Rising costs, new technology, a more informed audience, DE&I issues and a new generation of talent. These are all the curveballs that the past couple of years have thrown at production companies, and it seems that each of them has taken a slightly different approach to the challenges. Furthermore, some are already successfully unlocking the opportunities within these challenges.
Will these opportunities grow and spread in the coming year, or do we expect to see more hurdles on the path of production? Is AI friend or foe? Is the priority still to adapt to new technologies, such as virtual production, or is that conversation going to evolve into an entirely different one this year? How will each of these companies navigate the downturned world economy? Is the most important move to embrace this new coming generation of talent with its way of turning the business side of production on its head?
All these questions and more, answered below by experts from Jelly, Dentsu Creative, Makers, Stink Films and REVERSE.
There has been pressure and an oversubscription on the traditional client-agency-production company structure, but going direct to the client has circumvented that and led to a much healthier landscape for us as a business. Budget pressures continue in the UK, but fortunately, overseas has been healthier.
There is more freedom and fewer technical parameters that may limit how and where you can tell stories in animation. TV is no longer the be-all and end-all for what we produce, which gives more freedom for creatives to express themselves.
The relentless march of AI is currently being perceived as a threat by a lot of the industry, but the quicker we can adapt to it and use it to our advantage the better. It will never replace true storytelling and craft, but it will become a useful tool.
We aren’t a company that has to worry about huge CGI pipelines (yet!) so we haven’t had to invest heavily in [real-time 3D creation tool] Unreal and other engines to make our production processes work. I am hoping that agencies and clients are realising that animation gives them much more creative scope - it isn’t just an alternative to live-action as a process, it can enable them to take creativity in a whole new direction.
Managing partner, Dentsu Creative
In our current financial climate, it is fair to assume that brands will be looking at savings within their marketing budgets. The likelihood is that, as well as tighter restrictions on costs of new materials, clients will look for imaginative and interesting ways to repurpose existing assets, using them to their full potential.
The opportunities that the social/digital age brings are also huge. Every client needs constant outstanding content now. This needs producing,shooting, editing and animating. Even if we are in recession, we should still see a steady flow of this type of work, utilising all our skills. Potentially, [there will be] fewer big budget TV shoots, but it should be enough to keep us all out of mischief, until we pull through these financial uncertainties.
Everything we produce should have maximum impact - a lovely challenge whatever the budget. As for virtual production, we are constantly looking at ways to embrace a more sustainable way of shooting. Each new brief is fully examined, and opportunities investigated. Currently, it is still a big investment and not always fit for purpose, but as the technology develops and our knowledge grows, this will definitely be a big part of our production future.
Executive producer, Makers
In 2023, I would like to see agencies create a more equitable bidding process for directors - particularly those from underrepresented groups who are frequently tokenised during the process and, in many circumstances, turned down despite their qualifications.
A study by Free The Work reported that 36.2% of branded content jobs were won by people of colour, while white directors won a reported 62.9% of this work. To move toward a more equitable industry, companies must create full transparency throughout the bidding process. This would entail disclosing who the competitors are; outlining bidding procedures; paid pitches; disclosing whether a job is confirmed or not; sharing explicit feedback when a pitch doesn’t win; and giving clear explanations for hiring choices and cancellations.
Managing director, Stink Films London
Senior executive producer, Stink Films London
At Stink we feel positive about the coming year. Every year throws down challenges and 2023 will be no different, but it’s always fun and we are ready for whatever comes our way and are excited to turn great ideas into great work with our agency and client partners.
We will continue to hear about and feel the effects of the cost of living crisis, inflation in the UK and the war in Ukraine - but through these challenges, we have to find the opportunities and continue to develop and innovate like we always have.
Virtual production’s influence is growing. And with directors like Felix Brady evolving and pushing the tech into new places through his creative ingenuity, we can see its potential as a creative tool to make great ideas a reality.
We are continuing to see the growth and importance of offering a fully integrated production, where capturing the TVC, social films and stills are of equal importance and often requires different directors and photographers to work seamlessly beside one another. As production companies, we need to be flexible and adaptable to meet a client’s needs and deliver in every area.
Our audience's push for social responsibility is affecting where people shop, where they put their money and how they view clients and brands, and it’s becoming central to the work we make. That means production companies also need to understand these societal pressures and be at the forefront of change.
In times like these, it goes back to the core of great creative; ideas, ideas, ideas. Provocative work that influences culture and pushes great creative, no matter the medium or platform.
Founder and executive producer, REVERSE
Firstly, we hope to see real action on diversity. We’ve seen the push for more diversity these past few years with The Martin Agency’s 50/50 commitment to hire a minimum of 50% directorial/editorial talent from underrepresented groups for all its video content production, as well as the increase of clients and agencies committing to Free the Work, Bid Black, Double the Line, and Green the Bid. [It’s] a trend that I believe will continue into 2023 - with some caveats.
More importantly, I hope brands and agencies make a true financial commitment to these kinds of initiatives. Developing a sustainable practice plan for each production, for example, requires extra resources and budget.
The same goes for hiring underrepresented creators. Your investment in new and diverse talent can lead to impactful work. It takes a strong agency to do this. Kudos to the few who understand this already and lead this industry change.
Secondly, new production approaches will equal better creativity and tighter timelines, more deliverables, lots of pressure, a looming recession, and an obligation to deliver. We get it. And it sucks. But there are solutions.
The bidding process can go more smoothly and more productively by being respectful. Let’s single or double bid when the timeline is short. Oh, and let’s please stop with the unnecessary quadruple bidding. It doesn’t do anyone any good.
Also, cost consultants are a valuable production asset, but not if they are nickel-and-diming the PAs responsible for transporting the agency and client to set. Or the price of a meal. That just sets a confrontational tone instead of a vision built around partnership.
Ultimately, new production approaches lead to more collaboration and more trust in the process. Leaning on the talent, experience, and expertise of your production team – on both the agency side and production side – can make the job seamless. It doesn’t have to be stressful. Yes, it can be challenging, but it’s also exciting and fun. That’s why a lot of us - myself included - got into this industry to start with.