It’s Hurricane season… and a busy one.
In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, serious weather changes, flooding, and road closures are all second nature. Our lives are continually impacted by the affects of hurricanes, tropical storms, and random storms causing city-wide flooding. For some clients unfamiliar with these phenomenon, dealing with weather issues can ruin a video production project, schedule, travel, etc.
One recent project had my team (New Orleans) and our client (Los Angeles) traveling to Houma, Louisiana. There, we met for an interview with our talent (Biloxi). This was the same week that Hurricane Harvey was making landfall in Texas. Although we were not in direct line of the storm, we were on the stronger East side of the storm. During our pre-production meetings leading up to our video production, I informed our client of the potential issues. The storm could influence our shoot. We always try to share our experience to educate and inform clients of bayou production life.
Recently, we’ve had a few video production requests that required last minute “script changes”. These adjustments were made to account for dangerous weather situations. We decided to use these instances as references for a teachable moment. We have put together 5 key tips to prepare for Hurricane Season and have a successful video production.
If you’re flying to New Orleans with hazardous weather in the area, plan accordingly. Make sure you can get home and plan to arrive earlier than necessary. If possible, book a secondary return flight in advance. Once you arrive in Louisiana, clients needing to rent a vehicle should think smart. Forgo the lure of sport sedans and get an SUV. Streets in New Orleans are hazardous enough without rain. Once you add 4 inches of floodwater to a 1-foot pothole, it becomes a submerged vehicle real quick. Use a GPS to view alternative routes to and from your location. When in doubt, follow a car in front of you with a Louisiana license plate.
*note: swerving while driving does not indicate impairment. It is more likely a sign of a veteran NOLA driver avoiding known road obstacles.
2. Check weather frequently
In New Orleans where our team and client were located, It was a little rainy, but nothing serious (yet). In Biloxi, the talent was preparing for her trip. Houma was a different story. Our production team was meeting 2 hours prior to arriving on location. We planned to prep gear, drive (accounting for traffic), and get loaded in before our client arrives on set. Luckily, my client and I had consulted the Weather App and touched base with the location prior to meeting. Houma was actively telling patients NOT to arrive that day due to weather closure. After discussing and ensuring the safety of everyone, we decided to delay the project to the following week.
It’s a good thing we did! Here is a picture of the audio operator outside his house following the storm.
3. Have a backup plan
Always have an alternative way to achieve the desired result. One should have a pre-coordinated standby recording day to execute interviews if the scheduled production is cancelled. In this case, our client had already planned the following week to conduct the interviews if necessary. Prepare a secondary location for the shoot. If the initial plan is recording outdoors, have an indoor option available as well. Plan for multiple days of B-roll to account for weather conditions. If necessary, utilize our stock video inventory for alternatives to non-ideal recording situations.
Sometimes things happen beyond the control of the parties involved. In such a case, it’s best to reserve a little budget for emergency funding. This can range from delayed flights, inaccessible locations, safety precautions, or last minute cancellations. Reserving dates with crew, gear, and travel blocks those assets from use on other projects. It will guarantee the availability for your project.
Understand that the team dedicated to creating your video content has put aside other projects. They have coordinated their schedule with families and childcare facilities in advance. All arrangements to facilitate the availability for your project in their lives have been arranged. This is why we typically require an upfront non-refundable deposit to hold dates. We do try to work with our clients financially to work through any curveballs thrown our way. It is best to prepare for additional costs that may come up. This could be due to weather, cancelled flights, or other unforeseen events. There are many things that may prevent the day of production to be executed properly. Re-renting cars, re-booking flights, and reserving alternative dates can get costly quick.
5. Safety FIRST
… ultimately, all of the tips above are surpassed by ensuring the safety of all personnel. We work diligently to adapt to any situation thrown at us, but sometimes we need to call it. At the end of the day, there are few video production projects, if any, worth sacrificing the safety of our team or our clients. We’re passionate about creating video content, capturing experiences, and engaging audiences. Jeopardizing the possibility of returning home to our families is not exactly part of the plan. We are very fortunate to have worked with clients, especially in this situation, that recognize the importance of safety for everyone involved in the project. We all love what we do and the people we get to share our experiences with. Putting an emphasis on safely producing video content can not be overstated.
Though this advice may seem basic for those familiar with these experiences, hopefully these 5 Tips for Successful Video Production during Hurricane Season aides in having a heads up on dealing with situations beyond your control to have a successful video shoot during the most hectic weather season of the year in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.