Here's a challenge: Figure out a way to shoot your top-rated television show while all of your stars, crew, and talent are forced to stay home. Even better: Plan, shoot, and film a musical sing-along special under those same conditions--and do it in a week. Or, record your daily late-night show without access to your studio, your crew, or an audience of any kind.
Sure, in a world where people still can't find toilet paper at the grocery store, how Hollywood produces shows might not seem like a big deal--but hear me out. There's a lesson here for every business.
As much as people need toilet paper, or anything else right now, people need some form of "normal," whatever that may mean. People are counting on their favorite forms of entertainment to unwind and stay sane right now. The problem is, productions have largely shut down amid social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
A few shows, however, have figured out creative ways to keep things going.
For example, American Idol has been shooting the remainder of its season using iPhones since April. Apple is even lending its technical support to help. According to TechCrunch, the company said in a statement:
We know that people are relying on their favorite shows while staying at home, and we are happy to be a part of that process with the team at American Idol. iPhone offers a unique solution to deliver broadcast-quality video, in the palm of your hand, while keeping production staff and on-air talent safe and in their homes.
The production company delivered a video rig to each participant, and producers remotely helped each with lighting and a backdrop.
American Idol isn't the only one putting technology to some creative uses to keep production going. For Disney's Sing-Along Family Special, Ariana Grande recorded and shot her performance of "I Won't Say I'm in Love" in one day using an iPhone, which was then edited remotely.
Yes. Made it to Fri-yay. Here's my backyard setup for @todayshow and @3rdhourhourToday iPhone is Live U, other iPhone is return. iPad is prompter. And a LED light panel and an iRig/Sennheiser mic combo pic.twitter.com/DomHW57KTf-- Al Roker (@alroker) March 27, 2020
Al Roker has been using a pair of iPhones since March to broadcast his daily weather forecasts for the Today show from his home. And Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien have been recording their late night shows using, you guessed it, iPhones, with guests joining via Skype.
The lesson here is probably obvious, but I'll say it anyway: The most creative solutions don't always require million-dollar setups. Every current iPhone model is capable of shooting 4K video at 30 fps.
The iPhone may not be ideal for feature-length films--for a variety of reasons--but those are still shut down for now anyway until people can actually get together and act out scenes. Then again, I wrote in December about the most incredible snowball fight you've ever seen, shot entirely on an iPhone, by the director of John Wick.
By the way, if you're considering trying this for yourself, the good news is that Apple's help isn't just for the big guys. Even though most of its stores remain closed (for now), Apple is offering its in-store training via online classes (and it's awesome, by the way).
Considering most of us have plenty of extra time right now, that means there's really no reason not to get creative.