Film and Video Production During COVID-19
An agency with professional video production company capabilities in-house, Bigeye’s podcast this week reflects on the state of the global production industry.
IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Bigeye’s podcast reflects on the state of film and video production. Jennelle Jordan, in-house Production Manager for the global, online film and television crew directory ProductionHUB, explains how filmed entertainment, video production, and live events have had to adapt to meet many challenges the coronavirus has presented. Jennelle predicts which new production practices will continue post-pandemic, and offers sound advice for anyone considering entering the industry.
Adrian Tennant:, You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. We’ve talked about the rise of in-home media consumption previously on this podcast. In-home TV viewing has seen an increase as a result of lockdowns and the stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest winners have been subscription services such as Disney+ and connected TV. Of course, services that include a lot of scripted dramas typically have a pipeline of original content. Among the many challenges faced by the movie and video production industry are restrictions on international travel and strict rules around social distancing in many cities that have traditionally been production hubs, such as Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. And yet the show must go on. To tell us more about how filmed entertainment and video production has adapted to meet the challenges that the coronavirus has presented, I’m joined today by Jennelle Jordan, the in-house Production Manager for ProductionHUB, based in Orlando. Jennelle has worked in the entertainment industry for over 17 years. She produced 244 episodes of the critically-acclaimed true crime television series, “Forensic Files,” reaching an audience in over 142 countries worldwide. As the production manager at ProductionHUB, Jenelle helps clients source, vet, and connect with the best vendors for their projects, planning their production with just one call or click. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Jenelle!
Jennelle Jordan: Thank you so much for having me.
Adrian Tennant: Jennelle, to start, I’d like to know a little bit more about your background prior to joining ProductionHUB. Were you always interested in pursuing a career in film and television production?
Jennelle Jordan: I was, yeah. I actually initially went to college, I thought for sure, I was going to be a television news broadcaster. I love to chat with people. I really thought that’s what I wanted to do. And I got down and sat in front of a camera and I said, “Ooh, I don’t like this very much.” So, with the hours already put in, I decided to learn the behind-the-camera aspect of everything, which I loved. So that’s how everything came to fruition for me.
Adrian Tennant: Can you explain what ProductionHUB is?
Jennelle Jordan: Yeah, so ProductionHUB is a worldwide, online television and video production, film production, all kinds of entertainment, production directory. So we are a film book brought to life online. You can post requests on our site. If you are a client looking to hire an individual freelancer or a company, you can post jobs on our site. And then you can also turn to myself and my crewing team for more of a one-on-one curated sourcing of preferred and recommended vendors for your project. So it’s really a one-stop shop production resource for the global film, television, and entertainment production industry.
Adrian Tennant: And how long has ProductionHUB been in business?
Jennelle Jordan: We are coming up on twenty-one years. So a long time.
Adrian Tennant: Now, what does your role with ProductionHUB entail?
Jennelle Jordan: Sure, so as a production manager at ProductionHUB, my job is to work with clients on more of a one-to-one basis. So we do have our free requests. You know, if you are a client looking for, say a camera operator in Boise, Idaho, and you need them for one day, you can work with our request team to put out a request that goes out en mass to however many folks there are in Boise, Idaho that are camera operators and they will respond to the clients directly. Now if a client doesn’t like to work that way, for instance, maybe they’re the production manager for their entity as well and they wear a lot of different hats and they really need some help curating, or they are from Europe and they don’t know who we have over here and the time difference, and they just really need someone to recommend, you know, some of the top folks that work in a particular area, we help them with that. So it’s more of a one-to-one, curated experience. You know, for instance, in LA you might hear from 30, 40, 50 people, who are camera operators in that area. And if you want a more nuanced, curated approach, you would contact my team to help you kind of narrow that focus a little bit further.
Adrian Tennant: Got it. Many of our listeners work in advertising and marketing agencies who typically partner with production companies to produce TV spots or long form video projects. Do agencies engage with ProductionHUB directly or are your clients typically the production companies?
Jennelle Jordan: So it really depends. We’ve heard from both, certainly. There are agencies who take on production. It’s not typical, but sometimes they do have in-house production personnel. So for projects that might be a little bit larger where they’re trying to find a production company, or even a little bit smaller where they just kind of need some help to source maybe an audio operator or something like that to film, one-off with a corporate CEO at a conference or something. I mean, certainly not right now, but in the past, we’ve worked in any number of ways. So it kind of depends for each different project, but we have worked with both in the past.
Adrian Tennant: Now, prior to COVID-19, what were the most common types of projects that you were working on for ProductionHUB?
Jennelle Jordan: I love this business and this industry because it truly is not the same every day. So, really wide-ranging types of things. So those kind of one-to-one, headshot interviews with different corporate clients, more corporate type things. We helped crew a whole Sesame Street tour. It was for their 50th anniversary. We have worked on different tours, concerts helping source rigging grips and lighting technicians and stage technicians. Again, certainly not right now. That was prior to COVID. Or even full production companies, studios, so on and so forth, it really does kind of run the gamut from small one-off type shoots, all the way to full production teams producing whole commercial spots.
Adrian Tennant: Now during the pandemic viewers have become accustomed to seeing news presenters and late-night TV working from home and many guests’ interviews conducted over Zoom. To what extent are you seeing alternative methods of production being adopted right now?
Jennelle Jordan: Um, a lot, quite, quite a lot. We were understandably a little bit slower, not as slow as we probably thought we would be because we were getting requests in for live streaming. That really was, and still is, the bread and butter for a lot of production folks who have made that pivot from in-person, large-scale live events to these live streams, essentially. And we’ve started seeing more and more people getting out. So, you know, maybe you go and you film instead of having your main presenter, your host, do the Zoom, maybe you actually film that person and then it goes out Zoom to other folks. So yeah, there’s been quite a pivot. We’re seeing more and more filming, which is great, safe filming. But certainly that was, and still is for the most part, a really key thing that’s just a necessary thing for everybody working right now. So whether it’s Zoom or there are very professional platforms like Pando, Vimeo has a really nice platform for hosting a virtual event. There’s some different options you could do breakouts. I mean, there’s a lot of different things that are going on with virtual events specifically, that’s helping to keep that live event space live essentially.
Adrian Tennant: Well, they do say that necessity is the mother of invention. What have you seen recently that you think worked really well?
Jennelle Jordan: I do like a virtual event where it is, you know, sort of a host. It’s not just someone sitting in front of their camera. I do like still getting a professionally lit safe distance, maybe it’s just the camera man, performing all the work at a social distance from the host. But I do like seeing a little bit of production value to it and then, you know, sending it virtually to your folks. Like I said, you can do a full conference via some of these platforms now, which is great. I think it’s just a matter of being able to execute, you know, in the most professional way that you can while also still staying, you know, safe.
Adrian Tennant: What kind of workarounds or work from home production practices really make you cringe?
Jennelle Jordan: I like to see when people have taken the time to actually create a workspace. So I know that you can’t do that everywhere. I mean, certainly people with apartments or maybe you have children and you just don’t have a home office space. I completely understand that. I have a three-year-old, so her world is kind of everywhere in my home, but you know, get out of your bedroom and if you have to be in your bedroom, make your bed. These just little things that if you are still going to be participating in a professional live stream or production. I mean, if you’re talking to your friends, whatever, but, just make it as professional as you possibly can. Have the camera at the right level, put a light on in the room, don’t be sat in front of the window so no one can see you and everything, your background blown out. So, just those little things I think help it to be a little bit more professional.
Adrian Tennant: Now it’s interesting you say that,because the line between professional and prosumer video production, hardware and software has arguably always been pretty blurry. But it feels like today, nearly everyone has at least the technical capability – right? – to produce content. So we’re seeing more 4k videos produced at home on laptops and smartphones. So does this feel like a tipping point to you?
Jennelle Jordan: Yes and no. So I will say there are some really great – I mean, you see even if you do some of these searches, “shot on iPhone,” and it’s beautifully done. However, I will always advocate on the side for professionally-produced productions. And what I mean by that is somebody who has the background and the knowledge to set up a shot correctly. Are you using the rule of thirds? You know, there is a nuance and someone who needs a little bit of an education or a background. Maybe you didn’t go to school for it. That’s absolutely fine, but I don’t think everybody just because they have an iPhone is necessarily a DP. So, you know, I think you have to know something a little bit about lighting. I think you have to know something a little bit about composition.
Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Okay. Well, you mentioned earlier that your clients, many of them produce live events, but the venues that they’ve traditionally relied upon of course, are – many of them are closed as a consequence of the coronavirus. How well do you think producers are handling this pivot to virtual live-streamed events?
Jennelle Jordan: I think they’re handling it as – certainly, as best they can. I think it’s so tough because I do work in this live event world as well. And it’s just not the same right now. And I don’t think a lot of people recognize how much they rely on – I mean, it’s everything, right? It is all of your sports. It is your concerts. It is more than people can understand. And the amount of people that have to put on one live event, I mean, no one ever sees the hundreds of people behind Bruce Springsteen performing, they just see – God, he probably has 10 band members – but there’s a lot that goes into it. So I think they’re trying to do their best. In the corporate world, I think the pivot to the virtual on Zoom, on these different platforms is going very well. But for these people that do touring: the rigging grips, the stagehands, those people that load in, load out, there’s not a lot you can do for that specifically right now. So that’s really tough. And I do feel for them quite a bit, and I hope that we can figure out a way to get those people working again. That’s for sure.
Adrian Tennant: Now, if they’re considering hiring a crew or a production company, what should prospective clients be looking for?
Jennelle Jordan: I think they need to really have a very clear creative brief. I know that a lot of people hate creating briefs. But I think it’s very important. Even just for a one-off videographer that you’re sending out in the field to capture an interview because you can’t be there. A really clear understanding should be had between the client and the vendor. Make sure all of your specs are written down correctly and gone over. You know, is it 24 P or is it 30? Are we shooting 1080, or are we shooting 4K? Do you want dual audio? Do you want a recording camera? So, I mean, it’s all these very specific things. Is there a look and feel for the overall – pull some photos together, do a mood board. I have always been the biggest advocate of pre-production because then you can be successful in production. You’re not scrambling while you’re setting up a shot, trying to figure out how it looks. That’s my biggest thing that I drill into anybody, students that I speak with. I think it’s so important to be as transparent about anything pre-production: budget everything ahead of time.
Adrian Tennant: Now, if we’re seeing smaller crews as a result of COVID-19, what’s your advice for agencies who are wondering whether to even propose live action TV spots, or long-form video projects to their clients. Should they sit it out a while longer or dive right in?
Jennelle Jordan: So that’s another really great question. And I will always advocate on the side of safety. I mean always, always I think, anybody’s health is obviously more important than creating a piece of content. However, being home, now even more than we were before, content is needed, probably now more than ever. So it’s really like a double-edged sword. I have seen success in larger productions. Yes. I think it’s obviously still the safe way to go to keep your crews as minimal as possible. But I do think if you can do it in a very safe way, get COVID testing. Budgets may go up a little bit, but to keep people safe, I think it’s fair to build your budgets in to have a COVID compliance officer on set, to get people tested, every day, every other day, that sort of a thing. I think there can be successes there. It just has to be approached in a smart way,
Adrian Tennant: In what ways, if any, do you think some of the production practices that have developed during COVID-19 could influence how content gets made in the future?
Jennelle Jordan: So I think we will continue to see a COVID compliance officer. We will continue to see on set medics, maybe even have both of them on set. I think we will still see people needing to get tested, have rapid tests on site, or getting a test, the 72 hours or 48 hours before – I think that will continue. I think virtual events will certainly continue. I don’t see even a large company getting 300 of their marketers together in a small ballroom anytime soon. Do I hope we get back to those large scale events, so that these people can get back to work? Absolutely. I don’t know that we’re there yet.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
Lauren Fore: I’m Lauren Fore, and I’m on the operations team at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as agency professionals and reflects the way that Bigeye puts audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with our clients’ audiences. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking to Jennelle Jordan from ProductionHUB about how film and TV production has changed during COVID-19. Are there any production methods that you’ve seen producers experimenting with either during filming or in post-production, that you think will stick around whenever COVID-19 becomes less of a concern?
Jennelle Jordan: The whole concept of virtual. So, I mean, I would say for at least a dozen of the recent things that we’ve worked on crewing through ProductionHUB have had a Skype session. So somebody is directing by Skype, the client is there by Skype. I don’t see a huge virtual village happening anytime soon, which is fine. It’s an adaptation, right? So now we also have added to the ProductionHUB site, along with a COVID a compliance officer, a Zoom technician, or a webinar technician to help with that thing. So that’s not just another thing like the VTR guy has to do. So there are things like that that I think will continue after COVID as well with people evaluating budgets for travel and things like that.
Adrian Tennant: Now, Jennelle, are there any work practices, life hacks, or software that you’ve been using more since the outbreak of the coronavirus?
Jennelle Jordan: I mean, just by nature of, of necessity, you know, Zoom, Google Hangouts, the Vimeo platform, all these different virtual necessities. I think I have my earbuds in all day long to take calls and Zooms and all of that different stuff. I mean, the calendar is so very important, especially when you work from home, just because I don’t know if anybody else is like me, but I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I have washing to do!” But you also have work to do all day long. So it’s trying to find that work-life balance, using everything that’s at your disposal, as best you can to try and be as successful as you can.
Adrian Tennant: Jennelle, you’ve been very successful in pursuing a career behind the camera. What advice would you give to anyone listening that’s interested in following your example?
Jennelle Jordan: Where I went to school did a great thing where we were required to learn across a multitude of different areas. So I studied animation, I studied production, I studied actual camera operation, audio operation – the whole nine yards. Get as much of a background as you possibly can because you don’t know until you know. And then once you do figure it out, be willing to just help. I mean, get internships, show up on a set one day and take the best coffee order you could possibly take. I always tell the story that one time my EP on “Forensic Files” was asked as an intern to go get coffee. Do you think any of the higher-ups told him what kind of coffee to get? No. So he went and got just a multitude of different orders. He got decaf, he got regular, he got a latte, he got this, that, and the other thing and presented all these options when he got back and the bosses thought that was so great because he didn’t need to be told what to do. He thought for himself and he was really thoughtful about it too. So, you know, if you’re on set, wrap a cable, whether your title is DP, maybe for these smaller productions, especially with COVID, you have to wear multiple hats. Be willing to do that. I mean, everybody knows each other in this business in one way, shape, or form. So try your best, not to burn a bridge, just be nice. I mean, it seems like it’s not something that you should have to tell people, but I mean, really just be nice. That’s probably my best advice.
Adrian Tennant: That’s advice we could all live by I think. Finally, Jennelle, if listeners would like to learn more about ProductionHUB, where can they find you?
Jennelle Jordan: So we are at www.productionhub.com. And you can access our different options available to make a profile, to post a request with us, to post a job with us, or to reach out to me and my crewing team to help with your one-to-one requests. We can all be found there.
Adrian Tennant: Of course, we’ll include a link to that on our website, too. Jennelle, thank you very much for being a guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Jennelle Jordan: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it so much.
Adrian Tennant: My thanks to our guest this week from ProductionHUB, in-house production manager, Jennelle Jordan. You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” To ensure you don’t miss an episode, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. If you like the show, please tell a friend, and if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.