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New Attitudes to Technology Open Up Creative Collaboration


After the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Birth's Kate Elson reflects on a new found trust in technology and how the industry as become more fluid as a result

New Attitudes to Technology Open Up Creative Collaboration

It used to be OK for rock stars to throw TVs out of their hotel windows. And it used to be OK for a director to walk on set and declare that actually, they wanted to shoot on the other side of the desert. 

The global health crisis has given us all pause for thought, to examine what really matters. Turns out that leaving excess and wastefulness behind feels pretty good. We can actually do an awful lot with very little. Even pre-pandemic, the ad industry took positive steps to improve. Initiatives such as Ad Net Zero and AdGreen have been instrumental in driving changes to minimise the environmental impact and encourage more sustainable ways of working.

Technology has played a big part in this mental shift. It has focused our minds on efficiency and co-operation, leaving little room for extravagance or profligacy. It has become second nature to the way we do business and, on balance, has opened up more opportunities than it has closed down. Remote working has reduced the number of people on set, and opened up international borders in terms of talent and logistics. As it happened, for example, there was a lot of home-grown talent in Bulgaria, and we didn’t need to fly in every last person from Soho to provide a cracking team on a shoot. 

As a result, we already have a much wider talent pool to recruit from: on a recent shoot in Bulgaria for a London agency, we worked with an editor in Spain and post production in Paris. There’s a trust in the technology that we didn’t have before, and as a result our industry has become more fluid and less one-size-fits-all.  

Technology has also opened up the possibilities for lower budget shoots. Being savvy as to who needs to attend a shoot reduces the travel bill, and every producer prefers to see the money on the screen. Without the entourage and the travel bill, the world becomes a lot more accessible. 

The flip-side is that it’s easy to jump on a Zoom call, so there tend to be more calls and more people than if meetings were held in person – which runs the risk of being created by a committee, which is in nobody’s best interest. Thankfully, production companies and directors are generally considered creative partners, collaborators hired for their vision. Strong partnerships create trust and freedom which has always and will always create superior work. 

It’s not that the technology is new, but our attitudes towards it have changed. In most scenarios, flying to New York for meetings seems wrong on many levels – environmental impact, time and money. Previously, I would not question flying a US director over for a pitch meeting, but the change in attitude means this is no longer necessary as you are no longer at a disadvantage if you don’t meet in person. 

During lockdown, I started up the London office of a French production company, but due to the travel restrictions I’ve been unable to get to the Paris HQ. The truth is, now that travel has opened up, I hope to get on the Eurostar in the not-too-distant future, but a trip to meet the team isn’t an immediate priority because, after working closely together on so many projects, I feel bonded with everyone already, I definitely have more WhatsApp groups than friends!

The frequent zooms, WhatsApps and voicemails haven’t just been functional, they’ve been relationship-building. Back when we first went into lockdown, setting up a video conference felt more formal and awkward, but now we’re all comfortable with using technology for a quick catch up or a casual check in. 

At the same time I’m eager to see people. We are a people industry, and the best ideas still come from chatting to people, face to face. That’s the dilemma with technology – it’s an ongoing challenge to find the balance between where it helps and where it hinders. 

Now’s the time to make some conscious decisions to find the right balance and put all the experiences, the good and the bad, of the last 18 months to some use. In fact it feels to me like a time when we can decide not to drift back to the way we were. It’s as if someone has come along with a whole bowl of Smarties and chucked them up in the air. Will we frantically run around catching them, and chucking them back in the bowl? Or would we be better off discarding the blue smarties that nobody much likes, and arranging our favourites differently, so that a fresh new pattern emerges? 

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Birth UK, Mon, 13 Sep 2021 10:55:51 GMT