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Shooting During the Pandemic? You Bet!

Thought Leaders 56 Add to collection

With Covid-19 continuing to impact filming, co-owner of Graffiti Films Szymon Gruszecki discusses the pros of shooting within restrictions and to focus on what really matters

Shooting During the Pandemic? You Bet!

As long as we adhere to the highest safety standards, the risk is limited to the absolute minimum. At the same time, there are more benefits than you could expect.

My message to our customers is simple: “Let's shoot as much as possible now!”

I have just returned from a complex, several-day long location shooting in the Jelenia Góra Valley and the Jizera Mountains. At the end of the filming process, the whole team, me included, felt as if we barely managed to finish the production and that the pandemic was getting in our way in every possible manner. Yet, as we took a step back, we realised that none of the restrictions actually prevented us from completing our tasks, quite the opposite. We started noticing many positive aspects of working in these unusual circumstances. Finally, we came to the conclusion that it was perfectly possible to have our work done in the current conditions; as a matter of fact, we concluded that we indeed should be filming during the pandemic and that, more importantly, it is worth everybody's while. It is a typical win-win situation, provided we look at it from the right angle – which I highly encourage everyone to do! Before I get into the positive aspects of shooting during the pandemic, let me make it absolutely clear that I am referring to working in occupational safety conditions as defined by the Advertising Producers Club. I would also like to emphasise the following: a set is considered a workplace.  A trip for location shooting is a business trip and a stay at a hotel is subject to the same rules as those which apply to being away on business. When shooting, all applicable rules must be followed – this is absolutely obvious. 

With this out of the way, let us focus on what really matters:

Firstly: “locations, locations, locations” – we have been saying this over and over again and I do not think we will stop any time soon. Poland is truly beautiful with both locations as well as indoor sets being our major assets. Additionally, during the pandemic, a very rare opportunity presents itself. Locations which so far have been unavailable are now becoming open for new possibilities in terms of financing and negotiations. Buildings which have been closed due to the pandemic are now available for rent. As recently as a year ago, shopping malls were available only at night-time, which generated substantial lighting costs, or during extensive refurbishment periods. Today, the biggest shopping malls are easily within your reach – they are accessible at day-time, which used to be virtually impossible due to high costs, the need to temporarily close down stores, stop customer traffic etc. As far as restaurants are concerned, the most expensive and the most popular ones charged exorbitant fees for a chance to shoot on their premises. Today, every popular bar, bistro or joint is dying to hear from a filming crew interested in their location... museums, squares, old towns... you name it. Have you ever seen the market square in Cracow or Nowy Świat without a single soul? It is now or never.

Secondly: costs. Now, we have a substantially bigger leverage in terms of negotiations. As commercial filmmakers, we are often charged the highest rates in the filming industry – and quite understandably. We have the highest requirements, everything must be “quicker, more accurate and more efficient” plus, it serves the purpose of supporting the communication of a particular product. Yet now, in the face of the pervasive quarantine, voluntary isolation, limitations and restrictions, our leverage in negotiations is significantly greater. It is wise to take advantage of it. You can negotiate with the “outside world”, i.e. the aforementioned locations, but also with your subcontractors. When talking to my subcontractors, I often say that I also need to “persuade” a hesitant customer to launch a project which has been “put aside” exactly at this time. The possibility to negotiate rates at this time is an interesting argument even though it may not be the most important one.

Thirdly: we are supporting our fellow countrymen. We have been given a chance that the catering business, travel agents or event managers do not have – we can provide employment opportunities in times when many employers are forced to lay people off or reduce their spendings. I was inspired to write this article by the conversations I had with the owners of a pension and a bar where we were filming one of our productions, they spoke with one voice when they said that “if it had not been for you, we would not have the money to pay our personnel for their work”. I heard this several times and I passed it on to our customers. An actual person, in all their honesty and earnestness, is telling us: “Thank you for choosing us. This will help us get through this difficult time”. As the filming industry, we have a lot of options at our disposal, starting from hiring a driver, renting an accommodation or ordering catering for the film crew. We can provide people with employment opportunities they would not find elsewhere. All this is worth noting when considering shooting now or some time in the future. Taking all of the above into account, I believe the time to act is now. There is nothing stopping us. We can handle safety requirements, tests or making decisions online – the time has come to appreciate all the positives and... get to work!

Szymon Gruszecki / Graffiti Films CEO
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Graffiti Films, Wed, 26 May 2021 11:16:27 GMT