In overcoming Irma — and looting — a production studio discovered the formula for excellence on the fly.
In the days just before Hurricane Irma raked the Gulf Coast, Naples Studio owner Drew Townsend boarded the windows of his Goodlette Road office, connected surveillance cameras and internet access to a battery backup and packed important video equipment in cases to protect it from water damage.
Like other businesses, Irma shut down his operation for several days. Still, Townsend had plenty of time to produce a video for his client, NCH Healthcare System Inc., for its 59th annual ball and fundraising event. He was in the middle of shooting and producing a video to promote the hospital’s need to renovate its antiquated emergency department.
"I learned that deadlines are great, and having a hard deadline is fantastic," he says. "You will work differently against a hard deadline. With a soft deadline, it can be hard to stay focused. You can over-engineer anything. There is the law of diminishing returns and you learn where that point is very quickly." Naples Studio owner Drew Townsend
Because he was on schedule, Townsend wasn’t concerned about the days lost. Since the office and studio sustained no damage, once power was restored, he could get back on track.
He didn’t count on being looted.
After power was restored, Townsend removed the boards from the windows and doors, reactivated the security system, turned back on the cameras and returned home.
The next morning, someone broke into the studio.
“In three minutes he managed to get away with $22,500 worth of gear," says Townsend, "because I had conveniently packaged it up to go for him."
The work he and his associates had completed was intact. He runs the business himself and employs a team of freelancers, and by the time they were able to resume operations with equipment borrowed from colleagues, the event was six weeks away with production a month behind schedule.
Townsend was forced to alter his timeframe. In doing so, he learned a business lesson in resiliency and the value of decisiveness in the artistic process, which he since has applied to new projects.
“We like to deliver projects days in advance and have them tested,” says Townsend, who bought Naples Studio in 2011 from his then-boss, Pam Hughes, who was a key member of the NCH video team. “We pushed right up against the deadline to get it to the event. Everything was a rush.”
Because it was to be shown at the early November ball — a primary element in the fundraising campaign for emergency department renovation — there was no deadline extension. Parts of the project that would otherwise have been completed by mid-September became late October, with little to no refinement time before delivery.
Despite the rush, the video was a winning entry in the 39th annual Telly Awards, an international competition that honors excellence in video and television production across all screens. The Naples Studio was honored in the Promotional Video-Cause Marketing category.
Townsend says the experience taught him decisiveness as mandated by tight deadlines doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing quality.
"I learned that deadlines are great, and having a hard deadline is fantastic," he says. "You will work differently against a hard deadline. With a soft deadline, it can be hard to stay focused. You can over-engineer anything. There is the law of diminishing returns and you learn where that point is very quickly. I'm more decisive now when I need to be, but there are times when you have to give it more thought. The trick is knowing when that is."
The quality of the video was a surprise to Townsend, and it was credited by NCH Healthcare Associate Chief Development Officer Troy Munn in large part for helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“There are some projects that, when you finish it, you think this one feels different. It feels special,” says Townsend. “After this project was delivered we looked at it and said, 'This is real good. It's a well-told piece, the video looks good, everything is right.’ At that point I decided to submit it. When you feel it, you have to give it a shot.”
Beyond taking greater security measures, Townsend says efficiency is among the valuable lessons he learned from the experience.
“In terms of production, when there is a deadline looming and a hard decision to make, just make it and move on,” says Townsend. “The overarching theme I hear myself say is you have to move on, you have to continue working, you have to give it your all.
“Since the break-in we have become much more mindful of how we approach our projects, mindful internally to download them back up projects frequently, and externally in that everyone has a story that they want told. What they are going through is a unique experience to them, and we want to ensure that we are respectful and do their stories justice.”