Production & Post Recovery/The New Normal: Can We Go Home Again?
What will the New Normal be for Production & Post?
Commercial, branded content, TV, feature filmmaking may not be the same as industry in recovery deals with pandemic, social injustice

The expression “you can’t go home again” gained popularity as the title of Thomas Wolfe’s famous 1940 novel. The profound gist that resonated with so many was that if you try to return to a place you remember from the past, it won’t be the same as you remember it.

That may be true even for relatively recent recollections as the pandemic in just a matter of months has made an indelible impact on ways of life--on livelihoods and life itself. This also applies to our industry as a near-complete production shutdown has put employment on hold for many, leaving us to grapple with how we will recover, and how to smartly and safely bring production and post business back to life.

And there’s the further matter of dealing with social injustice as the entertainment and advertising communities look to take a stand against another plague--racism--with brands determining if and how to best address the Black Lives Matter movement and the issue of police brutality.

On the COVID-19 front, so much is up in the air as reflected in the recent announcement of network fall 2020 primetime schedules. The future of original comedy and drama fare being heralded for the new season and beyond is no longer about whether content will register with an audience--but instead will it get made to begin with? 

Fox for example has hedged its bet with three shows making the schedule in part because they were already made--a recycled season one run of L.A.’s Finest which debuted on Spectrum cable, and two series originally planned as spring debutantes--Filthy Rich starring Kim Cattrall, and the tech thriller neXt with a cast headed by John Slattery.

CBS is hopeful that production can resume sometime this summer but that’s far from a certainty. While maybe not all the shows will premiere on the target date of September 21, the network projects eventually being able to present a schedule that resembles what had been announced.

In formulating their schedules, networks had to make judgment calls on a new series’ prospects without having seen a completed pilot. In many cases, pilots didn’t come to pass due to the pandemic.

And with uncertainty surrounding the fall schedules, the major networks’ prospects for extending their four-year streak of garnering increased revenue for their primetime ad inventory is in jeopardy. The ad picture is being squeezed on both ends. For one, will there be enough new original programming produced to generate marketplace interest--and will live sports, a major ratings winner, even return, and if so in what form and to what audience response. Then there’s the plight of the advertisers themselves as different sectors will take time to recover--travel, movie studios, automobile manufactures, restaurants--and thus figure to curtail their primetime spot investments.

Features, contracts
Feature film production and release dates (with the closure of theaters) have also been pushed back. In this week’s SHOOT Chat Room, for example, director Jon M. Chu of Crazy Rich Asians fame noted that he was in post at press time on In The Heights (Warner Bros.), the feature adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning Broadway musical starring “Hamilton” alumnus Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega, a bodega owner in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Per its original schedule, the film’s post should have already been completed with In The Heights premiering this month in theaters. Now due to the pandemic, the movie won’t hit the big screen until Father’s Day in 2021.

For features, TV and all forms of content, insurance concerns also need to be addressed. Policies that cover losses due to production delays or budget overruns generally exclude COVID-19-related issues.

There’s also the matter of union contracts currently being negotiated. The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) had at press time just reached a tentative agreement  with SAG-AFTRA for successor agreements to the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/New Media contracts. Meanwhile AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America have started master contract negotiations (on a remote basis) as a June 30 expiration of that current film and TV contract is looming.

Meanwhile the prospect of resuming film, TV and commercial production did get a boost last Friday (6/5) as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that counties throughout California may reopen to filming as early as June 12.

The go-ahead came in the form of guidelines released by the state Department of Public Health for varied venues, including schools, day care facilities and casinos. Within those guidelines was a paragraph pertaining to film and television, which read:

“Music, TV and film production may resume in California, recommended no sooner than June 12, 2020 and subject to approval by county public health officers within the jurisdictions of operations following their review of local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers. Back office staff and management should adhere to Office Workspace guidelines published by the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Industrial Relations, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

As SHOOT went to press, FilmLA, the nonprofit film office for the City and County of Los Angeles, was not accepting or processing any applications to film in Greater L.A. This underscores the fact that Governor Newsom’s announcement does not authorize the resumption of on-location filming in Los Angeles County. That decision rests with the County, and will be made consistent with the recommendations of the County Department of Public Health.

Clearly, though, jurisdictions throughout the state, including L.A. County, are moving closer to permitting filming as officials on state and local levels establish timetables and terms for production’s safe and responsible return.

FilmLA has asked--and is waiting to hear when--the County intends to reopen to production and on what terms. FilmLA has also asked its partner cities whether they plan to reopen when the County does. The County intends to proceed expeditiously, with FilmLA committed to sharing additional info when it becomes available.

Governor Newsom’s announcement follows the June 1 release of new Health and Safety Guidelines, prepared by the Industry Wide Labor Management Safety Committee (IWLMSC) Task Force in concert with the AMPTP. These guidelines--first sent to Gov. Newsom and then New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo--can serve as a resource to state and local authorities throughout the country, but do not establish the final terms of reopening. 

SAG-AFTRA released a statement which positioned the document as “an initial set of principles and guidelines that we all agree form a relevant and realistic first step to protecting cast and crew in the reopening of the entertainment and media industry in its two largest markets.” 

Provisions include regular, periodic testing of the cast and crew to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 being spread. Testing protocols are to be developed with and approved by unions and guilds. Every measure will be taken to maintain physical distancing between workers whenever possible, as well as to promote regular hand washing/sanitizing and the use of personal protective equipment. All cast and crew will undergo mandatory diagnostic symptom monitoring, including temperature checks prior to arriving on set or at the workplace. Working while sick with coronavirus symptoms will not be permitted. There will be heightened cleaning and disinfecting of all workspace areas.

The guidelines call for the establishment of a COVID-19 compliance officer who will be on hand at the workplace and have the responsibility and authority to address issues as they arise. COVID-19 safety plan oversight and enforcement shall be the principal responsibilities of the compliance officer. These designated individuals will undergo specialized training on health and safety precautions, policies and procedures related to infection prevention practices including COVID-19 prevention, disinfection and PPE. Specific duties and responsibilities of the compliance officer(s) may include, but are not limited to, overseeing and monitoring physical distancing, testing, symptom monitoring, disinfecting protocols, and PPE education, protocols and adherence, and such other duties as may be determined by the employer. 

All cast and crew shall be informed who the COVID-19 compliance officer is and how to contact him or her. In addition to the compliance officer, there should be a communication/hotline system to respond to all cast and crew safety questions and concerns (including pre-, post- and off-production offices/spaces). The system shall allow for anonymous reporting.

Productions also should consider engaging a board-certified infectious diseases physician or infection preventionist with certification in infection control to assist with development of specific workflows and operational implementation.

The guidelines are in line with the goal of finding ways to get production and post back in some form without unduly compromising the health and safety of people. To access the guidelines, click here.

While the AMPTP is involved in the broad industry push to work in concert with health and government officials on safety protocols, smaller think tanks have emerged to brainstorm about solutions. Individual organizations are weighing options and trying to figure out what’s best for their members and the industry at large. For example, Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), which represents leading sound editing professionals worldwide, spanning sound effects, dialogue, ADR, foley and music, is looking to provide guidance for its rank and file numbering some 800. Mark A. Lanza, MPSE president, shared, “We have been discussing new protocols for editors to work at home studios as much as possible once work starts opening up again. Certain positions will still have to go to mix stages or ADR stages and we are working with studios to figure out the best practices going forward. We are also consulting with software developers for new tools to work remotely as much as possible.”

He added, “Well the game is changing daily and there are a number of big questions that will greatly affect any plans we come up with. It appears to be a fluid situation where we make plans for multiple scenarios and go with the one we need to at the time. When this first happened we stopped almost all travel into the studios and interaction with mixers, picture editors, directors, and actors. Going forward I see loop group being an issue, we really need them to be able to interact in real time. 

Getting actors to the ADR stage will be a problem too, we need to set up series regulars with a way to do quality ADR in their own home. I hope at some point things will get back to normal, but we have to plan on the new protocols being developed, at least for a while.”

Similarly Nelson Coates, president of the Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800, noted that the organization--in addition to the protocols established by the Industry Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force--”is working with its members for craft specific recommendations to ensure the safety of our members in the workplace. These recommendations will expand upon social distancing and PPE to address how our members perform tasks such as conducting surveys of locations, and the sharing of large format drawings, plans and schematics.”

Coates further noted, “The industries must come to understand that these new protocols will all come with an increased cost but whatever that is, it will be far cheaper than the long-term impact of a second shutdown, either industry-wide or of a single production, if the virus starts to spread and cast and crew become ill. The workers of these industries must not be disincentivized from staying home if they have been potentially exposed or become ill. Real issues, such as enhanced sick pay, must be addressed. We look forward to working with our brothers and sisters in labor as we address those issues which must be bargained with our employers. Together we can return to work safely and, to the best of our collective ability, do so in an environment designed to guard against exposure to the virus. The health and safety of the workers in these industries, from producers to talent to crew, must remain at the forefront.”

Mike Fantasia, president of the Location Managers Guild International (LMGI), noted that his organization, by virtue of its global reach, is “uniquely positioned to receive and disseminate COVID-19 guidelines from around the world. Our LMGI members across the globe are directly involved in the formation of the back to work protocols in their respective regions, as many start returning to work. We are actively engaged in establishing the new normal. Our website ( is our mainstay for the growing compendium of international guidelines. We are posting a number of links on the site, including links to Proposed and Recommended Industry Guidelines and Protocols from all over the world, as well as links that provide information on emergency funds and assistance available in various regions. Our actively expanding member discussion/webinar ‘Coffee Tuesdays’ provides vital information in a rapidly evolving industry. From introducing companies with new sanitizing and pre-production technologies to film commission forums, we provide a platform for our members and business partners to seek information and offer guidance.”

Fantasia continued, “The best practice we can offer is to not rush into starting a project without a full and complete assessment of the protocols applicable to the production. We need to ensure that the safety of the crew is addressed as well as the creative and logistic aspects. The process will undoubtedly have hills and valleys, but by learning from each others successes and failures we can promote the most current, effective technology for safe, smooth productions.”

As for his members’ priority, he observed, “Safety first has long been the guiding practice of the location department, the principal department on a production that interacts with all other departments. Now more than ever, the location department will be the focal point of assessing and assisting in the implementation of the applicable safety and health protocols from scouting through the tech scout and into shooting. Production comes with a long history of problem-solving and this is not insurmountable. Yes, it is a many faceted issue, but bit by bit, we will solve all of the challenges ahead of us and return to work in a safe, healthy and productive manner.

Spot guidelines
On the commercialmaking/branded content front, the AICP has taken the lead with its COVID-19 Workplace Guidelines and Considerations for production and postproduction which at press time had been updated for a fourth time (marked as Version 5) since their initial launch in late April. There are new sections, including one on human resources considerations and screening, as well as revamped items based on new information being released from many private and public sources. Click here to access the guidelines.

“As responsible production resumes, including commercials, AICP and its members want to ensure that decisions are being made using sensible procedures and with planning in place,” said Matt Miller, AICP president and CEO. Miller noted that AICP’s members are nationwide, and timelines of when productions resume will remain fluid. For parts of the country, production can--and is--happening, using various forms of remote technology and most recently, small gathered groups; while other regions are still weeks away from any in-person shoots. 

“With no direct guidance on safe work in our--or related--industries from any official body, it was imperative that we got in front of this curve to assure that our members had comprehensive guidance and safety considerations to be ready to work, when practical, with the safety of all personnel being the paramount concern,” continued Miller.

The guidelines are intended to assist the commercial production industry and its stakeholders as in-person productions and postproduction work begins to ramp up as shelter in place restrictions are lifted at federal, state and local levels. To create and update the guidelines, AICP staff collaborated with a working group of leaders in the industry and heard from many outside sources eager to contribute their thinking and expertise.

Miller said that these guidelines will evolve as production resumes, and feedback from real-world experiences is considered and collected. “Many of the recommendations in these guidelines and considerations represent a new approach to working. Many are here to stay, while some may be temporary or transitional,” said Miller. “Making sure we communicate with all involved in the process is key to successfully adapting to the new normal, and keeping commercials and advertising content a safe, efficient, and viable industry. The basic premise of working with the safety of individuals in mind is a constant and should be informing all decisions from every sector involved in production and postproduction.”

Amy Vincent and Erik Messerschmidt, co-chairs of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Future Practices Committee, related that restarting production is a dynamic situation with evolving science, which warrants that the industry proceed with caution and patience. Noting that each individual production poses its own unique challenges, Vincent and Messerschmidt advised ASC members with questions to direct them to the Local 600 union leadership and their corresponding guidance related to the industry wide white paper and any accompanying craft specific documents. 

In a joint statement responding to a SHOOT survey on gearing up again for production and post during the pandemic, Vincent and Messerschmidt shared, “Cinematographers are intimately familiar with resource management. As the industry solidifies its guidelines, we’re working hard to explore technological solutions to some of the challenges this situation presents. There is no question that filmmaking, at least in the short term, will inevitably change both logistically, and in some cases, creatively. By nature, film sets are extremely active places; many objectives must be achieved in concert for a shot to be set up. Social distancing obviously presents daunting challenges to this. Much of our committee work has revolved around communication techniques to overcome some of these issues.”

Georg Bissen, the Association of Music Producers’ (AMP) national board president, noted that AMP has not issued any formal guidelines to its members regarding reopening their businesses as of yet. “We continue to follow local and state guidelines in terms of when it may be safe to reopen. And we also look towards our sister organization, the AICP, for guidance, particularly via their workplace recommendations posted on the AICP site. AMP members who are also AICP members have been taking part in their weekly Town Halls to stay on top of the latest information, particularly as it relates to stimulus programs and other forms of government assistance for small businesses.”

Relative to advice or counsel he would offer to the music community at large, Bissen said, “The industry has already trended towards more compartmentalized and individual music production. A lot of the big recording sessions with multiple musicians have, for the most part, become a thing of the past. However, woodwind and brass players should probably be recorded individually for sure, as sharing enclosed spaces while exhaling with force has been found to be a situation in which the virus can spread very easily. I would envision member companies to reopen their studios very cautiously and try to continue doing as much work remotely as possible until the pandemic has truly passed. Location and office space size should also be of consideration. For example, for our West Coast members with larger spaces where it’s more likely employees will arrive by car, I would find that less risky as compared to our New York members, whose employees may be arriving by subway and are crammed into smaller offices. Keeping recommended distances, having proper ventilation in offices, and doing as many sessions online as possible would be a start. Having hand sanitizer in every room might help too, as well as having extra cleaning crews disinfect the office nightly. But in the end, it is up to each individual company to decide when is the right time to reopen and weigh the different risks.”

Defining what’s no longer normal
As for Thomas Wolfe’s aforementioned adage, aspects of production figure to change as the pandemic lockdown eases. Providing a take on the new emerging reality during a session of MW Presents, McCann Worldgroup’s global client content series, was Sergio Lopez-Ferrero, chief production officer, McCann EMEA, and managing director of McCann’s Craft EMEA.

Lopez-Ferrero foresees distanced experiences becoming the new normal. And with sporting events and other attractions likely taking place initially with no audiences, he envisions new types of placements and media formats allowing brands to fill those empty venues. Postproduction techniques may generate fake crowds or brands may treat the void as advertising space. Audiences, he continued, will get used to being situated in the best seat in the house. Lopez-Ferrero further conjectured that “collective VR will be a thing.”

Lopez-Ferrero noted that McCann surveyed more than 100 clients and found 71 percent viewed quality as the prime factor/concern behind their selection of production talent, followed by 65 percent citing production limitations and local guidelines as impacting their decision while 52 percent cited cost. The big change as compared to years past was that only 12 percent cared about proximity or specific locations as a determining factor. Lopez-Ferrero said that location, which used to be desirable for example in terms of keeping postproduction close to home, became “borderline negligible.” He thus feels that “projects with talent from different locations collaborating remotely will become the new norm.”

He also sees content makers becoming nano-influencers, further developing their social channels and growing highly engaged followings. And while big production companies will focus on talent development and diversification, there will be growing new hybrid indie talent not affiliated with production houses.

Relative to tenor and tone of content, Lopez-Ferrero anticipates an increase in fiction-led global campaigns providing an element of escapism in difficult times instead of a constant reminder. He additionally expects a spike in celebrity endorsement fare and that product demos will be back but in a new format, making it real and achievable. On the latter score, he cited as an example a L’Oreal spokesperson Eva Longoria-starring video in which she colors her hair at home. To capture this while the world was isolating and traditional production options significantly limited, McCann NY and Paris gave Longoria two iPhones to direct the TV spot herself. A detailed pre-production book was fashioned to facilitate the process. The spot was shot in her home in Los Angeles with McCann Paris providing her with direction via Microsoft Teams. Longoria did her own hair and makeup and applied the actual L’Oréal Excellence Hair Color product to herself.

Julien Calot, executive creative director at McCann Paris, explained “it was important for us at McCann to adapt to global confinement, and to quickly find and implement new communication approaches. We asked ourselves, “How do we make a homemade film. Low key. 100% real.’ L’Oréal Paris has always been by the side of all women, and that is what we wanted to show through this film.”

Lopez-Ferrero observed that the COVID-19 crisis “has brought a truth to light: campaigns are only as powerful as the production team bringing them to life. Production at scale, organized, with people, process and tools opens the possibilities. He advises clients to: Be ready for a big change in formats and media; have a production strategy for your brand; and make sure it’s a production strategy led by creative, powered by tech. He additionally offered three tips:

  • Make the rules part of the solution. Production is adaptive. Make no assumptions about what is or is not possible. We will make it happen.
  • Learn to play in uncertainty. Collaboration is the key to embracing uncertainty. Bring creative, strategy, channel expertise, and production together to engineer new solutions in a rapidly changing environment.
  • And upgrade your tech. Make you life easier with production technology. A global, cloud-based production tech solution will change your life, and your inbox. It will make global reach possible and allow for brand centralization and consistency.

“The new new”
Brett Henenberg, SVP, global head of production at UM Studios (the content creation arm of marketing and media agency UM Worldwide), is no stranger to breakthrough work. He served as a producer on 5B, named after the San Francisco General ward which opened in 1983 as the first full-fledged hospital unit dedicated to treating people with AIDS. Produced for UM Worldwide’s client Johnson & Johnson, the documentary showed the positive power of nursing, continuing a theme which the brand has championed over the years. Directed by Paul Haggis and Dan Krauss via Saville Productions, 5B debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival as part of its Special Screenings lineup in May only a month later to win the Entertainment Lions Grand Prix, among other honors, at the Festival of Creativity.

Henenberg observed that the virus pandemic hasn’t altered his long-term thinking. He remains optimistic that UM’s producers will continue to look for and uncover the best solutions for its clients. While there will be changes in the industry, he firmly believes UM will come back stronger. The approach, he continued, will be to “think philosophically about the long term and practically about the short term.” The short term, he conjectured will for example likely see an uptick in post-produced work. But in the big picture philosophically, in line with the momentum generated by 5B, UM’s priority is coming up with “the best ways to connect clients with audiences in moments that matter to them.” Thus Henenberg finds himself less interested in the new normal and more driven by finding what’s new to “build on what we currently have.” He stressed that the major push is not for a return to normal but finding “the new new,” namely new ways for clients to get their messages in front of audiences.

While not at liberty to discuss in detail what’s new on UM’s horizon, Henenberg noted that the shop is having conversations with a director which involves her interviewing kids and real parents, among others. In today’s production reality, UM is exploring how to best realize that project, exploring a remote connection linking the filmmaker and her subjects.

Henenberg said that UM continually is looking for new and meaningful ways to partner with creators. Prior to the virus crisis, for example, UM managed to wrap shooting of another piece of branded content---this time for a client that he couldn’t identify publicly at press time. Postproduction is ahead of schedule.

As earlier reported in SHOOT, the film is based on a “Dear Santa” concept focusing on children who write letters to Santa Claus and the people who adopt their wishes and make them come true. The letters are traced back to their origin as audiences get to know the family stories and the motivation behind children’s wishes, making for what Henenberg believes will be heartfelt viewing. 

Henenberg said that essential to the project, as it was to the success of 5B, is the selection of the filmmaker. UM Studios gravitated to Dana Nachman whose 2018 feature documentary Pick of the Litter (which she and Don Hardy directed) was sold within 48 hours of its premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival and soon after was released theatrically by IFC Films. Now streaming on Hulu, the film follows a litter of puppies from the moment they’re born, taking us on their journey to becoming guide dogs for the blind. The Walt Disney Company later sought out Nachman to remake Pick of the Litter as a limited original series for Disney+ which debuted earlier this year. She served as a showrunner on the series and directed three of its episodes.

Nachman’s filmography also includes the 2015 release Batkid Begins (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema) which centers on five-year-old Miles Scott who’s recovering from leukemia. Scott’s dream is to become Batkid and save Gotham City. His wish comes true as 25,000 people in San Francisco share the experience in a moving display of public emotion. 

Connecting with Nachman is in line, said Henenberg, with the UM Studios’ model which is centered on finding the right storyteller, an authentic voice. This quest will always be part of the UM process, pandemic or not.

Still, Henenberg thinks certain practical considerations and practices born out of the pandemic will stick around, such as working from home whenever possible, temperature checks of crew members, increased hand washing and the recommendations delineated in the AICP Guidelines for physical production. He also sees remote video villages from shoots taking hold, noting that “there are not too many clients who are going to want to fly themselves to a lot of productions coming up.” So maybe the so-called video village will become a strong option of choice, facilitating two-way AV communication between locations with a live camera feed. This would enable client or agency to have access to set without having to be physically present. Virtually being on location, participants could discuss shots, keep track of schedules, stay up to date with the latest changes, all in real time from the comfort of home or office. 

Valuable lessons
While production over the past few months has been challenging to say the least, requiring members of the ad/filmmaking community to continually adjust and adapt, Kate Morrison, director of production, 72andSunny, observed that working through the pandemic has had a silver lining which could prove invaluable as we move ahead.

She noted that trust among all parties has become even more key to getting a project off the ground and bringing it to fruition, buoyed by the reality that we’re all in this together. Agencies and production companies are getting involved at a much earlier stage, having candid conversations about what’s feasible. People are becoming better partners to make up in part for not being able to see each other face to face. There also seems to be a heightened empathy with people relating to each other on a different level, stemming in part from sharing the experience of being under a pressure that they hadn’t experienced prior to the virus crisis. Still, said Morrison, they continue to strive to realize high quality work. “One of the key things I believe is that the creative emphasis should not be lowered. We are storytellers.” That commitment to story remains steadfast, even if the process of getting there has become more difficult.

Morrison added that recent production endeavors have carried worthwhile lessons as you can see first hand what works remotely, and sometimes your perceptions can change. For example, Morrison earlier believed that there was no substitute for people being in the same office, having face-to-face creative conversations from which would spring concepts and approaches that might not have materialized otherwise. But she now marvels at the high level of creativity that can come from “people scattered all over the world” and that a “creative community” can exist without everyone always having to be in the same office.

At the same time, she finds herself missing being in an edit room, collaborating in person and helping to solve problems. “You miss some of the camaraderie of it,” Morrison related.

Morrison hopes that a higher level of trust, empathy and open communication earlier will live on just as strong as the industry eventually moves past the pandemic toward some semblance of what had been normal. She also sees the opportunity to find the best of both worlds, on one hand assessing and taking to heart the power of the in-person collaborative experience--and then doing the same relative to the power of the technology-enabled experiences that have become more prevalent as of late. Moving ahead with the best of both--and lessons learned from those experiences--can only help to build on the power of storytelling.

Social injustice
But how can the power of storytelling and brands standing for something be brought to bear on social injustice? That question has come to the fore as the world mourns African-American George Floyd, age 46, who died brutally while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Video of the act enraged and saddened people worldwide, triggering protests throughout the U.S. and abroad. 

Issuing perhaps the strongest response from a brand was ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s which posted a statement that in part read, “The murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is the fruit borne of toxic seeds planted on the shores of our country in Jamestown in 1619, when the first enslaved men and women arrived on this continent. Floyd is the latest in a long list of names that stretches back to that time and that shore. Some of those names we know—Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Emmett Till, Martin Luther King, Jr.—most we don’t.”

The brand then proposed four steps to address the issue:

“First, we call upon President Trump, elected officials, and political parties to commit our nation to a formal process of healing and reconciliation. Instead of calling for the use of aggressive tactics on protesters, the President must take the first step by disavowing white supremacists and nationalist groups that overtly support him, and by not using his Twitter feed to promote and normalize their ideas and agendas. The world is watching America’s response.

“Second, we call upon the Congress to pass H.R. 40, legislation that would create a commission to study the effects of slavery and discrimination from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. We cannot move forward together as a nation until we begin to grapple with the sins of our past. Slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation were systems of legalized and monetized white supremacy for which generations of Black and Brown people paid an immeasurable price. That cost must be acknowledged and the privilege that accrued to some at the expense of others must be reckoned with and redressed.

“Third, we support Floyd’s family’s call to create a national task force that would draft bipartisan legislation aimed at ending racial violence and increasing police accountability. We can’t continue to fund a criminal justice system that perpetuates mass incarceration while at the same time threatens the lives of a whole segment of the population.

“And finally, we call on the Department of Justice to reinvigorate its Civil Rights Division as a staunch defender of the rights of Black and Brown people. The DOJ must also reinstate policies rolled back under the Trump Administration, such as consent decrees to curb police abuses.”

Ben & Jerry’s encourages white America to “collectively acknowledge its privilege” and “use this moment to accelerate our nation’s long journey towards justice and a more perfect union.”

As for entertainment companies, ViacomCBS networks ran a poignant eight-minute, 46-second video featuring the sounds of a person breathing accompanied by the statement, “I can’t breathe.” A video of Floyd’s demise includes his uttering those same three words in a plea to Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. However, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck; according to a criminal complaint the officer applied pressure to Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds

“We dedicate this time to the victims of police brutality and the powerful movement fighting for justice,” read a tweet from VH1, MTV and other ViacomCBS channels. 

Meanwhile ViacomCBS children’s network Nickelodeon went off the air for eight minutes and 46 seconds “in support of justice, equality and human rights.” Nickelodeon also shared a Declaration of Kids’ Rights which read, “You have the right to be seen, heard and respected as a citizen of the world. You have the right to a world that is peaceful. You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice and hatred. You have the right to an education that prepares you to run the world. You have the right to your opinions and feelings, even if others don’t agree with them.”

Netflix’s Twitter account took on a serious tone in late May, imparting this message: “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.” 

AT&T-owned Warner Media, which includes such brands as HBO, TNT and TBS, changed their handles to #BlackLivesMatter and all posted the same James Baldwin quote: “Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.”

Among the first advertisers to respond after the passing of George Floyd was Nike as its agency--Wieden+Kennedy in Portland, Ore.--created a :60 TV spot which urges the antithesis of the brand’s iconic “Just Do It” slogan. The 180-degree slogan turn was embraced to address racism. Titled “For Once, Don’t Do It,” the spot encourages people to stop being silent, to stop making excuses and to instead be part of progressive change.

As protests sprung up around the country in response to the brutal death of Floyd, Nike’s stark, sparse TV spot broke on May 30. It consisted of just various lines of copy against a black background, followed by the Nike swoosh logo.

The opening line reads, “For once, Don’t Do It.”  Subsequent lines of copy are: “Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America./Don’t turn your back on racism./Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us./Don’t make any more excuses./Don’t think this doesn’t affect you/Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be part of the change./Let’s all be part of the change.”

The simple eloquence of the text struck a responsive audience chord. While advocating “Don’t Do It” on the surface seems foreign to Nike, not so is taking a stand on race--a prime case in point being last year’s lauded “Dream Crazy” spot, also from W+K, featuring Colin Kaepernick who was both praised and criticized for his kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games as a peaceful protest against police brutality and for racial equality. “Dream Crazy” went on to win the 2019 primetime commercial Emmy Award, among other honors.

Like “For Once, Don’t Do It,” a McDonald’s spot--this one from Wieden+Kennedy’s NY office--also deployed text to promote racial justice, sharing the names of seven African Americans who died in police custody or due to race. The seven are: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

The McDonald’s message read in part, “He was one of us. She was one of us. They were all one of us. We see them in our customers. In our crew members. We see them in our franchisees. And this is why the entire McDonald’s family grieves. It’s why we stand for them and any other victims of systematic oppression and violence.”

The last line affirmed, “We do not tolerate inequality injustice or racism. Black lives matter.” 

Increasingly it’s become evident that standing for something, doing good, being proactively involved represent much needed currency for brands if they are to meaningfully connect with people. What does your brand stand for? Does it stand for anything? Numerous studies, including a Havas poll, have found that the lion’s share of consumers are drawn to brands that help drive positive social change. They expect such advocacy from the brands they trust.

Click here to see SHOOT’s April 10th Survey on how some production, post and music houses, as well as ad agencies, are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

In a just concluded survey, SHOOT reached out to several of the industry organizations covered in this article, posing four questions: 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your membership and what industry/industries your Organization serves.
  2. Please provide a brief description of the mission of your Organization.
  3. What guidance are you providing your members about the restarting of production and/or postproduction? What precautions/best practices do you recommend? (You are welcome to provide a direct link to a page on your site that addresses this question with regard to set guidelines/policies, etc.)
  4. Prior to the pandemic, industry execs and artisans were in the business of balancing art and commerce--as well as safety. But now safety, health and welfare concerns take on a whole new dimension due to the virus crisis. What advice/counsel and/or vision do you have to offer to the overall entertainment and/or advertising industries on the future of production and/or postproduction?

Here’s the feedback we received:

Name Title Company
Georg Bissen National Board President Association of Music Producers (AMP) |
Nelson Coates President Art Directors Guild (ADG) |
Mike Fantasia President Location Managers Guild International (LMGI) |
Mark A. Lanza President Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) |
Matt Miller President and CEO The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) |
Amy Vincent and Erik Messerschmidt Co-Chairs of ASC Future Practices Committee American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) |

Client Nike Agency Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, Ore.


Client L’Oreal Paris Agency McCann Paris & NY Charlotte Franceries, global business leader; Julien Calot, executive creative director; Gina Winsky, copywriter; Emmanuelle Miquel, art director. Special thanks to Rob Brown, executive creative director, McCann London. Thibault Blacque-Belair, producer; Julien Gence, Sandrine Goncalves, Marie Prouve, post producers. Production QUAD Audio Post Capitaine Plouf Production Eva Longoria, director.


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