It’s a cold, snowy February morning. Usually, wintertime is the period of the year with the least amount of workflow. On such a morning, most (okay, by most I mean me) people in the office are looking to finish their tasks as quickly as possible in the hope of leaving an hour early – so they can reach the Vitosha ski lifts just as they open.
But today nobody is going to hit the slopes. An email enters – and what an email it is. We get an urgent (of course) request to service the production of four commercial videos, set in the time of the Roman Empire. Bulgaria is the chosen location, obviously because of the local Roman set.
Skip three hours forward and we are in a zoom call with our client – and they are giving us details about the project and everything seems perfectly fine… except we need the sun to shine bright, to have people in Roman clothes for two days straight outside… but winter in Bulgaria goes on for more than a month more – maybe until the end of March. But they have to air the TVC in the begging of April. Wait, what? Anyways, we figure we might find 4 or 5 days of sunshine where we can squeeze the shoot and move on.
A day later and I am at the studio to do a quick scout – it is an outside standing set and naturally weather does it’s best to demolish it with each passing day. We have to be sure and frank with the client what they can get. What I got on camera – Rome with a Scandinavian-like winter!
As the client checks out the photos from the scouting obviously weather becomes more and more of an issue – but we are all looking at a rather optimistic forecast saying that we will have sunshine for our shooting days. Knowing what our friends and colleagues are up to at this time we start getting our ear to the street to find the best available crews.
A few days later and a few edits of the budget later it seems our managing director worked his magic in getting into quite a low budget – some 30% lower than what we all thought is the bottom line. We jump on a quick call to find out that we are going to get the project. Everyone is happy – for about a few minutes – we have hit the harsh reality of a competitive market – we are having great trouble getting the top crews with which we usually work – they are all booked for the next 2-3 (!) months! A few hundred phone calls later it looks like we have it all – there is one position for which we hire a professional who seems not proven enough – but we trust a recommendation we got and go ahead with her anyway. Things are shaping up nicely.
Skip a few days later and everything seems to be up to speed. Yes, the pressure is growing as the PPM is getting closer – but we know we are great under pressure. We are better under pressure. But not everyone, it seems. Our art director is constantly a day or two behind the deadlines and is having trouble getting along with the director. We start to get a little nervous, especially after two all nighters that our production team has to pull to work on the art team’s presentation for the PPM. We understand clearly that this is unsustainable – but what can we do just over a week before the shoot?
The right thing, is the answer. I went to sleep at 5AM that said night after sending over the moodboard and woke up three hours later to find out I was added to a group jokingly named “how to stage a coup”. There my colleagues were already discussing how we can change the art director. Until noon this day we had gone over the phone with every established art director In Bulgaria and a few more from Serbia and Turkey – none are available! Interestingly enough, there’s no panic in the production team – we are all steadily working as if we know it is going to be alright – and it pays off. By the end of the day we get the contact of a very talented young art director, currently working on some project but with the option of switching over to us in a heartbeat. We meet her later that day and we know right away the she is the person for us.
Long story short, we hit the ball out of the park. After the PPM, the prep and shooting days couldn’t have gone better. Not only that the crew did their job and did it well, we also had amazing fun and a great time working together. I am not going to tell you what is the result, you can see the videos for yourself in all available platforms.
In the end, it’s worth it – it always is. We are quite sure that if it wasn’t for our passion and ability to work with the production company as the project is our own, and not just as a service company, it probably wouldn’t have happened at all.
The ability to identify a problem, even if it is late into the project is extremely important. To make an unpopular and risky decision and stick with it through the difficult times, then bear the fruits of it later is what sometimes is way more fulfilling than a shooting process with no issues at all.
What our company and crew went through during this particular project has made us better at spotting problems, solving them, even if it means making a big decision under pressure. We are a better team, better professionals and better people as a whole, thanks to this.
So, don’t fear
problems challenges. Welcome them.