I am the Line Producer on Horrid Henry. That wonderful, lovable little boy who is a bit like Just William’s little brother http://www.horridhenry.me/ From a factual and live sport background I’ve changed direction and learnt about animation and it’s always really good to learn something new. So what’s the story of A to B? How do you put 36 years of television production down in a blog? Yep it really is my 36th year in TV. Can I even remember the beginning?
The beginning was actually in commercials I worked for two agencies in London and started my life with directors such as Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson, Tony and Ridley Scott who were still running RSA and many more, none of whom had made any films at this stage. Alan Parker used my room in the basement in Howland Street to play around making movies at the weekends with strict instructions to “clean it up” for us on Monday mornings.
When the pull of Fairy Liquid lost its charms I moved on from commercials, crossing over to ITV and Anglia TV. Ah the heady days in Norwich with Nicolas Parsons and “Sale of the Century”. I spent 12 years with Anglia, and would probably still be there if Maggie Thatcher hadn’t put her oar in.
Anglia TV was a small company that punched above its weight. Stuck out near the Broads and the North Sea it was a great place to live, but oh how my heart use to sink when we would arrive back at Heathrow having been filming abroad for weeks and knew we had at least a 3 hour drive back to base. In the end I use to schedule our flights out of Norwich via Schiphol Airport, as it was quicker than driving to Heathrow.
I’m not sure where the 12 years there went, but we made many network productions, travelled a lot, had fun, nearly drowned our director in a lake in Sweden one midsummer night. Had to talk the Polish police out of arresting my electrician who had jumped a set of red lights (why do the sparks always do things like this?). Spent 3 hours one morning in the jail in Tenerife trying to persuade them to let us film hung over English boys who had been arrested the night before. I thought I had failed when just as we were leaving the jail they suddenly said “yes you can film” and I found the man in the corner in the smart suit, smoking cheroots was the Chief Superintendent and had spent hours watching me running around like a headless chicken, then said “yes”.
We had a good time filming in Saint Marie de la Mares at the gypsy festival trying to keep a low profile but still get the shots. Loved the 3 days spent in Assisi at their spring festival of 24 hours partying, displays, music, drumming, food and drink all in medieval costume, watching prostitutes fall at the feet of their local saint in Corfu and marching Roy Castle across northern Spain to Santiago Compostela, mostly in the rain.
I worked on many plenty of live studio and OBs from horse racing to church services, which always made me feel sick as trying to persuade a vicar, who is used to preaching for half an hour or more, to talk for 5 minutes is no fun. I have watched floor managers lying on the floor grabbing vicars’ ankles to try and get them to stop talking.
In 1992 with a kick from the Thatcher government I had no choice but to launch my freelance career. This has been extremely varied and when my son was born in 1993 (why didn’t I have him when I could have had maternity leave?) I went back to PA’ing live studios at SKY News and SKY Sports. I eventually gave up the News as I really felt the lunatics had eventually taken over the asylum. Then I spent 4 years on the European Golf Tour for SKY Sports running the live gallery. 6 hours live a day, 4 days a week, 33 weeks a year and I’ve still never hit a golf ball in my life. The husbands of most of my friends were really jealous when I told them I had met all the golfers including Tiger Woods – didn’t hit him with a golf club though.
Having a child did impact on my career at that stage and I did take a backward step to do PA’ing again and not Producing and Director as I can moved on to do. I had a nanny I shared with another family their child was full time and mine was part time with the nanny but it worked very well. At that stage I was still married so my husband, who also worked away from home on occasions, was around to help out but it meant a lot of sitting down with diaries and sorting out dates.
Eventually, sitting on a plane, I decided I didn’t want to die with these people and never ever wanting to see Heathrow airport on a Wednesday morning at 5am again I left the Golf Tour and moved over to Unreported World for Channel 4, and started sending everyone else off around the world for 5 years. Unreported World could certainly prove nerve-wracking with crews being arrested in various parts of the world, or getting stuck in the Congo when the warlords went on the rampage again, or missing flights from far flung places around the world. In between these programmes I made various Dispatches and also my own programmes.
Horses are the big love of my life (along with my son of course) and I take part in Endurance Racing, which is complete madness. It’s long-distance riding and can be anything up to 100 miles in a day – well-padded bum needed. So I have made programmes for SKY Sports on Endurance, Eventing, Polocrosse and anything else they want. We will be making an Eventing Series this summer and also the World Championships for Polocrosse as well (Polocrosse is like rugby on horseback with a lacrosse stick) see this website http://www.countrychannel.tv/player.php
Out of the blue one day I had a phone call asking me was I interested in being the Line Producer on Horrid Henry. Novel Entertainment had my CV on their files, though none of us know how they got it, and we all live in Oxford. I did point out I had never worked on animation but they weren’t worried about that as it is the Line Producing part that was more important. I found I picked up the work flow very quickly as it is quite logical and our final animation is done in China anyway so that is out of the country. So here we write the scripts, record the voices in London, then the sound is sent to be put together with the storyboards and animatics which are done at Spider Eye in Cornwall then everything goes by ftp to China who hand draw all the episodes and then send us a hard drive with the episodes on and my editor here in Oxford puts on the titles, credits and edits them to the exact time, then it’s back to London for the final dubb and the deliverables. This makes it sound very easy but as we make 52 episodes at once we are at all the different stages at the same time so a lot of juggling goes on and the whole process takes about 18 months.
So now I find myself with my son about to leave home and go to university and life is changing again so who knows what programmes will come up next and I find myself free to work anywhere at anytime…..