Asian man with mask presenting in front of work group.

How to Restart Your Video Production Agency After Quarantine

For Mixed Media

Post-COVID-19 Production

How to Restart Your
Video Production Agency
After Quarantine

May 12, 2020
Asian man with mask presenting in front of work group.
For Mixed Media

Post-COVID-19 Production

How to Restart Your
Video Production Agency
After Quarantine

May 12, 2020

Life as we know it is not going to be the same for a long time. In the short term, we have no idea how the gradual reopening of America will affect any of us, regardless of the business you’re in. But for those of us in the video production industry, we’re about to face some serious challenges; ones that take us out of the stay-at-home frying pan and into the fiery unknown.

 

However, although we cannot predict the future, we can take what we know right now to prepare for it. And that means looking at the current state of affairs, applying those restrictions to the way the video production industry operates, and creating a plan of action that will at least allow some semblance of “business as usual” to return. Although let’s face it, the chances of anything being “as usual” are looking pretty slim for the foreseeable future. 

 

So, where do you even start? And how do you navigate the minefields that lay ahead? Let’s look at the video production strategies you can use in the uncertain months, and even years, that we all face. 

 

 

Casts and crews in a time of social distancing.

 

This is a big hurdle to get over. Think about every production and shoot you’ve ever been on, and you can picture dozens, if not hundreds, of people collecting in a space and rubbing elbows (literally in many cases). How do you operate successfully when only a limited number of people can be in one place at a time, and have to be 6 feet apart for the majority of the time?

 

You’ll need to establish some pretty strict guidelines to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved (or at least, the best you can do under the circumstances).

 

Start with crew size. 10 is the magic number, and will be for some time. Now obviously this can cause some issues on larger-scale productions so find ways to prepare ahead of time, with an efficient “essentials-only” crew to execute pre-light and set-up days. Any pre-production meetings that can be done remotely should utilize Zoom or other teleconferencing methods. You can even cast talent this way. And speaking of talent, they should arrive camera-ready whenever possible. Ideally, all cast and crew should be tested several days before arriving on set. If anyone does come up positive, have a back-up plan in place for that person. 

 

On the subject of eating, craft services will probably take a backseat for a few months. A whole bunch of people congregating together around food, well, that’s not gonna fly. This may be the time to think of other ways to offer nutrition to the cast and crew. At the very least, take a cue from the restaurants and fast food establishments by having the caterer prepare individually packaged meals. This will avoid cross contamination and give everyone a greater sense of security. Other possibilities include issuing daily per diems that they can use to get food delivered, or pick it up themselves. Some people may insist on bringing their own food, and again, compensate them for their trouble.  

 

If you can, have a kind of “sanitary supervisor,” which is like the script supervisor but focused solely on safety issues related to COVID-19. That person can make sure groups stay at a maximum of 10 people,  practice hand washing and good social distancing, and also disinfect surfaces and equipment often to keep everything on set as sanitary as is feasibly possible. Your sanitary supervisor can also ensure there are plenty of masks, gloves and PPE equipment on set at all times.

 

 

How will travel and location shooting be affected?

 

There’s no doubt that travel will be impacted. The airline industry has already been hammered, and it’s doubtful people will be eager to jump back into packed planes for hours at a time. Plus many agencies and clients have already put travel bans in place for their staff to keep them safe. And with cities still on a partial lockdown for the foreseeable future, you are going to have limited options. So, this is the time to get creative with locations and travel. 

 

Investigate the reopening guidelines thae governors across the nation are outlining right now. Some states are looking at strict lockdowns to stay in place for the months ahead, whereas others, like Colorado, have already started to open up. However, you can expect some extreme measures to hamper production for quite some time, with permits for film crews being almost impossible to get. Outdoor shoots in parks or busy streets will be tricky to say the least, so look to private properties and businesses that have what you need. 

 

When the states do relax their shelter-in-place restrictions, they’re going to focus first on “essential industries” such as manufacturing and construction. That will be followed by businesses that are essential and have a lower risk of infecting people. Again, it’s highly doubtful any governor will think the video production industry has either of those qualities.

 

With that in mind, this will be the time to start looking into locations closer to home. What’s around you? What are the possibilities available in a neighboring state, and can you all hit the road in different vehicles to make it to one place safely? And when you arrive, think about how you will live in that location for the duration of your shoot. 

 

Expect lower budgets and tighter schedules.

 

Much lower. Remember, even before the pandemic hit, video production budgets were being squeezed and cost-cutting exercises were being put in place. But then the virus struck, everything shut down almost overnight, and within a few weeks both agencies and their clients were really feeling the pinch. Workers were either furloughed or laid off, often with very little notice. Retainers were adjusted down, some agencies were let go, and clients also had to start running with skeleton crews. 

 

In a post-quarantine world, agencies and clients will be chomping at the bit to get their message out there, but they’ll have major budget issues. You’ll have less money to play with, and less time to play with it. 

 

However, something positive that has come out of the pandemic is the “let’s get this done” attitude of a lot of TV series and content producers. And in almost every instance, that method of getting great content on the air has been done at a fraction of the cost of a traditional production.

 

Just take a look at the late night shows for an example of that. The hosts and guests are literally phoning it in, using their smartphones, tablets, and laptops to film content. In the near future, with the budgets being so depressed, you may want to look at a User-Generated Content (UGC) approach to filming. 

 

One of the video production tools you have at your disposal is Cinebody, and this online crowdsourcing platform fits this new production norm like a glove. 

 

For a start, it eliminates the need for a crew. You can get iPhone quality footage from people spread far and wide, and it can be delivered to you in real-time with no compression or loss of quality. You can establish a shot list that can be distributed to your content creators, receive the video in real time, and use the push feature to send feedback and give creative direction via a virtual video village

 

Something else you will have going for you is that the current state of the video production industry has left an awful lot of people clamoring for work. When you do get the chance to open up your door, even if they’re not quite as open as they were before, you will have a whole lot of bargaining power. This will give you access to a wider range of talent than before, and most likely you’ll get them for less. 

 

 

The next steps are tentative ones for sure.

 

Like the rickety rope bridge high above the cavernous ravine, no-one wants to be the first to go across. When the green light is given to ramp up production with these new restrictions in place, all eyes will be on the first players that step up. How will they be handling insurance? How are they practicing social distancing on set? Will they have a new plan in place for lodging, dining, healthcare, and sanitation? And if the worst happens and an outbreak occurs during the production, guess what…that production, whether it’s a huge movie studio or a small video production company, will be hit hard and fast by criticism. 

 

These are tough times. And times ahead will be just as testing. The key is to practice caution, use common sense, and plan everything with as much care and attention as you can. With these precautions in place, and a cast and crew ready and willing to follow new guidelines, your video production agency can see a successful reopening; even if it’s not the way things were ever done before.