“Amazing creativity existed long before film. There were amazing books, amazing oil paintings, and amazing sculptures. Creativity is something that precedes all of us. The ideas are still there, the desires are still there. We have creatives who are still held against the same bar of what are the telling human stories that excite us, cause us to get out of bed and reach for the stars? All of that still exists and is the north star that drives us and all of the creative individuals we work with.” — Kate Morrison, Director of Production at 72andSunny

Creatives are inventive, nimble thinkers. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with quite possibly the greatest test of our creative abilities that we will encounter in our lifetimes. Given the need for the industry to explore the changing landscape, we set up a series of free online conversations we call CICLOPE Insights.

The first episode of CICLOPE Insights took place in April and was aptly titled Embracing the Change. Moderated by Jason Stone of David Reviews, the virtual panel discussion featured Richard Brim (CCO at adam&eveDDB), Abi Pearl (Head of Advertising at giffgaff), and Shawn Lacy (Partner & MD at Biscuit Filmworks).

The conversation opened on the subject of branding in response to the global health crisis. All three panelists agreed that it is incumbent upon brands to remain highly sensitive with the tone of their marketing and communication at this time. Marketing strategists must proceed with a sensitivity to the scale of suffering, as well as a sensitivity to their brand’s particular audience. Just as the situation is evolving week after week, so must the communication. Though there is no guidebook or one right thing to say, Brim believes it is time for marketers to evolve communication past the we’re stronger together messaging. The supportive messaging was the right initial reaction, he explained, but now everyone has said it and audiences have an appetite for the next iteration of B2C communication.“You have to walk the walk, you can’t just talk the talk,” he added. Audiences are eager to see just how these brands show up and deliver on the messaging of togetherness. We are in a universal agreement that returning to normal is a fallacy; brands must be forward-thinking in order to maintain their audience.

The conversation then shifted towards film and commercial production and the particular ways in which the panelists see the industry maintaining productivity during the quarantine. “We are in an odd position of a lot of waiting. It’s get prepared then pause, research then wait,” Lacy described about her US and UK-based commercial production company, Biscuit Filmworks. “It’s an interesting position because we are used to a lot of doing, making, and moving forward.” Lacy said that directors are doing their best to work from home, but she projects that the next phase will see much smaller productions, more work done locally, and an increased use of FX, animation, and CGI. “We are creative problem-solvers, and we hustle. Everyone is going to have to be more nimble and creative,” she added.

Pearl anticipates that future shoots will require longer lead times, talent will need to be booked further in advance, backup crews will be added, insurance rates will rise, and ongoing relationships will become increasingly emphasized as trust and familiarity will be preferred to working with new partners. Essentially, tighter restrictions and increased limitations will call for lower levels of risk.

Many of these predictions about the future of productions were shared by the panelists in the second episode of CICLOPE Insights, titled What’s Next? Stone again moderated the discussion on adapting to the shifting landscape with Ali Brown (President of Prettybird), Kate Morrison (Director of Production at 72andSunny), and Jonathan Davies (Managing Director at MPC).

While Morrison spoke to the difficulties of finessing an edit with 10 people over Zoom, the panelists also addressed some of the benefits that have arisen from this unprecedented period. Brown and Davies both described being brought in on projects earlier in the pre-production process than before, as conversations around what is and isn’t possible are constantly changing. “The goal is to create something that is achievable so that you’re not selling something that then has to be polluted and compromised after they’ve already fallen in love with that baby,” Brown said. Davies added that conversations across the industry feel more open, individuals are communicating more honestly than ever before as everyone has questions about what is feasible, and where.

As countries reopen at varying rates, there are and will continue to be different parameters on productions, and every shoot will be assessed case-by-case. “There’s going to be a matrix against deciding where to shoot,” Brown predicts. In addition to a greater reliance on FX, the panelists foresee an end to the days of 40 people in video village, no scenes of crowded mosh pits, perhaps a return of shot makers in the crew, shooting with staggered crews, and less traveling. Brown anticipates the decreased travel will draw increased attention to regional talent. “You’ll see a proliferation of great talent recognized in local markets, which will bring more competition for these talents.”

While the future state of production is abounding with unknowns, it was interesting to hear all six panelists from our first two CICLOPE Insights episodes emphasize relationships and trust as key ingredients in producing new work moving forward. Stay tuned for the next episode!