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Sweetshop Shanghai re-opens for business

Sweetshop Shanghai re-opens for business

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As China emerges from its lockdown, Sweetshop‘s MD and EP of China, Asia + MENA, Laura Geagea tells Campaign Brief Asia that studios shoots are now up and running, with location productions pre-booked for this month. Leaning heavily on production-technology, Laura shares Sweetshop‘s on the ground and remote production solutions, and the creative shift the industry is witnessing.

What is the situation in Asia at the moment? Is any production continuing?
Sweetshop is in the fortunate position of being a global production company. We have 8 offices worldwide: Shanghai, Bangkok, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, London, New York and Los Angeles. This means we have a fantastic roster of directors and crew in multiple locations around the globe. What we’re seeing is we are still heavily pitching for jobs and those jobs that we’d been awarded have either been pushed by a couple of months or just put on ice for the moment.

The lock down is so clearly now global and it’s effecting every one of our eight offices. However, Sweetshop’s advantage is our presence in China. A country, as we know, that is beginning to come out the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions within and across the borders are putting an unprecedented pressure on the world economy, and China is mobilizing its digital prowess, through its widely popular mobile apps, to strike a balance between public health and national growth.

A green QR code is given to all residents in China who have tested negative for Covid-19 or who have completed a 14-day quarantine period. This allows them to move freely in China, while still adhering to incredibly strict health and safety measures.

There’s strict protocol around washing hands, wearing masks, and abiding to social distancing of 1 to 2 metres in all offices and on set. Those who want to enter public spaces or take public transport vehicles are required to show their green health codes. When employees, cast and crew arrive on set, or an office location, they are scanned for a fever or any signs of sickness or exposure to Covid-19. It is the new normal.

Studio productions have been up and running since March 1 2020 with a limit of 50 people on set, and location productions are being pre-booked for early April.

What we’re also leaning on heavily is production technology. Equipment and platforms that allow us to shoot remotely. Meaning a client and agency could be in the US, our remote Director could be in the UK and the production itself takes place in Shanghai, with this technology linking all parties into every stage of production.

Technology on set allows agencies and client to view a live stream, direct from the camera, including audio. With additional production camera feeds, agencies and clients feel as close to being immersed on set as possible. Along with assigned open channels, remote agencies, clients and directors can communicate with the production team as per any onset process. And for post-production we have a user-friendly remote platform that will allow agencies and clients to work with the post team in real time on the edit, colour grade and online.

What creative shifts are you seeing towards commercials that can be produced?
As shoots have to take place in studio at the moment in China, we have to keep briefs possible to studio shoots. But China is amazing and economical at set building and green screens, no matter how big so we’re pretty comfortable with that. Anything with green screen is obviously a Yes at the moment as well. When we get a script in at the moment, we look at both locally based directors and also foreign based directors and offer both options up to the agency depending on whether they want to have someone on the ground or potentially directing remotely.

We are also looking at scripts from China and from the region to shoot in Bangkok once things are safer there.

Agencies and clients from outside of China and Asia are becoming more familiar with working with Chinese and Asian Directors and also working with directors remotely and this situation is definitely accelerating everything in that direction.

Clients are also beginning to see that productions can take place without huge numbers of people on set and the agency traveling internationally to be there. Clients will love this as it obviously means big savings in terms of budget. I expect we’ll see this use of technology as the new normal.

What does the outlook look like?
Ask me again tomorrow! The situation across Asia obviously changes each and every day and it has been the case since mid-January. For the short-term future, our hopes are on China, as business slowly and carefully opens up again and productions start to go ahead. It’s a country that adapts incredibly quickly and Sweetshop is very lucky to have operations here and access to some incredibly talented directors and crew on the ground.

This piece was published in Campaign Brief Asia on 4 April 2020. Read the interview here.