KFTV Talk: Production figures discuss the new filming landscape at MPTS 2022

The production world is changing but the industry is busier than ever, according to industry experts

At this year’s Media Production and Technology Show (MPTS), KFTV hosted a panel discussion on 11 May with leading film and TV production figures to discuss the new filming landscape in the post-Covid era.

Line producer & co-producer Rob How (Dangerous Lliasons, Chernobyl) and location manager Christian McWilliams (The Old Guard, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum), together with producer & director Bindu De Stoppani and Head Gear Films’ COO Daniel Negret (Possessor, Talk to Me), shared insights into how productions are different on set, the influence of new technology and how sustainability is back on the agenda, plus more industry talking points.

Has the industry bounced back?

Asked whether the floodgates are opening up again, Rob How began by saying said that no matter where shoots are taking place in the world, it’s “very very busy”.

“It’s very busy in Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary and even in Lithuania where I did Chernobyl — it’s picked up quite a lot,” he said. “There’s quite a lot of varied locations and landscapes there. So I don’t think there’s much sign of it slowing down. 

Apart from Netflix who have lost a large number of subscribers recently - they seem to be backing off a bit,” he added.

Speaking about the landscape in London, Christian McWilliams revealed when it comes booking locations, something that might have taken 12 weeks previously, has now become 16 or 20 weeks.

“There’s so much production in London, so it almost adds a layer of challenge because you have to be very organised whether you’re trying to shut a road or trying to do something unusual like shell a bridge.”

As a result of the increase in production and added pressure, Christian revealed he has gotten involved in training new staff simply because there isn’t enough support, but recognised efforts from organisations such as ScreenSkills to nurture new talent.

Speaking about her experience in recent years, Bindu De Stoppani said: “I’ve been more busy in the last two years than previous years, as a script writer and as a director so I’ve just spent a year and a half in Turin, Italy shooting Netflix series An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts for season one and two in the midst of Covid.”

Recalling restrictions in Italy during the pandemic, Bindu revealed residents needed a ‘certificate’ to exit their house to prove their purpose for being out or working in public.

“It had its perks and difficulties,” she said. On the one hand, all locations were available to them - from cafes and bars to museums and the streets. But a downside, she added, “as a director you need a world to feel real and active and of course there was no one in the streets so it was incredibly empty. We had to populate that world, which of course during Covid was very challenging.”

Finance

On the finance front, asked whether people are looking back at financial incentives as a key driver for projects again, Daniel Negret answered “absolutely”. 

“A variety of territories were being approached to cash flow because one of the things Head Gear does is lend against these tax credits so they cash flowed on them.

“For instance, the Greek tax credit or the Maltese tax credit historically wasn’t something we were looking at and now it is.”

Speaking solely for independent productions, Daniel added there seems to be more of a “buyers mentality” in that they’re very much shopping around different territories to see what is the best deal they can get - from a cost (crew and locations) perspective and an incentive perspective.”

Insurance and protocols

Asked about other challenges still facing the industry, Rob recalled that at the beginning of Covid, insurance was very much an issue as insurers wouldn’t cover them so it had to be underwritten by the studios or by the financiers, he said. 

This meant producers were given anything from $1m to $1.5m budget to cover Covid costs such as testing and transport and flexible hotel accommodation. 

Recalling his fourth pandemic shoot in the Peak District, Christian also noted how the emptiness of the hotels emulated a “strange, futuristic movie” but soon adapted.

“In the early days, there were police with sticks telling you to stand two metres apart and suddenly there were experts on Covid when we were all still learning about it. So I struggled with it because everything I do is to do with logistics and common sense. Suddenly there was another department there telling you how to do your job,” he said.

Daniel added that for independent film in particular, Covid caused even further difficulty to raise finance because budgets are more expensive. I guess the margin producers are facing is tightening, and from the financiers perspectives because we charge less fees.”

From a creative point of view, Bindu emphasised how they want as much of the budget to go into what viewers see on TV, and not something intangible such as Covid costs, which is especially challenging without a streamer’s backing.

In the case of Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts, the lead actress required specific insurance because every scene is seen through her perspective, whereas everyone else was more malleable.

Sustainability

On the sustainability side, Christian noted how the inner ring of Paris doesn’t allow generators and that everything must be electric. A system he hopes will be enforced completely in London in the next two years.

For Bindu, her conversations surrounding sustainability have been with the costume department in particular and how they can reuse or upcycle what would have previously been discarded after single use. 

She also admitted there needs to be some “re-thinking” about crews using trailers since it isn’t always occupied: “I used my trailer once in the nine times we were filming,” she said.

Elsewhere, asked whether virtual productions are encroaching on location managers’ roles, Christian confessed in the early days he thought CGI would be the “end” of what he does. But found people still want to be on location and appreciates both sides of filming. 

Rob noted it’s also expensive and is often cheaper to hire a venue but recognised VFX is implemented in almost every film now, irrespective of what it is.

Concluding the discussion, Bindu said the key issues facing the industry currently is ever changing: “Covid pushed cinema over the edge of the cliff because we all process stories in such different ways now.

“I’m hoping cinema will still be a live experience. I think it’s early days, we are still finding our feet. The type of stories people write, will change. We’re all feeling our way in the dark.

KFTV Talk: Production figures discuss the new filming landscape at MPTS 2022
Panelists at the KFTV production landscape session
KFTV Talk: Production figures discuss the new filming landscape at MPTS 2022
Panelists at the KFTV production landscape session

At this year’s Media Production and Technology Show (MPTS), KFTV hosted a panel discussion on 11 May with leading film and TV production figures to discuss the new filming landscape in the post-Covid era.

Line producer & co-producer Rob How (Dangerous Lliasons, Chernobyl) and location manager Christian McWilliams (The Old Guard, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum), together with producer & director Bindu De Stoppani and Head Gear Films’ COO Daniel Negret (Possessor, Talk to Me), shared insights into how productions are different on set, the influence of new technology and how sustainability is back on the agenda, plus more industry talking points.

Has the industry bounced back?

Asked whether the floodgates are opening up again, Rob How began by saying said that no matter where shoots are taking place in the world, it’s “very very busy”.

“It’s very busy in Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary and even in Lithuania where I did Chernobyl — it’s picked up quite a lot,” he said. “There’s quite a lot of varied locations and landscapes there. So I don’t think there’s much sign of it slowing down. 

Apart from Netflix who have lost a large number of subscribers recently - they seem to be backing off a bit,” he added.

Speaking about the landscape in London, Christian McWilliams revealed when it comes booking locations, something that might have taken 12 weeks previously, has now become 16 or 20 weeks.

“There’s so much production in London, so it almost adds a layer of challenge because you have to be very organised whether you’re trying to shut a road or trying to do something unusual like shell a bridge.”

As a result of the increase in production and added pressure, Christian revealed he has gotten involved in training new staff simply because there isn’t enough support, but recognised efforts from organisations such as ScreenSkills to nurture new talent.

Speaking about her experience in recent years, Bindu De Stoppani said: “I’ve been more busy in the last two years than previous years, as a script writer and as a director so I’ve just spent a year and a half in Turin, Italy shooting Netflix series An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts for season one and two in the midst of Covid.”

Recalling restrictions in Italy during the pandemic, Bindu revealed residents needed a ‘certificate’ to exit their house to prove their purpose for being out or working in public.

“It had its perks and difficulties,” she said. On the one hand, all locations were available to them - from cafes and bars to museums and the streets. But a downside, she added, “as a director you need a world to feel real and active and of course there was no one in the streets so it was incredibly empty. We had to populate that world, which of course during Covid was very challenging.”

Finance

On the finance front, asked whether people are looking back at financial incentives as a key driver for projects again, Daniel Negret answered “absolutely”. 

“A variety of territories were being approached to cash flow because one of the things Head Gear does is lend against these tax credits so they cash flowed on them.

“For instance, the Greek tax credit or the Maltese tax credit historically wasn’t something we were looking at and now it is.”

Speaking solely for independent productions, Daniel added there seems to be more of a “buyers mentality” in that they’re very much shopping around different territories to see what is the best deal they can get - from a cost (crew and locations) perspective and an incentive perspective.”

Insurance and protocols

Asked about other challenges still facing the industry, Rob recalled that at the beginning of Covid, insurance was very much an issue as insurers wouldn’t cover them so it had to be underwritten by the studios or by the financiers, he said. 

This meant producers were given anything from $1m to $1.5m budget to cover Covid costs such as testing and transport and flexible hotel accommodation. 

Recalling his fourth pandemic shoot in the Peak District, Christian also noted how the emptiness of the hotels emulated a “strange, futuristic movie” but soon adapted.

“In the early days, there were police with sticks telling you to stand two metres apart and suddenly there were experts on Covid when we were all still learning about it. So I struggled with it because everything I do is to do with logistics and common sense. Suddenly there was another department there telling you how to do your job,” he said.

Daniel added that for independent film in particular, Covid caused even further difficulty to raise finance because budgets are more expensive. I guess the margin producers are facing is tightening, and from the financiers perspectives because we charge less fees.”

From a creative point of view, Bindu emphasised how they want as much of the budget to go into what viewers see on TV, and not something intangible such as Covid costs, which is especially challenging without a streamer’s backing.

In the case of Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts, the lead actress required specific insurance because every scene is seen through her perspective, whereas everyone else was more malleable.

Sustainability

On the sustainability side, Christian noted how the inner ring of Paris doesn’t allow generators and that everything must be electric. A system he hopes will be enforced completely in London in the next two years.

For Bindu, her conversations surrounding sustainability have been with the costume department in particular and how they can reuse or upcycle what would have previously been discarded after single use. 

She also admitted there needs to be some “re-thinking” about crews using trailers since it isn’t always occupied: “I used my trailer once in the nine times we were filming,” she said.

Elsewhere, asked whether virtual productions are encroaching on location managers’ roles, Christian confessed in the early days he thought CGI would be the “end” of what he does. But found people still want to be on location and appreciates both sides of filming. 

Rob noted it’s also expensive and is often cheaper to hire a venue but recognised VFX is implemented in almost every film now, irrespective of what it is.

Concluding the discussion, Bindu said the key issues facing the industry currently is ever changing: “Covid pushed cinema over the edge of the cliff because we all process stories in such different ways now.

“I’m hoping cinema will still be a live experience. I think it’s early days, we are still finding our feet. The type of stories people write, will change. We’re all feeling our way in the dark.

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