At Media Parents’ recent Back to Work Drinks, SP / Exec Jonathan Schütz shared that he had recently worked from home on a Nat Geo production. Here he explains how…
Four times a week I haul myself out of bed at stupid-o’clock to get my 3-year-old son up, wash him, give him his banana and get him to nursery, writes SP Jonathan Schütz. And then at 5pm repeat in reverse. So does it make sense to be working somewhere across London, with around 3 hours commute, allowing a maximum 6-hour working day?
I’m an experienced specialist factual series producer and EP, and a series of accidents has led me to making most of my programmes these days in/about/for East and South East Asia. Square that commute with the nursery run!
Fortunately, over the winter, I had the opportunity to work in a different way. Nat Geo Asia offered me a reversioning job: turn a made-in-China 6 x 30’ series about a holy mountain into an international standard 2 x 1hr. It didn’t hurt that I’ve actually been to that very mountain!
So how to do this in an efficient, affordable way? The answer was black boxes. I bought a load of black boxes. One was a new computer, with a whizzy video card. Another was a server, another a NAS, a network switch, a UPS. And a big new monitor. Set it all up in the spare bedroom, install Resolve (free!) and lo and behold, an edit suite!
With 13TB of material spread across 16,500 clips, and all the labelling in Chinese, it took a month of sorting to get on top of it all. After that, I engaged a script-writer (me) and an offline editor (me), a PM (me), and a Taiwanese AP (not me) to help with translations and communications. And then everything proceeded as normal, just with snail’s-pace approval times as the Chinese production company (and various government departments) also had a say.
This back-bedroom production set-up’s not for the faint-hearted. If anything goes wrong, you’re on your own. So I backed up everything, all the time. Onto the server. Onto local drives. Onto a remote server, and then another remote back-up server. If my house burnt down and the server centre blew up, this project would still be standing.
But the joy was that I could set my own hours. Start after nursery drop-off? Easy. Put in an extra hour after bath-and-story-time? No problem. A couple of snatched hours over the weekend? Why not? Mid-day nap with my face on the keyboard? OK, then.
That said, I could do many things in that bedroom, but finishing wasn’t one of them. So that all got done by people who know what they’re doing (thanks, Clear Cut!).
Now the series is waiting for Nat Geo’s legal department to finish doing its stuff. In the not-too-distant future, the world will get to see Laoshan, China’s Holy Mountain. If you spot it, tune in – and see what you can get done in the back room while your offspring snores next door!