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  • Writer's pictureSarah Hodgetts

The Lockdown League

or How to keep making engaging creative video during a lockdown

Living through a pandemic, and with a rare disease, it's easy to feel a bit backed into a corner. So the first thing I did was start a blog trying to explain how the video world could still go on with the show remotely. It wasn't so much to try and keep the work coming in (though that would be nice!), but a chance to show that when things change unexpectedly, you can stay positive if you can embrace the change.

Three months later and I'm pleased to report that for some clients, particularly the Rugby League World Cup, the video show really did continue. Here's how we did it:

1. Remote Scripting and Directing

In May, the Rugby Football League's World Cup 2021 Team asked me to help them promote the educational resources they were making for teachers at KS1&2. I wrote a script, sent it off to a school alongside a simple brief for them on how to film, and within a few weeks, I had some brilliantly vibrant and energetic pieces-to-camera from the teachers and students, all filmed on smartphones, but with the energy and art direction of professionals!

Before lockdown, I would never suggest that a Director could do their job from their home but this has taught me that no creative problem is insurmountable, and to never ever underestimate what people can do with a mobile phone and some clear and simple direction!

Using some 3D Graphics for the titles, the new World Cup branding assets from the creative team, and using split-screen when we needed it, we were able to be really flexible and fluid with the material provided, whilst keeping together a high quality and consistent brand film.

But the real key here was the succinct and energetic script. Homes all over the country have done an incredible job at homeschooling, but we wanted to start thinking forward and imagine that feeling of excitement and anticipation that the kids will have for returning to playing and learning at school once again.

2. User-Generated Content

To show an example of how our educational resources were impacting on the kids, we called out on social media for them to read a poem for us. The Rudyard Kipling poem 'If' was re-worked to fit the times and Rugby League, and it has never felt more appropriate. We created a short teaser to encourage entries, and thanks to some lovely performances from kids across the country, and a powerful soundtrack, the final film is an emotional journey all of its own:

What the client said: Love what you have done with this, really powerful! Can't wait to be able to share this! All the kids are going to be so happy with it! I can imagine the teacher who made the poem will be extremely proud too!

3. Remote Studio

The last and most impactful change we've made was setting up a studio at home so we can light and shoot remotely. We stripped the spare room, re-painted it, brought in our kit, and immediately set to work lighting a simple shot that we needed for 'The Birth Rugby League'.

This film really demonstrates all of the remote filmmaking techniques we have, from animation to home shooting, remote voiceovers, sourcing stock video, and clearing archive. With all this at our disposal, we managed to pull together a history of Rugby League that may even be more energetic and interesting than it might have been if we had the option to shoot it from scratch.

What the client said: This is absolutely amazing, way better than I ever pictured it was going to be when I had the discussion with the teachers months ago about what they needed.

Thank you so much for all your hard work Sarah and James [in-house content lead].

Getting stuck in a corner is sometimes the most effective way to get really creative.

Viva la remote filmmaking.

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