From Russia With Footage
Our first major international shoot came courtesy of Arrival, a technology company aiming to change the world through building smart and electric vehicles. Having produced Arrival’s previous six internal communications films, we already had a strong understanding of their business, making us a good fit for the St. Petersburg project. Over the course of a week we explored their software hub in St. Petersburg, Russia, to get a first glimpse at what the future looks like.
Shining a light
While much of Arrival’s core operations take place in the UK, their main software arm is based in laboratories on the outskirts St. Petersburg. With many of their technological breakthroughs taking place there, our aim was to shine a light on the work they do, and produce a 4-part documentary series for internal consumption to give the rest of the business a deeper understanding of how the advances in software development tie in to the rest of the business’ success.
Producing content overseas always presents its own series of unique challenges, and this was no exception. Filming by-laws, creative styles, and working cultures vary massively from country to country, and it’s easy for productions to trip up even when they think they’ve accounted for these variables.
We counter this by being overly prepared, to the point of being excessive, and allowing additional time for communication and pre-production. However, all the best groundwork and foresight is redundant without the autonomy and flexibility to change tack when the shoot demanded it. We were fortunate enough to have a client who gave us exactly that freedom and remit.
As luck would have it, we had a London-based Russian director on our books who we'd worked with previously, avoiding the need for a translator or complicated business visas. We hired a local production team to provide kit and technical crew, and sent Xenia to direct them and oversee the shoot.
Xenia’s direction helped us ensure a style consistent with our previous work for Arrival, while having access to a St Petersburg crew massively reduced logistical challenges and provided local, on-the-ground expertise we would have struggled without.
Working with 4K proxies on long-form interviews recorded in a foreign language was never going to be an easy task, and we reimagined our whole post-production workflow based on the challenges we faced while editing this. Our director and producer created a paper-edit far more comprehensively than a typical project would require us to, and subtitled the complete interview rushes so that our editor (who very unreasonably doesn’t speak Russian!) could form a narrative.