Production Best Practices in the Face of COVID-19

Since mid-March, we’ve been updating the Camp + King blog, The +, with the latest information and insight that we’ve offered to our clients to best help their brands succeed in a changing world. There’s an abundance of guidance for brands on the web, but guidance on how to produce video, film, and high-end digital work has been slower to come into focus. So, we asked our Director of Content Production, who’s safely and successfully executed remote shoots, animation, and UGC projects since the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place orders took effect, to offer some guidance on production guidelines for now and the near future.

Like everything else, production practices are rapidly evolving during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an industry, we need to be prepared to produce in a very different landscape than we’re used to. We can produce content without putting our employees, clients, and crews in harm’s way.

The following outlines some best practices given the current solutions at hand. We initially presented this content to our own Creative teams at Camp + King to encourage them to concept ideas in such a way that still allows for the production of great work, with minimal interruption, and with consideration to the uncertainty of the coming months.

Shelter-in-place still yields some lovely + creative production work

First, an acknowledgement: Sure, there’s some bad COVID-19-related work out there. But there’s some wonderful work being produced in this moment, too. If, at its core, creativity is problem solving, it’s been inspiring to see the range of creative thinking applied to the tools that are available to us to produce work now. Some examples include:

Budweiser – Checking in, that’s Whassup

Asaf Avidan – Earth Odyssey

Apple – Creativity Goes On

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – Phenom

The Verge – How Thao & The Get Down Stay Down made a music video on Zoom

Uber – Thank You For Not Riding

Considerations for producing work today

When live-action production isn’t a viable option for brands and agencies, we can focus on other forms of production in which the assembly of crews, talent, and locations aren’t required. Safe, scalable options for the time-being include:

Found/stock footage, stock stills + UGC

There are more stock footage options than ever before and while it takes time to find the unexpected gems, there are also more talented curators ready and available to help collect footage.

Mograph, animation + mixed media

Adding animation to existing found or stock footage is an easy way to customize off-the-shelf video and create a unique, ownable look for a brand. The only limit is our imaginations. As more brands embrace existing footage, animation over live-action footage (like in the examples below) will become more commonplace.

Adidas – Powered by the Past

Coca‑Cola – Mural

Influencer content

Influencers—they’re just like us! (In that, they’re stuck at home, too.) It’s a great time to engage influencers or influencer agencies to produce content on behalf of brands, with the added benefit of drafting off influencers’ existing audiences for your clients.

Individual shooters, photographers + makers:

Many individual photographers and filmmakers now allow you to shoot specifically what you request and pay per clip, adding a new element of flexibility. In some cases, we’ve been able to execute single shots with individual shooters at a fraction of the cost of what a full production would run. Additionally, in response to COVID-19, many of these individuals are now offering their imagery as stock—and even offering up their own homes and families as potential locations or casting.

One collective we particularly like has thousands of content creators chomping at the bit to create both photography and video assets: The Hub.

And check out this collection of Photographers and Directors’ homes & families on offer: Create in Place. (Ask them for the password. It’s worth a browse.)

In the near future: Live-action considerations moving forward

We’ve already seen the rise of some production companies shipping talent sterilized Drop Kit camera + lighting set-ups to record in the talent’s own homes, teleconferenced casting sessions over Zoom, and some brands using high-end cameras with remote heads driven by an operator who is physically removed from the talent.

Over time, as we build toward more traditional live-action shooting, there will be some important things to consider. ‘Is it legal to shoot’ is a very different question to ask than ‘is it ethical to shoot.’ Our position at Camp + King is to abide by best practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We will adhere to all social distancing requirements as necessary.

It’s important to note, that even as local governments lift shelter-in-place orders, it is possible that permitting offices may continue to limit or deny production permits in public spaces for several months. Additionally, will homeowners and businesses be as willing to open up their locations to crews as they once were?

So, moving forward, production partners—especially directors—should be brought onboard earlier in the creative development process to help design a production effectively. Pre-production meetings and coordination will shift to video conference. During a production, we’ll likely need to assemble in much smaller groups than what we’ve all experienced in the past. At the least, expect smaller crews who will need to stagger their workflows—a production designer will dress the set, then leave; a gaffer will come in to light, then leave; the talent will be placed on set while agency and client attendees watch via a remote video village.

Regardless of how this exactly takes shape, expect productions to require even more coordination and to move more slowly than before. The takeaway is that productions with many talent, crewmembers, and locations are soooooo last year.

In the meantime, here’s what we’ve counseled our Creative team members to do: The future is uncertain. We can’t predict if there will be a second wave of the virus, forcing prolonged social distancing requirements. So, as you’re thinking through the most impactful work possible for your clients, pursue the ideas that can be successfully produced no matter the circumstance. We’re not settling for less craft. We’re acknowledging that we need to push past our old way of doing things.

Stacy McClain is Director of Content Production. She’s worked at some of the best agencies in the country before committing to her one true love, Camp + King.

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