January 28, 2021
The award-winning film company Chocolate Films are moving their base to Nine Elms next year.
In this feature, Rachel Wang, Chocolate Films co-founder tells us how her business has adapted to the changing landscape during the pandemic:
“As a small business, at Chocolate Films we’ve always prided ourselves on our agility and flexibility.
In 2020 these skills were put to the test like never before. At the beginning of this new calendar year which, if the first few days are any measure looks set to follow the same challenges and uncertainty, we reflect on what we have learnt so far and the ways in which we have adapted to running a business in lockdown:
Since last year, abiding by the rules was not so much a matter of regulation and compliance, but a matter of life and death.
At the same time, activity is key to the existence of our business so as soon as production was able to go ahead, we went ahead. Setting out a detailed coronavirus policy, the safety of our team, our contributors, and our clients was paramount.
As with many industries, continuing business during 2020 required flexibility, as guidelines for safe practice could change overnight. As well as responding to last-minute changes, our production office staff went above and beyond to overcome the challenges of working at home in environments that were not set up to be a productive workspace.
Meanwhile, our filmmakers embraced conducting shoots with slimmed-down teams, adhering to guidelines which work against some of our primary filmmaking instincts. ‘Another pair of hands’, usually very helpful on shoots, could make the difference between a shoot being Covid-secure or not.
Without our own studio space, we usually travel out to shoot on location, however this year it was clear that a safe space to call our own could make a huge difference.
Like many companies with staff working remotely, we found ourselves with a large, expensive office space being underutilised! While investing in the infrastructure to allow our creative team to work at home as much as possible, we combined our post-production and production offices to make a news studio. See our news studio on Vimeo.
Designed around the principles of immaculate cleanliness, social distancing and ready-to-use kit, the space makes it easy for a tiny crew to capture interviews, presentations, and even ‘green screen’ content. The studio offers us a space to offer to our video production clients and creates a new revenue stream in itself for ‘wet hire’ by the day or hour.
In-person filming couldn’t always take place, so we had to find other ways to create video content for our clients.
Sharing what we know has always been at the heart of the Chocolate Films ethos, through our outreach workshops with children and young people.
This year, we scaled up the ambition of our knowledge-sharing philosophy to help our clients with their video projects. For example, our DIY Filming Guide proved particularly useful to help organisations brief their remote contributors, whether for digital training materials within the healthcare industry or social media campaigns for international business awards.
This philosophy has helped us develop our consultancy and training services. For example, in December, we worked with the Horniman Museum and Gardens to improve their Hear It Live! Digital project which features performances on their fantastic collection of musical instruments.
Our consultancy package included recommendations for new equipment and a hands-on training session with the team to develop their skills to get the most out of it. We truly believe in the power of video and think that everyone should be able to share their story through film.
In 2021, we will be launching a new website for Chocolate Films Workshops, packed with open-access resources for schools, families and businesses alike to learn skills in filmmaking, animation, and digital marketing.
Finally, this year Chocolate Films invested a new focus on our live-streaming service as ‘live events’ took on a different character.
Film is fundamentally not a live art form. Post-production is integral to the creative process and the success of the final product. However, as people were banned from gathering together to enjoy live events, this year offered a renewed opportunity to use video to bring people together.
When we worked with Theatre 503 to live-stream their pantomime The Fairytale Revolution, we found that interrogating the form of the piece, the distinction between theatre and film, live and recorded art was key to the creative development. What’s more, the script itself also played with ‘form’, when the story saw Captain Hook decide he would rather be a poet than a villain. Such subversions and experimentations will be key to all the creative industries in the coming years as we continue to respond to the challenge of creating art in lockdown.
It is exactly this type of innovation that makes us optimistic for the future, despite the challenges that the creative industries have faced this year.
If you enjoyed learning about Rachel’s experience in film, Chocolate Films are running a programme for young people called Establishing Shot this February.