Technology has stepped up its game when it comes to dealing with various production challenges brought on by COVID-19.
Given the two-week quarantine requirements for entering Canada, not all producers and writers are able (or willing) to travel to set anymore. Instead, they connect via services such as Evercast, which allow execs to remotely view the set using ultra-low latency real-time streams. To avoid congregation, there’s no more video village, so instead those on set view the monitor feed via apps including VUER on individual iPads.
The casting process looks different, too. Taking self-tapes up a notch, Vancouver-based Casting Workbook launched its Virtual Casting Room (VCR) in May, to help ensure the safety of talent and casting professionals in the midst of the quarantine. VCR is a free software and service that’s available to casting directors and studios in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and is in the process of expanding into Spain, Mexico and the rest of Latin America. The virtual platform mimics the standard “in-the-room” audition experience and allows for scheduling, secure virtual video waiting rooms, and for auditions to be directed, recorded and shared. The Casting Workbook also launched a virtual coaching service that can complement the VCR experience.
“Back in March, when everything just stopped, there was the uncertainty, which had created all sorts of anxiety in people and was exacerbated in members who are challenged with certain mental health issues,” says Keith Martin Gordey, president of the UBCP/ACTRA performers’ union.
Now, with productions returning to Vancouver and the ongoing requirement for those coming into Canada to quarantine for 14 days, local talent is in demand.
“I think our performers are getting more roles,” says Gordey, noting that COVID protocols mean that performers need to submit audition tapes to casting directors. “What we’ve heard from the agents is that where they would normally see 10 people for a role, now they’re able to see 30.”
Gordey says he misses the interaction between a casting director and actor, or actor and director in the room. Sometimes the small adjustments are what makes all the difference when it comes to booking a role, but he’s also hearing from casting directors and other professionals that the remote-casting systems may be here to stay permanently — at least for that first audition.
“The industry was tending that way anyways, and this just accelerated that,” he says.
Another area to go paperless is back-office operations, HR services and payroll. Daniel Domachowski is co-founder and CEO of Vancouver’s Circus (circushr.com), a platform that seeks to move traditional start packs into the digital domain. In the five years since launching, the company has handled more than 500 productions (including shorts, features and series), but roughly 70% of these have been during COVID, during which demand has soared as productions have chosen to go paperless as per internal safety protocols.
“We were able to build our team, accelerate product releases and enhance our security to meet all the studio tech and legal requirements,” Domachowski says. “All the productions have used our platform in conjunction with Entertainment Partners, Cast & Crew or GreenSlate to process payroll. Some have also processed payroll internally, which our platform allows as well.”