Media Parents

Monthly Archives: October 2013

5 minutes with… Jules Seymour, Series Producer (at sea!)

by Amy Walker

The Cruise:  A life at Sea

It seemed like the ideal job, following a Chaplain on a luxury cruise around the world for four months, writes Jules Seymour.

But all we were sure about when I was hired was that the Vicar the Reverend Colin Still was happy for us to follow him and that we had permission from the Cruise Company to film in the public areas of the ship.  In the period leading up to departure on the 5th January we were able to talk to half a dozen passengers who were coming on board, and film our Vicar doing a Christmas service on his home ground in Brighton, and a master interview with him about Cruise trips in general which was to prove very useful later on.

The remit for this in-house BBC Religion and Ethics production was to produce a gentle observational series about the work of the ships chaplain, and feature characters and the community of passengers and crew on board during the voyage. Colin had agreed to be followed and filmed on board because of his links with the Mission to Seafarers, a Charity that seeks to help people who work on ships around the world.  The other good news was that Julian Mercer an experienced BBC Bristol Producer was brought on to the project.  His experience and negotiating skills would prove invaluable to the success of the series.

The big task before departure at the beginning of January was to choose the team that would be with me on board.  With a limited budget, and complications   about hopping on and off the ship, we soon found out that we weren’t going to be able to get the team off the ship for breaks or holidays, it was going to have to be all or nothing.

Shooting SP Jules Seymour at work.

We needed a small team that were multi-skilled and could get the job done, but equally importantly would get on with each other and the passengers and the Crew on board, and be able to live four months away from loved ones and life

at home.   After an exhaustive interview process we arrived at a team of four including myself.   Assistant Producer Mike Arnott would be my right hand man, I knew him and had worked with him before.  He’s a great shooter, good with people and has a nose for gently getting a good story from the demographic we were looking at filming, importantly he also could cut on final cut pro.   Laura Jane Stacey was on board because of her experience working at the BBC, her confident and pleasant nature, and having some experience of self-shooting.  Stuart Burnell came through the department and was going to be in charge of the technical side of the operation the downloading and logging of rushes, in effect our media manager, but he would have to do much more than that over the coming voyage.

With Executive Producer Julian Mercer and in-house Production Manager Melissa Quero we arrived at a schedule and a plan to shoot and edit the series in the time we had at our disposal.  We elected to take two cameras, the main camera would be a Sony PMW 500, with a Cannon 305 as back up and second camera. Because we had so much time at sea our edit time back in England was constrained by delivery dates and budgets, so we planned to rough assemble as much as we could on the voyage.   Mike would do the cutting.   I was to fly back from Dubai three weeks before the end of the Cruise, as the edit would have to start then if we were to hit our delivery dates, which would mean that Mike would have to direct and shoot the last leg, it seemed a big ask even then.

This plan hinged on us being able to send cuts back to Julian in England from wherever we were at sea and necessitated us getting our own chunk of the bandwidth on board, and being able to plug directly into the ships server.  This was successfully negotiated by our IT Manager Ian Wagdin.  It was one of the most expensive hits on our budget but was to prove to one of the most precious resources, as well as getting cuts of our material to our executive it enabled us to talk to our loved ones and families from most places around the world.

Series Producer Jules Seymour preps The Cruise: A Life at Sea for BBC2. http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/126/jules-seymour

With everything in place we hit the ground running from the off.  We knew we were going to need leaving shots and blanket coverage of the first few days of the trip so we started in relentless shooting mode.  Our central character was Colin and through him we needed to capture a sense of the start of the trip and his thoughts about the momentous cruise we were going in.

And who were our other characters?  From the half dozen couples we’d managed to get to talk to before we left we knew we had good stories to tell but there were 1700 passengers and Crew on board so there were lots of other stories out there.

I decided to keep the central focus on the Vicar and his world to start with, he’d been on many cruises so he could commentate on these early stages of the cruise, whilst we worked out which stories we were to follow.  What had become obvious fairly early on was that the series would have a linear nature to it, thoughts and recollections may be able to move around in the timeline but the Geography of where we were going and events on board wouldn’t.  Our principle focus to start with was with the passengers.  With many days at sea guaranteed with crossings of the Atlantic and Pacific, our focus immediately turned to the on board activities that they took part in.  The Choir Mistress was a strong and committed character teaching on her first cruise, with an ailing mother back at home to worry about and an inspirational personality and a pride in her work it seemed a good idea to follow the choirs progress over the first leg.

Chaplain Colin was in effect the on-board councilor and someone who would listen to issues and worries raised by the passengers on board.   Bob and Vivian our “love birds” were on a honeymoon cruise after recently getting married.  As well as their joy in finding love in their lives, Vivian was desperately worried about Bob’s diabetes and his weight, which she conveyed to Colin.   We followed his battle to lose weight till they got off in Acapulco. Added to our developing storylines we also had events to film, a helicopter airlift of a very ill passenger in mid-Atlantic, visits to Madeira and Caribbean islands, a transit of the Panama Canal and the end of leg arrival in Acapulco.

With the two week crossing of the Pacific we started editing.  We still had our long running stories to follow, but we made time to begin putting assemblies together.  To start with we cut taster sequences of our main characters and story lines and fdp’d them to Julian back in England.  After getting agreement with Julian about the characters and story lines we started to cut rough assemblies for what could be the first two episodes. As the journey went on the filming followed these patterns, filming narrative long running stories and events as they happened.  Our access to film on board had initially been just on the passenger decks, and throughout the trip I had to carefully negotiate with the PR reps on board to extend this access so that we could include more of the crew stories and activity around the rest of the ship.  We also had to show a positive and undisruptive front to the passengers and crew on board in general.

Technically our biggest problem was sound collection.   Our radio mics continually picked up a low frequency buzz, whichever frequency we tried. Our best solution was to film with a 416 gun mic as the master channel and the radios as a back up,  producing better results although this altered to some extent how we shot material.  In the end our sound worked out fine with some careful tweaking of the trickiest bits in the dub.

The team worked diligently and tirelessly throughout the trip.  After three months we reached Dubai and I flew back to start the edit.   Because of our delivery dates and viewing schedule I had to hit the ground running with the editor, we were going to be busy. Back on board the crew headed by AP Mike Arnott were shooting material for the final episode.  We had discussed the stories we wanted to follow in some detail before I left, but I was always available to talk with Mike about progress and changes of plan back in England.

At the edit back in Shepherds Bush it was apparent that we were up against it. However we had rough cuts for two episodes and an assembly for a third, but most importantly we were lucky to have the services of an excellent Bristol based editor Ben King, whom Julian had persuaded to come down to London for the edit.  As well as being brilliant with technology and very fast, Ben has a great editorial mind and a fantastic music library and knowledge to draw on.

Back on board the Balmoral the scaled down crew had done brilliantly in keeping up the relentless shooting schedule.  They had managed to film all the stories we’d hoped for which would give us plenty of material for our last episode.  I was there to film from the shore as the Cruise came back, although the 112 day world trip was over, there was still going to be the best part of three months editing ahead of us.

Although it never stopped being very hard work, long days and some weekend work, it was usually fun.  After a suggestion from Julian it was decided that I would do the voice over narration, a daunting prospect but after three months training I warmed to the task.   My highly paid career as a voice over artist on lucrative commercial gigs hasn’t happened yet, but it’s surely just a matter of time!

The Series went out at the end of July for six weeks and peaked at over 2 million with a 1.6 final average for the whole series, which the BBC seemed very pleased with.

Would I do it or something like it again?  Maybe but the family might have to come too!

Series Producer Jules Seymour is in the TALENT section of Media Parents http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/126/jules-seymour

October 31, 2013 @ 1:08 am Posted in News Leave a comment

5 minutes with… Sir Tim Rice, lyricist

by Amy Walker

“I’m probably a bit of a pain to work with,” Sir Tim Rice says affably. An avuncular giant, Rice is talking to me about his latest production, From Here to Eternity which opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre this week, starring Robert Lonsdale, Rebecca Thornhill and Darius Campbell.

Tim Rice Photo by Helen Maybanks

For the first time, Rice has been working with Composer Stuart Brayson, who approached him with the idea for the musical. “We’ve been trying to make it a very even partnership – his music is as good as my words – his tunes are as good as Andrew [Lloyd Webber]’s are.” Despite their writing partnership ending in 1975, the Composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber will probably always be in the background of a conversation with Sir Tim about any new collaboration. I am relieved not to have brought him up first.

When we met, From Here to Eternity had not been cast, but had been “finished and rewritten once already. When you’re writing you never quite know what the final version is.” That uncertainty aside, Rice knew the project was a winner from the start: “The key to any musical is a good story, and From Here to Eternity is a great story. The story of a boxer who plays the bugle and guitar – it’s a gift for a musical.”

Robert Lonsdale as Prewitt. Photographer Nick Clements

In addition to working with Brayson, Rice also worked with Director Tamara Harvey for the first time: “Having not really done a proper musical for ten years I was out of touch… I wanted to work with somebody new and young.” So Harvey seemed an ideal choice.

“A completely new team gives it a freshness – there are so many new elements. They are good, hungry, full of bright ideas” he says of the creatives behind the show, “I can truly say they’ve inspired my work.  It’s been a creative process – working with people quite new to the West End – working with old hands the magic can disappear.”

Darius Campbell, Rebecca Thornhill. Photographer Nick Clements

“I didn’t really think I would do another musical” says Sir Tim candidly, “I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to match my earlier work.” So this week, with the new musical From Here to Eternity premiering at The Shaftesbury Theatre, and another Lloyd Webber musical in rehearsal, it’s crunch time.  But, as the male lead Prewitt says, “A man don’t go his own way, he’s nothing.”

http://www.fromheretoeternitythemusical.com

The next Media Parents event is a CV Surgery at the BBC FastTrain event in Cardiff on November 7th. For networking, jobs and great events please join www.mediaparents.co.uk

October 22, 2013 @ 9:41 pm Posted in News Comments Off

5 minutes with… Ali McBride on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme

by Amy Walker

Senior Producer Ali McBride was one of the four returners on the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme at Edinburgh TV Festival. She recently wrote to Media Parents to say  ”I’m back in the thick of it and working again I think I’ll be fine” – woohoo!  Here are Ali’s thoughts about going back to work when she was on maternity, and then on the Festival experience.

Ali McBride, second from left, with Harriet Wallace, Kirsty Smith and Sidra Khan, media parents delegates waiting for Kevin Spacey's MacTaggart Speech at GEITF.

Bewildered, daunted, excited, pressured and engaged are all emotions I tend to feel after receiving notes from a commissioner about a new programme I’ve cut. This time those emotions are associated with going back to work after having my daughter Matilda in October 2012, writes Ali McBride.

Life before Matilda was your stock ‘work hard, play hard’ TV affair. I loved it. For 20 years, I worked across television and radio making stuff I’m proud of and achieving one of my goals of becoming a Series Producer. Fact Ent is my first love and the genre I want to return to and flourish in. I have just finished a 4 week stint as an Edit Producer which has left me with a plethora of mixed emotions about the work I want to do, am capable of doing, and know I can deliver as a new mum.

I do believe parents can be successful Series Producers with focus and without having to sell their souls to TV in the process. I always managed to have a life before I had Matilda and this made me a better director.  I know with a little push and belief I can do the same as an SP and mum.

The Back to Work Scheme gave Ali McBride the push she needed, she is now back in the thick of it, working in TV. http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/6744/ali-mcbride

The Edinburgh TV Festival was great. It was like being immersed into an insane TV bubble of ideas and discussion, surrounded by the great and the good of the industry who were all buzzing from the large amounts of free flowing coffee supplied to keep the whole juggernaut going.

After the initial shock of the size of the place, and once you’ve got a couple of sessions under your belt, you gain the confidence to do what was once very simple… talk to people. Being with Media Parents was a great conversation starter and everybody I spoke to was hugely supportive of the initiative. STV, Nine Lives, Tern Television, Raise The Roof and the BBC were all happy to discuss the realities of flexibly working and how it could work in production. Refreshingly all of them thought it could work.

Before going to the festival, and even before having my baby, I would never have had the confidence to suggest flexible working, especially at interview stage. It’s a hugely competitive market we’re in and I would have seen that chat going down like a wet balloon. I now have the confidence to have that discussion.

As for the sessions: ‘The Undateables’ reminded you that fabulously sensitive and heart-warming series are being made. Liz Warner’s company betty have totally got it right in terms of their duty of care to the contributors and commitment that the same team saw the production through from start to finish.

Liz Warner, betty CEO gave the Back to Work Mums tips on Surviving the Edinburgh TV Festival. http://blog.mediaparents.co.uk/2013/08/5-minutes-with-betty-ceo-liz-warner-on-making-the-most-of-edinburgh-tv-festival/ Pic by Mark Johnson

‘Room 101’ was like watching a live OB. Stuart Murphy put TV snobbery into the room to great applause. The discussion with the Channel controllers about the role of commissioners was insightful and quite damning for most the channels, it was just a shame they didn’t have time for a Q &A, but I guess we might have been there all night.

For any Media Parent who’s currently on a career break, the TV Festival will either remind you of all the things you miss about the industry… the buzz, the fun and the creativity, or it will send you running back into the bosom of your family thinking my life is so much more manageable without all those people and their handheld devices in it… for me it was the former.

Q&A about the Media Parents Back to Work Scheme at GEITF:

1. How did you hear about the scheme?

Through the website, and I’d heard of Media Parents through colleagues.

2. Thoughts before going to Edinburgh…

It was the first time I’d been away from my daughter so that was tough. It was also the first time I was going to be back in Scotland after leaving last year to have my baby so that was exciting. I have been before and was glad to know I was meeting other mums there – there’s definitely safety in numbers!

3. Reax to Liz Warner’s tips on Surviving the Edinburgh TV Festival.

http://blog.mediaparents.co.uk/2013/08/5-minutes-with-betty-ceo-liz-warner-on-making-the-most-of-edinburgh-tv-festival/ I took on board what she said and used all of her top tips.

4. Meeting the other Media Parents

It was great to meet the other mums. There was an easy, instant bond. I think we were good at boosting each other’s confidence. We defiantly all felt into our stride on the second day. It was also interesting because we are all at very different points in our career and so we all got very different things from the festival.

5. What does Media Parents mean to you?

I’m totally impressed with the work Media Parents are doing and how much they have done already. They seem to have a good profile and most people knew of them. I will defiantly keep using the site and help in any way I can to promote their work in the nations and regions.  I’ll be sending out lots of links to the site. I think you could defo get a stand at the Festival or run some collaborative sessions with the TV companies around the issues of flexible working. I’d go so far as to say it would make an incredible session… I’m sure the issue has been raised before but I’d love to know what the different channels are doing to help parents stay in their careers. It would make a great debate.

6. Connections made…

I did gravitate to a lot of my old Scottish contacts but had some great chats about flexible working and working half of the week from home for them, which was positive. I didn’t meet as many Manchester people as I’d have liked, as the delegates list doesn’t tell you which regions people are from or represent. I had searched the companies I knew and had some good conversations with them too.

7. How has the experience made you feel about TV and working again?

I knew I wanted to work in TV again but was feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the prospect of juggling it with being a new mum. After all the chats I’ve had I no longer feel alone and feel confident enough to raise the issue of flexible working.

Ali McBride: http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/6744/ali-mcbride

The next Media Parents event is a CV Surgery at the BBC FastTrain event in Cardiff on November 7th. For networking, jobs and great events please join www.mediaparents.co.uk

October 21, 2013 @ 12:45 pm Posted in News Comments Off

5 minutes with… Danny Davis, online editor and grader

by Amy Walker

I started as a runner at SVC in Wardour Street, then one of best post houses in Soho, writes Danny Davis. On my first day there I was making coffee for George Michael and running out and getting his lunch.

http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/4081/danny-davis

I absolutely loved running and decided I would be the best runner in London! After a year as a runner I was given the opportunity to become a tape-op/assistant editor and that introduced me to the wonderful world of onlining and finishing.

I’ve been onlining for 20 years now and it’s flown by. Grading in Avid Symphony and DaVinci Resolve has become an integral part of my workflow for over 10 years. When I first started, offline as it is now was not the norm. Often a client would come into the online suite with a paper cut or a u-matic with BITC, or with absolutely nothing. This meant a lot of time was spent in the online cutting at online rates. The post houses thought it was Christmas! Those days are long gone but the online/finishing suite is where I started. I enjoy the challenge of onlining and grading programmes of whatever genre and will realise what the client wants on screen, hopefully adding a lot creatively to the project myself.

Danny Davis at work in his suite. Kill that numberplate Danny!

The decision to setup my own suite at home near Camden was pretty much made for me after the rents went up in Soho where I had been for over four years. Not a lot has changed apart from location. The quality of work is the same as is the kit that includes: Avid Symphony 6.5, FCP, DaVinci Resolve and a cracking piece of software called Mocha that will track anything.

I recently onlined and graded a six part series for the Africa Channel (African Masters) at my studio and am just finishing a BBC4 doc for Dartmouth Films to be aired on the 5th of November at 9pm AUTISM: CHALLENGING BEHAVIOUR.

I have also been cutting and finishing a corporate job for Ford to celebrate 20 years of the Mondeo. Forward planning and a very good chat with the client has worked marvellously. I get a sequence or project from AVID or FCP, nearly always given to me on a drive. I can grade Log or RAW up to 4K. Clients come round to review and make any changes. When everybody is happy I can either make a high resolution file or arrange for layoff to tape. Molinare are great!

One of the main benefits of freelancing for me is the flexibility. This does not mean dragging myself out of bed mid afternoon and eating biscuits all day. It means I have the chance to talk about an upcoming job to the client and, if need be, do tests on looks and FX, at no charge by the way. The greatest thing though is I can more easily sort out time to have with my beautiful 7 year old daughter.

http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/4081/danny-davis

The next Media Parents event is a CV Surgery at the BBC FastTrain event in Cardiff on November 7th. For networking, jobs and great events please join www.mediaparents.co.uk

October 19, 2013 @ 11:27 pm Posted in News Comments Off

Media Parents CV Tips from the CV Event

by Amy Walker
Huge thanks to the company members who supported the Media Parents CV Surgery from indies September Films, October Films, Dragonfly Film & TV, Endemol and Channel 4. The event was hosted by ENVY post production and sponsored by Shift 4 Kit and Crew Hire. Here are some photos of the night, with some helpful CV tips.

70 Media Parents and company members made it to the CV Surgery in October. Top tip #1 from Media Parents Director Amy Walker "Title your CV with your full name and job title, and include this in the subject line of any spec CV emails you send out too."

Title your CV with your full name and job title, and include this in the subject line of any spec CV emails you send out too.

Top tip # 2 from Chloe Samwell-Smith, Production Recruitment Manager, Endemol UK "Keep your CV to two pages. You don't need to go back to where you started, what you did as a researcher is not relevant if you are experienced."

Keep your CV to two pages.

Top tip #3 from Elaine Day, Head of Production at DCD Media (including September Films) "Don't include pictures or logos in your CV - keep the file size small, a bigger file size is likely to be deleted from an inbox."

Don’t include pictures or logos in your CV – keep the file size small.

Top tip #4 from Nicky Searle, Head Of Talent, Dragonfly Film & TV "I like a mission statement paragraph which tells me who you are, what you've done and where you want to go."

A mission statement – who you are, what you’ve done and where you want to go.

Top tip #5 from Yvonne Bainton, Head of Production, Dragonfly "A CV should have clarity - write concise overviews of the shows you have worked on, nobody has watched everything on TV."

A CV should have clarity – write concise overviews of the shows you have worked on.

Top tip #6, Jane Manning, Head of Production, October Films "Don't tailor your CV too much to a particular company - not everything you have done needs to fit, sometimes variety can help you."

Don’t tailor your CV too much to a particular company – not everything you have done needs to fit.

Top tip # 7 from Channel 4's Deborah Lane Winter "If you've had a career break avoid the suggestion that that's a problem in your cover letter or CV - it might not be a problem."

If you’ve had a career break avoid the suggestion that that’s a problem in your cover letter or CV – be confident.

Shift 4's MD Alex Thompson made everyone feel welcome.

Amy Swan moved from Series Producing to Marketing & Business Development for Shift 4 after she had her two children.

Media Parents events are a great way to network whilst having a good laugh. Please have a look at www.mediaparents.co.uk for more details.

Media Parents is run by experienced freelancers for experienced freelancers. You don't need to be a parent, you just need 3 or more years TV experience. Cheers!

If you can't make your childcare work for Media Parents events, let us know.

Huge thanks to Hannah Smiles for taking the photos:

http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/collaborator/2706/hannah-smiles

The next Media Parents event is a CV Surgery at the BBC FastTrain event in Cardiff on November 7th. For networking, jobs and great events please join www.mediaparents.co.uk

October 13, 2013 @ 9:34 pm Posted in News Leave a comment