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Lights, camera, covid: commercial production in the world of covid

As with many industries, the commercial production industry was abruptly shut down because of the COVID pandemic. As the industry begins to reopen, Northern Lights Direct continues to evolve and adapt quickly to continuously changing production rules and regulations, allowing us to continue servicing our clients and executing successful campaigns. With the importance of safety, staying informed and doing what is best for our clients at the forefront, we created a new production process built around the question, “Is a shoot needed”?

Asking this question is critical. With comprehensive industry guidelines – from screening crew to wardrobe, having medics on set to handling equipment –shoot budgets will increase 10-25%, so it is essential to review already existing assets. Agencies need to ask themselves, is there a spot we can breathe new life into through stock footage or animation? Or can we switch together various videos to create something new?

That said, not all clients have assets that can be refreshed or products have changed and we knew we had to do whatever we could to adhere to government guidelines, go above and beyond to keep everyone safe and get the cameras rolling again. The impact of not producing new creative could have been devastating to a client’s bottom line.

Download our Best Production Practices During COVID

So, what can you expect from a shoot? The first thing you will notice is the shoot itself looks different. Strict screening processes have been implemented, everyone is wearing masks, there are numerous cleaning stations, the craft table is no longer there, and lunches are boxed and outside. If anyone has COVID or exhibits symptoms, they are not allowed on set. One of the biggest changes for us is that clients are no longer on set to minimize the total number of people and adhere to COVID guidelines.

Luckily, technology has come along over the past few years and you can enjoy the shoot from the comfort of your own home. With video streaming platforms like Qtake and Upvision, you can see what’s being shot in real time and, in many, cases with the same quality as you would viewing a monitor in the green room. We select a lead person to be the “air-traffic controller” on set who is responsible for managing the various platforms, video calls, virtual breakout rooms to ensure the experience is seamless for the client.

Another big difference is talent. With restrictions on the number of people allowed on set, we have had to modify our approach to casting. For example, if a family is required for a shoot, we work with our casting directors to hire a real family as opposed to various individuals to make up the TV family. Our casting agency partners have also created pods of people who can work together on set. Additionally, we are casting back-up talent that are hired and on standby should the chosen talent test positive or if they don’t pass the screening test before going on set.

The key to a successful shoot is always communication and during this time, patience is playing a big role. As long as expectations are set between you, the agency and the crew, the shoot will go smoothly.
This industry is smart and agile – it has to be – our very survival relies on it. The good news is production is once again thriving and despite the changes, the quality of the production and the ability to create performance-driven commercials has not changed.

Being on set with these new changes (or being on set virtually) is still as fun, exciting and energetic as it was when we could all be together. We are excited and happy to see new creative visions comes to life and launch new campaigns for our clients.

About the author

Anna V Fowles, Executive Vice President, Performance Creative

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