As the UK entered its first lockdown, we waited with bated breath, knowing that life as we knew it had slapped on its brakes and come to a grinding halt. As hospitality and retail closed their doors, content production also slowed, and every video production company London had to offer struggled to work out its next move.
For video production, the early days of the pandemic were bleak. Widescale closures bought production to an abrupt end for most sectors, and the impacts on the film industry, in general, were seismic. Cinemas closed, film festivals were cancelled or moved online, most production spaces were closed, and all workers (both in front of and behind the camera) were quarantined. With strict travel and lockdown restrictions in place, filming proved impossible. So much so that even Hollywood ceased to function for a while.
The large-scale impacts were undeniable. On the big screen, some of the biggest up and coming movies like Avatar 2 and No Time to Die shifted dates, and cinemas were decimated by Coronavirus closures. The small screen took a big hit, too, with some of Netflix’s biggest shows like You and The Witcher postponed. Producers bashed heads trying to make it happen; any attempt to find a creative solution was explored. Keeping production alive became one of the biggest challenges the industry has ever faced.
Government and industry guidance presented hurdle after hurdle, but it wasn’t enough to stop content production. Although many areas struggled (video production included), the industry proved it has the power to adapt and overcome and with determination and ingenuity, recovery is in full swing. Producers sought new ways to work, including live streaming, editing zoom and cell phone video, using motion graphics, stock footage, explainer videos and more.
At the height of Covid, producers looked into new production methods like ‘creative distancing’, which proved effective; with virtual production, production teams don’t have to share the same physical space. By using computer game technology like Unite and Unreal Engine, films could be made in isolated game environments, but teams could continue to collaborate.
Like those used in The Lion King remake, virtual sets were also favoured as a solution to filming; directors and performers can see the animated imagery on screens around them, and actors can perform live in a digital environment. We’ve also seen the likes of remote events really take off in the past year or two for workers on a smaller scale. Creativity has truly reigned supreme in the battle to reinvigorate the industry.
However, with vaccinations being rolled out in full force and Covid deaths and case numbers falling, life is beginning to look closer to normal as it has done in a long time. In the face of it all, something unexpected has happened too: Covid actually seems to have grown the presence of TV and film studios in the UK.
In November 2020, Barking and Dagenham council struck up a £300m deal to build a studio in East London. The Liverpool City Council submitted a planning application to create pop-up TV and film stages. Jason Hariton, chief real estate officer at US film studio operator MBS group, has said “film, and TV production, in particular, has been on an absolute boom” and, even without the pandemic in the picture, “the industry has been on an explosive upward path”.
Despite widespread suspensions in production, figures from BFI reveal inward investment spend in 2020 from major international productions reached £2.3 billion. Although every video company London established felt the pinch, it seems they’re also set for a boom too – Film London helped convert a disused London factory into a filming space. Sky intend to create 2,000 new jobs with a new studio complex in London.
Times have been harsh. Although many facets of the industry are still trying to recover, the evidence suggests that film and video production are ready to bounce back. With investment, talent, patience and creativity, the industry can harness its ingenuity and popularity and recover from its initial struggle at the start of the pandemic, emerging more robust than ever before.