Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live. - Marcus Aurelius
At the edge of an uncharted map, sailors would write: ‘Here Be Dragons.’
Beyond the discovered world, humanity’s common understanding and certainty, were unknown landscapes, which guaranteed dangers and risks await any brave adventurer who embarks on a foolish endeavour to journey into those mysterious waters.
Now, it feels like we are all collectively in that one ship that has no choice but to sail off the fringes of that entrusted atlas and into territories that do not promise any true return of reward that reimburses the inevitable sacrifices and daring manoeuvres one would gamble upon for hopes of survival.
The Covid-19 pandemic was the storm that has now forced all production teams, like Paper Sky Films, into uncharted territory.
Around mid-March all productions ceased, for the most part on the teams’ own initiatives, to safeguard the cast and crew as more revelations about the virus surfaced day-to-day. What we hoped would pass us by like most epidemics that have tormented others half a world away had finally arrived at our doorstep. Close proximity with others had to cease if we were to protect ourselves and those we care about.
As of writing this blog, that was almost two months ago.
Yet, despite governments currently seeking to lift lockdowns - some more prematurely than others, some could argue - production companies are chomping at the bit to get back to work and make amazing content again. But, as anyone with a grain of common sense will tell you: ‘Not at the expense of anyone’s safety and well-being.’
I am a lifelong storyteller and filmmaker - if I’m not creating something, it’s like having my oxygen taken away; nothing fulfils me more than making films and video-based content that connects audiences to a story of any kind.
Having gotten to know other production companies in this industry, almost everyone else who works in video production will likely tell you the same; the job is exhausting both mentally and physically, you spend a majority of your time ‘putting out fires’, realigning and reattaching moving parts to seamlessly keep a production on the up-and-up until it finds itself at the finish line.
My favourite analogy: ‘It’s like putting down tracks in front of a moving train.’
But the day I get to back on a production again, I honestly might feel tears of relief and joy explode from my system - I’m a junkie for creativity.
That said, I have somewhat relished the downtime that the pandemic has afforded me…
What I have immense gratitude for is the accessibility to technology and resources through the Internet - for anyone who misses the ‘good days’, remind them: These are the good days!
The pandemic has shown us that - for the most part - we can work remotely and keep the momentum of a project going without missing a beat.
It has shown that preparations are still possible, even offering more time to solidify a plan of action and granting us further opportunity to develop new ideas and go over concepts and outlines that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do so.
For me, I have finished writing a script to a short film and about to start another - two projects that I have long since had swimming around in my head that I have never had the time to commit to paper and start rolling the ball on development.
Fingers crossed - these projects will see the light of day, whether the pandemic allows it so or otherwise.
I have also gotten back onto animation, graphic design and basic artwork that I have also neglected and left to others whilst focusing on video-based projects. Rekindling lost hobbies and passions that have since fallen by the wayside to make way for more crucial and financially-focused projects.
Some of you may have noticed that I have been posting my top 20 favourite films on Instagram, as a means of both sharing with followers my love for cinema and storytelling, but also to get used to the idea of hearing my own voice (shudder), better articulating myself and develop confidence to talk alone in a room with the intention of others hearing my ‘radio voice’. As someone who is very comfortable being behind the camera and directing other’s voices, it’s been an agonising yet useful process.
As productions resume, we’re going to see a gradual ‘return to normality’, by which I mean social distancing and current safety measures will remain dominant in the creative world - projects will be scripted around these very proceedings and so the creative minds behind them need to be innovative, clever and resourceful on how to tell stories and share messages that won’t compromise the quality of the project.
Preparations are going to be more thorough than ever; often is the case, a production is about thinking on your feet, making last minute changes or altering plans that have since shifted the ground beneath us.
Remember that putting down tracks in front of a moving train analogy?
Well, we can’t work like that for the rest of year; that track needs laying out in plenty of time and we need to see going as far into the distance as we can possibly see.
Schedule flexibility shouldn’t be allowed either - every step and move that a production takes had to be foreseen, well-prepped and carried out to the letter.
All with the purpose of protecting everyone on set, preserving sanitation and distance.
Lately, there’s been a call for productions to be less wasteful and more ‘green friendly’ when developing projects - I could rant to you all day about the level of wasted food, unrecycled materials and used fuel sources etc. on a production. So avoiding excess printing of scripts, call sheets, risk assessments and so on in fear of spreading the virus on paper-based surfaces will be taken into account, as Covid-19 can survive for 24 hours on paper. Amongst other materials and physical resources that pose a similar risk.
Call times will be staggered, as opposed to group arrivals, to spread out crew and cast coming to the set en masse.
Remote working and online chats/meetings will be paramount in maintaining social distancing in the lead up to a production and relieving any anxiety from the pre-production team from having to commute and share social spaces that would open them up to the risk of catching Covid-19.
Wardrobe and make-up will likely be handled by the cast themselves, to avoid close proximity with the crew of those departments. As well as remote fitting, not sharing any costume, materials or make-up, and if any expert hands are required, then they’ll have to wear PPE in order to approach the talent.
And that’s just to highlight a small handful of areas that will be assessed and altered to fit the changing landscape of video production.
But the part that both interests and worries me, in equal measure, is that these new measures - for all the good intentions they set out with - may impact future productions once the pandemic has cleared.
For example, during the 2008 recession, the roles of cinematographer, producer and director were merged into one role: ‘self-shooting PD.’
When executives discovered that they could corners and save money by compiling multiple roles into one, it immediately narrowed an already-shrinking corridor of job roles. Not only that, putting three roles onto one person’s shoulders simultaneously has impacted the quality of many projects; editors have often expressed their frustrations to me on how they have had to find ways to work with out of focus footage because the person behind the camera has exhausted themselves or lost all sense of morale on the job to care to properly monitor their footage.
On the flip-side, given how many people right now are constantly consuming and watching video content online and through streaming services - this pandemic has highlighted the importance of the ‘arts’ and storytelling. Which I honestly hope many will keep in mind when work resumes and that the talented people who work long hours to provide these stories will be appreciated all the more for it.
Small businesses like Paper Sky Films, along with freelancers who work in the video production industry, have fallen into the ‘grey area’ where government support is concerned and our financial futures are lost in the fog of uncertainty.
And so here we are, on the edge of the map, the winds of change blow our sails towards that unmarked territory - with an ‘adapt or die’ attitude, we persevere; our jobs revolve around problem-solving, thinking creatively around issues, pushing through barriers to get to our destinations.
Nothing will ever be the same again.
Here’s hoping we reflect enough to inspire positive change for our industry.