- Clients x2
- Presenters x 2
- Director/Producer and bus driver! (yours truly)
Mon 5.30am. – Meet driver from Oxford delivering our transport for the coming week, a Splitter (so I’m told) 9 seater luxury minibus at the front and a cavernous carrying space at the rear. Quick brief from him on how it all works and I’m off to collect the crew – Cameraman (highly preened, even at this early hour), Soundman (ears like a bat, hears everything), Sparks – lighting to you and me (hair that looks like he’s just been electrocuted) and last, but definitely not least, my runner who would be the epitome of organisation for the whole week. With all the kit loaded, next stop was to collect the presenters and then the clients. Notice how the more important you are, the longer you get to stay in bed. This proved to be the way all week, so little me was up at the crack of dawn every day.
With everyone on board, it’s off to the North East for the first filming session of the week in the offices of Mencap. Lights, camera, action! The professionalism kicks in and we get some great footage in the can, despite the fact that one of the presenters could not for for the life of her say the title of the project without virtually swallowing her own tongue. With everything we needed done, it was off to the hotel for a well earned shower followed by a de-brief of the days events over dinner. Few drinks later and its off for an early night to prepare for the 6.00am call in the morning.
Tues 6.00am. – Production meeting over breakfast, yesterdays footage confirmed as checked and ok, batteries charged (both ours and the equipment) and we’re into the bus and off to Manchester, only pausing to do a quick piece to camera under the iconic Angel of the North. Arrive just before lunch at the Town Hall, Manchester with permission to park wherever we like – that’s working for the Government for you. The inside of the Town Hall is stunning and creates a magnificent environment for filming. Very competent interviewees, one well rehearsed presenter and the other still struggling with her tongue twister issue, she will get it right, I’m sure. Outside for a few scene setters whilst the clients explore the local hostelry. Everyone into the bus and its off to the next hotel. Slightly earlier finish means we can all get ready for dinner at a nice leisurely pace, but not until footage has been checked and batteries put on charge. Several G & T’s later and the cameraman tells me he needs a quick meet before tomorrow comes, about a possible idea he has. My tipsy side says no, but my professional side says yes so off we go leaving the rest of the group to their merriment. Idea presented and accepted, its back to the bar, but by now everyone has left ready for the daily 6.00am production meeting. I follow suit.
Wed 6.00am. – Production meeting over breakfast, everyone into the bus, quick discussion with the hotel over the room rate they were trying to charge compared to the original quote and its off to Lincolnshire to a fantastic Care Home, with some of the most fascinating war veterans as residents. Their stories of being young pilots based at the local RAF airbase were truly awe inspiring. It was only the fact we had work to do that got me to leave. With the sun shining we set up the track and dolly, which is basically a railway line for the camera to glide on, as a lot of the shots today were exteriors. Today was the main day for little Miss Tongue Twister, so hopefully three days of practising our clients name would pay dividends. Not a bit of it and with an average of four takes per shot, we are up against it. Luckily, I anticipated the potential issue after day one and made sure the lead presenter was up to speed on all of the script. After a long day and with around an hour of daylight left, we just had a couple of sign offs from the presenters, a few cut-aways (shots to enable us to link one take to another) and a few noddy’s (the shot you see with the presenter nodding their head whilst hearing the voice of the interviewee). We said our goodbyes to the residents happy in the knowledge that they had been allowed to relive a time of their lives that played a massive part in our own. Back to the hotel to check the footage and to prepare for the drive back up to Leeds in the morning.
Thurs 6.00am – Production meeting over breakfast and its back up to Leeds where we will spend the next two days in the studio. The clients disappear into the production gallery to check the information they are wanting to get across, whilst the crew setup the studio ready for the afternoons filming which will take the form of a round table interview for the two presenters and one client. The operation steps up a gear here with us moving from one camera, to a four camera shoot. This allows us to produce a very natural interview, with no ‘pretend’ noddy’s or cut-aways as each of the subjects has a camera trained on them at all times, along with an overhead unit, controlled remotely. With everything ready, I take my position in the gallery and we’re good to go. Rather than watching the process alongside the cameraman as in the previous three days, being in the gallery means I monitor what each camera is capturing on individual screens and have a direct link to the ear of everyone on the floor, camera, sound sparks, presenters and clients – oh the power! The interview process goes better than I had dared to hope for. Ken, our client is such a confident speaker that not only do the cameras not phase him, but the presenters become truly interested in the topic of conversation and the whole thing has an incredibly natural feel to it. By 4.00pm, we are done as far as recording goes and I organise taxis for the clients to get them to their hotel for an early finish. We have a few more things to do before we can go in preparation for the final day tomorrow, but with tonight being the last night for us all I have organised a bit of a do at the local curry house. The evening is quite raucous, with everyone recounting experiences from the week, such as when we were in Manchester and we convinced a group of Japanese tourists that we were filming Coronation Street and that our client Ken was actually Ken Barlow. After a session of photos and autograph signing they went on their way, happy to have met such a massive soap star (the daft thing is, the two Kens bear no resemblance to each other!) A late finish, means that we will suffer tomorrow.
Fri 8.00am – Being in Leeds and having prepared the day before allows us a well earned sleep-in, which is just as well, as there are some rough looking people around the breakfast table. Back in the studio, today is mainly about Ken talking straight to camera, with a lot of information to deliver. Being unable to face a cooked breakfast first thing, by the time we are ready to start, he needs food. We shuffle around what we are doing and capture some presenter sign offs whilst Ken tucks into a poached egg on toast, or should I say shares it with his shirt. Disaster!!! The shirt, which was beautifully pressed and has to be used for reasons of continuity has been decorated with around four inches of squirting egg yolk. This is where a good runner comes in. Like a flash, Helen whips the shirt off Ken and is on her way to M&S to find an exact replacement. Within 30 minutes she is back, replacement shirt unwrapped and unbuttoned ready to hit the ironing board. With Ken back to new, it’s on with the plan and no harm done. The last piece in the jigsaw is the filming of the actions that will form the menu for the DVD and with that done, it’s a wrap.
The week has proved that when a good team of people are brought together with a willing and competent client, the final project is definitely the winner. What followed was a week in the editing suite and a film that the client was thrilled with. Oh and Mrs Tongue Twister? She never did manage to get the name right and was last heard of in Africa somewhere looking after baby elephants.