Business and Inspiration

Creativity in Chaos: 5 ways we are redefining how productions happen during COVID-19

By March 20, 2020 April 15th, 2020 No Comments


 It’s hard to believe that just one week ago, I was out on a shoot in Atlanta when the national emergency surrounding COVID-19 was declared. Since returning home, like many of you, I’ve been taking things day by day, working with my team to reschedule (and, in some cases, cancel) jobs that we’d been looking forward to.

Suffice it to say, I feel for you. I feel for your businesses and for our industry as a whole. But I’m hopeful for the future, despite these uncertain times. We are a resilient and resourceful group.

What is certain is this: #TeamGreyHouse can’t stop/won’t stop thinking creatively. If you’re ready to consider some savvy (and safe) alternatives to the best-laid creative plans, we’re here for you. Here’s how:


We know several of you have pivoted to produce creative work by repurposing existing content, or creating digitally via stop-motion shorts, animation, stock imagery, and so forth. We’re here to help with any and all of the above. But we’re also here to tell you that with a little creative problem-solving, we can take your work further — all of which can be done in a safe, responsible environment that doesn’t violate the government-recommended rule of limiting gatherings to 10 people or less.


Obviously, traditional casting en masse is not permitted at this time. But abiding by the “rule of 10,” if given the chance, we’ve found that talent are still eager to work. Fortunately, many talent castings can be done virtually. More than a “digital casting,” through Grey House’s relationships with casting directors and talent agencies, we can curate a shortlist of talent according to your job, and procure current “selfie” snapshots and/or mini video submissions to find the right fit. This style of “virtual casting” will allow us to get to know potential talent on an individual basis, without asking anyone to leave their house.


While the City of Chicago has put a hold on issuing permits until May 15th, we’ve already reached out to our local scout, Levinson Locations, to gather scout-approved locations around town that would be grateful to lease their space during this forced down-time. As I type, Kate Levinson is working on a database of locations that are available right now. While on the phone with Kate, we talked about the options to shoot in vacant offices, venues, homes that are empty (whether the homes are unoccupied because they are on the market, or the summer home of a snow bird). Of course, thorough cleanings prior to and following indoor shoots are a simple line-item, and will go a long way in caring for those who are on our production. Beyond location, we also have a plethora of studios in Chicago where we can make magic happen digitally, thanks to expertly executed CGI environments when we shoot on a white sweep (as we did herehere and here). We even have a great BTS demo from Filtre studios on the process.


Always looking to learn about the latest tech and gear, we’re currently exploring exciting new options for virtual video villages, where clients can join a shoot remotely. We just learned about QTAKE Cloud Stream (thanks for the tip Art Department) which would allow us to staff a crew of up to 10 people, while sharing video feeds with clients in real time, from anywhere. On our still sets we’re using Zoom to share our DIT’s screen, allowing us to get live creative feedback from various corners of the country.


Our typical crew size is between 30-70 crew members, but with crews limited to 10 people or less, we won’t have the luxury of hiring all the specialists we’d typically have involved. Fortunately, many members of our crew can wear different hats. Some of our digital techs are well versed in lighting; in a pinch, a producer can take on the tasks of a PA, and we can source a single stylist to handle props and wardrobe. With less people doing more work, these jobs will move slower, but safer. Alternatively, we have relationships with a few locations that can easily accommodate multiple crews to work in tandem in different studios, or on different floors.


Now is also a good time to mention that we have literally gallons of hand sanitizer (as we always do!), and gloves at the ready. Among the additional safety precautions we’re taking on set is to present catering in boxed meals, or served by a single person to prevent contamination. We’re also diligently wiping down surfaces with disinfectants. HMU artists are using only disposable swabs on talent. We’re doing as much as we can, wherever we can.

Finally, we’d like to mention something we always have in place on our shoots during this time, and is especially important for other studios to adopt at this time: a self-declaration of health waiver. Everyone who sets foot on a Grey House Productions set is required to sign off on their own health, every single day that they’re working.

No compromises, ever. We love this community too much to put you at risk, and we hope to keep supporting those who are able to work in a way that’s responsible for all of us. We know none of the solutions above are ideal, but our commitment to staying savvy with whatever resources we’re given remains the same.