Last week, I left you all pondering the question, “where do we go from here?” So what now for a deeply curious small creative business whose clients are all as equally shaken up?
Step one. The show must go on.
I creatively lead a company that is already adaptive.We have lost crucial team members, valuable accounts, and witnessed an entire corporation pull up from down the street only to land in another place, Wizard of Oz-style. I’ve been around for a while and have definitely seen some things (helloooo, Deadliest Catch), and that is what made this whole pandemic oddly okay.
Business Owner Blues: We’re not immune.
That is until we got the news last week that we were not going to be one of the applications selected for the PPP loan. We blamed ourselves and lack of connections for a while until increasing coverage revealed that much of the money had been used for corporate style bailouts of many public companies- one being the now infamous Ruth’s Chris who made $42 million in profit last year. IN PROFIT. And received double what we thought was the allowable limit at $20 million (They used 2 subsidiaries that were able to claim $10MM in forgivable loans each, which were fully *funded* only 4 days after application enrollment opened). Before I get too angry-sounding, I also know that a lot of real and deserving small businesses DID get assistance through the PPP and for that, I am genuinely thankful. I know some of these business owners and know they will be using this support to keep their beloved team members on their payrolls, and hopefully, their companies afloat. This is what we all wanted… and more accurately, needed.
So, what now? Because anyone who knows me knows that it isn’t over until I say it’s over. Add to that my infectiously positive partner who automatically propelled us into “adapt or die” mode and you have two people hell bent on making it through. Stronger, smarter and even more savvy. But how?
Rebrands, Reinventions, & Revamps.
Maybe we are poised to do this because we are prepared for change and okay with being uncomfortable. I have rebranded networks and have had to reinvent myself many times throughout my career. Most recently, we had to reinvent AlterEgo. And brands who embrace change over fighting it are usually the ones that make it.
In Part 1 I spoke of trends. The baking (it’s now ALL about sourdough …and banana bread), the self shot talent spots reminding us all that we’re in this together, and the Tiger King. Which I finally caved and started watching last night. And speaking of tigers, a former colleague and friend of mine had recently posted a picture of us back in the day, working on promotion for one of Discovery’s popular natural history series, which had taken us to a tiger sanctuary in Florida. In the photos, she is standing cautiously with her hands to her sides. I, on the other hand, am half crouching down with one hand squarely on the back of a 500-lb wild AF animal.
So there’s that. Always been a curious person… even with the whole “curiosity killed the cat” warning. But, let’s get back to trends.
Zoom, Facetime, Slack. It’s the age of…communication technology.
The one most relevant to me today is the use of all this communication technology. Technology does not scare me or limit us, especially Justin. His technological know-how is a key feature that frankly sets us apart from others. Last week we began production on a music video with participants locally and around the world that we virtually directed using Zoom and Facetime. Through several pre pro calls determining our best locations, color palette and camera settings- we were able to provide each musician with virtual direction AND simultaneous tech support to create higher production value and offer much needed guidance to people who don’t do this for a living. This is key. What we do is a craft and it isn’t something easily translated to the everywoman or man.
This isn’t the first time that we have developed custom remote solutions. The first time was when we provided a real-time HD feed from our RED cam in a pool in an underwater housing from our shoot in DC to multiple clients in New York and New Jersey for an Arm & Hammer commercial.
One of our favorite remote projects was for our friends at MotorTrend, who wanted a launch campaign featuring their core talent speaking about their relationships with the brand. But they could neither wrangle all the talent’s shoot schedules nor afford the price tag for this level concept. So, we pitched a solution and were able to jump in and virtually direct the different long form production companies to set up over a dozen of interviews in a similar way to cut together seamlessly. It was a really cool challenge figuring out how to match different cameras and sets into one cohesive brand story. Plus, Justin got to draw his semi-ridiculous photoshop diagrams that he loves making.
If you come… we will build it.
Technological challenges rarely limit our ability to get the job done. We can scout your location via Zoom, deliver to your door professional remote production packages and advise on wardrobe and makeup through references and pre-recorded tutorials. We direct via Zoom or Facetime and you send us the footage to be edited by one of our many remote editors set up safely at home. Easy peasy. Because we have already been using all those cloud based communications for years now: Zoom, Slack, Google Docs and always researching the best ways to get the highest quality image to your mobile fingertips (hello, Streambox). This isn’t foreign for a group of people used to shooting all over the world communicating with our clients from the field, conferences and airports regularly.
And in this, we are not alone. Our friend and all around inspirational guy, BigStar Executive Producer, Carson Hood, noted that they’ve “always been the shop people called when they didn’t have much creative to work with.” And with most live action productions being put on hold (or cancelled), adaptability and flexibility are just the kinds of arrows we need in our quiver. Coming up with alternate solves, whether it be a virtual shoot, an edit using existing footage, or an animation, we are uniquely poised to offer a variety of potential solutions. Because we get it.
We can also use our small studio with a 2-person crew (it’s Justin and me) for tabletop, flat lays or macro insert shoots which can provide custom elements to complement your existing footage. Or perhaps infographics and kinetic type is a better fit to help explain denser subject matter in a more captivating way than your CEO on camera (Caveats: The camera is their phone. They are likely at home. They don’t know how to light or film themselves. Their pets and kids will definitely make guest appearances). To be honest, I love creating infographics and animating text and have found them incredibly helpful over the past few weeks as we all struggle to understand the facts.
Real understanding and solutions start with empathy.
But the biggest trend I will end with is one that is most important to me and that is empathy, or the lack thereof. I have survived these weeks because of empathy. The ability to not only understand but to share the feelings of others.
Real solutions in a time like this start with empathy. And being a deeply caring and trusted partner is paramount. Hopefully, we all emerge thinking more of others and the choices that we can make, the people we support, and the companies we will patronize because we agree with the mission and those we do not (I’m looking at you, Shake Shack. I have always liked your logo, but not a fan of your loose morals). We can speak up for small businesses by supporting them over larger, more convenient, and probably cheaper ones that have proven that in times of crisis- they do not understand OR share our feelings.
So I leave you with this. Good work continues to be good work. And I still have HOPE because I know that we have always provided good work, steeped in genuine curiosity, a love for this craft and most of all, empathy.
For us because we love it. For you because we care. Be safe out there, friends. And never stop creating.