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How We Work Now: ‘Despacito’ Director/Founder of Elastic People Carlos Pérez

In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now. Today's installment is with music video…

In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.

This installment is with Elastic People founder Carlos Pérez, one of Latin music’s most in-demand video directors, whose work includes the most watched music video of all time on YouTube, “Despacito.” Pérez launched his video production and design company out of his bedroom almost 20 years ago. During the pandemic, he’s temporarily shut down his studio and is once again working from home.

Carlos Pérez: We have six full time employees, and with freelancers we can go up to 100 people depending on the project. We’ve been working through this whole thing, which is beautiful. I haven’t released a single [full time employee], we haven’t lowered salaries and we’re 100% operational. A lot of people think Elastic People is solely about music videos, but 50% of our revenue comes from strategic branding, so we do not have to go out in the field to earn revenue.

Luckily, the first quarter was really aggressive. We were working on Prince Royce’s album [with multiple videos]. We are working on Wisin & Yandel’s new album, for which we did photography, music videos and tour content, which of course is on hold.

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During this pause [in video production] we’ve been working with a lot of branding projects. In the last month, for example, we’ve been working on two record labels’ identity, which is interesting. It’s setting up the point of view behind the label, what differentiates them. So there’s a lot of strategic planning that goes along with the visual point of view.

As the current situation evolves, a lot of people in our industry have been looking at the situation and at ways of diversifying. There are a couple of artists who are forming new companies. Every new company needs branding. They need identity and a point of view. So as people diversify with the industry we’ve been very busy, and that has sort of offset the film work.

Something that is also interesting is alternate video work. Instead of going out to shoot artists, everyone is thinking, “What creative strategies can we use to present this song?”

I’ve been working with Ricky Martin and Farruko on the remix of “Tiburones” and they wanted to shoot their own videos. We weren’t there physically, but we were supervising their work and doing the post-production. So it’s a different way of putting out video content without being there.

With where we’re at in the industry, there will be a lot of newer ways to work. Is it a high-end music video? Definitely not. But it provides a different point of view.

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As far as videos, there are two ways of looking at it. There are artists who are pushing their releases back to the point where we can adapt to the new requirements and create treatments that adapt to the new realities. And there is content that needs to be released ASAP, so we suggest things like animation. We literally have seven treatments that have been approved.

Videos that do not require going out and shooting are a whole different project. There’s more post-production involved and fewer people on the front end, so the cost is lower. It’s too early to tell if budgets will come down. But as we move forward, I don’t think there will be more than 10-12 people on a set, whereas I used to have 100 people. You could have 60 people dancing as extras, plus guests. Last year, I shot a video that had 100 guests between the two artists.

I think the costs will be comparable, because the work will have to scatter between different shifts. Because if you can only have 10 people on set, we’re going to have to build the set and do the lighting the day before, and take everything down the next day.

Dancers were already becoming a casualty of war. The whole union situation is complicated. If budgets come down, dancers become more of a premium or luxury. And as we adjust to a new reality, not only financially but also logistically, we’re going to be looking at a lot of videos where there will be minimal talent beyond the artists themselves. Remember, the more talent you have, then the more food you have, the more makeup you have. It becomes a domino effect. In the efforts to minimize the crew, the focal point will be the artist.

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It’s fascinating and at the same it will remind production companies that we have a serious responsibility on our hands. Now it’s not necessarily about this regulation or this permit. Now it’s, “Who’s the vendor providing the equipment and what processes are they doing to disinfect that equipment? What crew members could have been exposed?” The amount of variables we will be facing are pretty broad and we have to be responsible.

I’ve embraced this time with the family. That’s foremost. My wife and my four-year-old son, Mateo. Before, work was handled at the office and the studio, and family was handled in the house. It’s the way I always programmed my head. Plus, I couldn’t isolate myself from a three-year-old to focus on creativity. Now, I just lock the door and say, “Daddy’s off to work.”

I do plan to go back to the office. You have to be in the studio living that creative process. Music is about human experience, and if we’re going to continue evolving this business, you have to go out and experience the artist and the crowd in order to be responsible with the craft. I’m dying to get out of here and experience life again.

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