This week, Self-shooting PD, Gabe Crozier, discusses his career in television and commercials, including filming ladies legs all day to ITV’s Storage Hoarders.
How are you able to adapt yourself between working as a DV Director and Self shooting PD?
I enjoy DV directing for all the reasons any self-shooting director would. Having creative freedom to create a narrative and visual design, as part of my contribution to the episodes I shoot and direct within is challenging and exciting. As a self-shooting PD, I get more involved in the strategy of narrative and story development, be it in a reactive sense on a shoot day or in pre-production within scripting. I’m supporting and guiding a small team of shooters and will grab a camera too as and when required. So adapting between DV Directing and Self-shooting PD is a mental step between translating a script to screen and creating and nurturing a script to screen.
What made you progress into becoming a shooting PD, rather than a PD?
The idea of a shooting PD appealed over a PD role in that I personally love being on-set and active. Having the opportunity to be part of the story-telling process as it happens and pick up a camera and help shape the vision is a must to me. Depending on the show treatment, I may be shooting a lot in a day or just occasionally – but either way I am at the coalface and immersed in the team effort.
Have you seen a growing demand for more and more PD’s who can self-shoot? Do you feel that being able to self-shoot gives you more of an opportunity to show your creative side?
The demand for self-shooting PDs has grown in line with technology and flexible, high quality camcorders. Definitely, being able to self-shoot allows for a more immediate result in the translation of your vision – because you are able to create a style and look, which can be built upon. I think the definition of self-shooting PD can be broadly interpreted in many ways by many companies and individuals.
How do you have to adapt your style between working on commercials for companies and programmes for broadcast?
I DOP and direct television commercials as well as self-shoot and direct television programmes. The two disciplines are quite different and usually function at opposite ends of the production spectrum on many levels. Time is the most significant difference. A commercial, in my experience, takes a minimum of one day, to shoot a thirty second film. Yet, I can find myself shooting many minutes of broadcast material in one day in the lifestyle and documentary genres. Ironically, both disciplines end up with hours of rushes. The cameras and kit used can be very different too and affect the shoot schedules and crewing required.
Having worked for US broadcasters as well – how do the US and UK markets differ? Did you notice a difference between their needs and expectations?
My US experience has been working with British crews mixed up with US crews. You fit in with their cultural tweaks and adapt along the way. World cameras are creating a united production process and the ability for international crews to share material in global collaborations easily.
How do you manage working with talent?
I like working with all on-screen talent. The talent to me is contributors, presenters, specialists and performers; they may be well-known faces or first time members of the public crippled by nerves and stage fright. A strong front of a friendly and understanding nature with a sprinkling of charm gets me through! Seriously though, I just listen, watch, support and allow a natural performance to find it’s way onto screen.
When working for news and current affairs shows, do you have to be immediately available with fast turnaround deadlines? How are you able to manage you time around this?
The world of news and current affairs is very fast with little room for error. As a freelancer you get booked at the last moment. Usually to react to an event that has just happened or is in progress. Multi-skilling is very common in this workplace and so I shoot, direct and edit as required. Cutting a lead story of 2 minutes 45 seconds with sound mix and graphics within 60 minutes, to TX within mainstream television news happens a lot.
Having worked on shows such as ‘Holiday Home Sweet Home’ and ‘Storage Hoarders’, what do you enjoy most about making factual entertainment shows, and how are you able to ensure the audience are always kept entertained?
The variety of locations, contributors and stories make factual entertainment so exciting. I get a lot of creative input in how I tell stories and translate the scripts to screen. I am always looking to tell story with a fresh spirit of engagement and entertainment. A mixture of shooting styles and nurtured performances help to keep things fresh. Bonding with your talent goes a very long way.
How important do you think communication is – both amongst crew and with the people you are filming?
Communication is key. Key to every part of the production process. Clarity of thought and clear conviction with your goal, even if you are not entirely sure how it’s going to plan out. I always spend quality time informing and discussing, where possible, my intentions with the cast and crew. Everyone is included and everyone feels included. We’re a team – maybe a very small team – but a team that want’s the same goal.
What has been a career highlight to date?
Covering over 40,000 miles in three weeks? Filming a performing frog? Shooting ladies’ legs or an Aston Martin ad? Maybe being part of a 30 x 1 hour labour of love where everyone pulls together to make the TV we love to watch.
How has the move into the HD market changed the way you work?
The move to HD in the industry has made big differences in the way we see an image compared with SD. The transition for me has been quite natural, as I have worked on film in high-resolution environments alongside SD. It’s great to have HD so readily available in all shapes and sizes of camera. Our tools and palette have never been more flexible and available to the masses. But knowing how to use a word processor doesn’t necessarily mean you can write a book.
Where would you like to see your career take you in the next 5 years?
In the next five years I would like to be a part of the multi-platform development in cross-platform production. Storytelling on device specific platforms that function to create facets of a whole experience to the viewer. Watch anywhere and get varied story threads and camera views based on your chosen device at that moment in time. Yathink?
How do you think the industry will develop and change in the future?
The industry hadn’t changed that much in many decades while technology remained within the control of the big main names. Now that has changed forever. And technology and production processes change on a daily basis. Broadcast television – that box with linear viewing patterns and schedules is fading into the background. Consumers want the choice, the channels and the chance to watch whenever and wherever they choose and we’ll make that content in huge bytes. I was filming a documentary at a primary school last week and while the year 4 children synced their iPad Minis to their teacher’s smart board to share their games’ programming homework, one child asked, “Sir, what did VHS look like?” It was a great shot! Data killed the video star…
Gabe Crozier is a freelance self-shooting Producer/Director and a ProductionBase member.