Coping with the Coronavirus Crisis
With zero cases of Coronavirus, New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1 and it's business as usual. Our Co-Executive Producer of Sweetshop New Zealand Kate Roydhouse recently spoke to Shots about how production companies have coped over the last few months.
Coronavirus crisis; how have production companies coped?
On Monday we heard from our panel of production experts about how the new production landscape may unfold. Tomorrow we'll hear what lessons they have learned from the last three months and how those lessons might inform their businesses in the future. But, today, we ask them about the very recent past.
Q: How difficult have the past few months been for the production industry as a whole?
“There has been little work, and most of what there has been has been small scale; tiny crews, or sending cameras to bank staff etc to film themselves for Zoom style commercials. The furlough scheme and the other cost-saving measures that we have worked on with members have been very useful.
The APA members Zoom calls, where they don’t just hear the facts from us but hear from each other on how they are getting on with negotiating with their landlords etc, giving them knowledge and confidence for their own negotiations, have been a great success. So, I think members felt they had a plan to deal with the crisis that has made them confident of survival, but that they are now nervous about how slow the recovery may be.”
– Steve Davies, CEO, APA London
“The first couple of weeks were a bit shocking, with cancellations, finishing up jobs remotely for the first time, shoring up the company and reassuring the staff, directors and regular freelance crew. With the help of government subsides and a sympathetic landlord we, like a lot of the production community, settled into late March and the majority of April without the FOMO but also with time to revaluate the business and restructure to be relevant in the post-Covid (and post-lockdown) landscape.
Steve Davis and the APA council have done an amazing job in terms of creating a sense community, offering advise, topical webinars and leading the way by setting out a Covid-safe shoot methodology for member companies, which also gives agencies and their clients a confidence that it’s possible to shoot without endangering health. Now we have faced the challenges of keeping open it’s time to start work again and it’s encouraging to hear that there are some shoots, however small, happening. It’s a start.
I don’t want to overstate the challenges for our community whilst key workers are bearing the brunt of this and risking their lives due to lack of recourses and inadequate planning, whilst Boris Johnson claps dutifully for these heroes each Thursday at 8pm.”
– Rob Godbold, Founder and EP, Bold London
“Hamlet is an international production company with offices in Brussels, Berlin and Shanghai and we have been exposed to Covid-19 since January. By the time Europe went into lockdown, Shanghai reopened again. But it would be a lie to say this crisis has not had a severe impact on our company and the film production industry as a whole.
Even more for our colleagues in features and entertainment series, as most of the scheduled productions were stopped or cancelled. We have been lucky as we have a rather small structure and we are doing business in countries where the governments grant a lot of support to companies. But today we are only looking forward again and luckily there will be other years after 2020.”
– Ruben Goots, Founding Partner and Executive Producer at HAMLET Brussels
“As a digital and interactive production company we already had the tools and resources to work remotely, and have found our rhythm both internally and when collaborating externally. Knowing when to switch off the laptop can however be a challenge, especially when working across different time zones. We’ve also taken this time to focus on internal projects.
For production as a whole, the last two months have been very difficult. The lack of clear guidance on what can and can’t be done from the government and the complete drop off for work I am sure has been devastating for many. However, we are an industry built on finding creative solutions and it has been exciting to see work that has been made in these recent weeks, such as the gorgeous film Kevin Thomas just shot with Havas UK for the Laura Hyde Foundation, proving that production is possible.
It is now about what happens next and ensuring that new productions can continue and that this industry is supported for the rest of the year and into 2021. There is incredible talent in this community and we are hungry to keep working and need the wider industry's support to ensure this keeps happening.”
– Sarah Cutler, Director of Partnerships, makemepulse
”It’s been tough, but the brilliant thing about production companies is that they are resilient and always ready for any challenge thrown at them. It’s going to be slow coming back, but we’ll get there. I think the trust between agencies and production companies will be more key now than ever.”
– Tor Fitzwilliams, Managing Director and EP, Anonymous Content London
“I think it has been an incredibly challenging time for the industry. The freelancers have undoubtedly faced the most difficult time with limited support from the government and no guarantees of future work. On the opposite end of this have been those companies that have healthy reserves and have been able to navigate this period with the expected adjustments, taking advantage of the furlough scheme and, in most cases, taking a reduction in salaries for full time employees.
In that respect, our industry is no different to any other, and everyone has responded as all responsible business owners have. But, from what I have seen, and from the conversations I have participated in, the industry has come together to support each other, and as a result we have grown closer as a community. And that has been one very positive outcome of the challenges of the last two months.”
– Jani Guest, Managing Director, Independent London
“I can say this is a completely unique experience in my career. One of the things that was most shocking was just how abruptly things changed. One week it was business as usual, the next week everyone was in lockdown. We were lucky in the sense that, before the crisis, we had already produced about a dozen remote productions, so we had a road-tested process going into the lockdown.
We were able to use that methodology and pivot towards a new kind of production. Now we're dealing with how to make things safe, which we take so seriously. Right now, the most difficult part of creating production standards that are safe, is that nothing is uniform; we're dealing with local municipalities, state and federal guidelines that are, at times, at odds. So, we have had to take that into account as well as drawing some lines in the sand to maintain a safe set.”
– Brian Latt, Managing Partner, m ss ng p eces
“Not being one to dwell on the negative, I have to acknowledge, it’s been extremely difficult. As I’m sure many people will agree, the uncertainty of what’s next is one of the trickiest aspects. We have people looking to us for answers, whether that be our own team, crew, our trusted agencies or clients, and the truth is, we’re following the news along with everyone else.
Staying as informed as we can along the way, sharing as much information as we have available and working through solutions together. One aspect that has been a real positive is that we’ve all come together as an industry - sharing the information, working together and working hard to keep our industry going. I can’t emphasis enough how encouraging it is to now be in a place where we can say we have no active Covid cases, and we really are back to business as usual in NZ.”
– Kate Roydhouse, Co-Executive Producer, Sweetshop New Zealand
This article was first published by Shots on 10 June 2020.