PIG’s chief of chaos sits down with LBB to talk quarantine, Covid-19, remote production and life under a new “normal”

This month, PIG Chief Chaos Officer (and MD) Nick Dodet spoke with LBB’s Natasha Patel about Covid-19 and the production industry. He believes the West can learn quite a few things from China’s response, and shares innovative ways the team has found to work within all the new restrictions.

As the western world grapples with the pandemic, China has lifted most sanctions, and the Chinese production scene is slowly finding its place in a new “normal”. Nick shares his views on the whole situation with LBB.

Excerpts from the interview below.

What’s the current situation in China with production?

Production is kind of coming back to normal right now. In the past week there’ve been a lot of shoots after we saw a few in early March, then some more mid-month. There were a lot of restrictions but fewer and fewer now compared to in March when we could apply and get a permit to shoot in a public location, but if any of the local residents felt unsafe , they would call the cops and shut us down. No questions asked. Now it’s mostly getting better and we can pretty much shoot from anywhere.

Did you come across any interesting ways to get around the restrictions?

We started developing more remote shooting where clients and agencies would remain in China and a crew would shoot in, let’s say, South Africa and everything would be watched live back over here.

Now it’s been completely flipped around in that foreigners are not allowed to enter China at the moment – even if they possess a green card. At the moment we’ve got jobs confirmed with foreign agencies, production companies and clients who they can’t shoot where they are, so they will shoot in China remotely. We’re getting more of these requests, which are basically in a living room in the West and on the set here in China.

What can companies around the world learn from China’s experience of Covid-19 and coming out the other end of it?

You’ve got to make yourself small, if you’re not working you have no revenue so you have to weather the storm. Just keep your chin up because eventually things get better. What allowed us to get out of that first wave so quickly is that it literally came down with a hammer and everybody was wearing masks in public and shutting down public transportation. It was literally ghost town all over the country.

You always have opportunities in these times and the opportunity to test new technology and find new angles. I hear a lot of foreign clients are trying to produce homemade films where they’re asking the agencies to find ways for people to take selfies. Long term that’s probably not that viable. What we offer foreign clients right now is to shoot films over here for them and they direct from abroad. In the West they’ll come up with new ways of running sets, I think there’ll be quite a bit of remote work that’ll happen way past the pandemic.

To read the full interview, click here (external link).

Shoots move online as Covid-19 moves in

PIGremote

China is offering solutions to filmmakers to shoot remotely as productions shut down worldwide.

A brave new world

Indeed, these are turbulent times. Disruption from Covid-19 has swept across the entertainment industry. Production has taken a tumble, off a cliff. While the long-term impact remains an ever-debatable talking point, go pour the whiskey Jack, short-term it’s clear where there’s a problem: shooting has ceased worldwide.

To say the sector is restless will be our understatement of the year. Don’t have to look far to find a growing list of reasons why. Filmmakers in locked-down New York and California can offer a vivid exposé on that topic. Disney, Paramount, Universal, HBO and even Susan from accounts have pushed their movie releases into fall and winter. Cannes Lions, Wimbledon, the Emmys and, good lord, Eurovision are all canceled.

Edwin Hooper (Unsplash)

Don’t go grabbing for the arsenic just yet.

While the rest of the world grapples with a sudden onset of potential-diabetics-suddenly-turned-avid-long-distance-runners plaguing what should be empty city streets, China has managed to beat the C-train to submission. Chinese authorities lifted virtually all sanctions to life and business in April with the exception, obviously, of Hubei, schools – it’s a brave new world, parents – and allowing anybody new into the country. Nonetheless, that’s still leaps and bounds ahead of anybody in the G7.

Tedward Quinn (Unsplash)

When one door closes, another opens.

In late February, very limited shooting resumed in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Since March, gloved and n95-masked crews, sterile enough to perform open-heart surgery on a whim, have been shooting away nationwide. Envy much?

That’s all gravy for China, but why should I care,” you ask? And if you’re not asking, you’re clearly not reading this article correctly (that or you jumped to the ending).

In the same way that Q saves Bond’s tight, squish-able butt, queue the gadgetry to come help keep directors’ alcoholism at bay, for now, and producers from well, themselves.

We’re talking about remote shooting and it’s quite the setup.

Call up your mind’s eye, and picture this. As June et al. work the set in Shanghai, director and up to 59 others are tuckered-up in a Netflix and chill kind of situation, wearing underwear but no pants, over in North America or wherever.

Live in Shanghai and Los Angeles
Photo courtesy PIG China

The remote team watches each 4K take at up to 2K resolution, 10 frames short of literally being “live”, delivered over 5G so smooth that some are considering immigration – we’re talking the real deal 5G, not the only-on-that-one-corner-on-Wilshire kind of American greatness. Raving mad that you can’t find a half decent flat white after 9:00pm EST on Grubhub, director can only scream at the laptop; we avoid a possible “situation and wrap before overtimes kick in. It’s your Zoom/Facetime/Skype happy-hour, gone pro.

Yes, that’s remote shooting. No, it isn’t news. Yes, it is THE talk of the town. Studios, agencies, brands, and production houses are clambering to shoot remotely in China. This is a reminder that the world is an oyster – bless the first man (yes man) who ever said, “why yes, that looks edible” – for all intents and purposes, and fate looks kindly upon those who help themselves.

Photo courtesy PIG China

For some, it’s a path forward, for others, it’s a lifeline. Call it what you will, remote production has taken off in China, and this isn’t a train you can afford to miss.

Remote production isn’t a glass slipper solution, still it solves a lot of problems for a lot of people, right now. Couple that with equipment, directors, DOPs, crew, talent, facilities and locations that’ll make Hollywood do a back-flip, and you’ve just found the one thing to keep from crying yourself to sleep tonight.

A (somewhat necessary) disclaimer
PIG is providing a range of remote production tools and solutions for production houses, agencies, brands and clients affected by the Covid-19 crisis. We continue to run our sets with the same acute eyes for quality and professionalism while keeping a third eye out for our crews’ health and safety.