When COVID-19 hit back in March, its impact on production was immediate and profound. Like so many of our peers, King and Country was forced to adapt quickly as the industry transformed before our eyes. Ideation, creative collaboration, shooting, post-production; everything about our approach had to be subtly reinvented with productivity and safety in mind.
Fortunately for us, in navigating these challenges we discovered something we didn’t know we’d been searching for: an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. By reevaluating our workflow and continually adapting our approach to suit the needs of the moment, we’ve managed to turn short-term solutions into long-term strategies and workable methods that continue to evolve not only our own company, but the entire industry.
Lesson 1: Creative diversity is key
King and Country has always been an extraordinarily diverse production entity. Broadcast and commercial work, graphics and live action, print and social media and beyond—we do it all, and we do it with a trusted team we’ve spent the past 15 years building. We couldn’t have predicted it, of course, but this facility with every aspect of content creation is what prepared us to face the challenges that Covid presented. Because if there’s one thing you learn by tackling so many different types of projects, it’s how to think on your feet!
We put this nimble thinking into practice during the very first week of the pandemic. By the time the first stay-at-home orders were implemented in Los Angeles, we had already successfully migrated our staff offsite, and we’ve been fine tuning our robust remote-access workflow ever since. We rest easy knowing our data is still secure and backed up every night. What’s more, our team members can access large files by controlling the machines remotely, which means they have a whole lot of power at their fingertips with nothing but an average internet connection and a home computer! By accelerating our cloud infrastructure roadmap, we were able to expand to larger teams quickly, as well as find new talent all over the world to join our team and collaborate in our virtual studio environment.
Lesson 2: A small crew can yield big results
Not long after the initial lock down, shoot production began to open back up. As far as shoots go, our mantra has always been “you’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Any single point of failure threatens to collapse the entire apparatus! This philosophy became even more important as we honed our work methods under the new restrictions. Our Histories Greatest Mysteries is a perfect example of how with good preparation, strict protocols and a great team, you can shoot confidently without compromising an ounce of creative vision. A two-day build and pre-light on set ensured our time shooting Laurence Fishburne was the most efficient and well thought-out it could be. Every shot was created prior to the shoot in pre-viz so we had a great sense of lensing and camera positions long before the shoot day. We only had a few hours with Laurence, but we easily got 50 marketing scripts in the can, along with the intros and outros of every episode.
One of the unforeseen benefits we discovered through this new Covid shooting model is that with Zoom and Q-take, entire network departments can view real time and give instant feedback via the producers. Then we can ensure everyone is happy before we move on! This sounds like a daunting prospect for any director, but when it’s well run and key decisions are made before the day, it’s actually beneficial to everyone involved—especially when you have to cover broadcast, digital, social and print.
Lesson 3: Plan, plan, plan!
The Good Lord Bird main titles for Showtime was one project that was mid-production when Covid hit. This one was completely graphic, so transitioning to a fully remote operation was simple. Moreover, it proved that our 3D and post pipeline was working seamlessly and would serve us well in many projects to come. While this project boasted a charming hand-drawn aesthetic, it wasn’t quite as simple as putting pen to page! It’s amazing how much 3D CG work goes into something with a hand-drawn and flat aesthetic.
To ensure that the time-consuming hand-drawn animation process went as efficiently as possible, we blocked out all the animation in 3D first. This gave the production company a sense of narrative flow and provided the 2D animators with the exact timing and blocking of the animation. Once these key building blocks were in place, the 2D artists’ hands were able to swiftly and confidently move forward with the final animation.
Wendy Williams: Hot Seat was one of four shoots we did on both coasts during Covid with our friends at Lifetime. Our work methods quickly became the gold standard for shooting during Covid and we created Lifetime’s shooting handbook, which has been used to great success on a variety of projects.
There were actually two reasons to mask up for this shoot, as we set light to thousands of fictional tabloids and multiple pink thrones on a stage in Hollywood! Take a look at how we created the tease and graphics package entirely in camera in the ‘Behind The Scenes’ video.
The lifeblood of King and Country always has been our seamless merging of graphics and live action, so our collaboration with Hulu and Dame Dolla was the perfect way to wrap up the year. Our friends at Big Family Table brought us a great long form cut of Dame Dolla in the studio dropping his ‘Cable Diss Track.’ We then brought the narrative to life with a deft blend of typography and graphics, channeling the culture of Dame and Hulu into a graphic language that highlighted both the lyrical story and Dame’s wry comedy. This was all accomplished seamlessly and remotely with a global team across the US, Spain and Mexico.
Lesson 4: Build a community based on trust
The more we embrace remote-work strategies, the more valuable our 15-plus-year relationship with our partners has become. Knowing our crew, understanding their methods, trusting in their talent and in their commitment to fulfilling our creative vision—this has become more essential than ever as we continue to chart our path forward.
With this trust as our foundation, we’ve been able to survive and thrive through these changing times. Despite rigorous new safety protocols, we’ve maintained optimal productivity, since we were able to streamline our crew with confidence in each person’s ability to fill multiple roles.
Lesson 5: Embrace new mediums, and use them in unique ways
Our everyday operations simply wouldn’t be possible without the time-saving, globe-spanning magic of Zoom. Love it or hate it, we’re grateful to have been invited into the homes of our clients and partners. We’ve met their families, bonded over sports, even created music and art outside of work—and it all began with seeing each other’s faces on the grid! Before Covid, we admittedly would not have relished the idea of jumping on a video conference call at the drop of a hat. Now we honestly can’t imagine our daily routine without it. It just goes to show that human ingenuity can flourish under less-than-ideal circumstances. And if we approach every day in the spirit of connection and collaboration, we can turn everyday obstacles into opportunities for growth.
King and Country (K+C), is a Los Angeles based creative studio that specializes in the fields of design, animation and live action. Established in 2006 by directors Rick Gledhill and Efrain Montanez and executive producer Jerry Torgerson, K+C partners with the world’s leading networks, brands, and agencies to produce award-winning creative content.