Coronavirus Dried Up This Production Company’s Business. Then It Created Remote Shooting Kits – The Wall Street Journal - Freelance Rack

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Coronavirus Dried Up This Production Company’s Business. Then It Created Remote Shooting Kits – The Wall Street Journal

A vendor wipes down one of Hayden5’s Drop Kits before a video shoot.

Photo: Stefan Colson

To shoot its music-video cover of Lil Nas X’s hit “Panini” in April, the children’s entertainment brand Kidz Bop Entertainment LLC needed to direct and choreograph young performers in four cities—while navigating the stay-at-home orders of the pandemic.

It turned in part to drop-offs of sterilized production equipment organized by Hayden5, a New York-based production company that has turned the idea into a lifeline for its business during lockdown. Revenue on the service, called Drop Kits, and accompanying remote production work has topped $1 million, Hayden5 co-founder Todd Wiseman said.

“Virtually none of these new jobs would have come to us without Drop Kits,” Mr. Wiseman said.

Stay-at-home orders have hit many industries, including video production. By the middle of March, commercial production essentially ground to a halt, said Matt Miller, president and chief executive of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, which recently issued guidelines for shooting safely in the coronavirus era.

Advertisers unable to mount traditional shoots where crews gather on location have adapted with tactics like using stock footage, animation and video captured at home on smartphones and webcams.

Some are shooting higher-quality content by ordering easy-to-use production equipment and coordinating shoots remotely via videoconferencing.

Hayden5 was doing more than 100 shoots a month before the pandemic, including viral videos for clients including Kidz Bop and women’s health brand HelloFlo, according to the company. It had been on track to break $10 million in revenue in 2020, it said.

Then the pandemic intervened. As stay-home orders descended in response, work dried up, Mr. Wiseman said.

“We panicked,” Mr. Wiseman said. “We counted the cash and outstanding invoices, minus what we thought our clients would stiff us, and looked towards a bleak future with declining salaries and rolling furloughs.”

“After all, there was no way a video production company that relies on bringing people in close proximity to capture and then edit footage could operate during a pandemic,” he said.

But Hayden5 realized it might have an opportunity in sourcing and facilitating what it came to call Drop Kits.

“We got to figure out what we can do with what we have,” Milos Silber, the firm’s other co-founder, said. “Our business is in hiring local vendors that own cameras, and we have vendors all over the world.”

Each kit’s contents are provided by a local vendor, shipped in by Hayden5 or both. It typically includes a professional-grade camera on a cart alongside lighting, a laptop and other necessities.

Hayden5’s local partner assembles the kit, sterilizes it and drops it off outside a shooting location that has been virtually scouted by Hayden5 to determine optimal camera and lighting setups.

All the recipient has to do is roll in the cart to the predetermined spot, plug the kit in and start recording. The process has been designed to minimize the work required of the recipient, who is often the on-camera talent using the kit at home, Mr. Wiseman said.

Once the shoot is over, the recipient wipes down the cart with provided cleaning materials and leaves it for the vendor to retrieve.

Hayden5 said it has deployed more than 100 of the kits. The starting price is $4,500 for a half-day deployment of the basic package. Add-ons ranging from teleprompters to custom lenses and specialty microphones, as well as additional camera units and remote crew members, can drive the price up. The largest job was about $250,000, Mr. Wiseman said.

Calls and productions have picked back up and are close to the levels seen before the pandemic-led shutdown, and the company is again on pace for at least $10 million in revenue this year, Mr. Wiseman said.

In addition to its “Panini” video, Kidz Bop has been using the kits to remotely produce daily live streams and other music videos.

“It’s been able to help us keep putting content out,” said Alanna Goracy, vice president of production and development for Kidz Bop. “It answered a question I’m sure a lot of people have right now about how to keep productions going—and it’s safe, which is super huge.”

Other takers include commercial production companies, Salesforce.com Inc. and the ad agency Droga5.

Hungry Man, the commercial production company behind ads like Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” commercial in this year’s Super Bowl, used to work on a couple of jobs a week, according to Caleb Dewart, an executive producer there. It has only done two jobs since March, with a third taking place this weekend.

For one assignment, an experienced director worked with Hungry Man remotely to set up three expensive cameras inside her home.

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But not everyone has the skills of a director. For the other job, Hungry Man sent Hayden5 kits to three cities for on-camera talent to use in a telecom commercial.

“You’re limited by the abilities of whoever it is that’s filming,” said Mr. Dewart.

Such kits may still be useful after stay-home orders end, Mr. Dewart added. “This has opened up the possibility of more remote filming that ends up being less expensive than if we have to fly to all these different places,” he said.

Write to Sahil Patel at sahil.patel@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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