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When life gives you lemons, make lemonade in a pandemic

/ March 10th 2021
Exports and International Trade

At the beginning of last year Brexit was the biggest challenge we faced as a creative industry. Little did we know the global pandemic would significantly postpone any deal with the EU until December and close the doors of our offices and studios for the foreseeable future. While COVID 19 has clearly affected everyone, not often positively, I would like to reflect on an interesting change affecting our work.

Visual content studios like us, come in all shapes and sizes. Up until 20th March 2020 we were mostly defined by the buildings we inhabited. Known for plush suites, providing hotel-style service by keen runners, we all competed to offer fancier food, cooler art on the walls and in our case, better coffee. In less than a week that all changed forever.

Our priorities changed. We told our staff to stay at home. We shipped expensive computer equipment all over the country and upgraded internet connections before shopping for loo roll and tinned food. Ingenious solutions were devised to continue working without transferring terabytes of data down domestic broadband pipes. We started to trust our people to get the work done. We finally began to measure outcomes, not inputs.

Deadlines didn’t change, but how we got there did. Thankfully it was a bit quieter for a couple of months while the new systems bedded in.

Rather than hankering for everything to go back to ‘normal’ (as if having a decaf soya frappucino brought to you on a tray by a runner in roller blades was normal), I now see a huge opportunity for our industry.

We are no longer constrained by the size of our studios or offices. We are no longer judged by their location. The suites are empty but the work is still getting done. In some cases better and faster than ever before.

This is huge.

At a push, when at capacity we could probably fit 60 people in our Soho studio.

Moving to bigger premises would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. And that’s

just the refit to make it look nice. We no longer need to do that.

We can now expand our teams of artists remotely, almost infinitely. We can offer amazing talent to clients all over the world.

We have worked hard to keep our culture alive, so that we are more than a collective of freelancers. We are one team that can scale up and down as necessary. We look out for each other – for those that have pulled a late one, worked on the weekend or who have to home-school their kids. We know each other for the people we really are, in our athleisure wear and no make-up (that’s just me). And we can chase the sun for our clients. We are connected all over the globe, enabling us to work 24-7 without anyone individually having to work 24-7.

Our productivity has increased massively, while the feedback process which is so often the bottleneck, is flowing nicely. Instead of a client having to travel from their office to Soho to see us, spend time with the artists and then travel back again, they can dial in instantly and see exactly what’s going on. This is not only faster; it actually allows them to get a better understanding of what is possible. Which makes the creative output better.

Thankfully in Lockdown 3.0 we are busier than we have ever been. I’m sure the backlog of shoots that were postponed and content that has been consumed has created a sizeable increase in demand for visual effects. The crazy thing is though, if we were still constrained by the size of our Soho studio, we wouldn’t be able to fit all the work in! COVID-19 has a lot to answer for, but it has unleashed a new era of new creative companies who can scale instantly, trust and look after their staff better than ever before, and deliver exceptional work, more collaboratively.

Derek Moore – CEO and Co-Founder, Coffee & TV 

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