The World Changes and You Change With It

“Quarantine Production Hacks” 

Helen Tonge, Managing Director and Executive Producer of Title Role Productions, was in preproduction for a documentary on cruise ships in March and, she recalls, “a few days before we were due to film, the whole world shut down.” (Equipment was already on board one ship, where it would remain for the next four months.) 

Watching as the health crisis unfolded, Tonge and her team decided that the documentary should turn its focus to the impact of it was having on the cruise ship industry — and what role it played in the spread of the virus itself. “The story was changing by the minute,” she recalls in her Collectively Speaking session “Quarantine Production Hacks.” 

The production, she says, “had to quickly pivot” and the project evolved into current affairs reporting; the resulting ITV documentary, “Billion Pound Cruises: All at Sea,” follows passengers on three different cruise ships over six weeks… literally stranded at sea. “We had to get their stories,” Tonge emphasizes. 

The team located passengers aboard the cruise ships, primarily through social media, who could provide footage and first-hand insights. For those segments, “we had to use what technology was available to us,” Helen explains. With some guidance from the producers, these passengers captured material on their phones and iPads and used software like Dropbox and WeTransfer to send material to the production. This footage was then combined with archival material and interviews with experts conducted using strict COVID protocols.  

Assembling the program with members of editorial department quarantining required improvising a workflow—from Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls to using a laptop positioned next to an editor so producers who, linked via Zoom, could collaborate on an edit session. In discussing the project with session attendees, Tonge found that they similarly improvised ways to share their material with clients while in lockdown — opting for solutions including Box.com, Wipster and Frame.io. 

Resources from this session