Creativity During the Time of Covid
October 17, 2020
Photographers and Directors (not to mention Producers and everyone on a production) experience both creative and logistical challenges on every job. It’s just the name of the game and if you don't like solving for problems, well, it's probably not the most ideal line of work to get into. I've had talent who partied too hard the night before throwing up on set, an adorable 5 year old look me dead in the eye after giving him the direction for what we were shooting and say "This just isn't working for me," sideways rain and 50mph winds on a summer swim shoot in the Florida Keys, and an important car we were shooting blow it's motor well before we were needing to be done. Sh$t happens. It just does and you can come apart at the seams or you can deal with the adversity and make the most of it. Enthusiastically, I tend toward the latter.
I suppose having been a mountain guide for 10+ years prior to becoming a photographer helped out with this outlook and understanding. I was once sent to oversee the safety of a remote field station in Antarctica for the National Science Foundation that was 800 miles from the nearest base. We were dropped off by a small ski equipped plane and our plan was to be there for one week to flatten out a runway with snow machines so that a larger resupply plane could land. After we were dropped off the weather went bad . . . . real bad . . . for a month. And by bad I mean it was pretty much like tent shredding 100mph polar winds and full ground blizzard whiteout condition that if I walked more than a few feet from my tent there was a good chance I might not be able to find it again. So, yes, I suppose that experience has helped me keep my perspective and presence of mind in all sorts of non-optimal situations while doing creative production work.
All to say, Covid has certainly thrown some wrenches into the proverbial cogs of commercial production. And very much like when I was in Antarctica taking the punches, we need to do the very best we can, but still get our work done. And that is exactly what we are doing - we plan well, make good decisions, do safe things, pay attention to protocols, be aware of both ourselves and other's safety, wear our masks and, well, keep going. At this stage 8 months into the pandemic we know the challenges and we also know the safe paths. Commercial production is largely no different than going to the grocery store, which most of us are doing regularly and need to continue to do. Wash your hands, keep your distance, wear a mask, be polite, and don't go if you are exhibiting any signs of Covid. It’s pretty simple and there is really no reason to subscribe to the alarmists who suggest otherwise or that you will only be safe under their guidance. Just use common sense.
I am getting asked regularly, ‘Is the work you are showing pre or post Covid?,' which I honestly think is really not the right question to be asking. It's like saying, is your work pre or post dealing with less than optimal weather, talent, natural disasters, etc. There are so many adversities and I just look at Covid as another one of them - ok, a larger one than the 5 year old that didn't want to play ball, but we take the necessary precautions and move forward. But at the end of the day, through Covid or any challenge, my work still needs to be my work - there are no excuses. It still needs to look like my brand just like my Client’s work needs to look like their brand. I need to be able to take the creative requests delivered to me, process them, follow them when I can, point out when I can't, but then be prepared to offer alternatives that will get us close, if not to the exact same end result.
So yes, the better question is 'how are you solving for this additional challenge of Covid?,' and to that I can definitely respond. All of the below images are but just a small selection of what myself and my team have created since March of this year as we have continued to work. Covid has definitely impacted how we produce a job with updates including, but not limited to:
- We have made ourselves aware of local protocols for gatherings and commercial productions and abide by them.
- We have sought to keep our production team footprint as minimal as possible so to reduce not only our exposure, but also that of the Talent and Client and we have asked the same of our Clients. We are being responsible and respectful of ourselves and others.
- We have also found more novel ways to cast, looking for both real couples, families and friendship groups who have already been quarantining together and are comfortable interacting in close proximity without masks.
- At the same time, we are all wearing masks and as much as possible maintaining our social distancing guidelines.
- We wash our hands frequently and have a generous helping of extra masks and hand sanitizer at the ready.
-We've asked our Hair and Makeup artists and others who need to be more hands on to gain some additional training in safe practices.
- Catering has changed and we are doing more 'order ahead brown bag' type meal times.
- Sometimes our Clients are on set and when so, to keep them safer, we give them an iPad and let them stand away while seeing the action in real time. Sometimes they are choosing not to be on set with us, and when this is the case we can transmit images in real time and/or drop JPGs into a Dropbox in near real time.
So yes, the setup has changed in production and on set - in some cases quite a bit - but very much like going to the grocery store, we have made all of these changes and we move forward.
All of this said, at the end of the day, my work is my work and Covid is just another one of the regular challenges that we face in taking a concept and bringing it to life in both still and moving images. Very much like when I was
in Antarctica, with the experience of having surmounted enormous challenges and come out the other side, we will do the same in the time of Covid.