Rob Ulitski - 14th Apr 2020

Caviar Connects, an initiative of online workshops organised by the London office of production company Caviar, is proving to be a success story of the coronavirus lockdown, with numerous sessions attracting thousands of viewers in the two weeks up to the Easter weekend.

Among the number of creative professionals who have given informal workshops, registrants to Caviar Connects were able to gain inside knowledge and top tips from two leading figures in music videos: Virgin EMI director of video James Hackett and iconic director Keith Schofield (above).

Hackett joined Caviar EP Ellie Goodwin to discuss what goes into a winning music video pitch. Offering advice and anecdotes from his extensive experience in commissioning, over 250 viewers joined the workshop on Zoom, proposing questions and queries on the music video production process. Moderated by Goodwin and attended by various members of the international production community, the discussion explored subjects such as developing a personal style as a director, forming personal relationships with artists, through to dealing with difficult personalities on-set.

Above: James Hackett, director of video at Virgin EMI, gives his workshop at Caviar Connects

Later that day, Keith Schofield discussed the ideation process and how to create killer concepts for the format. Again moderated by Goodwin, the informal talk included a Q and A session and a behind the scenes look at Schofield's meticulous pre-production process, alongside previous treatments from his successful directing career. That was attended by over 400 viewers at its peak.

The Caviar Connects project is the brainchild of Sorcha Shepherd, MD of Caviar London, who explains that she came up with the idea as a way to maintain the morale of her small team of staff producers during this enforced period of inactivity.

Our industry is usually so sociable, and this is the way we can achieve that sociability.

“We’re like a family, we look after each other,” she says. “We’re usually super-busy all the time, so the biggest concern has been, what are we going to do? What can we do as a company to stop that little voice of doubt [about the impact of the lockdown]?

"It occurred to me that we all have our specialities. So I thought we should tap into that strength: create a workshop, and strengthen the ties among us. Also we could bring the directors on board, get them to do things. It started out as an idea for the company only. But when we started discussing it, in about half an hour it became a much bigger idea - workshops for everyone.”

Above: Ellie Goodwin, Caviar London EP, has coordinated and been moderating the Caviar Connects sessions 

Ellie Goodwin has been in charge of the day-to-day running of the Caviar Connects project since then. She has been supervising up to four sessions in a single day, on a wide range of subjects, ranging from storyboarding and creating animation to 'social impact producing' and film funding. 

If we didn’t do it properly it would come across as being quite cynical.

She says it was crucial that they back up the original idea with a full programme of real content from the start. “We felt that if we didn’t do it properly it would come across as being quite cynical,” she says, adding that it has resulted in them learning “by trial and error” about setting up the scheme, with the usual criteria of slick presentation and production value being a much-less valued commodity in this current situation. “People are forgiving, because it’s such a weird time.”

As well as from their own producers and directors around the network of offices in the UK, US, Belgium and France, the company has invited ideas from other creatives, and the followers on their social networks, offering them a platform to expand upon a chosen subject. What has surprised them has been the immediate popularity of the sessions.

“People are keen to learn things, so the craft ones have been particularly successful,” says Goodwin. “From a selfish angle - we’re also learning a lot.” One of the popular early sessions was by visual artist Roman LC Martinez on frame composition in film. “That blew up and lots of people came to watch it. And I think the interesting thing that came out of the session with James Hackett is how the labels are looking for ideas that are essentially simple. Keith also talked about the simplicity of your essential concept. That’s really helpful for a lot of directors out there. Will be interesting to see what comes out of that.”

The Caviar Connects workshops have not all been on subjects relating to filmmaking, advertising or music videos. Caviar’s music video EP Daniella Manca has done a session on meditation by yoga nidra, and Shepherd and Goodwin are looking forward to a book club session this coming week, and this week also sees guided meditation and a contemporary dance and free movement workshops. With no end yet in sight for the lockdown in the UK, they are promising a full itinerary in the coming weeks, and Sorcha Shepherd says they are in the market for more ideas for workshops, including from other production companies.

“It’s not just a Caviar thing,” she says. “We want other people to get involved. We’re very happy for them to utilise this platform. Our industry is usually so sociable, and this is the way we can achieve that sociability. That’s the beauty of jumping on Zoom. It’s nice to see your mates, and still feel connected.”

• Find out more and register for workshops at www.caviarconnects/workshops

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    Rob Ulitski - 14th Apr 2020

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