During the COVID-19 crisis, the creative industries have been faced with a number of obstacles impeding the ability to work on creative projects. In our field, video production, the main challenge has been that usual working procedures have been shaken up by the current climate of social distancing.
The creative spirit has nonetheless prevailed and, in this blog, I will look at some of my favourite examples of creative work from this unique historical moment and outline some of the lessons that we can draw from them when working on our own content.
Make the most out of your limitations
One of my favourite TV shows of the lockdown period was Charlie Brooker’s one-off satirical special, Antiviral Wipe. What I enjoyed most about it was how – through using homemade props, holding meetings via Zoom, and even getting Brooker’s family involved – the special made the most out of the lo-fi charm that has always been a huge part of Brooker’s Wipe series’ appeal. As a review in The Guardian stated:
“Even though Brooker sits behind a desk made out of a cardboard box, it’s probably the show most suited to be made under the restrictions.”
This spirit of resourcefulness and creativity in the face of limitations is a common thread running through some of the best content made during this time. Take the BBC’s InterConnected strand, for example: a collection of short films all set and filmed within the confines of video conferencing apps. Despite these strict parameters, the films display an array of imaginative perspectives - ranging from absurdist comedy sketches to more low-key dramas.
It may be something of a cliché to say that great creativity flourishes through restriction, but examples like these show how true that can be. Take stock of what you have access to and challenge yourself to think of the most creative and imaginative way of using those tools at your disposal.
Experiment with new distribution methods
As well as challenging creative people to think of new ideas for their work, lockdown has also challenged them to try out new ways of distributing it. While cinemas were closed, for example, the promotion for Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming film Tenet involved the somewhat unusual move of a trailer premiere, and screenings of his previous films, within the video game Fortnite.
This experiment was an attempt to use the online game as a means of screening films remotely, while emphasising the “event” status of a new Christopher Nolan film by retaining some of the collective spirit of watching a film at the cinema. As Darshan Shankar, the founder of Bigscreen VR, said to the BBC:
“Things like Fortnite and Bigscreen don’t necessarily replace the awesomeness of a real world cinema … [instead it’s about being] able to watch things together with people.”
Similarly, lockdown has seen more and more comedians and musicians experimenting with live streaming platforms like Twitch and Instagram Live in place of their live performances. If you've been shilly-shallying about branching out into formats like remote podcasting, streaming, webinars, or personal vlogs, now is the perfect time to give it a try.
Keep your audience engaged
One of the most important contributions that the creative industries have made during the COVID crisis has been keeping people engaged during the stressful and isolating period of lockdown. One great example of this can be seen in Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 show, Grayson’s Art Club. The show’s aim, as outlined in the show’s press release, was to “unleash our collective creativity and unite the nation through art, as we live through this unique crisis”.
Each episode was centred around a specific theme, and Perry would encourage viewers to draw inspiration from these themes and submit their own creations to be displayed and talked about on the show. This is just one of a number of examples of creatives and brands seeking to engage their audiences’ creative side during the pandemic. Another was Bertha DocHouse’s Creative Response to Self-Isolation series, for which the cinema hosted a number of workshops and competitions aimed at encouraging first-time filmmakers to produce short documentaries about their time in isolation.
Encouraging this sort of participatory relationship isn’t just for the current situation, it’s something that most brands should strive to include as part of their general strategy. Being able to promote your brand through the enthusiasm of your audience can highlight their trust and imbue your marketing efforts with a vital degree of authenticity. As research from Hootsuite states:
“Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands. This offers an important credibility boost, since most people say less than half of brands create authentic content.”
The last few months have been a tricky time for everyone, and for businesses big and small. What the examples above show, though, is the potential that good creative content still has to enrich lives and inspire confidence. Think about how you can experiment with your content strategy to communicate during a time when communication has never been more important.