Finishing ‘The Last Dance’ amid the coronavirus pandemic

Delfin Dioquino
Finishing ‘The Last Dance’ amid the coronavirus pandemic
'The Last Dance' director Jason Hehir says he and his crew faced technological and collaborative difficulties in completing the 10-part series from their own homes

MANILA, Philippines – Finishing a 10-part documentary is already a tough task in itself, what more doing it in the middle of a pandemic. 

That is the challenge director Jason Hehir and his crew faced in completing The Last Dance as they were forced to abandon their usual working habits and wrap up the series from their own homes. 

“Obviously COVID-19 made life more difficult for everybody on the planet and our team was no exception,” Hehir told Filipino reporters in a conference call. 

“We’re going from multi-million dollar edit facilities to our own apartments in New York City, which are notoriously small apartments.”

Hehir said adjustments in the miniseries that usually take minutes to be finalized now eat up days because of their new setup. 

“If I want to change a song or change a shot or change a soundbite or try something out, I can walk across the hall and go to one of my editors’ offices, we can do that in real time,” Hehir said. 

“[N]ow I have to schedule a Zoom meeting, get on the phone with them, [and] invite all the other people who would normally be part of that collaboration in the office to get on the Zoom meeting.”

Meeting online was just the start as they needed to carefully apply the changes for the documentary, which is aired weekly with two new episodes.

“For them to make that edit in the office, I could see that in real time. For them to do it at home, they make the edit, they have to export it, send it – that takes a while – I have to take it, import it, upload it, watch it, make my notes, [and] get my notes to them,” the 43-year-old director said. 

“They would have to implement those notes [and] give it back to me. It takes days, whereas it would take minutes [before].” 

Aside from technological constraints, collaborating on how they would approach each episode was made harder by the lockdown. 

“Many of the moments that you see, if you like moments in this documentary, they came from moments of collaboration with a lot of people in one room tossing around ideas. We don’t have that capability anymore.”

“It’s one thing to toss around ideas in a room when you’re with people. It’s another thing to schedule a Zoom meeting or be on an email thread or text chain. It’s just much different,” Hehir said. 

Despite their struggles, Hehir believes the quality of the miniseries was not compromised, and it is proven by the average of 5.8 million viewers who tuned in for the first 6 episodes.

In fact, Hehir did not have other personalities he wished his team talked to for the documentary, with Utah Jazz icon John Stockton being the last man they interviewed on March 10. 

“I’m very proud to say that I don’t think we lost one ounce of quality of the episodes we had to finish in quarantine to bring you the entire series.” 

Episodes 7 and 8 will stream on Netflix on Monday, May 11. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.