Duncan Harriss, Creative Partner, Limehouse, Sydney
Navigating the last few months has reminded me of The Stages of Grief. I have not lost someone dear during COVID, but I have before, and the journey has felt familiar. Shock, denial, emotion, fear, panic, loneliness, anger, new strengths, new relationships, hope, affirmation, and eventually a feeling of wanting to help others. These are the 12 stages, and recently I’ve been able to relate to them all.
When COVID first hit, we moved quickly to WFH and made plans, but everything felt unsteady. Making a plan was like pitching a tent on sand. The constant steam of new information. Turning on the TV or reading the news would each time shift the landscape. One week we couldn’t shoot, then we could, but with restrictions. And then the second wave came and washed half our plans away. The uncertainty was the most difficult thing to manage, in life and on projects.
As shoot production and outdoor advertising fell away, post production and online advertising pitched up, just enough. It is more than good fortune that we offer production and post, it is key to what makes Limehouse inherently adaptive.
We start every project the same, by exploring all of the routes available: shoot, film, stock, CGI, animation, VFX; and we then consider how best to adapt our team. We have a core team at Limehouse but choose a photographer and director, and a crew to fit. Every project is unique, so we look to the best freelancers in industry to join us to ensure the right fit stylistically.
COVID’s challenges are in turn reduced to additional considerations on a project. As the situation changed, so have the constraints on a project. Some went a CGI route, but just as many we pushed towards a shoot, with a smaller team with a focus on safety, and more work in post. Others we adapted the style of the piece. For example, we may shoot the talent individually and cropped in close, and then bring them together in edit. The majority of projects still went ahead; we just adapted our approach. It’s this freedom to adapt that has been so important.
We know we do our best work with others and this of course is contingent on collaboration. So at first the social distancing was scary. In fact the opposite to that I feared has happened. Realising that remote work is not just achievable, but essential for us all to have distraction-free time in a week, once we understood this we doubled down on what was needed to support this; for good. The mindset change and the technology has actually allowed us to connect and work with many more freelance artists than before.
This isn’t to say this will replace the studio; Both are here to stay. There is the focus you get from working at home, and the facilities, communication, and sense of community that only the studio provides. We have invested to make both more comfortable; and have made desks in our studio available for drop-in use by freelancers so they can join and share access to the same. Something small that has helped keep the creative chat, support and positivity flowing. In a time when reaching out is more difficult than ever, ironically, I’m hopeful this might actually bring more of us together.
With time and support, as it is in grieving, we will find a way through and together see positives.