1) Our team has been incredibly nimble in transitioning to remote work. I see the word “surprising” bandied about a lot in this context but I’m not at all surprised—our team is awesome and hit the ground running from Day One. Lucky for all of us, the technology we needed for this moment was already here. And now we’re making the most of it. In terms of content, that required a harder pivot. We were days away from flying off to five different shoots, and not only was that not possible, the work we were about to make was suddenly, shall we say, less relevant. But this gave us an opportunity to lean into the moment, think in entirely new ways about what people need most right now, get really creative, and collaborate with both new and trusted partners to make some really cool work.
2) As a woman-owned business, it’s in our DNA to prioritize diversity and inclusion, both in front of and behind the camera. I’m proud of our diverse team at Quigley-Simpson and the efforts we’ve always made to push for more representation in our productions, as well. That said, the moment we’re now living in calls for heightening our awareness of, and sensitivity to, every hiring decision, every casting spec, every characterization—every everything, really. And I am here for it!
4) The work going on that strikes me as most profound right now is not the content any of us are making but rather the actions being taken within our industry. For instance, the creation of 600 & Rising—and the powerful agency response to its first initiative, requesting the publication of diversity stats and a commitment to real action.
5) We work on a number of travel-related brands, so we had to learn quickly how to communicate about travel in a way that wasn’t tone deaf or irrelevant. Tone but also word choice was critical, and we explored myriad ways to express what people were feeling at different stages of the pandemic. Early on, in place of the knee-jerk “We’re in this together” statements that a lot of brands put out, we found that what people most responded to was a basic acknowledgment of their discomfort around travel. And unsurprisingly, they also wanted to hear about the concrete actions brands were taking to ease things for them or provide value in their new circumstances. As time went on, one surprise was learning that joyfulness was still welcome, and even desired. Optimism and hope are more important than ever, and we brought that to bear in several initiatives designed to bring the joy of travel home—to keep it fresh in people’s minds—and to thereby increase relevance for a product rendered a bit less relevant overnight.
6) This isn’t a prediction but more of an appeal for change: I’d like to see our casting process completely upended in one regard. I’d like casting directors to call in people of color for every role, automatically. Conversely, can those of us issuing casting specs add “all ethnicities please” to every spec we send out? While we (and I hope many other agencies) already do so, the longstanding truth of our industry is that unless specified otherwise, Caucasians will be the only people you see. Let’s change that.
7) One example: For the creation of a celebrity-driven campaign—a big package of 7 spots—our team was led by women, including women of color. Our co-president, ECD, agency producer, line producer, director, DP, key grip—all women. It was a powerful experience and one everyone in this business should reenact. I don’t say “should work hard to reenact” because it’s not hard to make this happen. It just takes will. I’m married to a Director/D.P. so I get the importance of “your crew” and decades-long relationships. Change has to start with an openness to trying something new. I think most of us can agree that a lot of established systems are not serving most of us. And it’s incumbent upon those of us who can make these calls to make them. Like, now. Not “next time.”
In terms of mentoring new talent in the community (and I take this question to mean talent who wouldn’t otherwise find a foot through our doors) I think it starts early. We have to reach kids who aren’t even aware of the things we do as a job option. We work with the Spark Mentorship Program, which pairs middle-schoolers with our employees. They shadow us, meet our colleagues and hear about our jobs. And we nurture and support their creativity through a months-long project. For me, this issue is all about breaking down the gate, and turning the gatekeepers into the gate-openers.