Being offered the directing job on a single doc is a dream for most PDs. Being given a four-week shooting period, and a contract of 10 weeks from prep to final post is, frankly, dream over. I turned it down twice, writes Media Parents Director, Amy Walker. Not so much because of the challenging shoot and edit schedule, but because, if not handled sensitively, this doc about controversial kids’ beauty parlours could potentially impact the small businesses of the women – mums – who ran and depended on them. And I am passionate about supporting independent businesses. And women.
I took the job. Not only did we have a short time to turn the production around, we also had logistical challenges in that the production office ran from Bath, and the shoots were in Essex and Sussex. I had worked for the indie before so I made a bold suggestion – a job share could make the schedule and budget work.
I had worked as a Series Producer with a talented PD called Laura Leigh. Born in Essex, Laura had returned to her roots with her husband and one-year old. She was a great shooter and could manage the Essex contributor shoots, whilst I, not a shooter, could cover everything else with a crew. This meant Laura could also continue to shoot whilst I took the production into the edit.
I put it to Laura. We talked at length about how it could work. We knew each other well and had worked together before so had done a lot of job share groundwork already. Laura came with me to sign up the Essex contributor. She was a dream – your slightly wayward friend from school who you love but cannot save from herself. She got on like a house on fire with Laura. We were away.
We would do the first few shoot days together (we had just ten budgeted days), then split them geographically. We meticulously planned each shoot (as much as one can) both logistically and editorially. We agreed shotlists and lists of questions, hypothesized scenarios based on recces. We had a long phone call the night before each shoot, each of us made separate shoot notes, and a longer download call at the end of each shoot day, with many emails in between.
Laura Leigh shot most of the footage on a P2. We chose this camera because, as Laura was recently pregnant at the time, we needed a lighter weight camera that was still acceptable for the broadcaster’s delivery requirements. Shooting on this tapeless format meant that — aside from working with sound recordist Jasmine Allodi who is also adept at data wrangling — we had to bring in a DIT. The team excelled themselves when, during a break from filming our contributor started a fight with someone from the cast of TOWIE. It was picked up on the mic and thanks to the digital set up we were able to salvage the audio and use it over other shots until the camera was rolling on it.
We were delighted – and I will admit I was a bit envious as it wasn’t my shoot – but there is no I in job share. On their next shoot I got a text from Laura to say that the contributor (and effectively our crew) had been ejected from the audience of The Wright Stuff Extra for shouting abuse – so there are swings and roundabouts.
I am really proud in TV terms of what our team achieved. Massively assisted by the job share we made a 44-minute, single doc in 10 shooting days over the course of a four-week shooting period. Alex Kirkland is a fast, clever editor, who brought the offline edit home on time and budget in just four weeks. He also has a good tenor voice for cheering up a day that has gone beyond reasonable length.
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