COVID-19 And The Rise of Improv Video Production

by Jay Suhr, Jen Smith, and Chris McInroy

The shelter-in-place measures of the COVID-19 crisis have forced a full stop to conventional video production. Big live-action shoots are no longer viable. Yet brands in multiple categories still rely on new content to support customers and keep them informed of available services, especially in delivery and carryout.

T3 has a diverse set of restaurant and retail clients who are now responding in real-time to meet customer needs through organic social, paid social, display and CRM. Keeping that content stream updated takes production improvisational skills of a real MacGyver.

Over the past three WFH weeks, T3 creative and video/motion team have produced countless pieces of content—using everything from poignant field photos for UPS to food shoots in the kitchens of our teams. Everything has been conceptualized, propped, lit, shot, edited and approved by teams and clients working from home.

Here’s how T3’s doing it with high speed and high quality, along with what we’re learning every day.


We’re fortunate to have a 15-year head start in agile video production. We invested in an in-house video studio years ago to stay ahead of clients as they shifted into digital and social. So we know how to be great and scrappy, but this is something else.

From a crisis perspective, we are also fortunate that our parent company, LRW Group, was proactive in mandating WFH early (starting March 13) to ensure safety through social distancing. We had enough time for our video teams to take needed cameras and equipment home to handle scheduled and anticipated shoots. T3’s use of Google’s Cloud platform and Slack was already in place to streamline collaboration.

We were ready. Then literally overnight, multiple clients started pivoting their marketing to respond to the ever-changing COVID situation, support locations with different shelter-in-place orders, and replace produced campaigns with new work.


A social/digital campaign shot with a 24-hour turn around last week (April 3-4) for Church’s Chicken is a great example, and reflects steps all T3 groups are taking for their clients.

Conceptual MacGyvering: In concept development, teams are now equally focused on the big idea and the producibility of that idea within the production constraints. Using stop-motion, locked-down cameras, simple backgrounds, natural lighting, product emphasis, existing assets, and limited or no talent may create parameters, but they don’t limit creativity. “Everything we’ve concepted has been assuming it must be shot in someone’s kitchen with a tripod,” CD Bonnie Rohan Slacked.

Swiss Army Director: T3 director Chris McInroy’s indie film experience already made him versatile, but on this shoot he was director, prop master, gaffer, set designer, cinematographer and more. (We assume craft services was his snack stash.)

Church’s CD Jen Smith described it best.

“We had our first true remote quarantine shoot and Chris was his usual amaze-fest self as director, but also played chef (the most perfect fried egg ever) and food stylist (the perfect Biscuit BLT). We are moving at the speed of light and he jumped in and delivered our usual studio-quality work.”

At-Home Video Village: With most commercial and video shoots, there are lots of agency and client people on the set. Improv production works differently. Our teams had to adjust to the fastest ways for our creative team to provide feedback. 

  1. Google Hangouts put our team on the set.
  2. Text proved to be the fastest method for approvals.
  3. Slack channel kept the team organized in pre-production and production.
  4. For stop motion, individual photos were sent from set via Slack with any adjustments or reshoots made when necessary.
  5. For Live action, AD provided direction and the camera rolled until everything needed was captured.

We’ve always been scrappy and smart to get the most production value out of our shoots,” said T3 Director Chris McInroy. “Without having access to actors, locations and crew, we have a whole new challenge and it’s a fun one. I’ll put myself, my family and my dogs in a video if I need to. In fact, I did.”


Our team’s learning from this project is being shared with our clients and across the agency to perfect our approach for an increasing number of these types of shoots in the weeks ahead.

To learn more about how T3 is handling creative and video during this crisis, shoot me a note. jay.suhr@t-3.com

Virtual video village thanks to Google Hangouts. CD Jen Smith, top. AD Lauren D’Aloisio, left. ACD Sean Leonard, right.

Home tabletop set-up for the biscuits. To pick the perfect biscuits, a still was shared via text and the AD selected the best of the best.

Does every director have a green screen in their home?

Food preparation.

Jay Suhr
Jen Smith
Chris McInroy

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