In the news: The pandemic didn’t stop the show for BCD Media & Entertainment

From feuding tiger keepers to beloved superheroes, film and TV productions helped keep us entertained during the lockdown months of the pandemic. Helen Williams, a Commercial Program Manager for BCD Media & Entertainment, sat down with Business Traveller magazine to recount how her team navigated COVID restrictions to help support those crews as they traveled.

Two years ago, the world shut down but the shows (and movies and documentaries) went on, providing small-screen viewers with entertainment in the safety of our homes. For those of us watching at home, it was entertainment as usual. For the BCD Travel teams behind the scenes, making sure the productions kept going meant strategic planning, flexibility, heightened risk management and creative problem solving. “As you can imagine, everybody was sat at home wanting content, so [production companies] had to film,” said Williams, who is part of a team managing a client list that includes large film studios and streaming companies.

She explained how travel management companies (TMCs) like BCD needed to organize travel for production companies facing not just tight deadlines, last-minute schedule changes, and strict confidentiality protocols but also ever-changing global travel restrictions when traveling from place to place.

Helen Williams, Commercial Program Manager, BCD Media and Entertainment

Managing moving parts

Production company travel involves multiple elements. The production companies handle on-the-ground issues and TMCs arrange bespoke end-to-end travel experiences – from pre-departure testing to travel locator forms, airline bookings and car hire, and accommodation and VIP meet and greets. “Travel for productions is very different to corporate travel. It’s not straightforward. You could be moving up to 100 people, if not more,” Williams said.

The consultants are trained to prepare for the unexpected and respond to change swiftly. A responsibility that became even trickier as planes were grounded and borders closed. She recalled a situation at a production in Malta, where a large unit landed only to learn the following day that restrictions had changed, forcing them to return to the U.K.

Even after restrictions eased, flexibility remained key. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job; it’s very fast-paced. Our consultants almost become friends with the production coordinator because they are talking to them so regularly throughout the whole period of the production,” Williams said. BCD, which operates in more than109 countries, offers 24-hour assistance to match production companies’ hectic schedules.

More than just COVID

Challenges outside of COVID consumed a fair amount of the team’s attention. Production timetables can vary; typically, the larger the project, the longer the shoot. Given their high-profile clients, BCD exercises a strict level of discretion and security over itineraries, client information, and travel data. “We cannot reveal where people are shooting or what’s going on, as some of these are top-secret confidential projects,” said Williams. “We don’t confirm names until about a day out of travel as we don’t want that to be leaked.” The team routinely manages aliases, pseudonyms, and rider requests (a list of requirements or conditions). “This can be as easy as discreet entry into a property for security; they could be allergic to a scent so can’t have drivers wearing fragrance; they may want certain types of pillows; or want their pets or families to travel with them,” said Williams. “You can’t forecast anything but we all like a challenge.”

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