In mid-March of last year, our video crew had just completed an uneventful three-hour drive to North Central Wisconsin for a shoot with one of our oldest clients, Church Mutual Insurance Company.
It’s tradition to hit up Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau for dinner with our friends from Church Mutual when we come to town, and as we sat down in a packed restaurant, none of us realized it was the last time we’d do so for nearly a year.
About midway through dinner, the tone in the restaurant changed. The usual din quieted as people started paying attention to the basketball game on the TVs above the bar. The NBA confirmed one of its players tested positive for COVID-19 and announced they’d suspend their season at the end of that night’s schedule.
Even though the coronavirus was being discussed more in the news, it still caught Angie, my counterpart at Church Mutual, and me by surprise. For the first time, this pandemic felt like it had really arrived. I turned to her and asked if she thought we’d be shooting a video the next morning, or if we’d made a really long drive just for dinner.
Back in my hotel room, I watched the fallout play out on the news. The NBA’s decision was the first in a long line of dominos, including for Upswing, as that night, Josh and I decided we’d have everyone pack up and start working from home.
We had no idea what the next year would hold for us but it quickly became clear that video production, what has been the backbone of our agency, wasn’t going to be much of an option for a while.
Our team quickly pivoted. We brainstormed internally and spoke with friends in the industry. We started to batten down the hatches and prepare for the coming storm.
Over the next nine months, we focused our video business on 2D and 3D animation solutions for our clients. We turned Zoom calls into sales videos. We shipped iPad camera kits across the country and used FaceTime to help clients turn their living rooms into well-lit studios.
We’ve done some of our best work in the past year, and it’s no doubt a product of the fact that we were forced to change course — to do things differently than we’ve done in the past and to be more creative within the constraints.
We did end up shooting a video those next two days (one of only three productions on location the rest of the year) before driving back home to our new reality.
Last week, we were recognized for the work we did on that shoot and for two animations we created later in the year in collaboration with Church Mutual. We were awarded ten Telly Awards – three gold, four silver, and three bronze – for the three videos shown below, as well as two “Best in Show” Showcase Awards from the Insurance Marketing & Communications Association.
The last year has been difficult and tragic for many of us — an experience we never expected; but it’s one that’s allowed our fantastic team to slow down a bit and rethink the way we approach our work.