Filming during COVID times

27 May 2021
By : Juan Camilo Reyes

An impossible task?


It sounded like an impossible task. Will we have to wear face masks? What happens if some people don’t want to use them? How many meters apart are we going to sit from each other? Will the director understand me when I whisper my concerns in his ear with a piece of cloth covering my mouth?

Everything ended up being much easier:

On this occasion, the creative team wasn’t onsite for the commercial shoot because, lucky us, we live in the times of Zoom. We can see each other, interact, work, and say the modern-day classic line: “You’re on mute” without even moving from our chairs.

The thing is that the process was actually pretty straightforward. We got together in a meeting and basically one of the participants was the camera used to shoot the commercial: which let us see everything that happened during the filming.

The security protocols

Filming protocols to deal with COVID safety were a huge factor when selecting the studio for our most recent TV commercial production. The health of all those present had to be ensured while making the shoot, and according to our executive producer, this issue was treated with the utmost professionalism: sanitation of all transportation, social distancing, schedules for cleaning and disinfecting, anti-bac gels, and soaps everywhere to ease any epidemiological angst anyone might have.

It’s something so important that, right now, some production studios are competing by making the best reel about their filming protocols –and I have to say: it was pretty crazy to see.

Ready to shoot!

So there we were, in the comfort of our homes, in our respective countries: the United States, Mexico, and Colombia, all connected by multiculturalism and an Internet connection that had to deliver -we definitely had our fingers crossed that day.


The first thing I missed was…


Breakfast on a shoot day. I still remember the food truck we had a couple of years ago while filming in Atlanta. They had everything from huevos rancheros to breakfast burritos and fajitas topped with fried eggs, Banda music, and the most enormous amount of bacon I have seen in my life. The cook could only laugh when seeing me facing that much food.

For this latest shoot during COVID times, I had to make my own breakfast: cereal with almond milk –no sight of bacon whatsoever, sniff-sniff– and me using all my ninja stealth abilities to eat without being noticed on camera.



Letting go

The shoot started more or less at the expected time and the filming of takes was frantic. Suddenly, we noticed that they began to record long takes, something we didn’t really understand since the scripts asked for short shots. It turns out that the director wanted to shoot longer takes and then cut whatever was necessary, something we found out a bit later.

It took us by surprise, even more so when shots began to be approved at an accelerated pace. The fact that we weren’t there, onsite for the shoot, had for some reason taken away a bit of that control we had in pre-COVID filming.This time, due to the pandemic, we went with the flow a lot more; we let go and really doubled down on trusting others. Letting go –what a difficult concept to put into practice– but one we should keep after the Coronavirus is gone.

The new normal

So, the morning progressed as planned, like any typical filming of a commercial. Well, if taking a COVID-19 test during a shoot is synonymous with normality. Times have changed so much and seem to get so crazy that I had to take the test the same day of the shoot since I’d been in contact with people who had been positive with COVID. So, there I was, in the middle of my living room with a swab poking inside my nose reaching the top of my throat, while being asked urgently whether I agreed with a take or not. It sounds funny now, but I’m not sure if it felt that way at the time –he he.

Yes, something had changed:

As I was thinking about the people I had been in touch with days before, the recording progressed at a good pace. The shots were beautiful thanks to excellent camera work and solid art direction, leaving us completely satisfied. For her part, our client was also great: she too “let go,” did her share, and let others do theirs. We couldn’t ask for more. We could only thank her and do our best to give her a spot that she would love.

And so we did:

We all added our grain of salt. The necessary decisions were made taking into account the guidance provided by the client.  

Certainly, filming during a pandemic brought many challenges to our table, but it also gave us pleasant surprise: it helped us raise our own bar in terms of production. Either because of the “letting go” phase or the fact that we organized our feedback better –I’m pretty sure that the director and studio selection had a lot to do with the quality of the final productin addition to the fact of looking for new aesthetics to speak to our Latin public in the United States…  

Our day was pretty intense, to tell the truth. And, in the end, we almost beat the race against the arrival of the night… 


We were able to stay on schedule with the entire work plan, and after a little more than 14 hours of recording, we were beat. I’m pretty sure we all went straight to bed, but unlike before the Coronavirus, we didn’t have to take another hour to get back home to finally get some rest. This time, we only had to walk from one room to the other, and that’s something the body is thankful for. All that remained was to lie down, put our head on the pillow and… worry about all the editing work that was coming our way –he he…




Now that I think about it, just for that last thought, maybe filming during COVID times isn’t that different from before.




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