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The Road to Wellville

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Years ago, I read a profile of the great novelist T.C. Boyle, in which the Tortilla Curtain author answered the de rigueur question about his daily writing regimen as follows: “Every morning I bleed a chicken into a pan, and I put my bare feet in that pan while typing. Once the blood cools, it’s over for the day.” Boyle’s interviewer faithfully transcribed this hokum and presented it as oracular wisdom.

The problem with asking a writer about their “regimen” is that the question is never really about method or discipline. Rather, it’s a call to reveal “the secret,” when no such thing exists.

Filmmakers endure similarly inane questions, but pro streaming producers usually deal with different misapprehensions, like the idea that the only thing that separates us from amateurs is better gear. But there’s also a fairly well-defined set of expectations attached to traditional onsite work that makes the basic requirements of professional production reasonably well-understood.

The familiar flow of event work was upended when COVID-19 restrictions brought in-person production to a screeching halt and virtually everything went virtual. Mutually recognized production standards were among the first things to go. Acceptance of the “good enough for Zoom” aesthetic—which wasn’t even good enough for Zoom, let alone live-switched custom production, for public-facing presentations—was one of the first things we needed to dispel. As we adapted to the demands of professional remote production, we also needed to convince our clients and guests that back-to-the-window, webcam-up-the-nostrils video and laptop-mic audio weren’t going to strength­en their message or bolster their brand.

These hard-won lessons have enduring value. Even as the light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel (hopefully) begins to come into view, so does a future in which professional remote production remains in demand.

We asked four Streaming Media writers to explore their remote production workflows in this issue. There are no secrets as mystical as typing out the great American novel while tapping your toes in chicken blood, but I guarantee these recommendations will serve you well when applied to your own work.

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