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COVID PRODUCTION ~ the power of meeting the moment


A look inside the process of making the short film, One Day. One Microsoft.


From the beginning of this project, we knew that Microsoft wanted to make something different - a short film that captured the company’s soul and the spirit of people that made it special. When Vossler Studios reached out with this unique opportunity, I was all in.


I grew up in Redmond Washington, the home of Microsoft, so to me, it wasn’t the tech giant most people, it was the company that my neighbors, friends and colleagues worked for. This project was an opportunity for me to dig deeper and show the world the side I always knew - the more human side. The entire Vossler team and our client, was committed to making a personal film that went beyond the walls of the corporation and went into the individual stories of the people and their purpose in life and work.


When the job kicked off, our plan was to ask thousands of Microsoft employees in different parts of the world to submit footage that would show and tell us what ‘One Day’ in and out of work looked and felt like for them. In addition to the UGC submissions, we had planned on filming select interviews, on campus work shots, personal life moments and any scenario we felt was missing. We were excited and ready to go.


Then, as we were kicking off the job, the first COVID case hit Seattle. Microsoft closed its campus and no-one knew what the future held. Instantly everything that defined how we lived and felt about ‘One Day’ changed significantly… for everyone around the world. We had no idea how this would impact our story, but we knew we wanted to keep going. We had to quickly change our approach to meet the moment.

We honed in on our only viable option for generating content - the UGC approach. I am a type-A director who loves to compose each shot perfectly, so…. relinquishing that control and our original plan was so nerve wracking! But the more I thought about it, the more I knew, these shots were not mine to control. To achieve an authentic film, the shots needed to combine my direction with the employees perspective. UGC was the perfect solution and in the end 100% of the footage was captured by a Microsoft employee.

To get what we needed, we assembled a comprehensive document to be sent out to participants. This deck outlined a series of strategic questions to be answered directly to camera along with specific footage requests and suggestions that reflected a day in their life. Our team filmed examples so we could try and give clear direction and gave multiple visual references. When it came to their answers, we guided everyone to look beyond what they do, how they do it or where they do it from - and encouraged them to focus on why they do it. This perspective helped navigate capturing interesting footage that could support an authentic story, but also go beyond the expected. We went through approximately 8 rounds of footage requests from thousands of people around the world, each time getting more granular with references and descriptions of what we needed for our story.

As the footage rolled in, my eyes and heart opened up in an unexpected way. Hours of interviews and b-roll from individuals around the world (India, China, Scandinavia, United States, Spain… everywhere!) in this single moment when we all shared a tremendous challenge of a global pandemic. In the spring of 2020, the world was raw and reacting to massive loss of life, employment and an overwhelming fear of the unknown. I realized I was not just seeing Microsoft employees, I was getting a personal glimpse of the world when people were quarantined, scared and grateful. The shots may not have had perfect composition and lighting, but they told the perfect story. You saw people making it through their day while homeschooling their kids, working from their small apartments with roommates, taking care of their parents or living alone.

I was personally working through the tremendous challenge of homeschooling my two young kids and working full time. But observing the global challenge in a very personal way put everything in perspective and kept me grounded. I felt unified in our humanity and wanted the film to portray that too.

The seismic shift in life cracked opened people’s willingness to share more. We didn’t hear a lot about Covid because the stories everyone shared were bigger and deeper than the moment. The moment just gave them the space or the mindset to speak a little more honestly. In each interview, the spirit of perseverance, ingenuity and passion bubbled up and Microsoft was at the center of the story.

From the beginning, I knew the participants answers would be the backbone of our story. As each interview came in my main focus was to dissect and organize what they said into what ultimately became a deeply meaningful script. Highlighted transcripts, robust excel documents and the most diverse selection of footage imaginable were the pieces to a puzzle. We didn’t know the script of the film or how the scenes would flow together, but we believed that if the soul of the company resided in the people, our story resided in what they gave us. Everything just needed to be put together.

The team and I honed in on reoccurring themes, found the moments that mattered and guided the participants to provide more of what we needed. We continued to update our original document and requested the shots what we wanted. Week by week we sculpted the story and worked with the material we were given. Thomas Price, our editor masterfully wove together unexpected moments that supported our audio story in beautiful ways. We found mini-moments that made big impact and heartfelt soundbites that told a deep story. He found the perfect home for an incredibly diverse selection of clips. When we finally arrived to our master edit, it was so tightly woven that if you removed one shot the whole story would unravel. A custom music track was scored and the story was complete. It was lovely and honest. Unifying and hopeful. Most importantly, it captured the soul of the company in a way that hadn’t been done before.

The film premiered at one of Microsoft’s global virtual conferences and was beautifully received. We actually got dressed up for the occasion so we could all watch from our home offices!

The realities of COVID required us to approach every part of our process differently - from how we worked as a team to how we got what we needed to tell our story. Every aspect of our process met the moment and I do believe that is why the film is different.

An enormous thanks to the team below for bringing me the opportunity to work on this, for the shared vision, constant collaboration and for everything it took to make this happen. Special thanks to Dawn, our client, who believed in and supported this project in amazing ways and to the Microsoft employees who opened up their hearts and lives to give us the compelling story.

Credits:

Director: Lindsay Daniels

Executive Producer at Microsoft: Dawn Hagen

Executive Producer: Jonathan Vossler

Senior Producer: Cheryl Ediss

Creative Director: Chris Livesay

Editor: Thomas Price

Group Creative Director: Brian Lohr

Head of Production: Craig Stevens

Director of Post Production: Casey Steele

Post Production Manager: Josh Arnold

Senior Animator: Austin Glass

Assistant Editor: Mackenzie Glisson

Colorist: Garett Myers