How COVID-19 affected our filmmaking, and the lessons you can learn from it
When COVID-19 hit in March, we at Origin found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep learning curve. If there was any comfort, it was that we had plenty of good company at the bottom of that curve. As well, thanks to our dispersed team, we were already well-versed in working remotely. Still, it was less clear exactly how we’d go about creating the original, high-quality video content we’re known for. This sort of work generally involves long-distance travel for multiple crew members, as well as physical proximity once on location. In other words, this was not an inherently pandemic-friendly process.
A conversation with Origin’s Video and Content Director
Pandemic or not, the show must go on, so our Video and Content Director, Andrea Wing, got to work. Within days, she’d created a comprehensive set of COVID-19 protocols to help ensure the safety and well-being of not merely our team, but of all those they came into contact with in the field. Now that we’re a full eight months into the COVID era, we decided to sit down with Winger (as she’s known ‘round these parts) to hear what she’s learned about filmmaking in the midst of a global pandemic.
Origin: What’s been the most challenging part of your job during COVID?
Andrea Wing: In order to achieve high production values, you need a certain level of crew, which generally includes a fair number of people. For one shoot in particular, we had wardrobe, hair and makeup, an art director, photographer, photographer’s assistant, camera operator, camera assistant, field producer and so on. Right off the bat, I was like ‘this isn’t going to work the way we’re accustomed to.’ What we ended up doing is having the teams work on opposite ends of the set (outside), while following all of our standard COVID protocols regarding PPE. Everyone’s still able to do what they need to do, there’s just much less overlapping of teams.
Origin: Where did the Origin COVID protocols come from?
AW: The first thing I did was reach out to friends in the industry to see what they were doing and what they were finding successful. And I basically borrowed the best and most applicable of their practices to create our guidelines. We have a significant advantage in that most of our work already happens outdoors. Of course, we still follow all recommended protocols, but it definitely makes it a lot easier to create the necessary physical space.
Origin: Are there any ways you’ve been able to leverage technology to your advantage?
AW: Even with all the advances in tech, filmmaking is really still a very hands-on process. There’s just no way around it. But one thing we’ve been able to do is offer remote monitoring to our clients. We can offer them a live feed so they can participate in the process without having to actually be on set.
Origin: I know you get personally invested in your projects. How has all of this changed your relationship to your craft?
AW: Good filmmaking requires sharing emotion, and to me, that’s always been a physical process. Maybe you’re just giving high-fives, or celebratory hugs, or maybe you’re leaning over someone’s shoulder; whatever the case, I’ve had to temper that aspect of my craft. I won’t deny that it’s a bummer, but honestly, if it’s the biggest bummer I have to deal with, I feel pretty lucky.
Origin: Are there any aspect of filmmaking during COVID that you think will stick after the pandemic ends?
AW: First of all, I think there’s always going to be demands for quality video content; there’s always going to be a need for good storytelling. We are a storytelling species, after all. Maybe the format’s going to change, but I’d be hard-pressed to predict how. Time will tell, as it usually does. One thing I would be willing to predict is that I think we’ll continue to figure out ways - such as the remote monitoring - to travel less. I guess my hope is that we can keep telling good stories and have a lighter footprint on the world.