This week we are pleased to welcome freelance producer/director, Abi Kelly, who highlights the joys of multi-tasking and the lows of being everything to everyone.
When I was fumbling through my teens, dreams and ambitions were usually grounded in being part of something really exciting. If it was buzzy, creative and fun and didn’t involve Pythagoras’ Theorem or Bunsen Burners, then I was happy and motivated.
When I was at school and uni, success leading to immediate happiness stemmed from a whole spectrum of events: mastering lead roles in plays and musicals, writing ‘A’ grade poetry, organising a charity fashion show and winning The Effort Award in assemblies (“well done Abigail for scoring maximum in that whole ‘trying’ thing, but The Success Award once again goes to Beatrice Van Horn Alkema”.)
Nowadays though, gaining any level of success feels like a far lengthier, and occasionally more haphazard process – like being blindfolded, spun around and instructed to throw slime at a cat – the odds aren’t great but some of it’s bound to stick. Of course, fragments of relative success and various ‘back pats’ are happily received along the way, but they’re almost like canapés when what the appetite really desires is an extravagant banquet.
Dining metaphors aside, as a freelance producer and director, it’s a fairly typical picture with peaks and troughs; I go from bill-paying jobs to brilliant jobs, infuriating production companies to inspiring ones (with employment gaps in between to lunch with friends, play PS3 and attempt to write something no one else has thought of). And in these more pinched budget times, the frustrating and increasingly common ‘one man band’ question seems to crop in interviews: “I see that you’re a producer director. That’s great but can you do your own research and planning, shoot it all for us and then edit the rushes on Final Cut Pro?”
The many positives that keep the work motors running are the moments where I can honestly say I’ve been proud to get a share of something hugely exciting and to all-intense and purposes, successful. Whether it’s a show, an event, a team, a company or even a script.
At other less proud (although always amusing) times, I’ve questioned why it’s imperative that I find a pensioner who can back flip through a flaming hoop into a paddling pool, or why dragging punters off the streets at 6am is fine, on the promise they’ll get a stale croissant and will definitely maybe but probably not get on telly. Then there was the time I was asked to buy tartan paint and some sky hooks, only to discover I was one of many victims of those lightweight jokes played on runners as part of their initiation.
But after all the training, graveyard shifts and plenty of tomfoolery washed down with gallons of booze, I soon decided if I wedged my tongue firmly into my cheek, climbed carefully but enthusiastically up the ladder and made the right choices (whatever they are), I naively hoped I might just become part of the next big ‘TV zeitgeist’.
First hurdle though – what the hell is a zeitgeist? Being young, green and a part-time fan of all things paranormal, I momentarily wondered if zeitgeist had anything to do with poltergeist. The next Most Haunted perhaps? Surely this world isn’t big enough for two Derek Acorahs? But while one ‘geist’ or ‘spirit’ is known for being noisy and unpleasant, the other seems to be the foundation on which success in the industry seems to be built, and therefore the appetite-quashing feast of any driven editorial career.
Having the good fortune to find myself working on the much talked about Pineapple Dance Studios as an Edit Producer, it’s actually pretty cool when personal success and recognised success collide, not to mention when a new and interesting twist occurs in a genre and gets everyone talking. It adds to that Ready Brek glow even more when it isn’t about record-breaking viewing figures and a smug, world-dominating production giant taking all the credit.
This series seemed to reach alternative areas of success on levels I hadn’t really thought about before. It made people simultaneously scoff and laugh, it co-erced normally acerbic TV critics to soften up and admit defeat, and it marked an important turning point by arriving at a time when the curtains were finally closing on attention-hogging behemoth Big Brother.
And while I’m the first to admit I thrive off multi-tasking and variety in my skills, it was also refreshing not to be asked to write and plan shoots and do interviews at the same time as operating a camera, lights and a sound kit. But perhaps they’re my lazy bones talking.
Abi Kelly is a freelance Producer & Director