As strange as it may seem, I am writing this from a shoot set. Sitting with a mask on my face, having followed the long list of safety measures that have become a part of the pre-production checklist – mandated 48-hr previous COVID test results, sanitization, temperature checks, oxygen levels, and hourly fumigations at the set. One glance around the set, I see people moving around protected in masks, maintaining distance which creates an outward chasm. The client is here, but virtually, plugged into the live feed instead of people able to see it in real up close. Technology has always been there, but it’s really being used now. Work is on but there’s an underlying fear. The energy on the set is there but there’s something else too. The shoot will end, people will be happy but no fist bumps or hugs will be exchanged, no celebrations at the closest bar will happen tonight.
Although I see that efficiencies have increased. Shoot hours are limited since a significant time is being spent on taking preventative measures. This constraint is driving more focus on getting the shots actually set in the storyboard and not getting into the usual of multiple B rolls and so-called ‘safety shots’ that almost never make it to the final edit but are taken to make the most use of the shoot resources. Monies that were spent earlier on making the client comfortable (fancy vanity vans, food spreads, etc) are now being spent on precautionary measures for the safety of the crew.
Looking back at March, in one big blow, everything came to a standstill. Advertising changed overnight, several campaigns were canceled till brands had some clarity on what is going to happen next. The usual Summer campaigns of travel apps launching their campaigns, Summer IPL Season, Beauty Campaigns for Summer, none of them saw the light of the day this year. Brands slowly shifted to social media, to virtual shoots, and ‘Ads on video calls’ became the new normal. Stories that used to be shot outside like friends chilling in a cafe, workplaces, families traveling together, etc. have given way to now families sitting together, in front of the television or studying from home, et al. Brands have encashed on the fear and shifted their communication strategy to safety, germ protection and family welfare. But what else was the option?
As video marketers, we couldn’t afford to stop work so we adapted and started shooting from home. Every department was working in seclusion from the comfort of their homes. Most of the ads in those few months were people talking on a video call. Shooting from home was whole new learning for all of us. Hats off to everyone who made ad films in those times, where the usual 80% creative role of yours became coordinating between people over video calls. The content was in the foreground and production quality took a backseat as you couldn’t do a big shoot. But we found hacks to make our videos interesting, we used graphics. Innovative ways of edits came about and became popular (eg. Prateek Kuhad’s Music video). We adapted, we thrived and that’s the true test of creativity.
Today, I see so many of our brave hearts venturing out, some in PPEs, some not. It’s been a few months since floor shoots began again, yet the fear is uncanny. Vaccine or no vaccine, it looks like it will take a while for things to be normal. Hope was the one thing that kept a lot of us going. The hope of getting out of this pandemic unscathed. The hope of being financially strong, the hope of keeping our sanity irrespective of the situation. Let’s stay joyful, let’s make sure, we are helping others in these tough times in whatever capacity we can.
The final shot of the day has just got done. And that’s my cue, Adieu till we meet again.
Authored Article by Jitendra Hirawat, Director at SoCheers Films.