<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=154003588595255&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

In Conversation

The Changing Landscape of Production with Jeff Beckerman

While on-set production is shut down, we can still find creative ways to produce new video content using remote workflows.

June 18, 2020

In_Conversation_Cutaway_Thmb_1920x1080_Jeff_Beckerman

Our guest Jeff Beckerman details how remote productions are keeping the pipeline of new video content flowing when you can't be on set. 

The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, Production In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the SHIFT - In Conversation podcast here

--------

Jeff Beckerman - Director of Production - Rain the Growth Agency 
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - SHIFT 

Grace:
Tell us a little bit about Rain the Growth Agency and what you do.

Jeff:
I’m Jeff Beckerman, Director of Production at Rain, The Growth Agency. Rain is a full service direct-to-consumer agency that helps our clients scale their business by building their brands and achieving their ROI goals with proven media and creative strategies.

Grace:
Can you talk a little bit about the process of production?

Jeff:
Our production team consists of producers, an in-house content creator, and a production manager. Everyone else we'll freelance as needed. We’ll go and find a director, and try to match the right director with the project. Is it visual effects based? Is it something that we can do internally with our own post team? Do we have to go and do something with a higher end visual effects team? All of these things are discussed and worked out for each commercial. We have something we created called the Production Lab, which is our own internal quick-turn digital content. Usually it's for social media or some type of digital content, but we've done commercials through it also.

Grace:
Before COVID, would you say that the bulk of your productions were on-set productions?

Jeff:
I would say probably 60% to 70% of the time we're shooting on a set. We do get projects that are more graphically driven, but our typical projects are live action with graphics and a tiny bit of stock.

Grace:
When news started coming out that production would likely shut down, what was that experience like for you?

Jeff:
We were questioning what we were going to do. We had to think about how we were going to continue to serve our clients, and continue to create content for our clients during this time. Luckily we were already working on some ideas and testing some things out through our Production Lab with self-shooting, and getting content to and from an actor to our post team. 

Grace:
There must have been projects that you were already in the middle of. How quickly did you need to pivot those into a new direction?

We had to pivot immediately. Basically we were almost a new production company in a week's time.

Jeff:
We had to pivot immediately. Basically we were almost a new production company in a week's time, that's how fast it went. At the same time, we had projects already lined up to shoot that had to be postponed. But that still didn't stop us, we've been doing casting remotely now. We're working with casting agents and talent agents. We're getting to a point that if production does come back, we're ready to start shooting again. 

Grace:
Did you hear a lot of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty from the brands that you were working with? What was that reaction like?

Jeff:
We've had all the above. Some clients are saying they're going to hold off on doing any work because they don't know what's going to happen. On the flip side, other clients wanted to start some new projects. We are extremely fortunate that we're experiencing tremendous growth. The pipeline looks really good right now with what's going on and we're very excited about that.

Grace:
So what does production actually look like for you now? 

Jeff:
We've come up with ways of actually shooting with iPhones, and being able to see what we're shooting at the same time. We send out these prefab lighting kits, and it's been working really well. We do much more tech support because we're hiring talent to basically be our camera people and our lighting people. Someone helps set them up, on the phone or via Zoom. We tell them how to set up the lighting, how to set up their phone with the computer so we can see what's on the phone, and we do the shoot. Then we need that footage off their camera right away. And it's been painful in that respect, but it's working.

Grace:
What are some of the unexpected bumps along the way that you've had to tackle?

Jeff:
The talent, the actors, have been fantastic. They are just as excited to be cast in something in today's day and age because the opposite has been happening to them where everything is cancelled. So when we talk to them, part of their agreement with us is they have to work in a different way. A lot of times we have things shipped directly to the talent, and then it's just a lot of coordination. And we’re still working with directors, we just worked with a fantastic director and he was able to adapt really quickly. He's a director/DP so he was actually able to help us do the lighting also. The same light kits that we've created for ourselves, we sent to him. And then we were kind of working in parallel, creating basic setups that we can both operate at the same time. For the most part, it worked very well. It's a lot more hand holding, a lot more communication and teaching. Every time we do a new shoot, we're learning something new and trying something different. 

Every time we do a new shoot, we're learning something new and trying something different. 

Grace:
As you're casting talent, are you also considering their space? You're kind of casting their home in the same way that you're casting them. 

Jeff:
Yes. So in our talent specs, we put location specs also. So once we determine who the talent is, we do a live location scout on video. We've had some really nice house tours from talent! 

Grace:
Beyond the shooting at home process, are there other things you are doing now to make new content?

Jeff:
Sure. So there are those clients that we actually had already scheduled to shoot, or to replace an older campaign from last year. So we're doing some animated spots for them in between until we get free and clear to be able to go out and shoot again. We're also doing some animation combined with stock footage, motion graphics, and even reutilizing some of our existing shots from the client's library into videos too. 

Grace:
What do you think production is going to look like a year from now? Is there a world in which we go back to “normal” after this?

The one thing you can say about production in film and television is they've always figured out a way to adapt.

Jeff:
I think the entire way we shoot and edit is going to be different. From a post production standpoint, our post team did an incredible job of going remote almost immediately. But from a production standpoint, everything's going to be different. Phase one is when we eventually get told that we can start, but we really won't have more than 10 people that are able to gather together at the same time. So we're going to have to have a really small crew system, only the essential people. There are no clients, maybe not even the agency creative team. We've developed ways that, just like we're doing now, we can shoot remotely and beam through so they can be seeing exactly what's through the camera and immediately communicate with us so they don't have to be there. We're going to be wearing masks and gloves. You're gonna have to try to stay as far apart as possible. I don't think we're going to be back to a normal for quite a while. The one thing you can say about production in film and television is they've always figured out a way to adapt, sometimes better, sometimes worse. We're all trying to adapt, work, and grow. Get production companies back working again, and agencies back on their feet and clients advertising. We're all in this together, so the more we can all succeed the better.

-----
Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information.

Grace Amodeo is a program manager at SHIFT, where she oversees the annual SHIFT Creative Fund grant program. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
Read more by Grace Amodeo