FIVE MINUTES WITH MALLY GRAVESON
Mally Graveson is founder and managing director of video production company, Heehaw. Having recently celebrated 21 years of the business, Mally spoke to Communicate about the challenges and triumphs of the past two decades in the ever-evolving world of video comms.
What trends have you seen in video communications in response to Covid-19?
In terms of production, we shifted from live action to motion design, animation and stock footage. There was also a shift to using international crews, so we expanded our network and very quickly made friends with a lot of production partners around the world. In the last 12 months, we have filmed in over 30 countries around the world. Usually we would send producers from Scotland out to these countries, but instead we’ve been working remotely. We've been doing a lot of directing for big international NGOs, but instead of going to these places we've been using local crews and talent on the ground. There’s also been a shift in language that's being used. You have to be sensitive and understanding of how people are living, or what experiences they are going through. It’s important to take that into account with scripting and messaging.
We’ve also been helping clients understand different content channels, especially with corporate video production. There is definitely a trend towards longer form content. The average length of videos on YouTube is now over five minutes, so people are committing more time to watching these videos. Shorter clips work for Twitter, but there has been a shift towards consuming longer form content that goes deeper into the subject matter or story because people have got a bit more time to do so.
How has the pandemic changed the way you work at Heehaw?
I’ve been remote directing a lot of shoots where the team will send me opening shots, or film the monitors on their phones. My clients and I can then approve it and give feedback via WhatsApp groups. The director on stage will also take a few shots or stills and send it to us. I’m looking forward to travelling again but I've also realised we were not all needed out there. In the last two months, I’ve had shoots going on in luxury hotels in Istanbul, Lake Como, Rome, Croatia, Barcelona, Alicante – which are dream jobs, so it's quite frustrating. But that's the way of the world and it's great because I can spend more time at home. It’s better for the environment and more sustainable. I’m also giving more opportunities to other people and I'm growing my network of international production partners.
One of my NGO clients wanted me to go and film in Kenya and New Zealand, Brazil and India. The content is about situations in mental health care settings, and it was relatively tight timescale. I thought that's great, but we could do something else – so we’ve got this really amazing poet whose presenting directly to the camera. We’re going to be using B-roll to visualise the content and bring her words to life. So, the past year has made us think again about how we produce content and ask if there is different way of doing it.
What was the biggest challenge when producing content for brands this past year?
We were fortunate that we had a really strong animation and motion design team, we'd been working remotely and using stock footage already, so it wasn't a huge change. But, the biggest challenge was managing growth and recruiting people via zoom. Our business has almost doubled in the last 12 months so the challenge was getting more people into Heehaw quickly to deal with the demand.
How do you think content is evolving to tackle diversity and inclusion in video comms?
Because of the global nature of our clients, we're very used to creating content that has a diverse feel to it. When you’re working for the United Nations and UNICEF for example, we're not producing content with a European flavor, we're mixing content for the Americas, Asia, subcontinent and Middle East, so diversity and inclusion is a given.
One big change with the rise in awareness has been our recruitment policy. As a communications business, it’s very important that diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do. Not necessarily featuring it, but ensuring that the thinking involved comes from a diverse team. The people at Heehaw are diverse, because only then can the content we produce be diverse and inclusive.
How have you seen video production change over the past 21 years?
One of the biggest changes was the development of cameras that produced very good images and enabled people to create and develop content. The advancement in technology on mobile devices has enabled anyone and everyone to be a content producer. Wi-Fi has advanced and a lot of content is now aimed at phones and tablets rather than television screens. We do a lot of animation and motion design at Heehaw, and that started about ten years ago. Computers and software programs have evolved so much with the speed of technology, so we can produce animations much quicker.
The first film I did was a two-week road movie around Europe, and it was a dream job. We went around Europe for two weeks with a travel company creating a six or seven minute long film. We got that printed onto fifty thousand CD-ROMs. Later, content moved to DVD and we would do thousands of runs for people to watch on their computer. Eventually it moved to YouTube and then company websites - that could be a painful experience if Wi-Fi was poor.
In 21 years of Heehaw, what has been the company's biggest achievement?
The most amazing achievement is what has happened in the last 12 months and our growth as a business. Helping our brands and clients to keep communicating to their audiences, and being at the heart of some of the global Covid-19 communications has been very rewarding. I’ve also loved seeing my staff grow, develop and grab opportunities. We’ve really invested in young people and it’s amazing seeing them flourish and create amazing content. Sometimes people send me their work and I just feel so much pride. It’s brilliant because young people want to tell other people's stories and communicate complicated messages.