Media Parents Composer Isa Suarez is an artist and composer, her latest gigs will run from June 3rd – 5th, see below.
Media Parents Composer Isa Suarez is an artist and composer, her latest gigs will run from June 3rd – 5th, see below.
Media Parents Composer Jon Nicholls writes about his recent work for Radio 4 – Clouds in Trousers and In Weatherland.
Alongside my screen work, I’ve also been very involved in radio drama for a long time now as both composer and sound designer. I love it – at its best, it’s an almost cinematic form with an incredibly close and direct relationship with your audience. I’ve just finished working on two related series for Radio 4, which are going out over the next three weeks. The first is a wonderful book by Alexandra Harris called ‘Weatherland’, which is a history of English weather and writers’ and artists’ responses to it. I’ve a long-standing collaboration with the producer Tim Dee, based at BBC Bristol, with whom I’ve worked on over twenty radio projects (https://jonnicholls.com/radio-drama/radio-short-extracts/), and he asked me to compose a series of pieces exploring different aspects of the weather – ice, snow, clouds, wind etc – which was a lovely challenge. Very often the production process for radio drama is similar to that of television, with the composer receiving a ‘picture lock’ to score in the linear fashion we’re all used to, so it was terrific to be able to compose slightly more freely than I often get the chance to.
I’ve always loved the blending and layering of acoustic / organic sounds with electronics and samples, and this was a perfect opportunity to explore this in depth, mixing strings played by the brilliant Bristol Ensemble with abstract soundscapes and textures derived from processed recordings of wind and water. As quite often happens, my children (12 and 15) also both feature! They’re quite used by now to being woken up at odd hours of the day and night to have mics jammed in front of them, and they supplied some lovely whistling and distant wordless vocalisations for the wind piece. It’s being serialised on Radio 4 as a narrative history documentary the week after next.
However, that wasn’t the end of it… Tim felt that Alexandra’s book was so rich that there was much more to be done with it, and commissioned the writer Katie Hims to create a drama inspired by ‘Weatherland’. She’s written a beautiful and touching love story, ‘Clouds In Trousers’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07b3nrd), starring Patsy Ferran and Patrick Troughton, which is being serialised all this week on Radio 4. I did score this one in the more standard way, but drew heavily on the set of pieces I’d already created for ‘Weatherland’, so hopefully they feel as if they share the same musical as well as literary DNA.
Things I’ve learned…. by Series / Edit Producer Gaby Koppel.
As Media Parents features a job which could mean a step up for someone working in the regions http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/job-listings/7489/series-producer Gaby Koppel writes about getting on in TV by moving out of London.
I was twenty-five and a fresh faced cub reporter straight from local newspapers when I first entered the hallowed portals of the BBC. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the corporation’s iconic Television Centre or even John Reith’s magnificent building in Portland Place but the rather more modest Yorkshire headquarters on Leeds’s Woodhouse Lane, where I was the latest recruit to the popular nightly magazine show Nationwide fronted by Sue Lawley and Hugh Scully. Two hundred miles away from the glamorous presenters, I was about to have a rude awakening to the realities of regional telly.
From what I’d seen on screen I expected that I’d be joining a large team and would be able to hide my total ignorance about this fabulous medium by sitting at the back and copying the others. Arriving punctually, I was whisked into the boss’s office for what promised to be a cosy welcome chat. It wasn’t.
Leaning back in his chair, a man with grey hair and a cable knit cardigan said: “This is BBC North, we are the regional representatives of the television news and our first responsibility is to serve them. We also put out a nightly television programme called Look North, that is our second priority. You, Nationwide, are third. Never forget that you are last, you are bottom of the pile. I don’t want to hear about you getting in the way of my staff.” With that, he showed me to my seat in the darkest corner of the newsroom and left me there saying “You better call London.”
That is how I learned that I was the sole representative of Nationwide in Leeds.
There was a phone on my desk but no list of numbers. After a few minutes, Brian the genteel continuity announcer who was sitting opposite mentioned something about ‘the circuit’ without explaining what it was. More time passed and somebody brought a small contraption to my desk that could have been designed by Heath Robinson – an aluminium box with a speaker and a switch, attached to which by cloth-covered cable was a set of Bakelite headphones. I swear it was the same kind of model they used at Bletchley Park during the war.
I listened in and could hear disembodied voices. This was the fabled circuit. Editors in London were talking to researchers in other regions with tags like Alison in Birmingham, Steve in Manchester, Bob in Bristol and Tina in Norwich as though the location was part of their identity. They ran through today’s programme menu and the forward planning, and discussed potential contributions to different stories from the regions. Finally, when it sounded as though everybody was about to go I summoned up the courage, pressed my button and said, “It’s G-G-Gaby in Leeds”. Silence. Then, even more worryingly, “We’ll want something from you on The Cod Wars, speak in a minute.” Panic.
All I could think was – FISH? For Godsake, we are in the middle of the country, I don’t even know where the nearest sea port is. What are they on?
As soon as the circuit finished I rushed over to the huge map on the newsroom wall and discovered that we were within striking distance of Grimsby and Hull. Armed with this information, I sat by my phone and waited for the rest of the shift, but it never rang. I was exhausted after a long day doing virtually nothing.
The following morning I waited for the circuit. I didn’t say anything apart from “Hello it’s Gaby here in Leeds” but I listened and took copious notes. One of the forward planning stories was strong on human interest, just the kind of social issue I was interested in, about ‘granny bashing’ by frazzled carers and family members.
Here my journalism training kicked in. I got on the phone to all the branches of Age Concern in the area as well as a handful of local authorities, and within a few hours I had rustled up a solid case history of a woman caring for a mother suffering from early dementia who was willing to talk about feeling ‘close to the edge’, and crucially she was willing to say so on camera. I rang the producer who had been asking for contributions to say I had someone who would talk about wanting to hit her mother and she told me she’d like me to make a one-minute film with the woman. Hooray! I was ecstatic.
And then she uttered the classic line.
“Gaby, have you ever directed a film before?” I gulped. Film directors were people like John Ford and Francis Ford Coppola, not me. None of my names featured the word Ford and it wasn’t even an aspiration. It was a dream for some people maybe, but definitely not me. I wanted to sit at the back, remember?
“Er, n-n-no,” I stammered.
“OK, no probs. I’ll tell you what to do. Have you got a pencil?”
I waited what seemed like an age, prepared to take down the creative bible that would help me, a humble writer, forge a memorable piece of visual storytelling. My pen was poised.
“Get lots of cut-aways.”
“Yes, what else?”
“That’s all. Tell the cameraman to get lots of cutaways. Don’t bother to ask what they are, just make sure he gets lots.”
My one-minute masterpiece hit the air two nights later and I’d gone from zero to hero by the end of my first week in telly. A ‘hero-gram’ (slang from the pre wi-fi age: hero + telegram, in other words a note congratulating me on hitting the air so quickly) from programme editor Roger Bolton arrived promptly in the internal mail that kept the BBC going in the days before email. By now I’d been running on adrenalin for five solid days. I cried.
I’ve still got that hero-gram.
Huge thanks to everyone who made The Finish Line Media Parents Post Spectacular event a fun night at The Hospital Club. Great to hear about The Finish Line’s flexible approach to post production, setting up shop wherever suits you best. The Finish Line hosted the event in support of Media Parents flexible working ethos, to hear more about what The Finish Line can do for you contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and for technical questions please contact email@example.com.
October Films Exec Producer Mandy Thomson sent apologies and this note about The Finish Line: “For anyone who is interested, I worked with Finish Line personally on our Jodie Marsh series and they are brilliant. I’d have no hesitation in recommending them. The PM liked their invoices, the SP and I enjoyed the flexibility of an online in our office and our broadcaster, TLC, thought the end product looked and sounded great. A winner all round. They also looked after Walking The Nile for October Films.”
In 2004, I’d been having a great career as an assistant director, working on stuff like Bridget Jones, Peep Show and The Royle Family for around six years. Then one summer’s day in Glastonbury Festival, I stepped into a world that, unbeknown to me, would filter through the next 12 years of my life….and counting.
That ‘world’ was a place called Lost Vagueness. For those that either can’t remember or never went, it was an area of the renowned festival that blew apart the bland aesthetic of the waning Britpop and Rave era. It was trashy glamour infused with naked cabaret, set in a decadent casino and only when you looked down at the mud, did you remember that you were in Glastonbury.
In an impulsive flash I felt I had to know more about the people involved in creating this playground. A few weeks later, camera in hand and never having entertained the idea of making a documentary, I started to follow their every venture. At first I thought it would be around six months, especially as I’d just caught the attention of a content branding agency. All seemed to be well.
But then after the first year, I’d made friends with the main characters and there seemed to be a bigger story, one that questioned cultural phenomena and closely examined individualism. Not to mention a relationship between the anti-hero central character, a man named Roy Gurvitz and legendary Michael Eavis. One year became two, then three and four until by 2007, I’d almost given up my assistant directing role so that I could plan the ending to the film, finally, in Glastonbury, where it had all begun.
Primed for the grand finale, I took a crew of five camera people, sound and stills for what was to be one of the wettest festivals in history. I cried at one point, not from lack of sleep, but from water in my wellies. Weather aside, the entire story imploded as Roy and Michael’s relationship fell apart in a spectacular and public way and suddenly Lost Vagueness at Glastonbury was no more.
I now had an unfinished film. Not long after, needing a breather and some distance, I did a masters at Goldsmiths and then, once finished, I was pregnant with our first child. We left London for two years and I found that I’d gone from a high velocity lifestyle on big budget film sets to a draughty church hall playgroup in Newcastle with sick on my shoulder.
After some intense marital negotiation, we were back in London, I’d been accepted on to a TV mentoring course and I was back on track, phew. My mentor couldn’t believe I hadn’t finished the film. And so this time last year, I was in the early stages of planning the revival of what was now an archive film and building a Kickstarter campaign. Now there’s a refreshed narrative, some amazing new footage, an incredible team and the real final final shoot planned for this June. We are ready to share the tale of how once upon a time in the 1990’s, the mythical west country gathering was not a 30 minute sell out sensation. Then along came a bunch of angry and lost travellers. And somehow an alchemy of massive risk, political frustration and cultural zeitgeist would catapult it to become what we now know as one of the worlds greatest festivals.
So if you’re interested in joining our progress for the next 12 months (not years, I promise) do have a little look at where we’re at. Oh and maybe see you at Glastonbury…?
A cover letter is the gateway to a potential employer opening and reading your CV – it’s hugely important to your job application or spec letter, so time spent getting it right is well spent, writes Media Parents Director Amy Walker. This morning I received a cover letter that was 505 words long – almost as long as this blog post – multiply this by the number of spec emails a TV employers receives each day and you’ll soon realise that you’re likely to be wasting two people’s time with a long one. Use your cover letter to open doors for you – it’s not a given that someone reading your email will even open your CV – so work it – make them want to read your CV and meet you. If you apply for a job via Media Parents there might only be five other applicants, but for any other job site or spec letter there could be easily ten times as many people making the same approach. Either way, you need to stand out in a positive way from the crowd.
The basics are
Keep it brief
And that’s largely it.
So how brief is brief? All employers are busy, so, keeping manners in mind, the shorter the better. Remember you are demonstrating your ability to organise and select relevant material here (vital in most TV jobs) – a long letter can shoot you in the foot by implying you have no prioritising or editing skills. Natalie Spanier, Talent Manager at Nutopia says “Keep them incredibly brief! Most talent managers will just want to get straight on to looking at your CV. Restrict it to key information e.g. availability and any wishes for your next job. But never more than 5 or 6 lines.”
“I HATE long cover letters. I don’t read them, I might skim the first paragraph, but I think a short, concise one is best” says Boundless Production Manager Anna Gordon. “Polite, well written and spelt but brief! I haven’t got time to wade through loads of info. I’m afraid I largely ignore cover letters if they’re too long!”
Some people choose just to fire off a CV without a cover note, but this is a slightly wasted opportunity IMHO. Why not take the time to read the job ad or the company website and briefly highlight your relevant skills for the job? Employers don’t have time to wade through a long letter, nor do they have time to hunt for what they need on a CV, so judiciously highlighting really helps. Why not take the time to tailor a cover letter and CV rather than expecting an employer to do that work for you?
Rawcut Head of Production Claire Walker lists her cover letter pet hates “The ones where you know it’s a copy and paste – yes we all do it, but come on! The ones where they mix up what your company does, and what one with a similar name does. The ones where they could be anything – researcher, co-ord, editor, producer! Make a choice!” A cover letter shouldn’t be a standard one – no more than your CV should – research and send it like a guided missile to get you the job!
Pi Productions’ Head of Production Viki Carter says “As I view it the cover letter is to persuade me to interview you – I will ask for more detail on the things you highlight if and when we meet.”
If you’re a parent returning to the workplace you can choose to highlight a break from work on your CV or in your cover letter – frame it positively so you outline any refresher training you have done to prepare for the return to work, and also any relevant new skills you picked up during the sabbatical. Don’t labour it and don’t apologise.
In my first job in TV Peter Bazalgette recommended I watch programmes by the company first. A blindingly uncomplicated tactic mirrored by many of his successful programmes. Highlight something you’ve seen and loved, point out your relevant experience to that company, or for another series of that show. In an increasingly competitive industry this is still good practice today but with a word of warning from Endemol Shine Exec Matt Holden : “If you’re going to write and tell a programme maker that you like their show, then you have to think hard about what it elements really engaged you, it’s your opportunity to begin a dialogue, so make it thought provoking. It doesn’t matter if the person who reads your cover letter disagrees, at least you have shown you’ve engaged with the show.”
Like a CV a cover letter can demonstrate your ability to select and organise material as mentioned above. Both can also demonstrate your personality, so if you’re confident and can write well, humour can help. But remember brevity is the soul of wit.
Amy Walker founded and runs Media Parents and is happy to answer any cover letter queries fielded through the Media Parents contact page. Amy is also Head of Talent at TwentyTwenty Television and welcomes spec letters.
On May 3rd Media Parents is joining forces to host a marvellous evening in conjunction with The Finish Line at the glamorous Hospital Club in Covent Garden. Attended by experienced professionals working in post production from across the industry including Media Parents, ITV Studios, Crook Productions, TwentyTwenty Television, MSV Post, Boundless Productions, Blast! Films, Raw TV, Windfall Films, Endemol Shine, Blink Films, RDF, Buccaneer Media, Waddell Media, Bookhouse TV, Raw Cut TV, Vaudeville Post Production and The Finish Line, this event will be hugely useful for anyone who uses, or books for, the edit.
This Media Parents event is an opportunity for everyone working in the edit to meet at the glamorous Hospital Club. The event is kindly hosted by The Finish Line, a company with an innovative and flexible approach to post production. The Finish Line team create pop-up post, inside or within close proximity to your production office. They offer solutions that work for your time and budget. This means they have more flexibility to make the shows you deliver look and sound as good as they possibly can.
As Zeb Chadfield, Founder of The Finish Line says “Our talent, systems and workflows are like no other. By using the latest, greatest tools and the most experienced operators, we can complete final post on site with minimal set up, which also removes the need to run around town for viewings.”
Here follow biogs for attendees from The Finish Line, we will also be joined by a host of execs working across post at a range of brilliant indies including Blast! films, Zodiak Media, Raw TV, Endemol Shine, Twenty Twenty Television, Buccaneer Media, MSV Post, RDF Media, Crook Productions and more.
Zeb started linear editing at age sixteen and has worked full time since. In his early career he was a jack of all trades, doing everything from running on-set graphics, cutting and compositing title sequences to designing and building edit suits and machine rooms. His true passion however has always been Colour Grading and Online Editing which led him to work in post houses all over the world. Zeb has now settled in London where he set up The Finish Line to provide an alternative to traditional Post Production. His credits cover everything from Vicious and Hollyoaks Later to Hunted and The Island with Bear Grylls.
David is a multi talented online editor with a wealth of experience on all grading and non-linear edit systems. He started his career at Resolution where he had risen from Runner to Online Editor as well as supervising the machine room before moving on to Clear Cut Pictures where he worked as Senior Online Editor. He has worked on many of the biggest factual shows of the past decade including ‘Top Gear’, ‘Wife Swap’ and ‘Big Brother’. His flexibility and calm demeanour have won him many fans all over the UK.
Jonathan’s introduction to the industry took shape at a leading post house many moons ago where he quickly ascended through the ranks, starting at entry level as a Runner and ending up as Senior Post Producer, whereby he was responsible for overseeing countless high profile series from ingest to delivery, including Stephen Fry’s Planet Word, Jungle Gold, The Charisma of Hitler, Brazil with Michael Palin to name but a few. Having being asked to run the The Finish Line at the beginning of 2015 has proven to be a most rewarding endeavour.
Alexandra Riverol-Brown Production Manager ITV
Alison Hunt Editor Thirty Media Ltd
Allison Dore Line Producer Crook Productions
Amy Walker Director Media Parents / Head of Talent, TwentyTwenty Television
Ann Booth-Clibborn Executive Producer freelance
Cate Duffy Assistant Editor Platform Post
Dafydd O’Connor Producer Silent Movies
Dan Jones MD Vaudeville Post Production
Daren Tiley Editor Freelance
David Grewal Partner The Finish Line
Dermot O’Brien Film Editor Freelance
Ed Bengoa Head of Production MSV Post
Elliot McCaffrey PD-Edit Producer Freelance
Esther Johnson Head of Production Boundless Productions
Farrah Drabu Editor DNR Films
Fiona Caldwell Executive Producer Boundless Productions
Gaby Koppel Series/ Edit Producer freelance
Gyles Neville Executive Producer TwoFour
Hana Canter Head of Production TwentyTwenty Television
Harriet Brady Resourcing Manager ITV Studios
Harriet Scott Series Editor Blast! Films
Harry Connolly Edit producer freelance
Ian Greaves Producer / Cameraman BigBlueWorld
Ian Hunt Series Director Thirty Media Ltd
Ian Paul Garland Editor A Light in the Dark Films
Isa Suarez Composer Freelance
Jane Bevan Production Exec Raw TV
Jason Hendriksen Line Producer Windfall Films
Jo MacGregor Edit Producer Liquid Films Ltd
Jon Nicholls Composer
Jonathan Blessley MD The Finish Line
Kate Hampel Edit Director Freelance
Katy Ferguson Series / Edit Producer Freelance
Kerry Jones Client Liaison Media Parents
Kim Duke Producer/Director + Series Producer Freelance
Lee Butterwick Avid Editor Frozen North Films Ltd
Leisa Fisicaro Edit Producer Freelance
Lucy Butler Production Manager Boundless Productions
Lynda Hall DoP Freelance
Mandy Thomson Executive Producer October Films
Matt Holden Executive Producer Endemol Shine
Matt Norman Composer Silverscore Productions
Megan Gerrie Series Producer Freelance
Miranda Peters Executive Producer Blink Films
Miranda Simmons Line Producer Firecracker Films / Freelancer
Nadia Jaynes Head of Production Buccaneer Media
Nick Singfield-Strank Head of Technical Production RDF
Nicola Waddell Executive Producer-SP Waddell Media
Paul Golding Series Producer and Location Director Freelance
Paul Tasker Series Editor Freelance
Rita Kaye Video Editor Golden Age Films
Romesh Aluwihare Editor
Ros Edwards Series Director / Series Producer freelance
Sabine Pusch edit producer freelance
Simon Myers Editor Garden Shears Editing Ltd
Soul Nazemi Editor freelance
Steve Warr Executive Producer Raw Cut TV
Tina Lohmann Head of Production Bookhouse Media
Tom Heycock Editor Self Employed
Zeb Chadfield Founder The Finish Line
Zeb Chadfield, Founder of The Finish Line, sponsors of Media Parents‘ next event on May 3rd, writes here about the age-old conundrum of needing experience to get a job in TV, and discusses his own early career before launching a global post production business.
How do you get experience if no one will give you a job to get it? From my point of view there are two major misconceptions here, the first is that the request is a request for experience in the industry you are trying to get into. The second is that you need to have a job in said industry to get experience in it.
I never went to university, actually that is a massive understatement, I hardly even went to school. I was out on my own at 15 and had no experience in anything… My dad was a fisherman when I was young and he had to get up around 3am and head out to sea. Whenever I could, I would go with him, so I was very good at getting up in the morning. When I was around 9 or 10 my dad moved from fishing into tourism, and there I worked as crew on the boat when school was out. I was speaking to tourists every day, helping them to put on lifejackets and pull in fish. When a little older I started answering the phones, taking bookings and handling payments. I also had to feed penguins before school every day, so when I was 15 and I was looking for a job I had loads of experience but I just didn’t know it.
Looking back at my childhood, I also had learned something very important for my future that I had no idea was going to be so valuable, I had learned to edit! This started with Young Ones episodes that were on TV really late. I would sneak out and set the VHS to record and then run off back to bed. I would then have the episode on video, but with all the adverts. So I would setup two VHS recorders and dub the raw recording to another tape but would have to do it really quickly so there wasn’t a big dropout when you started rerecording. If you wanted smooth edits you would go through this process of playing the tape, hitting record at the right time, then pausing the recorder just as the adverts started, fast forward the player, then un-pause the recorder at the moment the player started to play the next part. This simple practice planted the editing seed.
Next was door-to-door sales. This was the most life changing experience I have had and it has honestly made me who I am today. At the time I didn’t think much of it, I was just happy to have a job and as it had nothing to do with post production you could be forgiven for thinking it was of little benefit to my future, but you would be very wrong. If you have had a job where you get doors slammed in your face and told to “fuck off” all day every day you can do anything! This job taught me so much about communicating clearly, sales, goal setting and most importantly getting knocked down and getting back up again. In any job these skills are very valuable. Communication is key when you are in a high pressure environment with tight deadlines. Being able to sell your ideas is massively beneficial and setting goals to push yourself will help you achieve things you never thought possible. You will get knocked down throughout your life so being able to take it on the chin and keep moving forward is integral if you want to achieve great things.
Zeb’s article continues here. Zeb and The Finish Line team will be hosting Media Parents’ Post Spectacular Event at The Hospital Club on May 3rd. For tickets please see site emails and the watercooler at www.mediaparents.co.uk further details will be published on this blog shortly.
Huge thanks to Danny Dawson and the Alias Hire team for an enjoyable and informative tech evening at Endemol. Danny and his team are offering attendees a spectacular £100 off kit hire, so to take up that offer please email Danny c/o www.aliashire.co.uk ASAP. Here are some photos of the event, thanks to Media Parents members for taking them!
Ann Booth-Clibborn is an Executive Producer and runs her own business helping companies to tell their stories. Here she shares some of her secrets for Media Parents.
Stories are our life-blood and our obsession but can you articulate to anyone else, the story you feel instinctively in your soul? writes Ann Booth-Clibborn. Here are three storytelling tips that might help next time you are sat in an edit or production meeting, needing to get that story out in the open.
What does it feel, look, smell like? What are the rules?
Defining this question will help refine what this story is about and define your end point.
What is at risk? What is at stake? When you have this down to one line you will know you have passed on the essence of the story.
I am really interested in story mechanics. I currently work as a trouble-shooter and writer for Discovery, and I have my own company helping businesses tell their story. As an Exec Producer for Channel 4 features I felt I had a pretty good grasp of how to make a good show but when I went on the BBC Academy story telling course, it changed my mind and ultimately it changed my career path. I had always been obsessed with commentary, from my early training when I launched Changing Rooms, through being an SP and Exec, but my real immersion into writing was re-versioning. I had just had a baby and I have to say at the time I felt I’d gone back about 10 years in my career, but I realise now it gave me the opportunity to write.
I got the feeling for the length of a line (7 seconds for two thoughts, 11 seconds for three thoughts), and an understanding of how a script could rescue a show. Later, working on Great British Menu, I was shocked at the variety in quality of the writing and I wrote to the BBC Academy to call for a commentary course. They invited me to the Academy to help develop one. The story telling course was part of my induction. What it gave me was a language to talk about story principles to other producers and even to people who didn’t work in TV. My skill that had been entirely instinctive was now out and proud! I set up my training company, storycoach.london to help businesses tell their story well. Then an exec from Discovery called me, she had a doc in a terrible state which needed a complete restructure and rewrite. Could I help? It was like giving a cleaner a dirty house to work on – I loved it. When the show transmitted on Discovery in Russia, it was their highest rated show of the day. I then reworked a 6-part doc, Zoltan the Wolfman, for Animal Planet.
At the end of last year I remotely exec produced The Primeval Forest with a Russian production team and I found using story principles as a basis for discussion and planning really successful for me, and the Russian director. I am looking to take on another part time exec producer role now where planning stories and weaving them together is key; specialist factual, features or a doc series. My feeling is every genre can benefit from some rock solid story telling and I can help a team deliver that. http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/12497/ann-booth-clibborn