NEWS & VIEWS
We are nothing if not opinionated.
by Matthew May - June 2, 2020
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed every aspect of life – from the way we live to how we work. The advertising industry has not been spared a disruption or impact and in particular the film production of commercials and creative campaigns.
The global pandemic has inspired us to think differently about how we approach film shoots. We have had the opportunity to be “on set” in the creation of original campaigns during these unique and unusual times, so we thought we’d share a few top insights we’ve learned along the way. Spoiler alert… the sprawling, endless, buffet-style entourage of snacks and food offerings are a thing of the past. RIP the craft table.
Auditions have been transposed from in-person casting calls to online castings with talent submitting self-tapes (and selfies) to be reviewed by the agency before finalizing selects for client review. We’ve seen umpteen creative ways talent have solicited real-life family members – or even their beloved pets – to help out to ensure they stand out in the crowd, with the entire process from submission to selection now handled completely virtually.
As a society, we all have our own differing personal levels of comfortability (or anxiety) with getting out and mixing with others, even while respecting all the suggested Government COVID-19 guidelines and protocols. Talent is no different, and above all they are human. On one recent shoot that was to be based in Montreal, we had some talent turn down the opportunity based on an unwillingness to travel to the location of the set.
This is an opportunity for stylists to flex those window-shopping muscles in online stores or touch up their photography skills in a physical retailer environment, by snapping a picture or two. This is all in an effort as we look to fully confirm “the look” of props and wardrobe before purchasing wherever possible. Getting this right is critically important when trying to limit unnecessary additional trips to highly visited stores risking further exposure. Online shopping can really be a saviour, especially when trying to source a must-have, quirky item that just completes everything. Handy tip: Need artwork for a set that features a homely room deco? Instead of renting and returning a prop, we commissioned a local artist to create a custom piece of art that is truly one-of-a-kind. Unique art for the set. Check. Exposure of the artist. Double check. Sounds like a win-win to me.
As the famous proverb goes, “It takes a village” is even more prevalent when it comes to the creation of a commercial. An entire community of agency and client folks along with production partners need to come together and interact for the desired vision to come to life. Even though we had to limit the amount of personnel on set, with the use of technology, we were able to bring everyone involved closer together, making all feel part of the process. Big shout out to Hi-Speed WiFi, live streams, direct feeds from the camera to zoom meetings. WhatsApp chats, text messaging, FaceTime, and good old-fashioned phone calls to speed up the remote approvals.
“Is there a medic in the house?” is now a rhetorical question. From handling the signing of the no-symptoms checklists, delivering speeches to everyone outlining safety protocols, to the responsibility for handing out masks, gloves, and other PPE and being the steward that ensures physical distancing and hand-washing rules are being followed… the designated medic on-set is now the first name of the team sheet as they say in the sporting world. Plan in your planning process that they will be there all day and every day of every on-set shoot.
As I alluded to earlier, the world of Craft Services looks a lot different than pre-pandemic. Remember the days of open-air craft tables? Well, they have now been replaced by Craft Food Trucks. Snacks are now individually sealed in small bags or bento boxes and delivered by a designated craft person donned from head to toe in PPE. Don’t worry, in our experience so far, the on-set spread is still a joyful jumble of delights that any foodie will love to indulge in. Handy tip: Create personalized, reusable water bottles for all crew that can be refilled numerous times a day. It will also act as a keepsake from the big shoot day.
In wrapping up, it would be safe to say that most of the traditional shoot-day experience remains much the same (apart from all the mask-wearing and distinct lack of hugs and high-fives.) Hope this little list of learnings provides insights into film production, in a world that’s evolving from the “new normal” to life as normal. With passion, creativity, ingenuity, and a touch of luck, nothing is impossible. And with that, it’s a “virtual” wrap.