In our latest Expert Q&A we talk to Series Producer, Donald Clarke, about his career in TV.
How did you get started in the industry? My very first gig was on an adaption of Channel 4’s Wise Up for the SABC in South Africa. From there I continued to work on international formats as they were adapted for South African audiences. I then got an opportunity to Series Produce on the prime-time series, Survivor, which is a hugely popular format internationally.
I then founded my own production company which I ran for 10 years before being headhunted to join the production arm of BBC Studios in Africa, Rapid Blue, as an Executive Producer and Commercial Director. Since moving to the UK I have enjoyed being back in production roles.
In our latest Expert Q&A we talk to Art Department Stylist, Thor Mrozek, about his career in TV.
What does the role of an Art Department Stylist involve, and what does a typical day look like? An Art Department Stylist is essentially an On Set Dresser and the role can be interchangeable with that of an Art Department Decorator or Prop Master depending on the budget of a production. In my case I have worked primarily with Greens (plants) and background aesthetics.
There are seldomly typical days as often, any given day can produce unforeseen challenges whether working in a studio or on location. Liaising with the Production Designer or Art Director has often been the norm and when neither are available, I’d consult an Assistant Art Director or simply work off an initial brief until otherwise directed.
When on location doing a set dress or being on standby, the first port of call is usually with the Locations Department to ensure logistical needs are met. The only typical aspect of the role are the long hours, especially when on standby, however this can sometimes be balanced out when striking a set.
In our latest Expert Q&A we talk to Series Producer/Director, Sean Doherty, about his career in TV.
What was your first job in TV? I first started as an Editorial Assistant at Sky Sports back in 1996. I had been working as a Radio Journalist in the North East/West for the BBC and ILR covering news and sport. I had also played national league/international ice hockey and Sky were covering the Superleague. I wrote to them and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was when they offered me a job.
My first day was an OB of a hockey game in Basingstoke. Fifteen cameras live on Sky Sports. They told me to just sit at the back of the scanner and watch. I was mesmerised and in awe at how so many different things were happening all at once and yet it all seemed to come together so smoothly.
Sky Sports was a wonderful training ground. They encouraged you to grow and take on new skills and it wasn’t long before I was directing single camera shoots and producing edits. Jerry Logan, one of Sky Sports pre-eminent Directors, was a wonderful mentor and by the end of my third and final season he had me directing the match coverage. Thankfully with a very experienced Vision Mixer!
A Producer/Director’s Adventures in Asia
By Chris Hale
Some years ago, I found myself on a plane descending, through some alarming turbulence, across a seemingly endless palm oil plantation into Kuala Lumpur international airport. I was there to produce a National Geographic documentary about the coronation of the Malaysian king. Huh? Malaysia has a king? I was shockingly ignorant of Malaysian culture (Proton cars?) and history.
Since then, I have worked as a writer, producer, director, consultant and executive producer in Malaysia and Singapore and written two non-fiction books about this fascinating region. I have quite a few tales about that first expedition to Kuala Lumpur – for example, the daunting problems we had persuading the king or Yang di-Pertuan Agong to permit our cameras to go behind the scenes of his coronation and why his majesty knew nothing about our plans when I first bowed my way into his palace… And what exactly was the role of the Lord High Chamberlain?
Suffice it to say, it was an adventure. I met a number of talented producers in Malaysia and returned many times to write and/or executive produce documentaries commissioned by the History Channel. AETN has an office in Singapore. I won a writing award for a special about the ‘Malayan Emergency’ and soon afterwards, began researching a new book about this colonial rumble in the jungle.
What is a Casting Researcher?
A Casting Researcher finds the right people to take part in productions. This could mean the right actor, or for factual productions it could mean a mix of members of the public, experts (eg. a scientist or a specialist medical consultant), or talent (eg. presenters, celebrities).
What is the Job?
The role of Casting Researcher involves finding actors for a film or TV drama, or on the factual side, contributors or interviewees who will be featured. Finding the right people to be at the heart of a production is crucial to it’s success.
This role is one of the first steps to becoming a Casting Director. There can often be a wide range of contributors or actors to find and the Casting Researcher might conduct an initial outreach push, using street casting and social media, or focus on a targeted approach, liaising with specific organisations. They will then conduct initial conversations to edit the list of possible contributors, and may help the Producer and AP film recce tapes or write contributor documents.
Depending on the budget of the production the job may extend into assisting PDs with interviewing contributors, writing interview questions or sending out scripts/information for auditions. Practically speaking, depending on the production budget, Casting Researchers may also handle a lot of the logistical nitty-gritty, from arranging auditions to organising travel for contributors.
What is a Series Producer?
Series Producers, or SPs, have overall responsibility for making programmes happen. They begin work at the pre-production stage and work right through until the series is delivered for transmission. It’s a senior editorial role and particularly important when different directors are making individual episodes, as they are responsible for making sure the overall editorial and narrative structures, as well as the creative look-and-feel of the series, are achieved and maintained.
A Day in the Life of a Series Producer
The Series Producer is usually one of the first people to join a new production and they use their contacts and experience to recruit the best possible production team. They often approach Directors, Producers and Assistant Producers they’ve worked with on previous productions. A Series Producer’s team can vary in size and specialisms, depending on the type of production. They may need an Archive Producer for a history documentary, for example, or a Casting Producer to run a large casting team for a talent show, or a team experienced in live programming.
Series Producers manage the editorial team and make all the content decisions, including which on-screen contributors, such as actors, presenters or experts, should be put forward to the channel’s commissioners (who usually have the final say). They drive all research, edit all scripts and oversee filming in the studio or on location, in the UK and abroad. It’s their job to create a good working environment and they constantly communicate with everyone involved to help the production run smoothly. Series Producers also have the ultimate legal responsibilities for the health and safety of the team and anyone involved in the making of their series.
In our latest Expert Q&A we talk to Edit Producer, Emily Cumming, about life in the edit: building characters, dealing with Execs and the move to remote working.
What was your first job in TV? After a stint as a Runner for a small indie in Brighton on a youth magazine show for ITV Meridian, I was lucky enough to be taken on as Production Co-ordinator when a vacancy suddenly opened up. I’d been working in theatre before that, so I had some transferable skills and a bit of life experience. As well as doing all the usual Production Co-ordinator jobs for the magazine show and the other arts series the company made, I’d run off copies of rushes for logging, drive the weekly TX master tapes to Meridian TV HQ, and swing a boom on location. I was able to get a real feel for what different jobs involved across the board as it was a small office and you could see and hear everyone doing their work. It was a very auspicious start and I’m supremely grateful that I got it!
What is a 3D Animator?
People who work in the field of three-dimensional (3D) animation create visual effects and animated characters for television, video games, and other electronic media. They create moving images using digital models and add details to the pictures, such as landscapes, skin textures or clothing, and portray characters by giving images emotions, habits and expression. 3D animators create drawings or take photographs/films of an actor’s movements and then use technical and design skills to breath life into their digital creations.
What is the Job?
On any given day, a 3D Animator may take on a variety of tasks to create characters, visual effects and even scenery. Different projects have different demands, but an understanding of movement and basic art principles like lines, shadow, light and perspective are always necessary.
Typical duties of a 3D Animator include:
Meeting with clients and key stakeholders, such as Directors, Actors, Video Game Designers and other Animators, to determine the scope of the work and project deadlines.
Researching subjects to ensure accurate animated representations.
Communicating with other Designers to ensure a cohesive vision across the product.
Storyboarding to develop scenes that require animation.
Using software to create animated characters, scenes and graphics.
Adjusting colours, lighting, shadows and textures to perfect lifelike appearances.
Integrating client and stakeholder feedback into final designs.
What is a Development Assistant Producer?
Development Assistant Producers (or Development APs) are part of the team that comes up with the ideas that get transformed into TV programmes. They research and flesh out briefs given to them by the Development Producer, using their contacts and industry knowledge gleaned from several years’ experience. They have lots of ideas themselves and a nose for a good story.
What is the Job?
Development APs help condense diverse ideas into a communicable pitch. Depending on the type of programme they are developing, they may be responsible for filming and editing ‘casting tapes’, which are short interviews with potential contributors, including experts, presenters or members of the public. They may also be asked to shoot and edit a short ‘taster tape’ (also known as a ‘sizzle’) to give the commissioner a taste of the content, style and tone of the show they are hoping to get commissioned. If they are working on the development of a new quiz show, they may have to write questions and test games or rounds to see if they work.
Recorded in front of a live audience, Beren Money talks to Executive Producer, Jamie Campbell, about his hugely successful Netflix series, Sex Education. We get an exclusive insight into how this groundbreaking drama was conceived and brought to screen.
The show racked up more than 40 million views in a month when the first series launched last year, with a second season now released and a third already commissioned.
This is part of the Turn On Tune In series of podcasts, presented by FAB Media and ProductionBase, where we get to hear from the TV industry’s best creative talent and learn the secrets and stories behind some of the most successful shows in recent years.
Subscribe via all major podcast platforms, and look out for more episodes soon!