MacKenzie Huff

Senior Integrated Producer

This wasn’t the plan. The plan was to film two commercials with Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe back in March. They were very different scripts, written for a very different world.

We, as producers, plan for every possible scenario and are quick on our toes when the inevitable curveball is thrown. This may surprise you, but a global pandemic that would keep us all in quarantine for three months and counting was not one of the variables on my radar when this project kicked off. But alas, the world went sideways, production across the globe grinded to a halt, and we slowly learned to adjust to life at home. (No, I haven’t worn proper pants since March, thank you very much.)

The creative team leaned into this strange new way of life and came up with a refreshing idea to film our superstar athlete power couple, stuck at home like the rest of us. We reached out to the agents to see if Sue and Megan were interested. The response was something along the lines of, “Yes, can we film on Thursday?” The rest was a blur.

So no, this wasn’t the plan, but the outcome was pretty damn great. And like it or not, remote production may be our reality for a while. Put on your comfiest sweatpants and get cozy. While you’re at it, here are some tips for the journey:

1. Have clear channels of communication. Side conversations between the agency, director/crew, clients and talent are simple to pull off in person. How will information be shared to the correct parties online? We chose to have our talent, director, crew and agency together on Zoom. The agency was in one breakout room with a live feed to our camera on set, and the talent/director/crew were in another breakout room. Our director would pop into our room to check in between scenes and we also had a text thread going with her in case we had any time-sensitive notes. The clients could see their own live feed of the camera through a private Vimeo Live link, and would send feedback to our account team via Teams, which they then relayed in our agency Zoom room. There will be a lot of multitasking. Buckle up.

2. Streamline the feedback loop. If you ask “are we good to move on?” to a team in video village, you will get an immediate response. It’s harder to get an answer when there are four simultaneous conversations happening across six channels of communication. Set clear guidelines for approvals. Do you wait for everyone to weigh in or is one person the designated approver? Do you agree to move on after a certain amount of time if you haven’t heard back?

3. Have a second monitor.  As mentioned above, you will have lots of windows open at once. Make sure you have the real estate of a second monitor to keep it all straight. Better yet, turn your TV into your second monitor for the day. You’ll be able to see what’s happening in more detail than on a small Zoom thumbnail.

4. Get cozy. It’s going to be a long day. Invest in comfortable and high quality headphones to block out the sounds of the construction site across the street and your upstairs neighbor’s afternoon workouts. Find a comfortable chair. Turn your camera off and stretch/use the bathroom when you can. The little screen breaks will be your saving grace while you are toggling between 17 active conversations. Caroline Henry, our Senior Copywriter, described the day like a five-hour game of BopIt! Creating a comfortable environment will allow you to focus on what matters, not the lack of lower back support on your folding chair.

5. Keep it fun. I learned this lesson the hard way on my first productions. The process should always be fun. If it’s not, it will show in the work. Being “on set” is inherently enjoyable, in person or remote. But everyone is still working their booties off at the end of the day. Get creative on how to bring that little something extra to brighten the team’s day. The night before our shoot, I masked up, grabbed a list of employee addresses that I had snagged from payroll and dropped off goody bags on everyone’s porch “from craft services.”  It was a small gesture that went a long way with the team.

All in all, this was a production we won’t soon forget. Stay safe and healthy, and happy filming.

A paper bag with the words "craft services" written on it in front of a house door.