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The Changing Role of the Traveling Producer

Posted by Ashley Brook on September 24, 2020

How bizarre is it that some industries have soared since mid-March, while others have plummeted? For a minute there, when COVID-19 travel bans and citywide lockdowns were being enforced, video production was among the industries that suffered. It has slowly made a comeback in recent months, but camera crews, video executives and media teams have had to adjust to the new normal of in-person productions.

A year ago, would you have expected a video message from your CEO from a webcam in his or her living room?  Would you have pictured camera crews with masks over their noses and mouths surrounded by hand sanitizer standing six feet apart? Maybe not as extreme as a hazmat tuxedo we saw at the Emmy’s, but these changes have been made necessary for the sake of public health and safety.

Along with set changes and new shooting guidelines, many job roles have been altered and evolved to fit the new criteria. This is especially true for traveling producers.  

The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that nearly 12.1 million jobs in the U.S. supported by travel and tourism are at risk of being lost in a “worst case” scenario.  Even as travel begins to pick back up again, many Fortune 500 companies are not yet ready for their teams to travel again. But what does this mean for traveling producers?

Virtual Producers

Booking local crews in faraway cities is nothing new. But during a global pandemic? Does it make sense to fly out your producers to be on set as well?  Considering the liability factor and budget cuts, corporate travel has been put on hold, so producers have had to get creative.

On most shoots, the crews typically consist of as few on-set personnel as possible: In some cases, just a director of photography and an audio tech are present with the talent. Crew members local to the subject handle the technical aspect of the production while the producer teleconferences in via Zoom or a similar software tool to provide feedback and oversight.

Virtual conference tools have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve seen how critical these tools are in conveying corporate messaging and connecting remote teams. Using video conferencing software, directors and producers can speak with talent remotely and camera operators can adjust their shots automatically. This process is not always ideal, but it works.

Different methods to connect virtually with your team on site:

  • Video conferencing
  • Streaming to a private channel
  • Sending screenshots of framing
  • Remote broadcasting of live camera during the shoot

These video practices bridge the distance between the producer and camera crew. There are some things you can’t replicate when your producer is virtual, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In addition to these technologies, collaborating with fellow producers on the ground is the icing on the cake.  

The Buddy System

When travel is prohibited but the show must go on, trusting local producers on the ground can completely turn a shoot around.

“Our clients and crews have gotten crafty in making the shoots work in a pandemic environment,” Crews Control Vice President of Production Valerie Nolan said.  “Video calling into the shoots works fine, but from what I’ve heard, having a local producer onsite when the traveling producer can’t be there makes a world of difference.”

There are qualified media professionals in every city that can take the reins when a traveling producer can’t be there. We advise you to use “the buddy system” and find someone you can trust locally to be your avatar.

Companies who are hoping to adapt their video productions to conditions during this pandemic can benefit from working with third-party experts. Even if producers have traditionally handled the entirety of their efforts internally, collaboration can be valuable. Insights and support from someone on set is crucial.

The Future of Travel Producing

The role of the traveling producer has drastically changed in a short amount of time. Since business travel is not expected to return to pre-COVID levels until 2023, these collaborations and video conferencing tools could be used indefinitely on corporate video productions. But like with anything that could go wrong on set during a video shoot, well equipped and well-versed producers know how to roll with the punches.

While your video team prepares for the future beyond this global pandemic, you can trust Crews Control to help with your creative needs. For information on our offerings or to discuss what a return to ‘normal’ could look like for our industry, contact Crews Control today.

About Ashley Brook

Ashley may be new to the area but is not new to the production industry. Ashley is an Emmy® award-winning micro-documentary producer, editor, and writer who has a love for stories that make a positive impact. She brings her administrative wizardry, creative eye, deep knowledge of production and odd sense of humor (which fits right in) to Crews Control. Ashley prides herself on her overt friendliness she credits to growing up in the Midwest, her amazing banana bread, and preternatural ability to juggle multiple projects simultaneously. Her favorite food is guacamole, is a music, travel, and art nerd, and has a strange fascination with dinosaurs. Ashley looks forward to adding to her production knowledge bank while helping clients and crews make ideas a reality at Crews Control!

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