When the shutdown is ended and us TV folk begin to contemplate production in the post-coronavirus United States, what is that going to look like? As founders of GreenightGo, a year-old platform that matches producers and other video creators with resources such as soundstages, edits, equipment, and office space, we have a few ideas, which we’ve been sharing with many of our partners.
Even before COVID-19, we could see that the TV and film businesses were changing markedly. More and more producers were working without long-term fixed leases, expensive equipment, or their own edit equipment. The younger and more nimble ones knew they could count on an increasingly fluid marketplace for pre-production, production, and post-production resources to get what they needed just in time. Short-form and documentary work was already largely cloud-based, thanks to collaborative tools provided by Teradici, Avid Everywhere, Frame.io, Vimeo Pro, and others.
COVID-19 has simply accelerated a shift to remote, global production that was already underway, while opening new opportunities in full-remote, complex linear playout channels, full remote post-production, and much more.
Across the business post-COVID, production companies and post houses will ramp up remote editing capabilities but likely only as a supplement to what will be a necessary and nervous return to the camaraderie and clamped confines of most post facilities. Even with social distancing, mask requirements and new mandates for cleaning, remote editing will continue to pose significant challenges for collaboration. Directors and show-runners will have to adapt quickly to this hybrid model and the loss of creativity that comes from a lack of physical proximity.
Physical production will be another matter entirely. Until there is a vaccine, or at least a reliable antibody test combined with assurances that reinfection is not possible, it will be very difficult to staff shows. In our view, financiers and distributors will struggle to comfortably commit up to eight-figure sums to projects where production could face costly delays due to future lockdown orders or where key talent could end up absent, hospitalized or worse. Theoretically, certain productions could, at great cost, create closed systems where talent and crew live and work on site for the duration after mandatory 14-day self-quarantines. Netflix’s current reality offerings like The Circle and Love is Blind, which largely already feature contestants in a version of self-quarantine, may have been ahead of the curve in more ways than one!
Ongoing infection fears will force buyers to adapt creatively to COVID-proof their productions, probably at great cost. Will buyers push these liabilities and costs onto production companies and producers? These new constraints will, and in fact already are, drive madcap innovation to allow tech-driven studio and field production, remote control rooms, and ever more CGI. And it may force additional gambles on series, like esports, that combine safely executed in-studio production with dynamic, interactive elements that engage at-home viewers.
The good news, for those of us who make it across this challenging river, is that TV and film will be needed and wanted, more than ever. According to research, in 2019, the screen content business was a $120 billion behemoth in the U.S. that served an ever-more insatiable demand for content of all sorts. The conversations we’ve had with clients see unscripted in particular as having the ability to snap back more quickly, especially as crews are generally smaller, the financial risk less onerous and production times shorter.
We are all feeling a bit vulnerable right now, but our focus at GreenlightGO is to assist clients with unique solutions that are timely while creating our own long term value in the marketplace. Regardless of the type of show, GreenlightGO will be here to support it. After all, these projects will need to be made somewhere.
Michael Hirschorn is a producer & co-founder of GreenlightGO, and also the founder and CEO of Ish Entertainment.
Colby Gaines is a producer & co-founder of GreenlightGO, and executive producer and founder of Back Roads Entertainment.