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Back From The Big Pause

Based in Singapore, Beach House Pictures felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon its business early in the course of the crisis. But as countries in the East further stem the tide of the virus and Western territories attempt to follow suit, Beach House’s creative director Donovan Chan says collaboration and innovation is crucial for getting back to work. Like many of you reading this, we headed into 2020 excited about the opportunities ahead; it was looking like one of Beach House Pictures’ busiest years at Blue Ant Media yet. We all know what came next — the loud “whoosh” as the wind vanished from the sails of our collective slates due to COVID-19. That was compounded by the raw emotions that came with the experience — abject terror, utter disappointment and unprecedented confusion — but not always in that order.

Instead of a packed year, we had the Big Pause, as we struggled with a roster of cancellations, suspensions and diminished budgets. As a Singapore-headquartered production company with an international business from China to the U.S., we experienced a double dose of the pandemic as territories began shutting down from the East to the West. From a business standpoint, the worst thing was the lack of a road map out of the dire situation we found ourselves in. However, because we were one of the first producers to face the pandemic, we have been among the first to begin to navigate our way through it. China and then Singapore reopened for business, with more countries finding their way back in some shape or form. Meanwhile, the world was consuming content at an unparalleled rate as streamers expanded internationally. If we moved fast, worked smart and were entrepreneurial, we could yet salvage the year.

The team found ingenious solutions and applied for crucial subsidies to retain our talent. We moved staff to work from home or work in the office safely and kept communications flowing between teams. We focused on keeping busy even though it was tempting to slow down. And by intensifying content development and pitching during lockdown, we continued to sell new, exciting shows. It has taught us a lot about our company’s resilience and we’re now looking ahead to a promising 2021.

This has been helped, in no small part, by BHP actively establishing processes and protocols with multiple channel partners in Asia and in the U.S. to get us back into production. BHP’s managing director Jocelyn Little also worked closely with the government committee for the Singapore TV and Film industry to help map out industry standard protocols to get the country’s producers up and running safely and effectively.

Amongst our first shows to move forward into production was the second season of MasterChef Singapore. Part of the hard work involved in making it happen includes implementing meticulous safety measures and contingencies for casting and filming to protect the team and following government-mandated protocols. These include standard social distancing rules and PPE gear, to more complex maneuvers like reducing the crew numbers on set and enforcing a “no sharing” rule on equipment for both cast and crew. During the audition stage happening now, we have avoided big gatherings in favor of private camera tests. When the series goes to air, it will be evident that responsible social distancing measures are being practiced, but it won’t be a focus of our storytelling.

One of the more tactical ideas was to develop creative gameplay to keep the competition entertaining while avoiding close interaction to keep it safe. Other contingencies include devising challenges to play out in large, airy indoor locations to allow bigger events to play out safely, with diners at tables with suitably spaced seating.

All of this additional work has paid dividends as we now have more series with other international partners moving into production in Singapore, as well as in other reopened territories. Of course, these greenlights weren’t given just because of clear safety protocols, but the trust that comes with an efficient and sound plan to keep people safe while maintaining the quality and integrity of the production cannot be underestimated. It’s a trend that we foresee will continue growing for more international partnerships coming out of the pandemic.

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