Occasionally Filmsupply’s blog features articles from guest contributors. Today’s article on the state of the commercial industry comes from our CEO Daniel McCarthy.

I promise I’ll only use this phrase once: 2020 has been unprecedented. And whether we return to normalcy next year or not, I do know there’s no going back. We experienced permanent changes this year, and as creatives it’s our job to adapt to those changes and make the most of them. Our current climate may have disrupted the way things were, but it’s clear that throughout history creativity always adapts and finds new ways to exist and thrive.

Whether you’ve had a difficult year, or thrived despite 2020’s unique challenges, you’re not alone. Together we navigated obstacles that made our work better. We were reminded of the value of our craft, the importance of the people around us, and the worth of our community’s core beliefs of excellence, empathy, and progress.

At Filmsupply, we have a unique perspective of the commercial industry. Every day we have the privilege of hearing about struggles and triumphs—and there have been plenty of both this year. This also means we have a unique perspective on what 2021 holds for our industry.

So let’s take a look at this year. More importantly, let’s take a look at what’s ahead because of this year. We’ve learned so much about the nature of creative work and how it thrives in the face of adversity. We’re moving forward with a whole new set of experiences to throw at whatever challenge comes next.

Expanding Collaborative Possibilities

Back in March, the great Jenga tower known as our careers got a block or two pulled. Some things collapsed and some things maintained their structure, but we all had to learn a thing or two about finding balance. It turns out that balance exists through remote work. Some leaders were ahead of the curve here, already well-adapted to Zoom calls and Google Docs, but there were others who needed to adapt quickly. As the adage goes, sometimes it’s easiest to build your parachute on the way down. In early 2020, we all got a push out of the nest.

At Filmsupply, we learned two major things from this experience. First, we miss human interaction every single day we don’t get it. Particularly for creative work, there’s something you just can’t replicate (at least, exactly) over a Zoom call and we love the magic that happens when you get two brains together in the same room. There’s friction and fire.

We experienced permanent changes this year, and as creatives it’s our job to adapt to those changes and make the most of them.

Second, we learned that we can be just as productive, if not moreso, when it comes to actually getting the work done. Savannah Cannistraro, an Associate Producer at Cutters Studio, said she and her team were pleasantly surprised by how well-prepared they were for the transition:

“We were initially uncertain about how it would affect our ability to build relationships with agencies and clients. Through patience and support within the community, we quickly realized that we could build that same rapport and be just as productive on Zoom,” she told us. “We live in a digital age and work in a digital industry; I think we were more prepared for this than we probably realized.”

In a way, this remote work revolution is a massive blessing. We’ve added a new tool of efficiency to our toolbelt. For those who were skeptical about working and collaborating digitally, this year has shown us that it’s entirely possible. When we enter a post-pandemic era, we can be confident in this new-found ability to take advantage of remote possibilities and old-fashioned, person-to-person collaboration.

Navigating Reallocated Resources

As creatives, we may dream in the clouds but we also live in reality. There are bills to pay, timelines to meet, and businesses that need to keep the doors open at every level. I’ve seen fluctuations on a weekly basis, but it’s safe to say that no one was left unaffected from a monetary perspective. There’s a domino effect with logistical friction, with each adjusted timeline, changed location, new safety protocol, and reduced crew comes to expense. There’s just no getting around it.

One thing that we’ve noticed over and over is that while budgets have been changing; they haven’t necessarily been dropping off a cliff. Matt Miller, the President and CEO of AICP, pointed out that clients understand just as well as anyone that we all need to be adaptable in our work:

“With new safety considerations and responsibilities come significant costs, as well as a different pace and timeline for even (what would be in normal times) the most simplistic executions,” Matt said. “As we all know, time equals money. The approaches to working within the new parameters certainly have budget impacts, but clients and agencies have been very supportive of what needs to be done to make sure we can operate in the manner we need to. Communication is key, as various elements are fluid and plans will consistently be stress-tested.”

Our current climate may have disrupted the way things were, but it's clear that throughout history creativity always adapts and finds new ways to exist and thrive.

“Stress-tested” is such a great way to sum up 2020, and our client relationships have definitely been stress-tested. The client relationship is still a relationship even though it exists within the realms of business, and this year has shown each of us how to lean into those relationships. Some clients went away, others adapted, and some even boosted their spending. It was just a matter of being creative, as always. Here’s another creative director that reached out to me from San Diego:

“A large tire manufacturer just pulled all spend from trade shows and is pushing 100 percent of it to digital media. We’re going to be doing off-roading tutorials, challenges, etc. And it’s all going online.”

We have the opportunity to be a solution for our clients. To be creative problem-solvers, adapting and creating new solutions to new problems.

Constructing A New Way to Work

And, among all of this uncertainty, we still need to get work done. If the newsfeed wasn’t enough, the logistical obstacles are enough to make a person want to give up. But, that’s definitely not what happened. The world kept turning and clients kept needing to promote their brand and products to customers—even a pandemic can’t stop the economic wheel from turning completely.

Remote shooting became the new normal, and in many ways it’s here to stay. Greenpoint Pictures’ Executive Producer Trevor King said “Zoom and Qtake have been game-changers for remote shooting. And that’s one thing I believe will have a lasting impact: agencies and clients will not be coming to set in large numbers.”

We can leverage what our clients really pay us for—our creativity—and do what we do best: adapt, and create new solutions to new problems.

At Filmsupply, we have a truly unique perspective on this work. Our entire business is built on adaptability and flexibility—it’s the entire reason we’ve put together a roster of award-winning filmmakers. We wanted to provide new opportunities for our clients to create amazing work. And it turns out that there’s a need for those opportunities now more than ever.

“The majority of the projects I have worked on during the pandemic have used stock footage,” Jeff Goodnow, Producer at dentsu mcgarrybowen, told us. “I think this will continue into 2021 until client budgets come up and people feel more comfortable flying.”

We’re seeing when high-quality stock footage is available, it doesn’t have to be Option B. It’s an Option A solution. Here’s Savannah’s perspective on it:

“Stock footage has become an increasingly effective tool for storytelling; especially with sites like Filmsupply that offer remarkably cinematic footage that raises the bar for what we can expect from stock providers,” She told us. “I think advertising has really risen to the top despite the overall economic downturn. Having access to high-quality stock footage played a large role in that success, and I hope this momentum encourages creatives to continue to utilize stock in 2021.”

Stock footage took on new meaning this year. What was once considered a backup plan and creative limitation, is now a requirement—and with Filmsupply, stock footage is now a way to nail the brief. This also allows filmmakers to find new ways to monetize their footage when in-person shoots simply haven’t been an option. They’re shooting new, interesting footage that can be used in a multitude of ways, not just as B-roll. It turns out we’ve had this incredible tool at our fingertips for years and we’re just beginning to tap into its full potential.

Embrace the Inevitable

The clichéd adage holds up—the only constant is change. I think it’s important to realize that, pandemic or not, change was inevitable. We’ll never know what the future holds, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold tightly to the things that really matter. Personally, I’ve missed seeing the people I love to collaborate with day-in and day-out. But, don’t forget that those people are still there, and we’ll be back together soon. As Jeff pointed out to me simply:

“Stay positive and be open to alternate solutions. This will be over eventually.”

With that in mind, we don’t fight change. We embrace it. As creative professionals, we move forward by embracing change to push our work to new heights. We continue fighting for the causes we believe in and setting the cultural tone. It’s what we’ve done all along.

Daniel McCarthy

About Daniel McCarthy

Daniel is the CEO of Filmsupply. With a background in filmmaking and advertising, his mission is to empower creatives to make their best work. With Filmsupply, he set out to revolutionize the stock footage industry by offering premium content from the world’s top filmmakers.