I set up Sprout Films with my esteemed colleague and dear friend, Sally Ann Ritchie in 2008 after quite a few years of dreaming about it. We wanted to make films that made a difference. Films with a social, educational, environmental message. We decided to take the plunge and set up Sprout to take ownership of the films we made and be directly involved with those organisations we cared so passionately about.
Strangely though, although I was concerned initially that making these films wouldn’t be like TV, the process of production is identical and, in fact, I’m probably more knowledgeable now than I was in terms of being across every department. At Sprout Films we run productions from beginning to end, so I’m across pitching, research, scripting, through to self shooting, editing and delivery. Even the dreaded marketing is constantly on my to-do list. It’s multi-tasking at its best. It’s also very manageable.Running Sprout has given me a different perspective. Working directly with clients, getting the jobs in, means I work like a series producer as well as a PD (multi tasking again!) making decisions about those clients’ needs and making sure that message follows through to the final film/s – always remembering the key focus of the client meetings. Even during filmed interviews the questions you ask and the replies are being calibrated against what the client wants but at the same time we’re creative enough to utilise our ob doc know-how and feel things through to give an extra nugget of magic. That’s something I will always thank TV for – I still get a buzz from that connection with an interviewee when they open up and ‘talk’ to you – whether it’s a charity client or a TV documentary, that level of communication is something special and why I got into TV in the first place. (Inspired by the ‘7 Up’ series which to me was TV platinum). I’m proud of some of the films we’ve worked on, and excited by the feedback we’ve received from our clients. It feels like, in our own little way, we’re doing our bit and the impact has been superb. A recent film we worked on with the National Trust generated over £42,000 for a community scheme that was changing young people’s lives in urban areas – the funding came about as a direct result of the film. We did that. I’m still glowing.
Camera wise, we shoot on all formats but the Z7 is a little gem and we’re now file-based which is very exciting. The picture quality is sharper, crisper and the colours are great. I love it. Just because it’s non-broadcast and for a charity client doesn’t mean it shouldn’t look broadcast quality. It’s broadcast quality for non broadcast rates (that’s where the multi-skilling comes in handy – saves a fortune). The organisations we work with usually screen our films on cinema screens so it needs to look good as well as create impact.
We’re still TV-trained and we’re still in the thick of it when it comes to production and production values – that can never be forgotten or watered down – it’s in our bones! We’ve now been joined by Bristol-based BBC producer/director Laura Humphreys whose creativity and experience is second to none.
I’ve been in TV for nearly 20 years and one of the benefits of running Sprout means it gives me flexibility so that I can still do the odd TV contract as a shooting PD to complement the work we do at Sprout Films. Also, having other like-minded souls on board means that our ethos is maintained, if one of us goes off to do a TV contract for a few months, the others can hold the fort. Also, for Sally Ann and Laura, who each have 2 children, working at Sprout has allowed them to carry on working and pick and choose their contracts. Obviously we all have to generate the work but the contracts are short, easy to manage and more than anything they’re enjoyable. It allows all of us to keep those creative juices and interests alive.
Some of my most treasured TV memories are in Observational documentary and I’d like to keep some of those memories alive by not cutting myself off completely from TV.
Observational documentary highlights include ‘House Of Obsessive Compulsives’ (Monkey Kingdom, Channel 4) filming with OCD sufferers as they confront their illness in a controlled environment. I have also self shot on several hospital and trauma series, following patients from arrival in A&E through to surgery and recovery: ‘We Can Rebuild You’ (September Films, Sky 1) & ‘Special Babies’ (Goldhawk Media – Carlton/Living). I had unique access at the Special Baby Care unit at St.Mary’s Hospital in Paddington filming with families at an incredibly difficult point in the lives and following story’s from pregnancy through to birth and thereafter.
Other vivid memories have to include filming with a dear TV colleague, Olly Lambert. I have many quirky memories going from location to location listening to PJ Harvey (him singing, me chuckling) as we traipsed around London searching for the love of his life (‘4 Weeks To Find A Girlfriend’ – Channel 4) or visiting sex clubs in Sheffield whilst searching for male sexual compulsives ‘Hypersex’ (Blast!Films -BBC 2) as you do.
Great moments both on and off the pitch.
I’m used to scripting, editing and maintaining a strong storyline whilst filming as a producer/director. My offline editing skills enable me to keep a firm eye on the story and the twists and turns that come with that journey. These skills have become more fine tuned since running Sprout Films as I’m more hands on with the physical side of editing and that’s been a huge bonus creatively and narratively.