The commercial industry never stopped once the coronavirus pandemic hit and TV and film production shut down. As people hunkered down under stay-at-home orders amid skyrocketing numbers of infections and death, commercial endorsement agents were flooded with requests from major brands which had to pivot quickly and change their messaging with ads appropriate for the health crisis and the country’s collective state of mind.
The initial demand was primarily for voiceover work as brands relied on stock footage for spots expressing gratitude to medics and first responders battling the pandemic. Gradually, there were more commercials filmed remotely in performers’ homes, with production companies often seeking spouses/families who can safely shoot an ad together.
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Voiceover work is still booming and arguably the most active area for commercial talent right now. Self-taped spots — especially for distribution on social media — also continue to be ubiquitous.
They have slowly been joined by more traditional shoots that could be precursors to film and TV shoots as they are much shorter in length and usually smaller in scope. There have been a number of casting announcements (predominantly local) for “COVID-19 safety compliant” productions. “This is a very skeleton crew and all crew members will have sanitizer, gloves, and masks; Masks will be provided to our actors,” they read. Some ads are being filmed by videographers from their cars to assure social distancing.
A number of commercial shoots are casting with production dates TBD as companies wait for restrictions on public gatherings and other activities to be relaxed further and for Hollywood unions to agree to safety protocols. The more elaborate active shoots are currently limited to the states where production is allowed.
There has been chatter than a new Domino’s commercial has been filmed on a sound stage in Atlanta, and there are at least two other sound stage shoots tentatively scheduled for June in Orlando and Atlanta, I hear.
The activity could soon expand to Los Angeles as Los Angeles County on Tuesday will unveil guidelines for ‘immediate reopening’ of film and TV production.
Since the higher-profile shoots are all union, the commercial production companies will still need the unions to agree on safety measures.
As for actors, “they are ready to roll,” one talent agent said.
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