By Dana Bonomo
In early March, Chimney delivered a piece for TED, created to honor women on International Women’s Day featuring Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. This was in the early days of coronavirus taking hold in the United States. We had little comprehension at that point of the true extent to which we would be impacted as a country and as an industry. As the situation grew and awareness around the severity of the COVID-19 health crisis sunk in, we started to realize that it would be animated projects like this one that we would come to rely upon.
This film showcases the use of other creative solutions when live-action projects can’t be shot. But the real function of work like this is that, on an emotional level, it feels good to make something with a socially actionable message.
In just the last few weeks, platforms have been saturated with COVID-19-related content: salutes to healthcare workers, PSAs from federal, state and local authorities and brands sharing messages of unity. Finding opportunities that can include some form of social purpose help provide hope to our communities while also raising the spirits of those creating it. We are currently in production on two of these projects and they help us feel like we’re contributing in some small way with the resources we have.
As a global company, Chimney is always highlighting our worldwide service capabilities, with 12 offices on four continents, and our abilities to work together. We’ve routinely used portals such as Zoho and Slack in the past, yet now I’m enjoying the shift in how we’re communicating with each other in a more connected and familiar way. Just a short time ago we might have used a typical workflow, and today we’re sharing and exchanging ideas and information at an exponential rate.
As a whole, we prefer to video chat, have more follow-ups and create more opportunities to work on internal company goals in addition to just project pipelines and calendars. There’s efficiency in brainstorming and solving creative challenges in real time, either as a virtual brainstorm or idea exchange in PM software and project communication channels. So at the end of a meeting, internal review or present, current project kick off, we have action items in place and ready to facilitate on a global scale.
Our company’s headquarters is in Stockholm, Sweden. You may have heard that Sweden’s health officials have taken a different approach to handling COVID-19 than most countries, and it is resulting in less drastic social distancing and isolation measures while still being quite mindful of safety. Small shoots are still possible with crews of 10 or less — so we can shoot in Sweden with a fully protected crew, executing safe and sanitary protocols —and we can livestream to clients worldwide from set.
Our CEO North America Marcelo Gandola is encouraging us individually to schedule personal development time, whether it’s for health and wellness, master classes on subjects that interest us, certifications for our field of expertise, or purely creative and expressive outlets. Since many of us used our commute time for that before the pandemic, we can still use that time for emotional recharging in different ways. By setting aside time for this, we regain some control of our situation. It lifts our morale and it can be very self-affirming, personally and professionally.
While most everyone has remote work capabilities these days, there’s a level of creative energy in the air, driven by the need to employ different tactics — either by working with what you have (optimizing existing creative assets, produced content, captured content from the confines of home) or replacing what was intended to be live-action with some form of animation or graphics. For example, Chimney’s Creative Asset Optimization has been around for some time now. Using Edisen, our customization platform, we can scale brands’ creative content on any platform, in any market at any time, without spending more. From title changes to language versioning and adding incremental design elements, clients get bigger volumes of content with high-quality creative for all channels and platforms. So a campaign that might have had a more limited shelf life on one platform can now stretch to an umbrella campaign with a variety of applications depending on its distribution.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s exciting to see how brands and makers are creatively solving current challenges. Our visual effects team recently worked on a campaign (sorry we can’t name this yet) that took existing archival footage and — with the help of VFX — generated content that resonated with audiences today. We’re also helping clients figure out remote content capture solutions in lieu of their live events getting canceled.
I was recently on a Zoom call with students at my alma mater, SUNY Oneonta, in conversation with songwriter and producer John Mayer. He said he really feels for students and younger people during this time, because there’s no point of reference for them to approach this situation. The way the younger generation is adapting — reacting by living so fully despite so many limitations — they are the ones building that point of reference for the future. I think that holds true for all generations… there will always be something to be learned. We don’t fully know what the extent of our learning will be, but we’re working creatively to make the most of it.
Main Image: Editor Zach Moore’s cat is helping him edit
Dana Bonomo is managing director at Chimney Group in NYC.