We talked to Dan Gedman of Liquid 9 about film production during COVID-19 times.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dan Gedman: We’re doing great. While our lives are certainly different, any complaint I’d have on our behalf would be trivial compared to how devastating this pandemic has been to many others, both personally and professionally. I’m pretty passionate about keeping that perspective.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Liquid 9.
Dan Gedman: I had a 10+ year career in the agency world before Frankie (Oviedo), and I bought into Liquid 9 in 2008. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, we had started a company in the evenings and weekends. At some point, it became too much to handle in our spare time, and we used that company to buy our stake in Liquid 9. We’ve since bought out our third partner, and Frankie and I are equal partners.
How does Liquid 9 innovate?
Dan Gedman: Right now, it’s through simplification. Having been on both sides of the business (both agency and production), I’d like to think I have a unique perspective on where our clients’ money could potentially be wasted. Almost everything we’ve focused on for the last 4+ years has been to close those gaps, ensuring that every dollar they spend goes to actual “work” rather than unnecessary meetings and redundant opinions.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dan Gedman: We had a scary couple of weeks (like everyone). After we settled into a new routine, we quickly found our rhythm in a new way of working. We’re still doing our day-to-day work virtually, and when we come together for shoots, we have a rigid safety protocol on set. We’re also actively encouraging our clients to bring the least amount of “necessary” people to shoots. We patch everyone else in digitally.
As far as “coping” goes, I don’t think that word really applies. Our core business has shifted so much since 2008 (keep in mind that almost all sizable productions were still shot on film at that point) that this just feels like another moment of evolution in a constantly evolving industry.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dan Gedman: Sure. And I’ve certainly spent some nights doing a lot more math than sleeping. To me, the takeaway has just cemented in my mind that our business is a “people” business, and my job is (and has been as long as I’ve been running the company) to make sure that I remove as many obstacles as I can in letting them apply their talents to our work.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Liquid 9 in the future?
Dan Gedman: Part over-preparation, part fresh air. With my past as an on set-director or high-end commercials and music videos, I’m a chronic “worst-case scenario” thinker. It probably isn’t right for everyone, but if I’ve prepared for things to go terribly wrong, and I’m ready for that possibility, all the minor hiccups that will actually happen seem mild in comparison. There’s a flip side, though. If I just sit and dwell on all the bad things that might happen, rather than prepare for them and move on, I tend to grind my nerves to death. So after I do my work, I try to do something to clear my head outside. My brain needs the Vitamin D.
As far as our future as a company, I feel like our trajectory is stronger than it has ever been. We had a massive organizational upheaval in 2017, and I was in a bad car accident in early 2018. Those were a couple of really big speed bumps for Liquid 9/Faction that we survived. I felt like we were set up for a monster 2020, and of course, the pandemic has slowed a bit of that down, but I love where we’re headed and love the team that’s going to take us there.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dan Gedman: This is a tricky one because there really aren’t many companies that do exactly what we do, but there are many ways of getting what we do done. So, depending on how you look at it, we either have tons of competition or none at all. With that being said, the key to the future of Liquid 9/Faction will be the same as the key to its recent past. We need to constantly strive to make as much high-end content as efficiently as possible for our clients. As long as we continue to do that, I feel like we’ll have a seat at the table.
Your final thoughts?
Dan Gedman: The last thing anyone needs is me babbling about geopolitics or the nature of a pandemic, so I’ll just quote Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.”