So now that Kildare, Laois and Offaly have all been thrust back into lockdown, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that COVID-19 is creeping back with a vengeance. And while there’s nothing we can do if lockdown befalls the country again, there are things we can do to decrease the likelihood of that happening.
We all know the rules; we know what’s expected of us in our personal and professional lives, but there are some professions where the rules can get a little bit, well, blurry.
When it comes to videography, many of us work for ourselves without the guidance of an employer or any training for how to navigate this ‘new normal’. The onus is on us to be COVID-responsible, which is why we’ve put together a list of five things to take into consideration for producing videos in a COVID-19 world.
It goes without saying that most communications about the job should be done virtually, whether that means using Zoom, email, WhatsApp or just plain ol’ phone calls (old school!). While this is often standard procedure for a film job, it’s more important than ever to make the most of digital communications.
Be crystal clear with your client about every single detail of the project.
- How many hours will the shoot require?
- What time (exactly) are you due to arrive on set?
- Can all of the B-roll be shot on the same day within the hours specified or will you need another day of shooting?
- What are the exact specifications of the job?
- Are you expected to make creative decisions on the day or has the client already chosen exactly what they want to be filmed?
- How big is the space in which you’ll be shooting?
- How many crew members can you feasibly bring whilst still adhering to social distancing guidelines?
- Will interviews be required? If so, how many?
- How much access will you have?
- Will you be given time and space to set up before anyone else arrives on set?
These may sound like utter basics but trust us – clients are often very flexible when it comes to the details of a project. This is great when it comes to creative freedom and artistic license, but not so great when there’s a global pandemic to take into consideration!
While your client may want you to just swan in and do whatever feels right on the day, it isn’t the most socially responsible move in the current climate… which leads us nicely on to our next point!
Although the general population has clearly become more comfortable as we’re progressing through the government-imposed phases, the reality is we’re still supposed to be working from home as much as possible, which means minimising time spent in public spaces and/or surrounded by other people. If you have a closed set and you’re working with a small team, then social distancing should be very achievable. But if you’re capturing anything that involves the public, this is a big undertaking.
Keep your shoot time as short as possible. Do a solid job, of course, but if you’re organised and have a clear plan in place (i.e. a rigid schedule for the day) you should be able to work efficiently and avoid wasting time on location.
This is another reason why it’s so important to be clear with the client in your earlier communications; we’ve done many jobs where we were called to set much earlier than we were needed, which meant that we spent over an hour twiddling our thumbs. At the time, this suited us fine as it gave us some breathing space to get comfortable and brainstorm ideas for interesting B-roll footage, but in a COVID world, idling on set does no one any favours.
It may be hard to gauge by the client exactly under what conditions you’ll be working, so if they don’t provide clear information in advance you’ll have to be the one to ask: Will this job allow for social distancing? Have procedures been put in place to protect your crew, the public and the client?
If not, you have every right to request that measures be put in place so that your crew can work without coming into contact with others. The rule is two metres and it’s there for a reason. If the job requires you or a member of your crew to break the rules of social distancing, then the responsible thing to do is to reschedule for a later (and safer) date.
If this isn’t possible, the ball is in your court. You can cancel the job due to health and safety concerns or you can work with your client to try and come up with some sort of alternative way to shoot the project, or even brainstorm a different project altogether if it will achieve the same outcome for the client.
As important as it is to give yourself the social distance you deserve, it’s also important to make sure your gear has the same kind of security. It’s not unusual to walk away from a static camera for a moment or two on a film shoot – to investigate a potential shot, to clarify something with the client, to fetch a piece of equipment… this is normal!
But during the days of COVID, it’s important to keep an eye on your gear at all times. It’s all too easy for a person on set to walk by and take a look at the big shiny piece of equipment that’s going to give them their nice shiny video, but this is one stealth way for COVID to weasel into your sphere.
It can live on objects and surfaces for a short time so be sure to sanitise sanitise sanitise and ideally arrange in advance to have a spot on set where you can secure your gear so that it can hide away from prying hands.
This is a tough one because it’s not in our nature to tell other humans to stay away from us; we’re a social species that seeks companionship and comradery… and, mostly, it just feels rude.
But here’s the thing to remember.
IT’S NOT RUDE.
By gently nudging others (ironic phrasing) to respect the rules of social distancing, you’re actually showing concern for their wellbeing as well as your own. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it will be if you haven’t mentally prepared yourself for it.
So try a few of these out and see what sounds best to you:
- “Sorry, officially we have to be very mindful of social distancing while we’re on the job.”
- “Sorry, don’t mind me, I’m going to have to take a step back because of health and safety protocols.”
- “Whoops, for a second there I think I misjudged how long two metres is. Now, this looks about right.”
- “I would love to talk to you more about that but how about I give you my email address? Seeing as we can’t really talk properly due to social distancing.”
- “Be careful, I’ve been surrounded by people all day so you might want to take a step back just to be safe.”
If you handle it carefully and with kindness, no one is going to take offence to you asking for a little more space.
And a bonus 6th item for our list that circumvents any of the above…
Of course, clients are all about promotional material right now given the financial hit caused by COVID, but it’s possible to create promotional videos without ever stepping foot on location.
Since lockdown, we’ve produced several videos entirely composed of motion graphics and recycled social media content for a reduced rate, which has worked out brilliantly both for us and for clients.
We get to create videos without facing any health risks and the client gets promotional material that’s quicker, cheaper and (most importantly) safer to produce. It’s a win-win and in times like these, we can all use a win!
Stay safe everyone! And keep creating. It’s more important now than ever.