Survey, Part 1. The Pandemic

1) Tell us about the production of a project during the pandemic. What was the project? Identify the production company/director, VFX studio, nature/genre of the job, other primary production/post companies involved and location of the shoot. If the project is in the ad arena, please identify the client and agency.

2) Did the project reflect your talent and resources being viewed and used differently by clients in light of the pandemic (i.e., VFX and/or animation being turned to more prominently and in new ways with restrictions on live action; changes in what is being asked of a director, etc.)?

3) During Pre-Production: How has the pandemic impacted developing creative and collaborating within your own team and other contributors (including clients and agencies if this is an ad project)? How was the concept and/or your approach to the job developed to ensure it would be feasible to accomplish in terms of production?

4) During production and post: In addition to new precautions taken, can you tell us how the director and crew worked together during production and also what changed during the post process?

5) What were the lessons learned/biggest takeaways from this experience and/or what would you do differently for the next project? Any advice for others?

Survey, Part 2. New Talent

1) What advice do you have for new directors?

2) What advice can you offer to up-and-coming producers?

3) Learning is an ongoing process even for the most seasoned producer. Would you share a recent lesson learned on the job; it can relate to people, workflow/technology, etc.

4) Is your company currently looking for new talent and/or do you have an official mentoring or diversity program?

5) Perhaps as a source of inspiration to new talent, what recent project are you particularly proud of and why? You can include a direct link to it.

Ali Brown
President/Executive Producer
Survey, Part 1. The Pandemic

1) Some of my favorite work in the company’s history has been done during the pandemic. I think our early piece for Uber done with Wieden&Kennedy Portland remains the one that’s most special. It lives as a PRETTYBIRD family time capsule of the world at the moment when everything was so tenuous. Masterfully edited by Kyle Brown at Exile, it was an undertaking like nothing we’d done before as a company and incredibly touching to see our directors who always seek refuge behind the screen, sharing their personal lives so intimately.

2) Because this was the very start of the pandemic, no one could shoot. So we asked each of our directors and our creative collaborators, everyone we considered part of the PRETTYBIRD family, to show us what their quarantine life was like. That was it – we asked them on a Sunday and they had to send by Tuesday to be locked edit by Thursday. We asked 100 filmmakers, and 77 sent us videos. The responses made us laugh, cry, feel scared, feel hopeful. It was this incredible tapestry of our PRETTYBIRD family in this most uncertain moment of life, responding to a call and sharing their most private moments. Our entire staff jumped in to pull this off – releases, getting footage, putting out the ask. It was truly a production representing the entirety of our company.

3) One of the great aspects of the pandemic to me is the resulting collaboration. Agencies and clients are bringing production into the process earlier to ensure that what they want to achieve is doable for the money, for the time, and most importantly safely. We have had so many projects brought to us prior to being presented to client to see if the concepts could be safely executed, or what tweaks needed to be made to make them happen. We love that communication and the partnership that results. It’s critical in the pandemic that you are holding hands with each other and the early collaboration is essential for that. For a recent Facebook Voter Information spot we did with Daniels and Droga5, we were speaking through creative as a team throughout the entire process with the agency which made everyone invested to bring it to life.

4) In terms of production, listen, it’s weird to go on set. We have very strict protocols we follow. It’s tough when we are all used to feeding off the kinetic energy of set life to have to be 6 feet apart, to speak through masks, to eat separately at lunch. There is a draw to this life that inherently attracts people who want to be a part of a team. But seeing how much care everyone has for each other – the concern in making sure every person on set is safe. It leads to more teamwork in that sense, more listening, more communication, more care. Facebook is a perfect example of finding one location that we could shoot everything at. It was ideal for increasing safety as there were no company moves, we could create consistent and safely mapped out zones. So it can work if you put forethought into it and remember that safety has to lead every choice. For post, what was amazing is we had a team of editors at Parallax all working in parallel with the directors who were editing as well. It’s almost a real time process now.

5) Every job we do makes us better. There are always lessons. I think each job is so unique the lessons uniquely apply to the creative goals of each job. So my biggest piece of advice is first figure out what’s desired creatively. Look at the goal and figure out for each component of the script what the challenge is. Can you limit locations, number of talent, is there a creative way to approach those. Can the choice of equipment help you maintain a safe distance from talent and simultaneously bring something interesting to the visual style. Almost everything can be solved, but start with the creative and build out your plan from there.

Survey, Part 2. Emerging filmmaking talent

1) Figure out what you do better and different than anyone else and make that your signature. Don’t try to imitate what others already are successfully doing or when you bid against that person, you’ll lose the job as they can show their history of doing that. If you instead lean into what makes your worldview unique, you’ll distinguish yourself from the group. You may not get every job, but you’ll establish that you have a perspective and it’s better to be the one speaking than the echo.

2) Advice for up and coming producers is call me! Also remember you are an ambassador. You have this incredibly difficult job of needing to balance client, agency, production company, and director needs. The best producers are the ones that can do that fairly and elegantly, while making everyone feel heard and supported. Don’t be the martyr, don’t be the false alarm – be the Secretary-General of the UN.

4) We are always looking for new talent. We love voices that aren’t being heard that deserve to be. Our company is built on that as our foundation. We have multiple programs that we have designed to ensure that there is access given to this industry to those who haven’t historically had it. We created a non-profit called Pipelines as well as designed the Double the Line initiative – both of which are in their initial launch stages.

5) is the piece mentioned above. I’m proud of this piece because it is a message we need to hear, done in a way that creatively makes you listen, by an incredible filmmaking duo Daniels who we’ve been with since the beginning of their careers. I love that I see their creative signature so clearly in this piece for a message that is so critical for our country. Produced in the pandemic and you’d never know with the scale and craft achieved ...

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