Production in Motion: Anaka Kaundinya on Global Video Productions for Google
For over two years, Blink has worked closely with Google’s in-house creative agency and production company, Visual Labs. With our firm roots in documentary, we’ve forged a symbiotic relationship that produces high-end narratives with as many as 12 simultaneous productions in a single week. Anaka Kaundinya, Senior Video Producer at Blink, shares some of her insights into juggling global Google video productions and how to navigate unknowns.
“We produce documentary-style videos for Google’s international projects, in pretty much any part of the world,” Anaka says. “So, we do everything from sourcing, vetting, and hiring crews, to following a production as it unfolds.”
Anaka and her colleague Filippo Brunamonti have managed crews in 28 countries, capturing stories in 19 languages for dozens of business units inside the company.
“No matter the content of the film, there is a certain type of intimacy that is created from actually being face to face, or feeling like you are face to face, with a person. In that way, video is inherently special; it brings you into a very immersive experience. And, when you get the chance to bring others into a particular culture or way of life, like what we do for these productions, you have a very powerful product.”
A fundamental reason for their success lies in their decisions on crews. “The crew you hire is either going to make or break a production. The most important criteria is to find somebody who is a problem solver and not a problem creator.”
Quality work and reels are important, of course, but there can often be other deciding factors. They look for:
1. Good instinct and experience to back up work samples.
2. Crew members’ attitude in high-stress situations.
3. Attentiveness to socio-cultural and political factors that may affect the production.
Through careful planning and execution, the team draws on Blink’s extensive network of locals to create impactful stories. “We take pride in the way that we vet our crews and rely on people who are native to a particular region. We don’t just depend on the same pool of people that everybody dips into and spend a lot of time to make sure that our DPs, producers, etc., are all unique and high quality.”
When Anaka started at Blink over seven months ago, she was thrown into the deep end. “There were three productions that I worked on in my first week,” Anaka remembers. “A small but touching early production was when I had to hire an influencer to showcase her food photography. It was different than our other productions, which are generally short videos, but the story has stuck with me: she was a homemaker and mother who began by Instagramming photographs of the lunches that she would make for her children. It turned into an elaborate passion project of hers where she would carefully set design for the food and then post about it. For us, what seemed like a small event, where she was basically talking to maybe ten or twenty local guides at Google and walking through how they can make their photographs of food look good, was a big deal for her. She posted about it on Instagram, talking about how this was the highlight of a very difficult year, and how meaningful it was that we worked together.”
“Logistically, I am very proud of a production we worked on in Zanzibar. The pre-production spanned roughly six weeks and there were multiple unpredictable factors at play. We had to be quick, analytical, and diplomatic in troubleshooting to make sure everything went smoothly, and that the crew and locals interviewed were comfortable. Things always go wrong on the ground: You have to be malleable, and budget for extra time when working overseas and remotely.”
At the end of the day, Anaka has one piece of advice for those going into global production:
“Make sure you have all your permissions and that everything is buttoned up! Intangible factors are very important, and it is absolutely imperative to be mindful of the cultural and political context of the country you are working in.”