4/30/20 UPDATE: The PPP loan came through for Leif's production company to cover paychecks for 2.5 months. The SBA loan (originally supposed to be $4000) came through last week at a flat $1000.
How are small production companies surviving the current Covid crisis? Tanya Musgrave chats with a panel of small business owners on how they are surviving the current crisis and looking to the future of how production will look as we return to "normal."
Today's guest includes:
Maranatha Hay of (Tower Films)
Leif Ramsey (Pathfinder films)
Bryan Fellows (Freelance Producer)
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Tanya Musgrave (00:00):
Welcome to There To Here, an educational podcast where industry professionals talk nuts and bolts and how they got from there to here. As this is a new podcast, we're really wanting feedback. So go to media.colabinc.org and fill out the feedback survey, and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Tanya Musgrave (00:19):
I'm Tanya Musgrave, creative director here at CoLab Inc, and today I have Maranatha Hay, Leif Ramsey, and Brian Fallows with us. Welcome, guys.
Maranatha Hay (00:29):
Leif Ramsey (00:29):
Brian Fallows (00:31):
Maranatha Hay (00:32):
Thank you for having us, Tonya.
Tanya Musgrave (00:35):
Now the one thing that you all have in common is that you all own a production companies. You are non-union, small businesses. The last few guests that I have interviewed, they have been part of the union or part of a guild. So I really want to really wanted to get a run, honest look at what our non-union small businesses were looking like.
Tanya Musgrave (00:56):
Maranatha, you have Tower Films. You're based in So Cal. Leif, you have Pathfinder Films. You're based in Chattanooga in Tennessee. And Brian, you are a freelance producer, and you're based right out of Chicago. And you serve the Michigan area. So how are you guys fairing? Go ahead and expand, and what's your work consisted of leading up to COVID? How about we start there.
Maranatha Hay (01:20):
So for the last three years, I've been on a bigger project. It was a featured documentary that was in 360. So I was working on that, editing that. That was the big project that I was working on. Prior to that, I had a small production company, still do called Tower Films, and it did branded content, commercial work, just mostly really small projects. A lot of them were feel good, lifestyle, positive vibes stuff. And after I completed the VR project, I picked my business back up in January. I was starting to build up my client portfolio up again, and it was one day March I think 11th, and I know I was late to the game. But it was just like, "Oh, it's not going to be a big deal." Production was happening on all of these different projects. Clients were coming in, and then all of a sudden it was like it came to an absolute screeching halt all of a sudden. It was like boom. And I remember because I was editing for a client, and they were like, "We have to get this done now." And then that week, it was a rush to finish everything. And then it was like flying over the edge of a cliff.
Maranatha Hay (02:42):
Projects have come in because people are transitioning their businesses, so they're looking for marketing. And they're still in need for that. Education. University of California is one of my clients. And so they wanted to move all of their stuff over online, and so there are needs for that. So you can meet that with stock footage or kind of like reverse engineering but as far as production, nothing.
Tanya Musgrave (03:10):
So cutting entire commercials using just stock footage.
Maranatha Hay (03:14):
I mean, doing whatever you can. I've had people come through the wood work clients from four years ago being like, "Do you still have XYZ on that hard drive? Can we re-edit this for this project because we really need this content? But nobody can shot." So it's just been very, very, very weird couple of months for sure.
Brian Fallows (03:37):
So prior to COVID, I was producing a lot of commercials, working on a lot of commercials. So extremely busy season, all the way through summer, fall, winter of last year. Even into January was just slammed, which is great. So probably the best year I've ever had was last year. I was really thankful for that leading into this. Unbeknownst to me this was going to happen, but I would say I think it was mid-January. I had a couple international projects happening in Asia. Had tickets bought, had everything ready to go, and then I started hearing from my local contacts there about what was going on. Way more news than we were really hearing here in the states. And so we made the decision to go ahead and postpone, and I wasn't sure if that would head our way or not. But obviously it has, and so mid-March, well early March actually was the last project that I did. That's been it. So it's been a pretty dry season since then.
Leif Ramsey (04:42):
Yeah. So the question was what were we working on leading up to the COVID.
Tanya Musgrave (04:46):
Leif Ramsey (04:48):
So the last thing that we did was actually two 30-second spots for the largest Hondo power sports dealer in the US, and it was power sports is more like the off-road side of the industry and motorcycles and things like that. So we actually did a spot for a Honda Talon, which is one of their hot off-road vehicles, and another for a Hondo Pioneer. And we shot those on I want to say March 6th or something like that. We saw stuff coming, and we're like, "We need to get this production done." And things didn't really shut down for us in Tennessee until just right after that, maybe a week after that. In fact, they were going to play the spots locally before they used them digitally. They were going to use them with the kickoff of Chattanooga Football Club, which is a soccer club actually. So a little play on words there. But the season opening game was supposed to be that next weekend, and that game got canceled a day ahead of time. Everything just shutdown at that point. So that was the very last thing that we did.
Leif Ramsey (06:01):
Before that, we were doing a decent amount of post-production for the Navy. This is going back just before Christmas, New Years, and we were also shooting a short doc about Russian art over the Christmas/New Years time period. So yeah, that's what we were up to.
Tanya Musgrave (06:18):
Nice. So how has this affected your business? How are you guys holding up? How has coronavirus affected everything?
Leif Ramsey (06:29):
I'll just continue on. It's interesting, this went in phases for us. The first phase was we were still getting a lot of people. I think we worked on three different pitches the early part of that first two weeks in March, and people were still, "Oh yeah, we think production's going to happen mid-April." "We think production's going to happen beginning of May," those timelines. And then as this has progressed, as it's gone on for multiple weeks, everybody's just dropped off. I mean, sort of goes without saying that we haven't shot anything. But not only that, even the people that were like, "Hey, we want to put together a production for April," they're like, "We don't know." And then also budgets have changed.
Leif Ramsey (07:16):
The production that we were in talks with and the agency had awarded the project to us was supposed to be five days of shooting. And one of the first things that they did was scale back and say, "Budgets have changed. We need to make this a three day production." And then now it's been probably two weeks since we've heard from them, and the last thing we heard was, "I don't know. We'll get back in touch when we know more, when we figure out when we can shoot again," type of a deal. So that's the general trend.
Tanya Musgrave (07:45):
Brian Fallows (07:48):
Yeah. Piggybacking off that, I had some tentative projects scheduled as well. We're working on a pitch and development on a project for early April that, just like Leif was saying, as March went along, we went into postponement of that and the dialogue between us and the client has drifted into nothing as it lingers in the air somewhere until all this gets cleared up. So yeah, pretty much everything's on stand still right now. There's nothing going on.
Maranatha Hay (08:22):
Yeah. It's like somebody just pressed a giant pause button, and you're just in this homeostasis period where you're hoping that the bottom won't fall out. But what's going to happen when everybody presses play again? There's just no way of knowing, no way of telling. With the commercial projects that I was working on, it's a really similar experience to what Leif and Brian are talking about where I think clients also they don't know what they want, and they don't know what they want to make as well. Do you reference this crisis? What do people want to see? Is it appropriate to hawk your wares in the middle of all of this.
Tanya Musgrave (09:06):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Being sensitive, yeah.
Maranatha Hay (09:08):
Yeah, I had a client that does stuff, like makes stuff for golf courses. Who's going golfing? I mean, that's the big question is who's buying anything right now? Do people have money to buy? What are we going into? And then I guess on another note with the documentary that I was working on, the premiere was at a festival in October, and we're supposed to have our yearly run where a lot of these film festivals you only have a year from the time that you premiere.
Maranatha Hay (09:41):
I mean, we spent thousands of dollars submitting to all of these different film festivals, and then... Like I'll never forget the day that South by Southwest... South by Southwest, all of the corporate sponsors started pulling out, and then it was like, "Oh, this is real. This is going to happen. This is going to be crazy. This is big." And then every single one of the film festivals after that, it was just like a tower collapsing. The ones that we had submitted to, we just kept getting letter after letter after letter that it was like, "Sorry, we're not having it this year." "Sorry, we don't know what to do." I mean, a year's worth of work trying to figure out how to convert this into a dome space from VR where people could experience it communally. I don't know what to think about all of that time that I put into that project. I don't know what means.
Tanya Musgrave (10:40):
Yeah. So how has this actually changed your day to day, all of your day to day dealings? Are you working on post-work for some of these projects? Where are you spending your time in order to sustain your business?
Brian Fallows (10:56):
I've caught up on a lot of television.
Tanya Musgrave (11:00):
Brian Fallows (11:02):
I don't know. It's a mixed bag. There are some days where I feel like being more productive than others, and I think that's okay.
Tanya Musgrave (11:08):
Brian Fallows (11:08):
I don't think that's bad necessarily.
Tanya Musgrave (11:10):
Brian Fallows (11:12):
Yeah, there's been some definite binge watching, which I don't think is necessarily bad but probably not helping my trying to lose a little bit of extra pounds.
Tanya Musgrave (11:23):
But I think it's fair to mention that it is okay. I mean, this is one specific reason why we're getting other people's opinions is to let people know that there's a variety of different reactions out there, and all of them are okay.
Brian Fallows (11:39):
Right. Right. I've spent quite a bit of time on the backend of some projects. It's been something that I've needed to get done for a long time and haven't. And one of those is my own personal website, my own personal portfolio. It's one of those things where you always tell yourself you're going to do it and you just never have time because you're doing the projects that you're paid to do. So that's been really awesome to see that actually getting somewhere. So I spend a lot of time on that and also working on pitches, which is fun in theory, but I always question also are those pitches actually going to see the light of day after this. Where do they go? What space do they fit into after this? So those are questions that I'm trying to tackle.
Brian Fallows (12:21):
And then lastly, some filmmaker friends and I have gotten together and had a Google Doc that we've all collaborated on and still working on trying to come up with some personal procedures and plans for what sets are going to look like after this and how to put those practices in place so that when agencies and clients start coming to us after this at some point, that we have an answer and we have something that hopefully will set us apart and help us jump back into work faster than others maybe.
Tanya Musgrave (12:55):
Leif Ramsey (12:57):
I think for about four weeks after everything shutdown, there was a lot of momentum for us because we just had a backlog of, a laundry list of things that we wanted to do. So similar to Brian, we launched a new website and built that out over the course of two-three weeks, which we hadn't don't since we started the business. Our website was five years, which in internet terms I feel is more like five decades. So we did that, and that was a big push. We did a decent amount of re-editing and work that we already had that we wanted to format in a different way to make it more appealing for 30 and 60 second spots.
Leif Ramsey (13:40):
And I think the biggest changes that happened in daily routine were not super significant for myself. Lucky. So my wife and I work together in our business. So for us, we can still come into the office, but normally we have four people in the office. And everybody else basically had to start working from home. So it was all this work remote thing versus seeing everyone every day.
Tanya Musgrave (14:07):
And Leif, you actually had a student worker, didn't you?
Leif Ramsey (14:10):
Yeah. Yeah. So that person is also remote, and so that's been interesting. But I think at this point, the momentum has died off. And it's basically just me still doing some editing because that's the skillset I can fall back to. It's not my first preference to be editing stuff. But I can do it, so I'm going to do it.
Leif Ramsey (14:36):
And really for the rest of us, we're not doing much. The rest of our core team isn't really doing anything anymore, which we were for those first maybe four weeks after we shutdown. But we've finished the laundry list. I think Lucky came in for a few hours yesterday and was literally just answering every email, which we get a lot of random emails that are like, "Do you need voice over work? Do you need motion design work?" That type of stuff. Lucky was literally just answering them because she could, and it was like, "Ah, I might as well see what these are people are up to, see what their life is like." More just like conversation than actual work. But that's cool. Maybe that'll come back and be valuable at some point.
Tanya Musgrave (15:23):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Leif, just real quick, your company is setup to work some government gigs since you've done some work with the US Navy. Has that outlook changed at all? Does that bring some possibilities into the future, on the horizon or are they in the same boat?
Leif Ramsey (15:40):
Yeah. It's interesting. They got in touch with us I would say a couple weeks in and basically said, "Hey, we're not going to be doing any production out on ships, around bases for a long time." They don't know exactly when that is, but it's going to be a long time. And we were like, "Okay. Sure. That makes sense." And then they wanted to do some post-production. We haven't started doing post-production for them yet. So that's also been a longer timeline than we anticipated, even to do the next round of post stuff. I'm not sure.
Leif Ramsey (16:12):
I mean, everybody's life is complex. Everybody's trying to figure out what it means to work from home. The folks that we work with directly around the agency side and they had an office of 80 people, and now those 80 people are distributed all over to their homes and stuff. Things like paperwork and contracts and all kinds of stuff has slowed down. Even if they want to do stuff, it's just not as fast.
Tanya Musgrave (16:38):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Leif Ramsey (16:40):
I mean, I guess the short answer is we can do some post work and that'll help us tread water, but production is where we actually sustain ourselves.
Tanya Musgrave (16:48):
Maranatha Hay (16:50):
So to what they were saying, pretty much the only thing that I can really do right now is work remotely. I do work from home, so on a day to day I do a lot of editing work. But like I said, I've been... One of the first things I started to do was just contact all of the clients and be like, "Hey, I can't do anything with production right now, but what I can do is use stock footage, preexisting material and narration." And then quickly, quickly put together a 30 minute sample of what that could be like, and I just started sending it out, sending it out.
Maranatha Hay (17:27):
So my day to day has been a ton of production coordination with all of these remote assets, and then throwing them all together with editing. So yeah. That's what I've been doing.
Tanya Musgrave (17:39):
It'd be a little interesting to see some sort of integration into the animation sphere. Those whiteboard type of explainer videos.
Maranatha Hay (17:49):
Tanya Musgrave (17:49):
The only reason I say that is because the previous person that I had talked to, she was a writer with WGA, and she was talking about how she's keeping her eye on the animation sphere because their work is exactly the same. Robin up in Vancouver with Sony, he took his computer from work and now does the exact same thing at home.
Maranatha Hay (18:10):
Tanya Musgrave (18:10):
I don't know.
Maranatha Hay (18:12):
There are some things that have stayed the same, and it's helped for me to take a step back and see, explainer videos, those are going to be the same. Subcontracting out to an animator and then have them doing it. And then maybe you subcontract with a VO artist voices.com and piecing that together. If you have editing skills, you can throw that together. So that's what I've been doing. I don't know what to do about the production piece. I don't know when all of that is going to come together. I don't see me doing any kind of production for September. I think that's how long it's going to take to get everything together, which is months later.
Maranatha Hay (18:58):
What I did do right away was file for the SBA loan. As a contractor or independent contractor, you can do that. Did not receive it.
Tanya Musgrave (19:11):
Surprise, surprise. [crosstalk 00:19:12]
Maranatha Hay (19:11):
Restaurant chains. So I know they passed another $450 billion one today I think. Hopefully that does actually go to small businesses. But I think for the next three, four months, it's going to be incredibly dry and if I don't figure out this puzzle, I don't know how I can live in my house and have money and exist. I think figuring out that piece of the puzzle is going to be very, very important.
Tanya Musgrave (19:43):
Yeah. I was actually going to ask about that because usually I'd be asking the guests, "Hey, do you know any sources of help for industry people in your particular boat? Those who have a production company or work as a sole proprietor," that kind of thing. With the revelation of PPP and the SBA loans, I'm actually curious at each of your inputs on how that's worked for each of you because I know of a personal friend who has... It's a fro-yo shop, and he was asking for a poultry $15,000 as opposed to a larger entity that I know of that got over $1 million that didn't necessarily need it as desperately as he did. So I'm very curious how that's worked out for each one of you.
Leif Ramsey (20:32):
It hasn't worked out. So I'm not speaking for everybody on the call. Maybe it's worked out for the rest of you. But I applied for both the EIDL, which is the Economic, I don't know. I can't remember what the acronym stands for. But it's basically the $10,000 grant that you could get on a one time basis. I did that back in, oh, let's see here... Somewhere around four weeks ago. Finally got an email from the SBA, it was basically a foreign email about a week ago that said, "Oh, we're changing the terms from a $10,000 one time grant for small businesses to $1000 per employee." So in our case, there's four partners in the business, and everybody else is contractors. And so for us, that would mean $4000 if that came through. But will that come through? Who knows.
Leif Ramsey (21:34):
I know one person that's got it thus far in my network, and for them, the money just magically appeared in their bank account one day. And then they got an email about it a couple days later explaining that the money had arrived.
Leif Ramsey (21:46):
For the PPP, I applied for that back on April 2 I believe it was. Literally two days before banks could start releasing it, and was in contact with my bank multiples times over those two days. And they were like... I talked to them the day before the PPP loans were supposed to be starting to be approved by the SBA and issued. And they said, "Well, we actually haven't received any additional instructions from the SBA on how we're supposed to complete these loans." That was like 12 hours before things were supposed to kick off.
Leif Ramsey (22:27):
I've talked to them since then, and we never received any PPP. I don't think our actual PPP application made it from the bank to the SBA in the last rounds. And the last conversation I had with them was probably four or five days ago and they said, "Don't worry. We'll get it in first thing on the next round when it gets funded." I was like, "Okay, cool. I'll be calling you every day as soon as that legislation passes because otherwise I don't think I'm going to be the front of the line."
Tanya Musgrave (22:54):
No. When my friend got there, they were already out.
Leif Ramsey (22:59):
That's kind of the experience.
Tanya Musgrave (23:00):
It was done. It was gone.
Leif Ramsey (23:04):
I haven't even seen the personal stimulus check thing or whatever, and I'm signed up for electronic deposit. So thus far is zero, and I have zero expectations.
Tanya Musgrave (23:15):
Wow. That is actually something that did come through for me personally.
Brian Fallows (23:20):
Tanya Musgrave (23:20):
Yeah. That was the only thing that I had actually heard of, and the PPP and the SBA were things... I mean, I must've been living under a rock because I didn't hear about them until way later in the game, when it was basically already one and gone.
Brian Fallows (23:37):
Yeah. I don't have any friends in my network that have received it. And I honestly did not apply. I didn't think that it would actually happen even if I did. That was first thing. Second of all, I did have a really good year last year, and do have some put away. And I knew that there was plenty of other people who below the line that don't have those opportunities that need the money. So I would rather let those people have access to it if it actually is going to come out and they're actually going to be able to get it. At some point, I may change my tune, depending on how long this lasts. But that's currently where my thought process has been.
Tanya Musgrave (24:18):
I hadn't even heard of it. That's the thing. I don't know where they were... Because Maranatha, I feel like we had talked about this a bit too where it was just a foundation that you heard through the grapevine about it.
Maranatha Hay (24:30):
Yeah. It was actually through one of my clients. She was texted me at 10:30 at night, and she was like, "Are you doing this tomorrow? It's opening up." And I didn't know what it was, and she was like, "Look at this video now." And it was this guy on YouTube that was showing people how to fill it out if you were a small business owner. It had I think 1.2 million hits when I watched it. So people were watching that video. It's just like a janky one minute video of how to do it real quick, and then the next day was when everything opened. And she was like, "You better do this quick because I think it's going to... It's first come, first serve." Did it?
Maranatha Hay (25:15):
Like Leif, I thought it was like a $10,000 check to get me by the next couple of months. Didn't hear anything back, didn't hear anything back. Called them. Finally got through. I was caller 937. I heard that, and I was like, "Great. This is going to be my eight hour day." It was hours on the phone, and then I finally got somebody. And she was like, "Oh, great. Everything's going to work out fine. This is great. Everything looks good." Blah, blah, blah. And then she was like, "You can expect to get the email." Leif, I haven't even gotten the email, and I was literally there. The second this thing opened, I was there because there's no way of telling how long this is going to last. I think it's going to last well into the summer if not early fall. I think that's what we're looking at. I'm looking ahead, and I'm just like...
Maranatha Hay (26:16):
Anyway, so even if I did get it, $1000 isn't going to get me that far. What am I going to do with $1000?
Tanya Musgrave (26:24):
Brian Fallows (26:27):
That's the thing too is there's so much information out there that who knows what's real and what's not. So there's a really, really horrible spreading of this information by the powers that be unfortunately. It's just not clear. It's not clear to people who need it. So it's been unfortunate.
Tanya Musgrave (26:49):
Yeah, for sure.
Leif Ramsey (26:51):
Well, I think the things that are top of my mind are let's say PPP does come through, when is that going to come through? Is that going to come through in June, and am I already going to be in production at that point and it won't matter? What does that mean in a bigger sense? What does that mean? I guess I'll just count it as profit or I guess I'll just put it back into the emergency fund because I haven't been working for the last two months, which is probably the reason why it exists. But it still feels super weird to be getting all this money and it not be at the time when you actually need it. I don't know, it's more just random easings. So I don't know.
Tanya Musgrave (27:34):
Well, I was actually surprised that the stimulus came through in the middle of this when people actually need it.
Leif Ramsey (27:42):
[crosstalk 00:27:42]. That's fair.
Tanya Musgrave (27:43):
I'm also kind of curious where the focus has been because for those PPP loans, I'm seeing a lot more of the larger entities get that money, reserved for larger companies that will make more of a profit for those banks. So what is there for the people who are mid to low day players? They don't have a business, they don't have a guild, they're not part of a union. So I don't know. I've been thinking of those because those are the kinds of people that you guys hire, right?
Brian Fallows (28:16):
Leif Ramsey (28:17):
So I'll tell you a brief anecdote about one of my friends that I play tennis with. I've never really worked with him, but he's an all in one video guy that has his own small camera and goes out and shoots stuff and whatever. He's probably about 10 years behind me in terms of age and career. And we were playing tennis and he's like, "Hey, what about all these SBA things?" I was telling him my experience and what the process is and what the different ones mean and stuff. And he's like, "Whoa, that's crazy." And then he text me a couple of days ago, he's like, "Hey, I just looked into all this stuff, and it looks like all of them are closed right now." And I was like, "Oh, dang. All right. You're probably right. I think everything's run out of money." And he's like, "What do you think I should do next? I heard something about maybe I could get unemployment." And I was like, "I honestly have no idea about unemployment, but you probably can. You should Google it because I don't know." And he was like, "Okay."
Leif Ramsey (29:15):
And then he text me back a few minutes later, he's like, "Hey, so I just went on the State of Tennessee website, and here's what it says." And he sends me this screenshot that basically says, "This part of our website is shutdown for the day because we're too busy processing the applications that we've already received. Please check back later." I was like, "Dude, I don't know. That sucks. That sucks really bad."
Tanya Musgrave (29:43):
Oh my gosh.
Brian Fallows (29:44):
I think what the biggest lessons out of all this... Luckily I don't have to make these decisions, but there's going to be a lot of questioning about the processes that are supposedly in place government wise to be able to handle these kinds of things because we haven't dealt with this, at least in our lifetime. So now that this has happened, I think there's going to be a lot of talk post this about how it's all falling apart and how we can fix it for future. Now I don't know. We're all kind of in limbo on this.
Tanya Musgrave (30:18):
You hope it's a once in a lifetime thing. But for instance, I was thinking post-Great Depression, they had put policies in place to help it never happen again. So I'm curious what's going to be put in place this time. We're not the best at having these things in place where they run smoothly. So I don't know.
Maranatha Hay (30:38):
I think there's a really good chance that this could return in the fall.
Brian Fallows (30:43):
Maranatha Hay (30:44):
To what you were saying, Leif, if I see something, I'm applying for it because I don't know how long this is going to last. So yeah, I'm applying for everything. I also don't know, there's a moratorium on rent and there's all of these different bills et cetera, et cetera. So I know a lot of people, they're starting to pile up. Well what happens when we press play again and all of a sudden all of this is due? I don't know what that's going to mean for the economy or home prices or anything like that, and maybe I'm worrying about something that I shouldn't need to worry about. But I'm awfully glad that I did apply for that thing the same day, even though I haven't gotten it yet.
Tanya Musgrave (31:26):
Where do you guys go in order to find business loans that you could potentially apply for?
Maranatha Hay (31:34):
SBA.gov, right? That's where I've been getting stuff. I'm also trying to get, and Leif, maybe this is a conversation later. I want to get in on these government contracts too. Maybe at some point those will pick up. So I am spending the time applying for or getting to know that whole process. I'm also watching all of the White House thingies because maybe Trump will drop a hint. I don't know. And it gets me at least a little bit ahead of the curve. So if I listen to it, maybe it'll give me a three hour headstart. So yeah, I am watching all of the briefings because I have.
Tanya Musgrave (32:24):
Leif Ramsey (32:27):
It seems like information is not being passed down uniformly or isn't being filtered. I feel like no matter what you think about Trump, I think there's an awful amount of unfiltered information that comes directly from him and his tweets and his briefings. Everybody else in the room is just as surprised as we are that those things are being said, whether they're good or bad.
Leif Ramsey (32:53):
I think there's also a decent amount of assymetry. So for example, in the south as of yesterday for Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, basically announced that the governors are going to start reopening. Tennessee's governor said that they are not going to reissue a shelter-in-place order after April 30. We're in a weird position with one client that's done very well during this time period because all their sales are online, and it's all essential items that need to go out to people or are deemed essential.
Maranatha Hay (33:25):
Leif Ramsey (33:25):
So they actually really badly want to shoot an ad that they can put on connected TV, and tons of people are consuming that content right now. So it's like perfect timing. Whatever. They really badly want to shoot it, and they're like, "As soon as things open up, let's shoot it." So it's a weird position for us because right now we're potentially a week out from things "officially" opening up. But is it actually safe to shoot though? Should we be planning a production? What does it mean when shelter-in-place goes away? So the responsibility changes from here's what's okay to is this advisable even if it's "okay". I don't know how to answer those questions. Those are questions that we're just grappling with right now, as of today.
Maranatha Hay (34:16):
To that affect, as a business owner, what are you liable for? What is the liability? If somebody gets sick on your set, is that your responsibility or do people sign disclosures? Like, "There's coronavirus out here. If I get it on your set or somebody transmits something, I'm not going to sue you."
Tanya Musgrave (34:36):
Brian Fallows (34:38):
So I've been reading a lot about that because I'm interested in that as well. On the film side of things, what I've been reading because they're all grappling with this too. What I'm reading, which makes a lot of sense is that the insurance companies are not going to want to touch this because how in the world are they supposed to predict what's going to happen and what's not going to happen. It'd be terrible for them. So I think it is going to be a waiver situation where at some point you have to work and you're just going to hope for the best. I think that's what the film industry is going to do.
Tanya Musgrave (35:07):
A lot of people are wanting to work, they're needing to work, and they're willing to put themselves in that situation if it's that something that they were willing to risk.
Brian Fallows (35:16):
Tanya Musgrave (35:17):
What makes it a little bit difficult is of course the ethics of putting together that production.
Brian Fallows (35:23):
Absolutely. I don't know what you guys think. I haven't pursued any work over the last month and a half or so. For me, it was taking a little breather and also I didn't want to bombard agencies or clients that I've had in the past during this time. I don't know if I didn't think it was appropriate necessarily but I just didn't think it was the best time and maybe a bad look for me to go after them right now. I don't know if that's the case with everybody, but I've waited. And I'm waiting to see how things go next month to start reaching out again. But I don't know if it's a bad idea to take a moment though and wait to see where things go. I don't know. I could be wrong.
Tanya Musgrave (36:12):
But what about the people who don't necessarily have that luxury?
Brian Fallows (36:16):
No, for sure. Yeah. I mean, there's a definitely a lot of people that need to keep going, but those of us that are pitching projects or are working through agencies and have those relationships, you hate to burn bridges in this moment I guess.
Maranatha Hay (36:37):
I mean, yet I haven't had anybody be like, "How dare you email me!" I haven't had anybody do that yet, and it hasn't been the kind of thing... It's just like, "Hey, I have this. It costs this much to make. Are you interested in it? Do you need content? Do you need something right now?" I mean, the channels are different, and I'm definitely hustling, absolutely. But all of the Instagram sponsored ads, all of those Facebook ads, people are still needing that branded content. And people know that the [crosstalk 00:37:16]-
Tanya Musgrave (37:16):
The content is still there. The need is very much still there. [crosstalk 00:37:20].
Maranatha Hay (37:19):
They're looking at this stuff. Their business model is changing or shifting, and they do have things that they want to tell people. So none of that has changed because people are watching content still. I mean, yeah. I don't know, those are my thoughts. Shameless. I know I'm shameless.
Brian Fallows (37:39):
The issue that I find, majority of my work is somewhere other than where I'm in. So I'm on planes all the time. I travel 100,000 miles a year. So I don't know what that's going to look like, and that's something that I'm questioning right now is the travel aspect.
Maranatha Hay (37:55):
That is big.
Brian Fallows (37:56):
Maranatha Hay (37:58):
You could probably get from A to B pretty cheap.
Brian Fallows (37:59):
Yeah. Oh yeah. It'd be great.
Maranatha Hay (38:02):
Leif Ramsey (38:04):
I mean, you're probably safer flying right now than you were any other time.
Brian Fallows (38:08):
That's probably true.
Leif Ramsey (38:09):
Who knows what it's going to be like in a month when people start traveling again or two months or whatever. But I would be really curious of your guys' opinions about what the right approach is to jumping back into production quickly because I think at least on my end, I'm pretty certain that we're going to have at least one client wanting us to be in production on May 2.
Brian Fallows (38:34):
Maranatha Hay (38:35):
I've heard a lot of different things from different producers. Some people that own studios, work with a lot of different producers, and what they're doing is staying on unemployment as long as they possibly can. And like you were saying, it's staggered. It's different areas. So in LA, people are going to stay on there as long as possible because there's so little that's coming in, and it's really crappy to come off of unemployment where you're getting $600 plus per week. It's something that's secure. You can at least get food. Once you come off of it and you can guarantee, what? One job a month? So it's sort of this chicken and the egg thing where it's like you have this slinky of backlog, but you don't know when it's going to come in. If there's nobody to work, how do you work? And if there's work, how do you work? It's this back and forth, back and forth. So that's one issue is just a lot of producers are very, very unwilling to bring in their crews and bring in people and take them off unemployment when they cannot guarantee a job, more than one job.
Tanya Musgrave (39:44):
But what about those that aren't under that? There are a lot of day players who are non-union, they're not on unemployment because that's a whole other mess. So what do you do ethically as a producer to put together these potential shoots? The restrictions are lifted, people aren't on unemployment. You wouldn't be interrupting anything, but would you move forward with production?
Brian Fallows (40:08):
I think it's going to be the time for the one man band to four man band approach over the next year, that's my guess. And we're all guessing here, even the people that are a few pay stubs higher than we are are guessing as well. So we can't really know what's going to happen over the next few months. But my guesstimate is that those that can pull off productions with small crews like that are going to do quite well because the large companies that work through the agency work that we get with those large companies. They all are going to do okay, and they're still fine. Sure, they may have lost some money, but it's not like the mom-and-pop shop down the road. And so those people are going to want to get commercial content out there. Anything larger than that though, I don't think we're going to see for the next 12-18 months. That's my guesstimate. I could be completely wrong. Who knows.
Leif Ramsey (41:03):
I think it's an interesting scenario because Atlanta is a huge production hub for all kinds of film and television and commercial and everything else, and they're going to be opened up in a week according to their government.
Brian Fallows (41:19):
I don't think shows will be though. I really don't. I don't think large productions like that will be. Again, I could be completely wrong. The largest commercial I've had in the last couple months was early January. It was a NASCAR commercial that I did in Charlotte, and we had 30 plus people on set, crew and cast and the whole thing. I don't see that coming back for quite a while. I really don't because I don't think even companies or agencies are going to be willing to let that amount of people in a space at once. But I think that if you have a team of people or if you know freelancers that can come together that have done the wearing of five hats and can do that well, I think that's when those groups of people are going to be able to shine starting sometime this summer or even earlier potentially.
Tanya Musgrave (42:14):
Yeah, seriously, who knows.
Brian Fallows (42:16):
Leif Ramsey (42:17):
Well, I'll let you know how it goes.
Brian Fallows (42:19):
Yeah, please do.
Leif Ramsey (42:21):
We'll definitely be feeling a little bit of pressure to amount a traditional production.
Brian Fallows (42:25):
Tanya Musgrave (42:27):
Maranatha Hay (42:28):
I mean, what an example. That's like an awesome behind the scenes. It really is.
Leif Ramsey (42:34):
That's a great point. I hadn't thought about that. Do it for the sake of history or something.
Maranatha Hay (42:41):
Posterity, yes. Absolutely.
Brian Fallows (42:45):
You can be in your whole garb.
Tanya Musgrave (42:50):
Well, I mean, that's actually a good transition because I am wanting to look at the potential benefits of re-entering the market. What kind of positives do you guys see on the horizon because of this? Are there any?
Brian Fallows (43:06):
That's a good question.
Maranatha Hay (43:07):
Yeah. I think to what Brian was saying, the one to four small crew might... I think it's having a moment. I think people are figuring to what's engaging, is that changing? Are smaller productions being appreciation, are they carrying their weight? I think a lot of that is getting adjusted. 30 person plus crews and stuff like that... I mean, I would like to think that there's always going to be a place in and people will appreciate production value because it would be a shame to lose that. But yeah, I think the one to four crew, like you were saying Brian, I think it's going to have a moment in the sun. And for those of us who have learned those skills or have had to learn those skills, being an editor, being able to pull together a crew and know people who are multi-functional in that way, it may wind up being a real benefit to have those skills.
Brian Fallows (44:05):
Absolutely. I agree 100%. I don't think that big production and quality production's going to go away. I mean, we've conditioned people over the last 10-15 years to demand a certain quality. I don't think companies at a certain level are ever going to get rid of that level quality. I think it'll always be there. Eventually people are going to go back to the way things were. But you're right, I do think the smaller crews will have a moment. I think it's good for all of us to keep an eye on technology because in this moment of craziness, people used Instagram live and all kinds of things that maybe you didn't use in your day to day basis, and definitely big corporations weren't using like they are now. And so there's been a moment where they've realized the potential, and I think that there might be some interesting future possibilities with that technology and where that goes and to be on the forefront of that would be important.
Tanya Musgrave (45:09):
Yeah. I think that this will provide a lot more not just opportunities but a lot more jobs but in different ways, in different horizons. For instance, I was actually talking to David, and he has done a lot of work on Ponopoly because he had to switch a lot of things to online learning. The way that he was able to set everything up through his cameras, this would drastically reduce the amount of people on set. This could be a thing. We would be getting rid of some jobs, but just like you were saying before with Instagram live and everything, there's going to be a lot more demand for content on different spaces that we weren't necessarily expecting. There will be changes in the horizon. Whether or no it is production companies realizing that they can get away with a lower standard of production quality while the other ones still go. Commercial wise too, stock footage is a thing, and companies realize that they can get a product for a much lower price. So I don't know, there are things to keep in mind there.
Leif Ramsey (46:17):
My personal opinion is that the fallout of what's happening right now is going to have a very short tail because it hasn't happened for very long. So it's very intense and painful in the moment, but if you can hunker down and continue with your long term thinking, whatever that is with your career or with your education or with your future plans for your business, I think in about three months time if things continue as they are right now. In about three months time, things will probably start snapping back to where they were before. Things will probably start coming back around. And in about a year's time, you'll probably be really thankful that you held the course. That's my personal opinion.
Brian Fallows (47:05):
Yeah, to second that, I would agree. I think that if you can hold out as long as you possibly can or even if you need to take a job interim, there's going to be a point where this all turns around. And I think it's not going to be super long down the line. If you can hold out as long as you can until that and make it through as a business owner, those that own businesses, then you're going to be better for it because there are a lot of people that are not going to be able to make it unfortunately. It sounds bad to say it this way, but it kind of levels the playing field a little bit. So yeah, if you can hold out as long as possible...
Brian Fallows (47:47):
And those that are entering the industry, I think about those that are graduating or those that have newly tried to start in the industry, I don't think it's bad to take a moment to make a paycheck, do what you need to do to make it. But don't lose sight of your ultimate goal, don't lose sight of your passion, your dreams because there's a lot of people that once they get settled somewhere, then they stay there and they don't ever accomplish what they want to accomplish. So don't lose sight of that when the time comes that things do reopen and there is a lot of work out there because there will be.
Tanya Musgrave (48:21):
Yeah. There is no shame in providing for yourself for sure.
Brian Fallows (48:24):
Maranatha Hay (48:25):
I think the state of the world right now is a giant jigsaw puzzle, and whoever can solve the puzzle first is bound to make a lot of cash. So I know myself, I have not consumed a drop of less content as before. In fact, I probably double my screen time just because I'm constantly doom scrolling, trying to figure out what's going on. So Leif, you were saying the people in your network, the clients that you have are very, very eager to communicate to their customers. They want to do it. I think that there is a lot of potential there. So if you can do it quicker, stronger, faster, I think you're bound to really cut out a lot of bigger businesses. It maybe a good three months for you. I don't know.
Tanya Musgrave (49:18):
Yeah. For sure. Well, thank you guys so much for joining us. Thank you for your time. If you enjoyed this interview, follow us right here and check out more episodes at Colabinc.org. If you have comments or know someone who would be a great guest on our show, send in your suggestions to Tanya@colabinc.org. And again, we're really wanting feedback. So go to media.colabinc.org, fill out the feedback survey, and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift cards. You guys, thank you again so much for your time. We will see you next time on There To Here.
Brian Fallows (49:51):