Hybrid remote working in the film industry
“Now that companies have built the framework – and experienced the cost and time savings associated with it – there’s no real reason to turn back.” – Mark Lobosco, VP of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn (1*)
The pandemic's impact on Freelancers
The abrupt closure of offices and workspaces last March causing confusion, stress, and financial loss to many industries did not spare the film industry. At the peak of the pandemic, it was estimated that close to 120,000 workers in Hollywood alone were out of a job.(2*) It can be safe to assume that most of the workers were freelancers such as Camera operators, Grips, PAs, etc whose work could only be done on a film set. But thanks to existing technology, there were still a number of people who were able to complete their work remotely thus giving studios the ability to complete their pre and post-production work.
2020 has definitely been an exhausting year but if I were to name one silver lining in this crisis, is that this pandemic has really opened up the opportunity for remote working for the film industry. It's no secret that working in the film industry requires long hours and lots of time away from home and family. But when someone is able to work remotely, say for a day or two (like how some of the tech companies allow their workers that liberty) they can better balance their work and personal lives.
In a 2021 survey conducted by Upwork, it estimates that 1 in 4 Americans, over 26% of the American workforce will be working remotely through 2021.(3*) They also estimate that 22% of the workforce (36.2 Million Americans) will work remotely by 2025.
Remote working opportunity
Below are the 5 remote working jobs that existed prior to the pandemic.
1. Script Writer
2. Video Producer
3. Animator and VFX Artist
5. Voice Over Artist
Of course post-pandemic the list has grown. Now you needn’t actually be in, or even near, Hollywood in order to work. Major production companies now have a system to allow many task to be completed by workers from the comfort of their own homes.
The technology is here
Now with studios reopening, new patterns of working are being established. (5*) As mentioned in my previous blog, filmmaking is a collaborative art form. (6*) Creativity can be exported remotely, but the process of filming itself has to be handled physically on location.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Filmmakers have always tried to be ahead of the curve with technology but the evolution of film production technology has definitely kicked up a few notches in this age of COVID-19.(7*). One example is 3D VR headsets (8*), in which a location manager could walk around the location while sending a live feed to the director or cinematographer who could be based elsewhere. You can spend a day scouting multiple locations instead of sitting in a van or a plane for much of that time.
Another example is the QTake(9*), a digital video assists software, which many production houses are being very responsive to adopt. This software allows a director to be sitting from her home in Los Angeles, and the crew being in New York City. This will allow the director to collaborate on multiple projects remotely without having to be physically on set. (albeit this will require a huge mindset shift on what it means to be a director) Also, imagine how much carbon footprint we can eliminate without the need for moving crew and equipment around the world.
Embracing the hybrid remote model
Company management may shift their view toward remote workers as time progresses. The necessity of working from home during the pandemic could start being considered a choice—rather than something that has to be done this way. Bosses may then think that it's an inconvenience to have a segment of their workforce not being in the office and within eyesight. Wired reported that the hybrid model could create two fundamentally different employee experiences(10*).
Thus it would be beneficial for the production if there is an extra close bond amongst the workers, which is much easier if they are physically in the same place. It may cause those at home to be left out and not feel the connection to the project. The last thing, those workers who are working remotely to be viewed by the management as not being dedicated enough as to those who are in the office day in and day out. However, it is crucial for the production to ensure that their hybrid-remote model is effective for those workers who are in the office and not. We can't put the genie back in the bottle.