Tue, 23 Aug 2022 07:22:00 GMT
The story of remote filming changes a lot, depending on who tells it. For some people, shooting remotely is an unfortunate necessity brought about by a global pandemic. For others, it was a skill picked up in 2020 which has now been honed into something with genuinely long-term benefits. And, for others, it’s a tale of technological triumph, a turning point in the history of production from which we’re never likely to turn back.
The truth, ultimately, contains a little bit of all those stories. It’s true that the pandemic forced an entire industry to adopt what was, until that point, a relatively niche aspect of the production world. But it’s equally true that the early chaos of 2020 allowed us the space in which to experiment with patience and flexibility whilst we found our feet (while the rest of the planet did much the same thing). Producers are a resilient bunch, and it’s been extraordinary watching our industry adjust so well and so quickly. The result is that remote filming is, to a greater or lesser degree, here to stay.
But there’s always more work to be done - especially with technology advancing at such a rapid rate. With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about best practices when we shoot remotely, as well as the behind-the-scenes work required to make sure working remotely, well, works. In doing so, I believe most will find that technology isn’t by itself a cast-iron guarantee of remote filmmaking success (although it certainly helps). At the end of the day, the best remote projects will feature many of the same basic ingredients that the best in-person shoots have always benefitted from - great people, with great skills, collaborating together. In 2022, there are a few easy ways to make sure we all have access to those ingredients.
I’m hugely grateful that, at Presence, we’d already built a superb network of people who we knew we could rely on at the time of the pandemic. Whilst that initial lockdown did briefly make it harder to spark new connections, it also laid the foundations for a much more casual culture of professional connectivity. Want to catch up? Just jump on a Zoom call. That network of ours may have taken time and plenty of hard work to build, but it’s easy to maintain now that everyone is comfortable and familiar with video calling tech.
On which note, we’ve also been enabled to broaden our reach beyond the locations we might have traditionally looked to expand our network. Our web of talent has grown out of central London, across the UK, into Europe, the US, South America, and Asia. Widespread remote working has afforded us a great opportunity for working with really talented people who don’t happen to live in a metropolis. As a result, we’ve brought very skilled people onto our team who are now able to make a living from working in film regardless of their location. That wasn’t possible pre-pandemic when they sometimes had to fall back on jobs in service or retail. We are seeing an explosion in talent and I’m proud that Presence is playing its part in helping people fulfil their creative endeavours.
At the same time, my top piece of advice to anyone building a team today would be that, should the opportunity arise to meet for a cuppa in-person, take it. Those are the personal moments that provide the foundation for a lasting professional relationship that can be maintained remotely with minimal fuss.
When our team undertook the (highly recommended) AdGreen training, we looked in detail at the flights we relied on for many of our shoots. Perhaps unsurprisingly, what we found was that a large chunk of our overall CO2 emissions as a company came from those flights. So, when the opportunity arose to scale back our climate impact by cutting down on overseas travel in 2020, we grabbed it with both hands. Working with fewer feet on the ground also has a positive impact on lowering production costs, making the budget work better on the screen.
What’s been absolutely fantastic about that experience has been the reaction from our clients. So many have been right there with us in thinking very carefully about sustainability, and have only sent those people who are absolutely relevant to achieving good results for the project. I think it is important to have a few ‘hands’ there on set (and I am a proponent of having the Director and ECD at the shoot). The work that Adgreen in the UK and Green the Bid in the US are doing, as well as others, is really helping to get this message across and to maintain and extend these networks.
Thankfully, most good producers and directors know that sustainability is high on the agenda and that means that they are naturally drawn to those networks. Incorporating remote working into your operating model - in a way that still prioritises overall quality - is a great way of embracing sustainability opportunities.
Something which makes me proud about our industry is that we work in a genuinely friendly environment. As a result, it’s always acceptable - and encouraged - to ask questions. Doing so ensures that you build not just knowledge, but also trust.
For agencies and brands looking to start work on a remote production, ask to see your prospective partners’ work. How well was the original idea executed, and were there any horror stories from the shoot? What teams did they work with, and how well did their connection hold up? Break down the brief, and ask whether any aspects of it will be particularly challenging to achieve remotely.
And when it comes to the production side, we can also stand to benefit from asking experienced voices. At the outset of a project, look at the script in detail with a producer who knows remote work. What are the demands for special effects, or prepping for complex VFX shots on the shoot? Can the director communicate with the client quickly and easily? After that, it’s all in the prep - just as it always has been!
Trust and experience always lend an advantage - and if you’re a good problem-solving producer, you’ll find a way to ask the right questions.
And that, ultimately, is the secret to making a success out of remote filming. Technology helps but, as has always been the case throughout the history of filmmaking, it’s people and skills which invariably carry the day. Remote or otherwise, this is an industry in which people create magic. That’s not about to change.