Filming During a Pandemic

Filming During a Pandemic. When the world went into lockdown in March 2020, as a Video Producer who thrived on working in a diverse environment and organizing shoots in far-flung places (I’d just returned from a trip shooting in Alberta, Canada in -18 degree snowstorms), I was not only horrified but worried too.
Until then, our video content had been built on in-person connections and meetings with clients and the ability to tell engaging, cinematic, authentic stories through visual ‘real’ live-action. How could we possibly film anything during a global pandemic that banned social contact, limited locations, and encouraged people not to leave their homes? Well, we’ve had to learn to adapt – yes, we may not be jetting off to Amsterdam or Portugal to shoot any time soon, but we have learned to utilize the restrictions and still make some award-winning content. But how?

Keeping It In-House & Local

Clearhead has always prided itself on being a small in-house crew. This was what drew me to Clearhead in the first place and in some ways was a savior to shooting during Covid. We could keep the crew as minimal as possible to avoid having large numbers of people on set and also made us all step up our game a little. I’m not sure I would have learned how to sound operate had we had the ability to hire someone – but instead we adapted, and Alex & I shot 7 films as a two-man crew over 3 days for the University of Huddersfield. We also had to adapt the way we dealt with talent – having them fit radio mics themselves with our guidance. Luckily, we have our own in-house equipment, so cleaning and sanitizing kit became a daily part of every shoot day.

The restrictions in place regarding travel meant that we had to try and keep things local, whilst still fitting with client briefs and visual creative ideas. A great example of this is Milton Keynes College’sFollow Your Voice’ TV Campaign – a campaign highlighting the effect on the education of young people during the pandemic and celebrating the dream to follow your own path. Both Clearhead and Milton Keynes College were keen to use local talent for the TV ad, something that previously would have likely been cast through casting agencies. Shooting in Milton Keynes also meant cast and crew would have minimal travel and therefore at less risk.
During Creative Development, outdoor locations were written into the script where possible to reduce the need for enclosed spaces and giving more space for social distancing – therefore minimizing risk. All meetings (both internally and with clients) were done via video conferencing, and talent was also asked to provide videotapes for auditions rather than traditional in-person casting sessions.

Safety First

With 11 actors and a handful of extras for our Milton Keynes College shoot, we had to ensure the safety of everyone was a top priority. All paperwork was sent digitally to cast and crew to avoid sharing paper documents onset, and call times were spread throughout the day to limit the number of people in one place at one time. In our dance scene, shot at MK Gallery, we ensured the location had a few different and separate spaces for us to hold actors and to shoot in so people could easily socially distance and not all be in one room at the same time.

Before mass testing and vaccinations were rolled out, we had to develop a way to track those attending shoots to be able to contact them should anyone develop symptoms or contract Covid. So, we created a Health Declaration Form which asked for contact information, if they’d had any symptoms, where they had traveled to in the last 2 weeks, and any underlying health conditions. This form was sent out to everyone who would be on the shoot, be it crew, talent, or client, and had to be returned to us prior to the shoot day.

Now we have the lateral flow test which allows those without symptoms and still going out to work to get tested, we can secure the safety of those on set by getting everyone tested prior. We did this recently for a 3-day studio shoot for the BBC, and I have to admit the experience of the test was pain-free and easy. On this shoot, we also temperature checked everyone who entered the studio at the start of the day, and of course, enforced that masks were worn at all times.

Client Concerns & Planning

During the first official lockdown, I’d taken the Screen Skills Covid Safe Filming Course on filming during a pandemic and, of course, passed. This helped give our clients confidence that our productions could follow the guidelines in place and still create content creatively.

We established longer project schedules to allow for more time to gain location permissions, considering the majority of the country was working from home and so things may take a little longer! This also gave us contingency time for the project, just in case any guidelines changed that could impede the shoot. Luckily, our project management system Active Collab allows for easily adaptable timelines, so if one element changes the task can be moved and the whole project adapts which makes things quick and easy to re-organize if needed. With Covid being unpredictable, this saved a lot of pre-production time!

Whilst planning for our BBC project, we made use of the ability to work from home and use video conference calling by being able to access education consultants in Scotland that we may have not had the ability to otherwise. The creative was written with a studio location in mind, as we can control the area a lot easier and set up stations for hand sanitizing and cleaning.

With the pandemic still ongoing, all of our risk assessments and safety procedures are reviewed regularly to guarantee we can still provide our clients with creative and visual content but still keeping our team and talent safe.

Filming During a Pandemic? Talk to us and let’s start a conversation.

About Clearhead

Clearhead are a content agency built to grow brands. Clearhead have helped support Colleges and Universities’ recruitment marketing for over twelve years through crafting content that sparks chemistry with their audience and starts conversations. Promotional marketing, student experience content, research films, case studies, and virtual open days are amongst the valuable services we provide.

We believe that great conversations spark chemistry. We create digital content and campaigns that ignite conversations and give your audience something to talk about. Let’s get started by using our Project Planner.


Let’s Talk: +44 (0)207 494 1589

Hat House, 2nd Floor, 32 Guildford St, Luton LU1 2NR