Editor’s Note: In 2020, the world changed right before our very eyes. Ad agencies, production companies and post houses were forced to adapt and begin a “new normal” working, living, exercising and entertaining out of home. Now that we have just entered 2021, we asked around our industry friends to reflect back on the year and how it changed them.
Over the past eight years, Chicago video content agency Bottle Rocket Media fuels traditional expertise with DIY spirit. Dan Fisher and Brett Singer met while working at the Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, the company has become one of the industry’s most unique production and post operations since launching in 2011.
Bottle Rocket has completed hundreds of commercials for dozens of brands, built a growing archive of docu-style video content, and finished a plethora of motion graphic projects.
We sat down with Dan and asked how 2020 affected him, both personally and professionally.
How did you adapt to working remotely? Do you prefer it, or can’t wait to get back into the office?
Our team was super nimble last March. We each grabbed a computer or monitor or handful of drives and we were off to the races. Because we already utilize several cloud based solutions we were fully functional within days.
Communicating amongst the teams (production, editorial, motion design), prepping for projects, reaching out to clients, old and new, was pretty seamless. The learning curve really revolved around remote creative collaboration. And not the technical hurdles we jumped over along the way, such as virtual video village or smaller crews.
Filming during the pandemic really has confirmed the highly collaborative nature of our industry.
On location, directing with a mask is challenging. We cannot whisper in our DP’s ear, silently communicate with our crew during a take, or get up close and personal with talent to direct them. The result is everything takes longer.
Directing remotely is no less challenging, especially when it comes to working with talent. Communication via video chat creates an obvious barrier that eliminates the human element that collaboration and creative direction needs. It’s about energy.
All this to say, We do not mind working from home when it comes to the more technical and logistical aspects of a project, but when it comes to creative work there is no substitute to being in the same room, looking one another in the eye and really working through the concepts.
What was the most challenging project you worked on this year?
We have been working on a series of documentary shorts for a pharmaceutical company. These were produced and directed remotely with local crews around the country. These have been challenging to capture because the subjects have to take a huge leap of faith working remotely with the production company, knowing we will not be there on shoot day and letting a crew in their house.
Add to this, some of the crews we have been working with are new to the Bottle Rocket Media team as well.
All things considered, was 2020 a good year or a bad year for your business?
2020 ended as a good year for Bottle Rocket Media. The start of the pandemic stung a bit, as it did for everyone, but we adapted. The last 6 months might have been our busiest ever. All done remote.
Do you think 2020 changed us permanently?
Yes it will. Remote production won’t go away anytime soon. And it shouldn’t. It has a ton of benefits to the client and should be an option for all productions moving forward. Yes, it’s true that many clients like to be on set, but until the pandemic is really under control it will not always be an option.
And yeah, it’s harder for us, slowing things down and costing more, but after doing it this way regularly for 8 months, we are getting better at it and keeping our clients happy. That’s all that matters.
What goals have you set for 2021?
Ultimately we want to get back to seeing people in person, for prep and production, while we continue to grow our client list. We entered 2020 in a great place. 2019 was our biggest year ever and we want to get back on track. We were lucky to bring on a dozen new clients in 2020. We want to double that number in 2021.
Did your team gain or lose weight in 2020?
It Depends who you ask 🙂
Barbara L. Roche is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Reel Chicago and Reel 360. She can be reached at Barb@reelchicago.com