Posted on 12th November 2020

An apprenticeship in remote directing?

We spoke to Kate Bullen, Production Manager at Boundless about the challenges The Apprentice went through as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, and the positives that came out of them.

“There were plans this year to film a new series of The Apprentice, but it became unfeasible to go ahead because of COVID, so we decided to do a ‘Best Bits’ show instead. While a lot of this would be produced using archive footage, master interviews still needed to be carried out”

“In order to keep cast & crew safe, as well as the need for some interviews to take place abroad using local crews (including with Sir Alan Sugar, who was in Spain at the time), a new approach was needed”

The move to remote directing

The production turned to remote directing, not a new concept, but one that wasn’t commonly used. The only crew member needed is the DoP, who would go to the interviewee’s house and set up a system in which the interview was carried out by the Editing Producer via a Microsoft Teams call.

The potential downside of using a low quality laptop webcam was solved by plugging a professional grade camera into the laptop via HDMI and ‘tricking’ the computer into thinking it was a webcam. Producers (and audiences) didn’t notice a dip in quality, and the resulting footage was more or less indistinguishable.


Overall, there were many benefits to remote directing. Kit companies can typically charge £600-700 a day for the equipment needed to achieve the quality of shot that Boundless required. Their solution produced high quality output at a fraction of the cost, whilst still allowing producers to have creative control. Other pros included (but weren’t limited to):

  •         Filming could continue during the pandemic
  •         The ability to work with local crews abroad with added confidence
  •         Reduced costs due to fewer people travelling to location
  •         Producers were able to direct the shot and fix issues in real time, rather than spotting them in the video              village  at the end of a shoot day.
  •         Edit producers weren’t taken out for the whole day and could work more efficiently


The remote directing setup did have a few downsides though, as Kate describes:

“It was initially a little awkward for interviewees to be talking into a laptop that had been setup at their eyeline rather than a person, but everyone quickly got used to it, as we’ve all had to during the pandemic. The other limiting factor was the stability of the participants’ internet connection, in cases of connection issues, we found ways to reduce bandwidth while still getting the high quality shots we needed”

The Apprentice is one of many shows that’s had to switch to remote directing due to the pandemic, but the benefits can clearly be reaped in the long term, and most importantly, it’s a way of filming that can reduce a production’s carbon footprint.