2020, due to COVID-19. And for full disclosure - our team rocked in fetal position for a few days before tackling that question.
It was actually RC's Grandmother who told us the best advice around that time, and got our team back in motion. She said her dad used to always say in times of challenge to "begin by considering the resources you have available". Our business mentor echoed similar council a few months later and encouraged us to think about how this situation could actually be serving us.
For us, we concluded that we had:
- a Director of Photography who can also build sets and does stunning wood carpentry work on the side for fun.
- a Producer who was quarantined with him and likes painting (surprise, they're married!)
- our Contributing Director who was now available due to his feature film being pushed back
- an Art Director who we knew was safely quarantining nearby
- a slew of talented Animators & Editors around the country with full availability and remote capabilities
- an unfinished basement at our disposal
- and a plethora of footage from our clients over the years, all backed up and readily accessible from home.
Fast forward to December - and we've used that entire list of resources:
- Said quarantined DP & Producer duo built a 10ft-by-12ft studio wall in the unfinished basement listed above, enabling us to customize backgrounds for our clients / brands and continue safely filming content in quarantine.
- We acquired a new, private, live stream system that's enabled our clients and crew to watch entire shoots from home while still being able to review / approve camera feeds remotely, in real time (just like they were still on-set with us).
- We shot the second season of Inside Gaming with Seagate - an original content streaming series for videos gamers that we help produce for Seagate - filmed completely in quarantine, across 2 countries and 4 U.S. states. To pull that feat off, we sent a custom camera / lighting / audio package to the home of our talent in Canada and had a typical pre-light day with him - only this time our DP, RC Walker, coached our host, Patrick Maka, on how to set up the equipment and was able to tweak things remotely. We then matched the package at our basement filming location in Colorado and filmed the rest of the content from there in front of the custom set we built. We were able to employ our Contributing Director to patch in remotely from North Carolina, as well as our local Art Director to be on-set thanks to additional safety measures. (If you'd like to check out one of the episodes, click here)
- And lastly, we repurposed our footage library for our existing clients, editing 12 different commercial spots for folks while in quarantine. These deliverables gave our clients updated social content for their platforms, several new broadcast commercials, and some "feel good" internal content to thank those for their service during this time.
There's of course a whole slew of things we'd all probably have done differently had we known what laid ahead of us in 2020. But in the end, it just doesn't matter. One of the best quotes we read this year was this one:
"I think when the dust settles, we will realize how very little we need, how much we actually have, and the true value of human connection." - All Inspired
Grateful to you all. Thanks for helping us discover the silver linings this year and for the lessons we've learned along the way.