The pandemic has led to changes in production that could well be permanent, but its effect on content going forward is less clear. That’s one takeaway from a panel on pandemic-era production co-hosted by FilMart and the Producers Guild of America.

One major change, mentioned by several panelists, is the shift to working from home, which Bob Underwood of Writers Guild of America’s Foreign Employment Task Force described as creating more flexibility and allowing “people to work effectively minus interference.”

One downside of remote work, however, is what Underwood described as the absence personal bonding – or the “have a beer?” side — of pre-pandemic life. “We will continue to work remotely (post-pandemic), but there is also a need for in-person contact,” he said.

Also here to stay, added General Film Corporation executive producer Fraser Brown, are the technical advances made during the pandemic to facilitate production, such as on-boarding new crew members using an app. “We’ve been able to reduce unnecessary interactions to a minimum,” he said.
Beijing-based Jan Heinze, COO and executive producer of visual effects company Pixomondo, said one lesson he had learned from the pandemic was the need to involve all relevant players sooner in the development process. “In China, especially, commitment is needed on the project early on,” he commented.

Asked if audience tastes were changing due to the pandemic, Underwood noted that comedies were popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s. “Hopefully, the pandemic will not last that long,” he added. “But people do want entertainment now.” Agreeing that “audiences want cheering up,” Brown noted that films are typically commissioned three or four years in advance, meaning that by the time they hit screens, pandemic-themed content might not appeal to audiences more eager to move on than look back. “I just don’t see a significant change,” he said.

Queried about the outlook for this time next year, Brown said that while feeling optimistic that the worst of the pandemic would be over then, “We now live in a different reality.” Heinze seconded that observation, saying that “We are not going be back to (the pre-pandemic) normal.” “In some countries the film business is already stabilizing and getting back to normal production,” he added. “But some of the changes we’ve seen, in technology especially, will stay.”