Industry Upended: How Creative Is Adapting to Production

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INFLUENCER: PSN's Michael Moffett on finding solidarity in a shaken world
Industry Upended: How Creative Is Adapting to Production

Emerging bruised and confused from the coronavirus, my Spanish father-in-law’s metaphorical pun of cornadavirus is an apt description at how this pandemic caught us all by the bull’s horns and threw us to an uncertain fate.

Raising our still spinning heads from the dirt, I’m encouraged to see our film production industry finding solidarity in a shaken world that is slowly bringing the more immediate solutions into focus. We are leaning on one another to recover our footing.


Business as Unusual

The coronavirus has been a catalyst. One of cost savings and survival of the fittest for commercial campaigns developed before the pandemic. Our PSN UAE partner reconceived this series of films for an LG campaign at home to execute with a notably smaller production footprint and budget. The brand was so pleased it chose to distribute the campaign across the MENA region.  

During lockdowns and closed borders, the travel entourage of brand marketers and agency creatives has been all but grounded. That amounts to further savings much needed to compensate for the 5-25% added expense of preventative measures commercial productions are adopting. To the essential PPE and risk supervision, there is a long list of considerations such as pre-light and set dressing days, ventilation breaks, and department pods stepping in and out of set that ultimately requires more time and resources to achieve.

The travel savings, and resulting carbon footprint reduction, are sustainable when technology wins over the stakeholders. PSN Australia stepped up to the plate to deliver a live feed with minimal latency that remotely connected them all to the set – even the director! – to produce this commercial for Domino’s Pizza. Production solutions prevented any delay to the campaign’s release across Australia and New Zealand.

Calendar is a fundamental consideration we’ve underlined in countless discussions with producers these past weeks. There’s no merit in dreaming up a concept requiring A-list talent travel to an exotic location in a few weeks’ time when travel restrictions, not to mention a talent’s own nervousness, are sure to prevent it. Allow more money and time on set to achieve realistic production feats. Accept that social distancing and sanitising are the new world order. Or delay.


Producers Have Got Your Back

Production houses and production service companies have their feet grounded in execution. CDs and agency producers are learning to reach out to these production partners earlier in the process to develop and strategise constructively. In Ireland, this trend prompted a producer-led webinar for creatives entitled, Trust me, I’m a producer.

Equally telling was the overarching agreement between panel participants in the recent Screen Daily webinar, production experts talk new Covid-19 realities, pushing shoots to 2021. 'Safety first' was the guiding principle we producers could agree on with a feature film location manager, film commissioner, and health specialist. Amidst insurance exclusions for communicable diseases, crew waivers not worth the paper they’re printed on, and an awareness that our most exposed commodity – performers – are also the most precious to a production’s successful wrap, the best production insurance is prevention.

The execution of larger-scale commercial and long-format filming abroad has long depended on trusted production service companies.  Mindful of this, the service-oriented industry of Spain banded together to showcase its pandemic protocol in this recent spot.  Foreign productions are welcome back on set from July 1st. Remotely-streamed shoots are already underway here as in most every major film hub worldwide.

The stakes of whom to trust with these added responsibilities have never been higher for studios, brands, and agencies. PSN Partners are bonded in best practices.  Many led efforts to draft and adopt health and safety guidelines at home.  A few even took the initiative to shut down operations temporarily when government leadership was absent. Collectively, their boots-on-the-ground expertise provides producers with secure footing on uncertain terrain.


The Tools

The shorter timelines of commercial projects have compelled producers of the genre to trailblaze a safe return to the set ahead of most TV & film producers. PSN’s collection and dissemination of health and safety measures being adopted on set in the first countries to get back on their feet, such as South Korea and Australia, have helped the industry across Europe and America shape its own guidelines.  

Planning a production within a feasible framework is sure footing for creatives developing concepts. To get producers started in the right direction, PSN published its table of territories where cameras are rolling on live action, and within which parameters. Partners continue to update it as conditions evolve in their respective territories. 


Advantages to Filming Abroad 

Stakeholders are coming to recognise there are major film hubs worldwide where the virus’s deadly impact has been relatively low. They’re looking to countries like Iceland and Czech Republic that are pioneering ways to guarantee safe entry of actors, directors, HoDs, and executives without need for a 14-day quarantine.  Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland, Portugal, and Serbia have already followed suit. Regional business and trade interests are opening safe corridors between multiple countries of Europe and Asia-Pacific.  The opening of some states in Mexico to foreign travel this week is a significant step for overseas connections to and from America, so long as we avoid a dreaded second wave.

This sort of local knowledge was on display in a recent webinar with UK television producers organised by PACT. Production Service Network Partners from nearly a dozen countries shared timely insights in Filming Abroad during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Drops in local currency values this year have made countries like Turkey, South Africa, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina 10-30% more affordable.  Film incentive boosts expected in Greece, Uruguay, and South Africa will join Spain’s lead in sweetening local rebates to as much as 50% in a move that will help overcome travel fears. These are some of the numbers that studio executives and line producers are crunching as they look to counter the costs of Covid-19 compliance.

Production considerations weigh heavily on development in these challenging times.  But creative problem solving is the producer’s craft. The sooner we engage in the creative process, the more we’ll deliver beyond expectations.


Michael Moffett is managing director at PSN

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