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Finding Viable Filming Locations Under COVID-19 Restrictions

Posted by Valerie Nolan on July 24, 2020

The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been fitful and uneven, both in terms of infection rates and legal restrictions on in-person interactions. With states left to decide their own schedules for re-opening businesses and on what kinds of social distancing practices to require, it can be difficult to know from one week to the next where it is legal or safe to go through with business processes such as filming corporate videos.

Businesses looking into getting their in-person shooting schedules up and running again have to pay close attention to studio and location availability, as well as the rules and legal requirements set up to make filming safe at those places.

Locations Opening Gradually

As Deadline recently reported, filming videos other than full-scale television and movie productions could be the first stirrings of a returning industry. Considering the shorter schedules and smaller crews associated with shooting a commercial or an on-location corporate video, these are potentially valuable test cases that are more likely to meet health and safety guidelines and pass without incident.

The publication reported that sound stages in Florida and Georgia were among the first to open their doors, mirroring the generally early reopening of other businesses in those states. However, considering the spikes in disease cases striking states that have begun more economic activity, it’s likely unwise to make any sweeping declarations about when productions will be back to full scale.

Los Angeles had permitted productions to resume in mid-June, but as The Los Angeles Times reported more recently, that was followed by an increasing rate of infection in the area that could lead to a second stay-at-home order. Further delays are certainly possible, along with an absolute need to follow health and safety restrictions including mask-wearing orders from the state government.

Illinois has released its own production guidelines and suggestions, according to Reel Chicago. This document includes a requirement of sanitization of all materials every 24 hours or less, the suggested use of boom mics for audio recording and the presence of enough personal protective equipment for three times the number of people expected to be on set every day.

Scouting and Filming in a COVID World

While there is little certainty about which locations will be most suitable for filming or when each area will enable production to move ahead safely, there are a few sensible approaches being proposed and adopted by companies across industries and specializations. According to Cineuropa, for instance, there is a rising interest in scouting locations digitally to ensure people do not have to travel unnecessarily to potential sites for their shoots.

The idea of scouting remotely, using 360-degree cameras and augmented reality applications, could become a prominent way of doing business. Due to the fact that these capabilities already exist, film crews may not find it particularly difficult to expand their use more widely and avoid as much risk as possible.

Some of the industry professionals who spoke with Cineuropa suggested that location shoots will become less common if studios are available for the same productions. There is simply a greater degree of control available in a studio setting, and this will make it easier to follow sanitation protocols and social distancing guidelines. While this will not be a solution for every production, the relative prevalence of each kind of shoot could change for months or years to come.

The Serbia Film Commission’s Milica Bozanic told Cineuropa that picking one closed location for a whole shoot and staying there is a COVID-era best practice, whether that means a studio or a controlled outdoor space. Travel is a major potential risk factor, so the safest option for shoots will be to plan a limited scope of production.

“Several clients have taken advantage of our global locations for sanitized studios,” Crews Control SVP of Operations Eliana Hassen said. “These studios are easily controlled spaces with not only countless production options, but they are also a neutral space for both the crew and client.”

The Illinois requirements reported by Reel Chicago reflect the pressures of filming safely in locations, with no more than 10 people allowed to be in a studio or on location at a time, and indoor spaces restricted to one-fourth their normal occupancy capacity.

Now is the time to think outside the box when it comes to viable shooting locations for corporate video. Comfort and safety are of the highest priority for crews and clients, and we’ve seen many creative solutions to combat restrictions and social distancing guidelines.

“Executives understand the importance of video and staying connected to their stakeholders and employees,” Hassen said.  “Now with the challenges of COVID-19 video, teams are being creative with venues. It has been a matter of what people are comfortable with.” 

Here are just a few trends we’ve seen in recent shooting locations from our clients:

  • Shooting outside of their house and on their property, like in backyards and driveways
  • Shooting in foyers and setting up a makeshift desk/office with the crew shooting outside of the front door (6 feet away)
  • Clients are shooting in their home offices, with COVID compliant crews. We’ve even seen crews set up the space in these homes, and then leave the room when the talent is present
  • Shooting in large, public venues at quiet times (ex. Grand Central Station in the early morning)
  • Shooting in sanitized studios like mentioned above

Despite the prevailing uncertainty associated with COVID-19 recovery and the highly varied levels of recovery and restriction around the U.S. and the rest of the world, companies are finding ways to produce high-quality video. Safety is of the upmost importance here at Crews Control for all of our video shoots, and our crews are managing the ramp-up process in compliant ways.

Ready to work on your next video project? Reach out to one of our Crews Control Production Managers or click here to get started.

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