It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously altered the way the video production industry does business. Whether you’re a creative who’s had their project impacted, or a fan keeping up with the hamster wheel of release and filming date delays, it’s clear that the on-set status quo has changed dramatically.
Face coverings, PCR tests, strident social distancing, and so many (so. many.) Zooms have all become part of the day-to-day for makers still grinding it out in the creative field. We don’t have to tell you it’s been hard. If you’re reading this, we bet you know that all too well. But amidst the struggle has come lots of wisdom — wisdom that the filmmakers and partners at FREE THE WORK want to share with anyone who needs a little help right now.
FREE THE WORK, a nonprofit global initiative founded by director Alma Har’el, is a talent discovery platform designed to raise the profile of underrepresented creators and ultimately, get them hired. Like Vimeo, FREE THE WORK is a major hub for talented, experienced creators with valuable insight into the craft.
So when it came to developing a guide to producing content during COVID, we knew they’d hook us up with some good folks. Enter Oui Productions CEO and founder Gabrielle Roussos, Honor Society founder Megan Kelly, and Namesake executive producer Tori Palmatier, three wildly talented filmmakers with COVID-production wisdom in spades. From tips for better on-set communication to real talk about financing a film during a pandemic, here’s what we learned during our (distanced) chat.
On strengthening communication:
Gabrielle: “I believe strong communication skills is the core to our collective success. It has been a silver lining to have the opportunity to work on the internal skills versus the external objectives that we typically prioritize.
From my perspective, this has helped us to better connect with each other in a more vulnerable and meaningful way, while being more efficient in our work. It’s made us a stronger team overall while providing even better service to our clients.”
I can foresee many of these pivots lasting well beyond the pandemic as a path to a more sustainable and efficient industry.”
Megan Kelly, founder of Honor Society
On remote-style shooting:
Megan: “I think remote shooting will be with us, in some way, for good. Clients and agencies see that they can participate robustly from afar. In the future, I expect we will see smaller teams traveling to jobs from agencies and clients. I also think that more teams will be able to participate remotely.
Gabrielle: “I am noticing that many clients now prefer remote viewing options on set, and there are more opportunities for virtual collaborations and digital-based projects. We are re-assessing essential crews on set and learning to work together and consider other departments in ways that were not required before this pandemic. I can foresee many of these pivots lasting well beyond the pandemic as a path to a more sustainable and efficient industry.”
On what to expect on a live-action set:
Tori: “Expect PCR testing before tech scout and throughout the shoot. You’ll see zoning and wristbands to minimize mingling, PPE and sanitation, and a COVID department consisting of a compliance officer, medic, etc. Plus, restrictions on PPM, fittings, casting, location scouting, crew travel, etc.
And now, with stronger strains out there, expect productions to minimize crew even more than before, requiring absolutely no talent mixing outside of households without proper PPE and safety.”
Gabrielle: “I believe we need to adjust our expectations. We should expect the pace of productions to be slower and for more individual responsibilities on set. We are now tasked with safety and infection control in addition to our production responsibilities. This is a huge adjustment and quite frankly it will take everyone working together with patience and transparency to keep our industry safe by mitigating risk.
Every set should have a minimum standard for policies in compliance with the local, state, federal, and film commission guidelines. Face coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene, and health screenings, to name a few. On-set rapid antigen and PCR testing are also becoming more widespread as one of the best ways to monitor daily conditions in addition to all of the standard protocols.”
Things are slow for people right now and we have things like Zoom, so reach out and meet as many people in the industry as you possibly can.
We will open up again, and it’s great to already have connections under your belt.”
Tori Palmetier, executive producer of Namesake
On financing a film right now:
Tori: “To be totally transparent, it’s a buyer’s market. Agencies and clients can be really as picky or aggressive as they want right now, as we all reach for those jobs and the work that’s out there. It’s made for some pretty interesting bidding experiences.”
Megan: “Clients and agencies are learning that their budgets need to increase to ensure that the crew and talent remain safe. While we are finding that most clients have been factoring this into their producer nets, some clients are budgeting even less than usual. When this happens, it leaves us with a bit of a puzzle to solve so that neither creative nor safety is compromised.”
On keeping the faith:
Tori: “Put simply, COVID safety restricts creatives. Be smart about the short film, the spec spot, etc. that you’re planning. Make sure and hook up with a producer who is on top of safety as it applies to your creative and your set.
Things are slow for people right now and we have things like Zoom, so reach out and meet as many people in the industry as you possibly can. We will open up again, and it’s great to already have connections under your belt.”
Megan: “I think this is a great time to try to jump in and help redefine the landscape. Times of change are always opportunities. Some budgets are smaller and scrappier, which means it’s a good time to be resourceful and build our your reel.”
Gabrielle: “For the young people just getting their start, know that these extreme conditions won’t last forever. This is perhaps one of the greatest times of change in modern history and all of us are dealing with new challenges.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and set boundaries about what you are and are not comfortable handling. Don’t get discouraged if you hear the word ‘NO.’ Focus on what you can control and work on your goals every day.”