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Getting creative with drama-based film in unusual times

Blog posts | 19.10.2020


Shaping the future of learning

At Kineo, we love making films and believe they add a huge amount of value to the learning process. We’ve been back to filming for some time now following the lockdown in spring.  

We have been working closely with our filming partners to navigate all the restrictions, social distancing and safety procedures. Change tends to bring about innovation and we’ve delivered some really creative approaches to meeting clients’ objectives - delivering their messages in exciting and engaging ways, whilst making the whole process as painless as possible for them.

Making it look easy isn’t as easy as it looks, especially during a global pandemic, so we’ve partnered with our friends at Zing Films to share some insights and tips from some recent Kineo projects.

Current challenges

From the initial creative ideas through to the final product, there’s a huge amount of thinking, planning, preparation, decision making and good old-fashioned hard graft that goes into each and every piece of learning. When creating film to support the learning process we now need to consider a whole range of factors to make them successful:

  • Safety is our number one priority, and this largely drives what we can and cannot do. We want everyone involved in our film shoots to be safe and comfortable with what they are doing.
  • Location, with the new norm of everyone working from home, you need to think creatively about where to film and how to maintain context that the backdrop provides to any drama.
  • Casting needs to be done differently. Auditions take place online and actor selection needs to work within the constraints of social distancing.
  • Filming during full lockdown was near impossible but as restrictions eased, new opportunities presented themselves . . . you just need to be a little creative.
  • Maintaining quality and realism is tricky. You can’t take too many short cuts with drama production. Poor quality production can have a negative impact on the learner viewing the content. 

So how do you overcome these challenges?

Creative solutions: User generated film – video diary treatment

In this first example, the brief was for a set of short films for an e-learning programme to help employees understand different types of customer and to guide conversations about their needs and wants in terms of financial services and products. The client came up with the idea of dramatised video diaries which we jumped on because it’s apropos with lockdown. They had quite specific ideas about who should appear, as well as the stories and messages they wanted to get across, which we needed to try to match as closely as possible.​​

The films would portray a glimpse into the home life of a variety of diverse families and characters, and the life challenges they face. Having the actors keep a meter apart from each other would have been at odds with the story. For example, one of the scenarios was a gay female couple expecting their first baby. To make it believable, we needed them to be able to sit side-by-side on the sofa as they delivered their video diary entry and to be tactile with each other.

To overcome this challenge, the decision was taken to cast real couples and families from the same household or bubble. Not only did this solve the social distancing difficulties, it also brought a level of warmth, intimacy and a personal dynamic that helped bring the characters and the story to life. 
As these needed to look like authentic video diaries, with a bit of chaos and realism to them, we decided we should film them on a phone. But you’ve got to be able to see and hear it, so after some research the decision was made to purchase a brand-new iPhone 11 Pro. This approach provided good quality footage and when recorded in a quiet environment and with good lighting we got great results. 

For the same reason (and also with safety in mind) we didn’t want to send in a full production crew. On the day, Zing ran with a minimal crew of just the director to bring their expertise and guidance to the table, along with a clear understanding of the clients’ objectives. The director had discussed lighting and camera angles with the director of photography in advance and was on hand to steer the actors’ performances on the day. This allowed them to help sculpt and craft the film to ensure we came away from the day with the high-quality professional footage that we needed.

Studio drama – full drama with simple props

Every project that we’re working on currently has a COVID layer to it. It’s all about preparation and finding ways to achieve the end result but not necessarily taking the path that we would normally take to get there. That’s not to say it’s a lesser path. In some instances where creating films that are, if anything, stronger than they would have been.

In this example, we were due to film a drama in a client’s offices as we would normally. But lockdown meant that we weren’t allowed in, so we recorded in a completely white studio with a few simple props. The focus then became the characters, what they say, what they do, without distractions in the background.  

Takeaways for filming great content in a pandemic

  • Don’t think film is impossible to do right now. With the right treatment and expertise, Kineo can work round most challenges – and in a safe way. 
  • Think creatively about the format and location of the film. Restrictions don’t have to mean compromises. They can make you look at things in a new light and help you come up with fresh, original ideas.
  • Solve the issue of on-screen social distancing by casting actors from the same household or bubble. And give yourself extra time to find the right people.
  • Consider the optimum number of people required on set. From a safety perspective, the fewer the better, but some roles are essential if you want to be certain of getting what you need from the shoot.
  • Unless your film is specifically COVID-related, avoid those lockdown tropes and clichés. Try to make it look like it could have been filmed in 2019.
  • Planning and preparation have always been key, but now so more than ever. Keep up to date with safety regulations and be ready to think on your feet if things change.

We hope you found this useful and a special thank you to Zing Films for partnering with us on this article.

“In 2020, we’ve all become accustomed to the Zoom aesthetic. The immediacy of video calls is entirely appropriate for meetings, live events and news reporting. But with more nuanced communication, especially when it also needs to reflect a brand, there’s always going to be a requirement for film that is delivered at a higher level of quality. We are here to help you do that.”

Sarah Beadsmoore, Founder and Director, Zing Films


Shaping the future of learning

Kineo helps the world’s leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We’re proud of our reputation for being flexible and innovative, and of our award-winning work with clients across the world.