Tag Archives: tv industry

The BBC lays it down on Development & Commissioning y’all

Yo dawgs, what’s happenin’?

I went to the BBC Academy’s Digital Bristol Week yesterday, for a seminar on Production Development. So now I’m going to share with you all the golden information I have gained on ideas, commissioning and multi-platform media.

3pbaj9Number One: The Idea

For inspiration, scour production company websites and see if there’s anything specific they’re asking for. Drama is getting darker, docs more extreme. Apparently, UK commissioners hate drama with a voice over. Watch as many tv channels’ top shows as you can – even for just 10 minutes – to get a feel for what’s popular at the moment. The key to a good idea is understanding what’s out there already: examine the box’s contents and then think outside it. Daytime television is doing great right now because half the country is unemployed and they’re desperate for more ’60 Minute Makeovers’ and ‘Cash in the Attic’ – these aspirational shows are about making your life better for less. Try to come up with an idea that can travel across ages/genders/social class/geography (Top Gear is a good example of this). The golden rule: LIKE SELL MAKE. Will people like it? Can you sell it? And then can you make it? Bear costs in mind before you get carried away.

Number Two: Multi-platform & Social Media

It’s not as scary as it sounds – put simply it is just another way for an audience to consume your product. funny-dog-memeEvery BBC tv show has its own website, some even have their own Twitter and Facebook pages. Pepper Pig is a great example – apps, books, websites, games… all covered and all matching. Multi-media enhances our viewing of a show so we can carry on enjoying it even whilst it’s not on air. A new mode of media called “2nd Screen” or even “3rd Screen” refers to new audience habits – whilst watching TV they are tweeting about, reading abou it, or chatting to their friend on the other side of the world about it. The risk is losing your audience to that 2nd screen when it becomes more interesting than the TV – having multiple platforms for your media is a way of holding onto them. If not, your TV show must simply be so gripping and wonderful that audiences can’t bear to look away.

Number Three: What to do with this fabaroo idea and multi-platform shizzle?

Look at the TV schedule. Where are there gaps that your idea could fill? Does one channel need a new drama to compete with another? Remember some gaps (news, soaps etc) will never be free so don’t get caught out. cat-meme-scary-black-cat-dog-meme-funny-animals-funny-pictures_thumbWhat production companies produce the kind of content you’ve got? Next, ask those companies how they accept ideas, ask to see a past successful treatment then copy its format. When it comes to sending it in, think about the holidays – no one’s gonna care around Xmas! The best times are early Autumn (after the Edinburgh TV conference commissioners are feeling inspired) and early Spring. If you’re invited in to pitch, try to get familiar with the lingo the company want to hear, by looking at their website. And be confident (but not arrogant) – if you give them a reason to doubt you, they’ll take it. Show them you’ve done your research – tell them why people will like it, why you want them to buy it, and how it will be made.  And definitely talk about multi-media platforms!

So this is the gist of the seminar, straight from my notes! Some really inspirational stuff and useful tips. Now go forth and come up with the next Come Dine With Me!

A xx

who-is-awesome

 

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A Face Full of Lemons

They say that when “life gives you lemons…” you make lemonade, or some other such crap.

Bad news sucks. Especially when you’ve just had good news and you’re not expecting the bad to follow so quickly.

My career has run pretty smoothly, but I have now officially hit my first rut/brick wall/giant lemon. My internship was lasting a lot longer than planned, but we’d just had exciting news of expansion. I began to hope that this would mean a full time position for me once I graduated. Alas, 3 days later, I was told that the expansion was happening very quickly, and they needed an intern who could work full-time come January. Being in my final year of university, with scarce availability, I was no longer the intern they needed.

After crying in the office stationary cupboard (definitely a low point) and wondering if some retail therapy was a good idea or not, considering the impending unemployment, I tried to suck it up. Everyone goes through this at some point, and at least it was nothing I had done, it was all completely out of my control.

Except I am a massive control freak and my carefully nurtured, early career had taken a beating. Suddenly, my financial and career safety-net had been whipped from beneath my smug ass. But I’m gonna make some lemonade, with added vodka at first, and force myself to think about the good side of things. It was a great experience, I’ve made great contacts, and I get to leave before I actually f**ked anything up.

So to conclude… Bat those pesky lemons right out of the park if you can. But when they do hit you square in the face, don’t be a baby like me. Take a massive bite and tell yourself it’s not that bitter, actually you kinda like it. Then you know Lady Karma owes you some good news.

Love A xxx

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A Review of Looper and the Conclusion that Hollywood Sucks Bum.

Disclaimer: “Rant:  To speak or write in an angry or violent manner.” Contains Spoilers.

Three things I knew yesterday:

  1. Looper is an awesome film.
  2. People download films.
  3. I want to work in the film industries.

Three things I know today:

  1. Looper is actually not that great.
  2. People download films because there’s little worth paying good money for.
  3. I really want to work in the film industries and make them better.

Let me tell you how I reached these conclusions.

Yesterday I went to see Looper at my local Odeon. I’d heard great things (“It’s this generation’s The Matrix” blah blah), I was excited and ready to be blown away. Instead, I found myself seriously bored halfway through, and because I’m an obnoxious little know-it-all, I began analysing why I had reached such a state of non-interest.

Firstly, the protagonist is a husk of a human being and, apart from the ridiculous amount of eyebrow pencil he’s been forced to wear, I do not feel for any sympathy for him. Secondly, the villains are obviously terrible at being criminals and I do not feel threatened by their ineptitude. Thirdly, since we got to horribly-thin Emily Blunt’s farm the plot has looped in a whole other direction (see what I did there?).

My main problem with the film is the telekinesis. It’s casually introduced early in the film (“oh by the way, we can float coins now”) and you’re so unimpressed that you don’t think it’s going to be particularly relevant. Until HELLO strange demonic child who can flip cars with his mind? I thought this film was about time travel?!! But this kid will grow up to be the bad guy from the future? So now Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a really distracting nose and Bruce Willis is murdering kids for his mail-order Asian bride? That’s ridiculous!

Until finally we reach the end – oh my god, he has to kill himself to save the world? ONE: how fucking original. TWO: that would never happen because Joe is a selfish, greedy, drug addict who’s spent the whole film trying to save his sorry excuse for a life. There’s no way in hell he’d sacrifice himself.

I’m being quite harsh. I did enjoy the film’s production design. The special effects were swell and I thought the acting was actually very good (especially the terrifying child).

But the story felt like the kind of script idea you come up with when you’re high and/or drunk: “So it’s like set in the future, and they can time travel, but it’s totally illegal. And he’s so totally addicted to this new drug that they drip in through their eyeballs. Just so cool. But his future self comes back in time, and he’s gotta catch him before the bad guys kill him. And… and people are telekinetic! Oh my god YES! And this kid, he can, like, kill people just by looking at them! And the guy, the only way he can save everybody is if he shoots himself and it’s like so heroic, and so that ends the cycle so the kid doesn’t grow up to be evil in the future! Duuuuude.”

If we agree that the plot wasn’t all that grand, why has this film received so much hype and media attention?

Could it be because this is the first non-remake, non-prequel, non-sequel, non kids/animated, original film to come out of Hollywood in a LONG time. People aren’t used to having something completely new offered to them. Naturally, we all peed our pants a little (me, equally guilty).

I haven’t done any research, or put that much thought into this, but doesn’t it seem logical that if Hollywood actually made some new and decent films, people would actually go out to the cinema to see them? Who’s going to spend £8 on a ticket to see a remake they know won’t be as good as the original? Or to see a forced, un-exciting sequel of a film? Only the people too moral/scared/computer-illiterate to download. Much better to find a good torrent or to wait for the DVD to drop down from £15 to £3.

When will Hollywood understand that yes, remaking Back to the Future, or another Pirates of the Caribbean film, is a safe bet, but riskier, more exciting, original films will pay off in the long run?

Jaws, Alien, Avatar, Inception, Titanic…. all great original films (ignoring any subsequent sequels) – we need new filmmakers with fresh ideas who can erase the predictability from blockbusters and give birth to a new Hollywood.

Now for the corny ending: I want to be there in the middle of it all when the film industry reaches its next golden era. Awwwwww so inspiring/Please excuse me while I vomit on my shoes.

Rant over for now. I’m deeply sorry if you actually read to the end of this post  – don’t you have better things to do, like writing the next Titanic? Geez.

A xx

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TV Runner – A Long How-To List

I’ve done 2 professional Running jobs at the BBC – so obviously this qualifies me to write a big pretentious post on how to do a good job.

IT DOESN’T. I just wish I could have read something like this when I got that first job back in July… I didn’t have a clue what a TV Runner really does. I learnt all of this through my own experiences, so here we go folks!

One: What do I wear?

  1. The comfiest shoes you own – a good runner does not sit down EVER (except at Lunch if you’re lucky). Being a runner = painful feet.
  2. Comfy socks. To help your shoes be comfy.
  3. Comfy jeans/leggings. Are you sensing a theme here? Shorts are fine on a hot location shoot. Ladies avoid the skirts.
  4. BELT!! So essential. You’ll need to hang your talk-back unit on it and you don’t want this to happen >>>>>
  5. T-shirt – this is where you can show off your personal style, you don’t want to look boring after all.
  6. Bring a jumper or even two. Even when you’re indoors, coz studios are chilly.
  7. Coats – if it’s a location shoot you want a rain coat (drizzle to torrential downpour), a ski coat (freezing and raining) and a jacket (wee bit chilly). Trust me. You can never have too many coats stashed in your car boot.
  8. Wellies. This is England – on location, you will need wellies at some point.
Basically, imagine every possible weather condition for that day and prepare for it. If you’re on location, nothing is worse than being uncomfortable.

Two: What do I bring?

Location Shoot

  • Rucksack. This is where you will store the following: note pad, painkillers, plasters, pens, tape, tissues, phone charger and spare call sheets, spare socks, sunglasses, sun cream, scarf, gloves, hat, water bottle.

Location AND Studio Shoot

  • Satchel/long strap bag/fanny pack – it doesn’t matter, as long as it means you can have all of this on your person at all times: pens, plasters, tape, paper, call sheet, sides/script, phone, dressing room keys.

Three: Any prep?

  1. Figure out your start time – Call Sheets rarely say when the Runners are needed, but you can figure it out. Usually, there will be a ‘Unit Base Up & Running Time,’ approx 2 hours before UNIT CALL (the time everyone is meant to be on set). This ‘Up & Running’ time is when you should aim to be there by, already working.
  2. Memorize the Call Sheet as much as you can. You want to know how many actors will be needed, when they’ll be arriving. Also take note of any special crew for the day – stunt men etc. Handy is to know as much as possible about the scenes being filmed, so if you can get a copy of the script or the ‘Sides’, read it thoroughly.
  3. As soon as you get the Call sheet, enter all the names and numbers you’ll need into your phone. Particularly helpful ones include  security, the drivers, the caterers, the head of each department, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ADs, the Production Manager and the talents’ PAs. This will save you so much time when some one yells “Get me a minibus NOW!!!!” at your face.
  4. REMEMBER all Call Sheets/Scripts/Schedules are strictly confidential. Be careful of where you leave them lying around.
  5. Plan your journey. If you have to drive through London to get to location, calculate the time it will take on Google Maps, double it, and then add 30mins just to be safe. So if you need to be in Ealing for 6.30am from Clapham, you want to be out your door by 5.15am. If you’re early to base you can nap in your car and impress the ADs by starting your job before they even get there.
  6. Sleep. It may be the last time you do.

Four: What are my duties?

This varies on every production, but these are your main ones.

Morning/On Arrival

  1. Making sure the talk-back sets have charged over night and putting yours on, ready to be its slave. Take a spare battery too.
  2. Fetching coffee for the tired crew and being smiley & enthusiastic even though it’s 5am.
  3. Ensuring the arrival of the Talent and informing the AD team as it happens via talk-back. Show them to their dressing room/trailer and get them whatever it is they want. If they want a baby unicorn, better get searching. Usually though, they’ll just want a sausage sandwich.
  4. Prepare and restock the tea/coffee table and pack ready for transporting to location. Bribe the caterers for biscuits. No biscuits and the runner (i.e. you) will die a painful death.
  5. Help the 3rd AD locate and sign in any Background Artists (extras) for the day.
  6. Help the 2nd AD by escorting the Talent into Makeup/Wardrobe, and then to their cars to be taken to set. Inform the 2nd AD of every step in this process.
  7. Try and grab some breakfast for yourself. It’s free and you will need those precious calories.
  8. Ensure directors/producers/head honchos have cars waiting to take them to set.
  9. Herd the rest of the crew from catering to the minibuses/transport and get them up to set. Camera, lighting and sound have priority over makeup, set designers and you.

*QUICK TIP* Talk Back Lingo

  • “Travelling” = an actor’s journey from unit/dressing room to set. E.g: “Travelling Mr Depp.”
  • “Going 101″/” Ten One” = Going to the toilet (you have no idea how I panicked when my first 3rd AD said this to me – I had no idea what she was on about!).
  • Initials are often used for high profile actors. E.g. Sir David Jason became SDJ on all Call Sheets and via Talk Back.
  • If you are called via radio, wait until they have finished, press your button and reply “Go ahead”. Always wait until someone has definitely finished speaking before pressing your button or they are cut off to everyone listening.
  • To address someone specifically, say “(your name) to (their name)”, release your button and await their response.
  • If you need to ask someone a question, but don’t want to clog the channel for the others/they don’t need to hear it, say “(your name) to (3rd AD’s name) on Channel 2 please.” You then switch your talk back to channel 2 and your conversation will not be heard over the main channel.
  • If you’re going near set, make sure you have an ear pierce in so you can still listen without disrupting a take.
  • Equally, NEVER talk over radio during a take, as someone on set will almost certainly have their volume up and the noise could ruin the audio recording.

On Set:

  1. Set up tea/coffee table and offer drinks to the crew. Obviously, directors/head honchos and talent first. Then the 1st AD, camera and sound. Then everyone else. Have some water bottles/cups on set.
  2. The Talent will arrive on location after the crew. You must be there to meet them and escort them to set with a cup of tea/coffee. Inform the ADs via talk back when the Talent have arrived.
  3. One of your main jobs is to keep people quiet during takes. Not as easy as it sounds. Position yourself wherever there is noise and be ready to yell/ssshh/beg/bribe/swear.
  4. A take goes like this… The 1st AD yells “Going for a take”  and you repeat this in your loudest voice, followed by “QUIET ON SET PLEASE.” With luck, people will instantly fall silent. Most of the time, you will need to enforce your authority with evil looks, hand gestures and even the threat of decaf coffee. Once “Action” is called, no one but the director and the actors are allowed to make a sound. If the take is interrupted by any member of the crew, a nearby vehicle or even a member of public, it’s YOUR fault.
  5. Between takes, go on set and keep an eye on the actors. They love to sneak away for a smoke/phone call. If they need to take a leak, you need to know. Follow discreetly and just assure that they come straight back to set.
  6. You’ll be waiting around a lot. In this time clear up any rubbish you can find, keep offering drinks, restock the tea table, and keeping asking people if they’d like any help. Avoid the temptations of a seat and checking Twitter/FB.
  7. Vehicles will take up a lot of your time. Usually the drivers will return to base once they’ve dropped off. Ask one to stay at location (with engine off) on stand by in case people need to get back to base quickly. Make sure all vehicles face the way out – turning around could waste valuable time.

Lunch

  1. Half an hour before lunch is scheduled, call each vehicle to set. Between takes, you must get them to turn to face the right way and await the crew. Talent go first, followed by head honchos, then crew in order of importance. NB: never mention the hierarchy on a film set – nobody likes to admit there is one!
  2. Check the tea table and make a note of everything that is low, so you can bring back what you need to restock it from unit base.
  3. Background Artists (extras) must wait until EVERY member of the crew (including you!) has joined the lunch queue before they can. Before you tuck in, check that the Talent and Head Honchos are in the queue or being seen to.
  4. Once you’ve eaten and taken five mins to breathe, go round and ask the make up and costume crew when they would like to see the Talent again for checks. Then make sure that happens, informing the AD team along the way.
  5. Grab everything you need for the tea/coffee table and load it into the van/minibus.

The afternoon is pretty much a repeat of the morning, until it nears Wrap Time.

  1. About 30 mins before wrap time, do one last tea/coffee run, then begin packing down drinks table.
  2. Collect the call sheets from the Production Office. DO NOT give these out until “That’s a wrap on today!” has been called by the 1st AD/Director. Doing it before disrupts the crew.
  3. On larger crews, you may be asked to place call sheets in every production vehicle – i.e. 4 in the Lighting truck for the Sparks, 2 in the Art Department lorry. Put it somewhere it will be seen.
  4. Have all vehicles at location and ready to depart at least15 mins before the estimated wrap time.
  5. When Wrap is called, yell “CALL SHEETS” and make sure everyone leaves with one either in their hand or in their crew vehicle.
  6. Get all Talent and crew to their vehicles.
  7. Pack tea table. Rubbish clearing and tidying of the location is usually down to the Location Manager and his team, but check in case you are expected to do this/give them a hand.
  8. Go round the set/location and yell “Last vehicle!” in case there are any stragglers left.
  9. Get in that vehicle and back to base.

End of the Day

When you get back to base, put away the tea/coffee table and make sure all food and drinks supplies are secure for moving to the next location. Then, help the 3rd AD collect in talk-back units and put them on charge, including yours.

Offer to help the 2nd AD with CHITS – these are the sign-in/out forms the next day’s extras – and any other jobs. Make sure NO ONE needs you, offer to stay late and when they say you can go, GO.

Getting that next JOB

Be enthusiastic never mind the weather, hour or mood you’re really in (gets tricky after a while). Make friends with the crew; banter is the main form of entertainment on a film set so get used to being the butt of peoples’ jokes – and don’t be scared to give it back (appropriately!!). Go to any after-work drinks at the pub so people can get to know you (but don’t get drunk – you’re a professional). Chat with every department and learn as much as you can about the different trades. You might not want to work in costume but any knowledge will be helpful, and you may even discover a new career path.

If you go to the Wrap Party, don’t spend it asking for jobs. By this point, your hard work should have done the asking for you. If they like you, they’ll remember you. Stay in touch, let them know of any other experience you get, and hopefully they’ll think of you as the next crew is assembled.

So there you go! Apologies for the length, hope it wasn’t too patronising. Let us know if this helps you, or if there’s anything you think I’ve missed!

Much love,

A x

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The Low Down on Media Degrees – and the £9000/year debate.

At Christmas I will be halfway through my TV Production degree, and so far have paid £6518 for 2 years’ tuition fees alone. Next year’s freshers will pay £9000 for one year: a grand total of  £27,000 for the 3 year course. Because, apparently, the university’s Media School is the best in the UK. Therefore, its most subscribed media course is worth the maximum new tuition fee amount.

IT IS THE MOST EXTORTIONATE LOAD OF BULLSHIT I HAVE EVER HEARD.

It makes me angrier than all the Angry Birds put together.

Here’s why:

  • After a year and a half, I have learnt nothing that couldn’t have been taught to me in a week’s film making course, for the cost of a few hundred pounds.
  • I have 6 hours of lectures A WEEK.
  • The first year of your degree does not count towards your end grade – it is a ‘warm up year.’ Or as I would call it, an excuse to charge us an extra year’s tuition.
  • The good tutors are over worked and their timetables too busy to cater for the large number of students, meaning their expertise goes to waste.
  • Ex-industry “experts” are hired in as tutors; being an expert in a particular field does not automatically mean they are good teachers. The camera and editing demonstrators are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, but their lessons are dull and instead of inspiring students, the next great editor is put off their dream career.
  • A fantastic HD studio is available, but the technicians who know how to work it are usually absent, rendering millions of pounds worth of kit unusable.
  • There is a large array of kit for students to hire out, but this kit often turns out to be faulty, damaged and out of date compared to current industry standards.
  • In the second year, students ‘specialise’ in either editing, camera, production management or sound. However, you do not choose until the end of year 2, and in the run up to this receive no technically specific workshops or lectures to inform your choice. If you want to learn about cameras, you must obtain and read the manuals yourself because even though you’re paying to be taught, no one will.
  • The production lectures given throughout each term give guidance on current film projects. Unfortunately, they are patronising and basic, with the rare gem of good advice thrown in.
  • I learnt more in one week at the BBC than I have in a year and half of university. Over half the people I was working with and for had never been to university.

I’m paying £3259 a year for my degree. Am I crazy?

I’ve been told and agree that I am not paying to learn anything at university. I am paying for a piece of paper that says I can write BA Hons Degree on my CV. It’s another thing to help me stand out. If only I could save 3 years of my life and just pay £9000 for that piece of paper and weird square hat.

I won’t ever say university is invaluable: becoming more independent, learning about yourself, and meeting new people are key to growing up. With media degrees, uni is a great chance to develop your own ideas and be creative and daring; once you’re a professional and trying to earn a living, doing your own thing will be a lot harder.

I’ll leave you to judge. But if you’re thinking about applying, remember that university isn’t the only option, and that £27000 is a lot of money. Do plenty of research, and above all, get as much industry experience as you can during the stupidly long holidays.

Rant over 🙂 apart from all of that, it’s going pretty well and I’m planning lots of independent projects to keep me occupied. I just can’t help feeling students are getting ripped off, and I’ve had a lucky escape with my tuition fees not going up.

Love, ‘A’

xxx

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“Don’t say the ‘W’ word. Don’t even THINK it. No. No you’re thinking it!!! STOP!”

So my month working on a new BBC comedy drama is almost over. In fact, Monday is my last day. But as I was told four weeks ago, don’t say “Wrap” until it’s a wrap.

Anyway, in case you’re wondering why I haven’t been able to update you on this sooner, it’s because I have been working 13 to 14 hour days, 6 days a week. The rest of my time I spend desperately catching up on sleep and driving to more locations. But do you know what? It has gone by so quickly I honestly can’t believe it happened. I mean, did I dream the whole thing?

I think, maybe, I might seriously miss the crazy when it’s over…. is that wrong?

The stress, the excitement, the pain, the people, the tea making, the wellies, the sunburn, the blisters, the free food, the banter, the practical jokes, the back massages, the portaloos (not as much), the satisfaction of seeing hard work come together… I am going to miss all of this.

Really, REALLY, wish I didn’t have to go back to uni.

At the same time, there are a few things I WON’T miss.

  1. Stroppy Make Up Ladies (“Where are the biscuits? No biscuits? Why? WHY are you doing this??? I can’t work without biscuits. We should have biscuits! GET ME BISCUITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”)
  2. Good Old British Weather (oh no, it wouldn’t matter if Hurricane Irene came to town, we’d still need to get that “quick” close up of so and so giving a melancholy expression in the forest, with sfx mist for extra atmospheric effect).
  3. The Supporting Artistes/Extras (Me: “Erm excuse me, I just saw you stuff a load of coffee sachets into your handbag?” … “Yes we know he is famous. No you cannot get an autograph.”… “Please stay here, you’ll be seen in the next take.” 5mins later… 1st AD: “Where’s that extra gone? Where the fuck is he ‘A’? I need that extra ‘A’! Find me that extra!”).

Don’t get me started on the tantrums…

Over every little thing – in particular FOOD.

If it’s not on time, if there’s no egg and cress sandwiches, if we’re out of the special chocolate biscuits, if the tea isn’t Tetley, if the Starbucks coffee you ran back with for 15 minutes isn’t hot enough, if they don’t eat full fat mayo… Do not be fooled. This may seem like unimportant nonsensical rubbish, but each one of the above can cause World War 3 on a film set.

Gotta love the rest of it though. And I miss the crew already. You won’t find a closer, more dedicated team of people than on a film set – you can laugh with them, shout at them, moan with them, eat with them, help each other, hate each other, love each other all in one day. You’re like a massive family but completely functional and completely insane.

I’m getting nostalgic already and it’s not even over. Not just yet. Won’t be calling it a Wrap officially until Monday evening.

Then there’s the Wrap Party 😉

Love ‘A’ xxx

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