Since March, it has been our priority to stay on top of any and all information related to COVID-19 and its effects on production. For an industry that is usually so competitive, the production community has been extremely selfless and united, regularly sharing lessons and exchanging information with each other. As soon as productions shut down, it was clear that the only way to responsibly get back to work and inspire confidence in potential clients was to be completely aligned on the safest, most up-to-date protocols.
Despite the challenges, our directors were excited and enthusiastic to be “on set” the minute the green light was given, and in turn, London Alley has safely and successfully executed a wide range of productions since March. We utilized different safety-first procedures such as directing talent to self-tape, remote directing and stage shoots, stripped down director-attended stage and location shoots, at-home shoots, advanced motion control to capture talent on empty sets, and more.
On the advertising side, from the isolation of his home in Los Angeles, Kyle Newacheck remotely directed a Samsung x Netflix commercial shot in South Korea. Kyle converted his living room into video village, with multiple monitors casting the various camera angles from the South Korean set. It took less than six weeks to develop the spot from brief to its virtual premiere at Samsung’s annual Unpacked Event.
Directing duo Watts, also based in Los Angeles, remotely directed a Nordstrom Rack commercial shot on a soundstage in Vancouver with a small, socially distanced crew. Sophie Taylor, the agency producer from Omelet who oversaw the production, described the remotely directed shoot as one of the easiest of her career. “I couldn’t think of any other production partner I would want to work with more to get me through a COVID-19, full broadcast production for one of the worlds largest fashion retailers. London Alley bent over backwards for months to help us put the best and safest plan in play in order to get the most premium spot possible. The whole team has been remote (client, agency, directors) and to be honest, this might be one of the smoothest shoots I’ve ever been on in my career. My whole team feels the same way. Not to mention, there were a lot of new territories for me as an agency producer on this production, and I’ve learned more on this job from London Alley than I ever have on any other job. It was just an amazing experience all around – I’m so proud!”
Additionally, Watts has directed a couple of smaller, quirky stop motion shoots out of their home studio, such as these spots for Thomas’ Pick Me Ups. Good for a quick a morning snack or a late night munch.
Even with such an illustrious career in music video directing, Hannah Lux Davis experienced some firsts throughout the productions she shot remotely. For Anne-Marie and Doja Cat’s collab on To Be Young, HLD clocked plenty of socially-distanced rehearsal time with the artists as she directed both women to self-tape their performances in the video. The glittery, anthemic track portrays the female vocalists frolicking in their homes, alone, in true quarantine style.
When it came to shooting Halsey and Marshmello’s Be Kind, another vibey summer single, HLD brought Halsey’s vibrant, animé-inspired dreams to life thanks to the sophisticated 3-D animation made possible by Unreal Engine and the team of artists who worked on Disney’s The Mandalorian. Safety protocols allowed for less than 10 people on set, which required the video to be shot using a MoCo rig, and very intricate planning prior to production. To pull it off, all blocking was coordinated over Zoom, Halsey learned all of the choreography over Zoom, and even did her own makeup for the shoot.
Considering the unprecedented circumstances, we have been super proud of how few creative compromises we have had to make while prioritizing the health and safety of everyone involved. Aside from crowd scenes and intimate moments between talent, there have been very few things we could not accomplish. The truth is, by approaching every script and treatment we receive with respect to the situation at large, we have only expanded our arsenal of tools and resources that help push the creative opportunities.
As COVID-19 continues to put lives at risk, we will continue to stay informed and cautious, as we take the health and safety on our sets extremely seriously. However, we know firsthand that there is a safe way to shoot original and high-end content without making creative sacrifices.