THOUGHT LEADERS: Jocelyn Hamilton, president of Entertainment One's television division in Canada, says increased innovation is the biggest opportunity to have come from the coronavirus lockdown.
How has the pandemic impacted your business most significantly?
Like all businesses, we were impacted by the quarantine brought on by the pandemic, from staff working from home (WFH) to finding new ways to connect with clients and partners. The most significant and immediate impact was the stop in production. This halt in shows being filmed affected many jobs immediately and continues to do so across the industry.
In Canada, we were in production on Nurses, Feudal, Arctic Vets, Bake Boss and Border Security, and were awaiting green lights for Private Eyes S5 and Burden of Truth S4. The uncertainty of production and the larger effects on the industry slowed this process down and changed our timelines.
We moved quickly to finish and deliver the shows that were at that point in post-production. We adapted our post-production process and brought in new, innovative ways to fully deliver our content. While production stopped, we shifted to focus on development and the writer’s rooms of current productions – this could be done remotely and from the safety of home.
We then began to work furiously on plans for the safe return to production – devising protocols, talking with agencies, governments, medical consultants and other producers both in Canada and internationally to learn best practices. Our internal staff have remained WFH but productivity has continued to be high as we connect online and work together as a strong team.
What new initiatives have you introduced to make up for the deficit brought about by these projects being put on hold?
With the current state of WFH, we have been able to increase the marketing and promotion efforts around our series. We are engaging with our cast to help promote our shows as they launch around the world from France to Norway to Japan. We continue to see success with series like Cardinal, Burden of Truth and Private Eyes. They are launching with great reviews and high ratings around the globe.
What have you learned as a result?
Above all else, we have learned that the Canadian industry is a cooperative and unified industry with everyone coming together and working hard to get our crews back to work. Across the board, producers, unions and agencies have started working together and communicating for the betterment of the industry as a whole. There are no rivals, and it has shown that, as an industry, we are stronger when we work together. My biggest hope is this sense of camaraderie and cooperation continues post Covid-19 restrictions so that we have a strong and robust industry forever.
What will be the biggest opportunity?
Innovation is the most significant opportunity – nothing is off the table. We are reviewing the way things were done in the past and what changes need to be or can be made to improve. Just because things were always done a certain way, it does not mean it is the best way now. We want to explore these options.
Also, the world is even smaller now. We can speak to contacts around the globe via web conference. We can learn and share ideas/plans for productions and more. Or we can reach out to our contacts in distribution and content acquisition and see what is working and what is needed from our teams to continue the global success of shows produced in Canada.
We no longer have to fly and set up a meeting in an office. If you have the contacts, you can speak to them now easily and quickly, as we have all adapted to online meetings. However, we do miss in-person meetings, as it’s so important that we are able to gain a relationship with our partners. That will come back in time.
We are also looking to grow other content areas. During the quarantine, we have launched two timely podcasts. Notes from the Frontline tells stories from frontline workers and is hosted by cast members from [Global TV drama] Nurses, and Lockdown Love is a fun and informative relationship podcast hosted by dating expert and columnist Jen Kirsch as she continued dating during a time of social distancing.
Also, we are all learning about work-life balance as we have adapted to WFH. I hope there are improvements to give people a better work-life balance – something that has been lacking in the past in our industry. It seemed like we were tethered to our computers or phones 24/7 while looking after children or managing life in quarantine. But eventually, when offices are open, the best of both worlds will hopefully come together when we are post-Covid and we’ll find that proper balance of working from home, flexibility with results and camaraderie in person.