Production, Post and Music Houses, Ad Agencies Reflect On How They Are Coping With the Coronavirus Pandemic
Kevin Bacon in the #Istayathomefor" social campaign from McCann NY.
Feedback from McCann, BBDO, Deutsch, Harvest, Chelsea Pictures, Wondros, Framestore and many others underscores how ingenuity, solidarity and a sense of community have emerged from adversity

To in our own way combat the profound sense of fear and loss that COVID-19 has brought to the world, SHOOT sought feedback from people throughout the industry as to how they are coping with the coronavirus, trying to keep their people safe, their businesses afloat, and through their creative, narrative and filmmaking talents somehow bring us figuratively together even while we keep an essential safe physical distance apart.

Strength can emerge from adversity and people can unite even during an era when polarization has been the norm for far too long. Darkness can give way to light as our shared plight can spark kindness, a spirit of oneness, and creative ingenuity. Survey respondents have given us a taste of those positive dynamics at times all rolled into one, a prime example coming from Nathy Aviram, chief production officer of McCann New York, who shared the birth of a notion which yielded an uplifting campaign conveying our capacity for empathy and solidarity.

Aviram and his McCann colleagues began working from home (WFH) on Friday, March 13. He recalled, “In week one of WFH/social distancing, we were part of something that was both positive and helpful. One one of our first leadership video conferencing calls that weekend, our head of accounts panned her camera over to show her kids talking over the internet with their grandparents. She proposed that we should do an #Istayathomefor social campaign. That same day, our CCO shared a meme of Kevin Bacon with his wife. She laughed and said to him that we should use Kevin (the man famous for being just a scant six degrees from everyone) to kick off the social campaign. It was a quick lesson in working remotely.  Our talent team reached out to Kevin Bacon’s people and got a thumbs up. By the following Tuesday, Kevin recorded his message for us and tagged six other celebrities. The ‘viral’ campaign was an early and important message to share with the public--stay home for the people you care about.”

That campaign from McCann became the bar which other coronavirus-related public service communications efforts have since been held up to.

Entertainment initiatives have also emerged, a case in point shared by survey respondent Jesse Dylan, founder and CEO of Wondros. Working on new ways to entertain everyone stuck at home, Wondros partnered with J.B. Smoove (known for his role in Curb Your Enthusiasm) on You Are Here, a weekly comedy variety show made by and for people on coronavirus lockdown. Dylan directs the show, created by Paul Peck in partnership with Michael Jurkovac and Igor Kovalik of The Bridge.Co, and independent publishing and talent management company, Primary Wave Music. Funds raised by You Are Here go towards the causes and organizations best positioned to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance,, and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation Announces COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund.

Adversity has also brought a deeper, heightened sense of community even as we live in social isolation. Lisa Mehling, president of Chelsea Pictures, observed, “In the past few weeks the production community has come together like never before. We know we are all in the same leaky boat. May our solidarity and sense of community far outlast the virus.”

Offering some advice as well as praise for how folks have come together was Bonnie Goldfarb, co-founder/executive producer, harvest Films. “The best advice I can give is don’t chase anything. Keep yourself grounded in a way that feels right for you and your company. Make smart choices about what serves ALL the people that surround you and make sure you’re geared up when things resolve. This will pass (at least that’s what Gov. Cuomo tells us each morning) and when it does we will be ready to create content that reflects what we’ve been through and feel proud that we were able to behave in a manner that fits our amazing community. The AICP has been stupendous these past couple of weeks by leading online forums for us to congregate via Zoom and give us access to each other and very interesting and knowledgeable professionals. I applaud the entire staff for their commitment and hard work in guiding us during these times.”

SHOOT posed the following questions to a cross-section of our industry:

  1. How has your company been impacted by concerns over the coronavirus--or the virus itself if a worker or client has been stricken--in terms of business, your staff, client relationships? 
  2. The well-being, health and safety of people is clearly top priority. What measures have you taken to protect your staff and collaborators during this challenging time? 
  3. How have you adapted your behavior, practices, policies, approaches, ways of thinking and doing business in response to the pandemic? 
  4. Were you in the midst of a particular project when the coronavirus outbreak hit and how did you manage to deal with that situation? 
  5. What’s your biggest takeaway or lessons learned from your experience dealing with coronavirus concerns thus far? 
  6. What advice, if any, would you offer to your counterparts at other companies/agencies, your clients and collaborators? 
  7. Contingency plans have been prepared by many in light of the situation. Please share any aspects of those plans or tell us how your short and long-term business plans have been affected. 
  8. It’s said that strength emerges from adversity. Do you see any silver lining or positive dynamic emerging for our industry/marketplace from this global health crisis? 
  9. Have you deployed your company’s creative and communication skills to address the pandemic (PSAs, educational videos, other initiatives)? Please tell us about these efforts. 

Here’s the feedback we received:

Name Title Company
Nathy Aviram Chief Production Officer McCann New York
David Brixton Managing Partner Whitehouse Post
Joe Calabrese Director of Integrated Production Deutsch New York
Jesse Dylan Founder & CEO Wondros
Sydney Ferleger Executive Producer, Managing Director The Music Playground & The Station Media
Erica Fite Founding Partner Fancy
Ricardo Galindez Co-Founder Island Film Group
Bonnie Goldfarb Co-Founder/Executive Producer Harvest Films, Inc.
Bobby Hougham ECD/Director The New Blank
Ian Jeffreys Managing Director/Executive Producer Butter Music & Sound
Ralph Laucella Partner/Executive Producer O Positive
Lola Lott Principal/CEO charlieuniformtango
Jan Maitland President Utopic, LLC
Elad Marish Senior Producer Swell Music + Sound
Lisa Mehling President Chelsea Pictures
Michael Moffett Managing Director Production Service Network (PSN)
Tim Nagle Partner Lucky Post
James Razzall President, Advertising North America Framestore
David Rolfe EVP, Director of Integrated Production BBDO New York
Domenic Rom Managing Director Goldcrest Post NY
Natalie Sakai Managing Director, Executive Producer ContagiousLA
Lauren Schwartz Owner/EP kaboom
Deborah Sullivan Executive Producer/Managing Director The-Artery
Harry Tracosas CEO/President Global Production Network, Inc.
Nick Wood Creative Director/Co-Founder Syn
Brian Yessian Partner/CCO Yessian Music

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