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Lockdown But Not Out: How Work Visas Are Keeping Production Going


Production Service Network co-founder Michael Moffett reveals how film crews have been keeping the show on the road throughout a turbulent 2020

Lockdown But Not Out: How Work Visas Are Keeping Production Going

With everything that’s happened this year, production teams across the world deserve a huge round of applause for what they’ve achieved. 2020 will go down as the year that showcased producers’ creative problem-solving skills as never before.  

We’ve proven that, for all the challenges and obstacles in our path, where there is a will we can find a way when it comes to filmmaking. Some teams have been able to make remote filming work, and we’ve seen some wonderful examples of that executed by our Partner service companies. Elsewhere, we’ve been able to work with governments to establish health & safety protocols to keep shows on the road and ensure directors and teams find their way to work on foreign film sets safely. The PSN Partner in Jordan did just that to re-open the country to production last spring, and they welcomed a cast and crew of 98 South Koreans for five weeks filming of the feature Bargaining - slated for a 2021 release. 

While there is light at the end of the tunnel with regards to a vaccine, it seems a fair bet that pandemic restrictions will continue at least partly into the new year. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the things we’ve been doing to ensure that shoots can happen on-set in a way that’s safe and successful. 

Work Visas To The Rescue 

Not long after the pandemic hit with full force, our advertising industry adopted a small but necessary change in mindset. In the past, passport holders of most nationalities working at commercial film companies found it easiest to travel into many film hubs on a tourist visa, normally granted upon arrival. These were quick and snappy, took next to no organising, and ensured we were all permitted to stay in a country for the week or so it would normally take to complete live-action filming on location. 

Now that non-essential travel is widely discouraged, (or at least more complicated), crews and cast are reliant on standard work visas to enter a significant list of countries with borders open to our industry thanks to an admirable track record at containing pandemic spread in the workplace. PSN Partners’ past experience at processing the necessary paperwork for producers of features and TV series requiring longer stays prepared us in advance for this shift.  Although it is a lengthier process - taking between one and two weeks on average - the extra time is well-spent. This way, crews can be confident they have met health and safety requirements and that authorities are carrying out their due diligence. The best thing producers can be doing at the start of 2021, then, is ensuring patience is built into their planning when it comes to shooting new projects abroad. 

Above: An Audi spot filmed on-location earlier this year with the team at PSN Denmark.

We’ve had close calls. Communication has proven critical to the success of collaborations adjusting to real-time changes. Consider how an impending closure of Norway’s borders last October saw a US airline and local authorities give the producer of this Oreo campaign conflicting customs arrival information.  While flying across the Atlantic, the producer took the added precaution of asking our PSN Norway Partner to urgently send a company letter validating that he and his director, DOP, and client were coming to work in the Arctic Circle. It transpired that this letter was pivotal to their entering Norway and keeping to schedule for the needed quarantine before the shoot! And therein lies the value of clear, clean communication between all partners on a project.

The Show Went On

Despite the restrictions on these projects, teams across the world have been able to conjure up amazing work. Often, that meant having a director on-set where brands and agencies weren’t, due to social distancing restrictions - or some other combination. No matter the method, however, great work still found a way to make it out of the door in 2020. 

Some recent examples from our PSN partners include this campaign for Swisscom, filmed on-location in Poland. We were also recently on-the-ground in the UK, filming a spot for XTB starring Premier League-topping Spurs boss Jose Mourinho

Above: XTB’s ad starring Jose Mourinho was filmed in the UK. 

Looking back further, PSN partners were also able to turn around a wide range of work for clients including Audi, UNICEF, and Xiaomi (amongst others), all whilst having a crew on-set safely and securely. It’s no longer a case of wondering how we’re going to make a project work, but simply a question of working out which practical approach is going to work best.

Setting Creativity Free

We’ve shown that we’ve been up to the challenges presented in 2020. Involving your production service partner in your planning from an early stage is invariably the key to a smooth and successful project when it comes to the challenges posed by Covid restrictions. That, and leaving enough time to account for getting paperwork in order before travelling. 

Pick the right service partner and allow more time, and you won’t go far wrong. We’ve proven that there’s no need for this pandemic to hold creativity back. As far as I’m concerned, that alone is worth raising a glass to as we close out this turbulent year. 

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Production Service Network PSN, Wed, 09 Dec 2020 16:47:42 GMT