Producing During Pandemic – From the Director’s Point of View
Matt Allegretti / Sr. Producer, Brenton Productions
While the COVID-19 pandemic initially stopped down virtually all TV production in the US, Brenton Productions was among the first to be able to get cameras safely rolling again. Matt Allegretti, Producer/Director for FourWheeler, Truck U, All Girls Garage, and Car Fix, shares his behind-the-scenes perspective of making TV in the new normal.
When you shoot a television series that includes separating a body from the frame of a Jeep and torching the frame in half to stretch it, it’s kind of hard to produce that show from the comfort of your living room. That’s the world we live in now. Producing automotive TV in the COVID-19 era is different, but it can’t always be done remotely. While our shows’ personalities can use their cell phones to self-shoot a project they are working on in their own garage, they aren’t able to capture the action of doing the work from multiple angles on their own. That’s where production comes back into the mix. We’ve found we can still produce these shows on time for MotorTrend, at a high quality (better than a cell phone) all while working at a safe distance in the studio.
Our pre-production planning on the shows hasn’t changed much, with constant communication between technical producers, coordinating producers, and our sales team. If anything, while under stay-at-home orders, we’ve actually been able to establish more communication between our clients and the production team with kick-off calls. This step in the pre-production process allows the sales team to introduce the client to the production staff, who can then walk the client through specific details about how their product will be integrated in the episode. These calls are also easy to organize, since most of our clients are currently working from home.
Before the pandemic, our clients were always welcome to visit the set during a taping – an option that isn’t readily available today with travel limitations and social distancing in play. Instead, we’ve been able to put together FaceTime calls with the clients so they can see their integrations happening and provide input in real time. This helps the client feel connected to the process even though they can’t be there in person.
Laying out a plan for each episode really starts with making sure the parts needed for the project get to the studio in time for the taping. Even with the bulk of our staff working from home, we’re still able to make sure products are getting to the set on time by allowing a technical producer to take deliveries and stay in communication with the rest of the team to let them know when clients’ products have arrived.
For our production team, shoot days haven’t changed all that much – we work with a small and resourceful crew, so managing the number of people in the studio is relatively easy. While we do wear our masks and follow CDC and network guidelines including temperature screenings, increased sanitation and social distancing measures; the energy in the studio is high, and our crew is happy and grateful to be working.
Once the show is “in the can”, it goes to post-production. This is the part of our process that has changed the least during COVID-19, since most of it happens remotely anyway. Our editors can remotely access all of the footage they need for the shows, our producers can download digital files of the edits to review and make changes, and we deliver all of our assets digitally to the network.
For me, the only noticeable change to this part of my job is that I’m making cuts to the episodes at my home office, which sometimes means fielding interruptions from my kids or our new puppy. (By the way, anyone else decide to adopt a new pet during stay-at-home? How’s that working out for you?)
Quality is always our number one goal when we’re producing a show – both in the production value and the content – and I don’t feel like quality has suffered in either one of those areas while producing during COVID-19. Our production crews and on-camera talent are tough and resilient, and they’re used to working in tough environments. I have confidence we’ll be able to continue producing high-quality shows during the pandemic and beyond.