Filmmakers around the world have been hit hard by coronavirus closures - for many of us, business has come to an abrupt stop for months now. And while the film industry is slowly re-opening, the protocals for safe practices can be difficult to digest (here’s a summary from Fstoppers).
For freelance documentary and news work, independent shooters and small crew video production agencies are starting to test the waters, although there are still many prerequisites to ensure the safety of staff and subjects. Storyhunter has a good checklist for factual shooters - although it’s primarily made for Storyhunter freelancers, it’s a good idea to adopt these guidelines for any production right now.
But if you’re not ready to dive into full-fledged productions, there are a few ways to keep busy with video work right now. The following list is a summary of gigs that are currently in demand, from corporate to non-profit to educational clients and beyond.
And while these gigs may not be in your standard wheelhouse of video work, the reality is this is what’s out there right now during COVID-19. So if you want to stay busy, send a note to your clients and see if they’re interested in one of these types of videos. You may find that they’re actually very interested, but maybe they weren’t aware you were available and ready to take on new projects.
The Talking Head Interview
By now, everyone is craving authentic connection. Business owners, corporate leaders, department managers, and anyone who is accustomed to speaking face-to-face with colleagues and customers are accurately aware that they need videos to communicate their messages right now.
And if the message is important, a Zoom meeting or cell phone recording simply won’t cut it. Right now there is an immense need for professionally produced “talking head” videos for just about any business, to deliver an impactful message face-to-face. And it’s particularly the talking head video that is in-demand because it goes straight to the point, appears to be budget-conscious without overspending on unnecessary production, and most importantly, clearly reflects safe, social distant practices to the audience.
That’s the key takeaway here - to pass scrutiny by the audience, the talking head video must not appear to violate social distancing for the sake of production. That means shooting either with a plain backdrop, or in an environment where there aren’t people in the background. Your talking head subject needs to comply with local social distancing requirements, so if a mask is required to be worn inside a business, then they should not be filmed inside that location without a mask.
During the production of the interview, all efforts to sanitize gear and keep a safe distance from the subject should be made. That means avoid getting close to the subject, shoot with a long lens, use a boom mic or have the subject attach a sanitized lav mic on their own, and minimize the amount of people involved in the production. If a client wants to be present, look for ways to give them monitoring tools while physically placing them in a different room.
Editing Zoom and Cell Phone Video
Many clients are still not ready to take on in-person productions, even if they maintain the strictest safety protocols. But one thing is for certain, there are an infinite number of Zoom meetings taking place, and Facetime meetings, and Skype meetings, and Team meetings, and so on.
Sooner or later, someone will have the brilliant idea to record some of these meetings and distill them into a shorter presentation - possibly intercut with powerpoint/keynote decks and other footage - for a different audience. Or alternatively, they’ll want to use Zoom to record important messages from team members, but the messages will need to be edited together into a unified presentation. The point is, everyone has a camera and audio recording device right now, and it happens to be their computer. It’s only a matter of time before someone asks if you - a professional video producer - could edit some of the recorded Zoom messages down into a slick presentation.
Does this sound familiar? Or maybe your clients are using their cell phones to record their messages, and they want you to take a bunch of raw cell phone videos and edit them down into a video - either for internal distribution or to share publicly?
The video and audio quality of these raw clips will make even the most forgiving video editor cringe, but it’s what you have to work with. Just add a music bed - or 30 minutes of music beds for a longer presentation - and you have a product that surprisingly a lot of clients really want right now. Why? Because it’s easily do-able, it doesn’t look like anyone is breaking any safety or social distance protocols, it looks affordable and practical, and most importantly it connects people face-to-face.
Due to social distancing requirements that limit the amount of people who can gather in a room or at an event, today the demand for live streaming is greater than ever. And now that practically everyone is familiar with tuning into live streams or video conferencing, there’s really no barrier to feeding any event or meeting to a live, remote audience.
Except the whole technical barrier, which is where you come in. Whether you use a cell phone or a real camera, or maybe even a live switcher, all the elements of professional video production come into play during a live stream, apart from the editing. You’ll need to ensure the audio and visuals are up to your usual standards, but you’ll also need to figure out how to ensure a consistent feed either via WiFi or a cell phone signal.
But once you’ve figured out the right gear and technical approach, there are infinite events and meetings where a live stream would be appropriate and maybe even essential for your client. We’re not just talking about weddings and lectures and concerts - though they are all enjoying big boosts in live stream demand - but any organization’s event that has to limit the in-person attendance due to local social distancing mandates.
Motion Graphics, Stock Footage, and Explainer Videos
A video without a talking head is an easy solution for many businesses right now who want to share a video message but don’t want to produce an interview, or deal with low quality self-shot footage. In fact, removing the client from the front of the camera takes away a huge burden on them, making them even more likely to green light a video.
If you can produce a video using only stock or available footage, a voice over or text overlay, and with some motion graphics to help animate the story, then you have the capacity to take on as many jobs as you have time for right now. Being able to produce a video for a client without leaving your office is a huge benefit during COVID-19, but it’s also a skill that we think makes for a much more sustainable business model for many talented video editors.
Here's an example video that illustrates our MZed Pro subscription.
If you think about it, the one barrier that still gets in the way of clients enlisting a freelance video producer is that it isn’t as simple as signing a check. The client has to find subjects, craft a story, supervise an interview, and maybe even put themselves out there. That’s in addition to any B-roll that requires the client’s assistance.
So if the pandemic hasn’t already made it clear, it’s very advantageous to learn the skills necessary to produce videos where nothing but payment and input is required of the client. Motion graphics have a huge learning curve, but the effort to learn even a basic approach to explainer videos may be a worthy investment.
The video gigs mentioned in this article are some of the more in-demand filmmaking projects during the time of COVID-19. The severe limitations of social distancing have significantly changed the scope of video work happening right now. We hope that by reading this post, a lightbulb might go off and you’ll be inspired to shoot a message to one of your clients, suggesting they hire you for one of these types of videos. That’s if your clients haven’t asked you already.
The important thing to take away is not that these are the only kinds of video jobs being hired for right now, but that this is a time to get creative. Limitations spur creative solutions. What other kinds of videos could you be producing for your clients right now?
If you’re ready to get back to work, but your clients haven’t reached out to you yet, now is the time to get out there and pitch ideas. Hopefully before too long, we can all get back to our usual productions, but until then, let’s get busy doing what we can.