In our latest Word of Mouth we talk to Writer/Director, David Skynner, about his career to date, including BAFTA wins, interviewing Gary Numan, and starting out on Aliens.
What was your first job in TV?
My first job in TV was also my first as a director, on The Bill for Thames TV, but by then I had already been working in the industry for ten years, partly in features and also making corporate films.
My first proper production job was after I left The London Film School, when on graduating, the school found me a two-week attachment to the AD dept. on James Cameron’s Aliens. I got on so well with them I ended up staying three months and moved on to the creature shop for another two months, when Stan Winston saw a painting I’d done for a film school production. It was a very exciting film to work on, very very long hours though as I’d be in at 6am to open the dressing rooms and as the film slipped behind schedule and the days got longer, I often wouldn’t leave until 11pm.
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to Self-shooting Producer/Director, Marc Knighton, about the importance of getting to know your contributors, keeping up with the latest tech, and the challenges of filming in A&E.
How did you get your big break in TV, and what was your first job?
I was fortunate enough to gain a place on a BBC graduate scheme, which allowed me to work across a variety of programmes and genres, everything from Watchdog and Panorama through to The Hairy Bikers and Children in Need. One of the highlights was undoubtedly the Ronnie Corbett Christmas Special, working with such talented people, both in front of and behind the camera was a real treat, though I think I failed on the tea making front as they all started bringing in thermos flasks with them after a few days…
With camera technology forever changing, do you feel the need to be up to speed on the latest kit?
Without a shadow of a doubt! Technology has evolved so quickly in the past few years that once you’ve mastered one camera, along comes another. Seven years ago my first camera was the trusty Sony Z1 which used mini DV tapes and most recently, I’ve tried my hand at using Sony’s latest 4K camera. At the end of the day, you have to really know your cameras inside out. This is especially important for self-shooters as using the camera needs to be second nature so that you can concentrate on the characters and action in front of you.
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to Director and Producer/Director, David Whitney, about his career to date – working around the world on TV, film and branded content projects.
How did you get your big break, and what was your first job?
My first job in the industry was working as an Assistant Grip on a low budget feature film in the late 90s. I was still a teenager and it was all very new to me, in fact I thought it was crazy – lots of grown ups shouting at each other, people crying on set, tantrums, numerous affairs… but it was great fun and didn’t put me off.
I knew I didn’t want to work on the technical side of things, so I took a job working as a Production Assistant at a well-known film company. One thing led to another and in my early twenties I got the opportunity to direct some corporate jobs, then TV commercials.
In 2005 I directed a short film, which led to my nomination for BBC New Filmmaker of the year, and from that I began directing TV drama, as well as more ads and branded content. After festival success for my short film, George’s Day (starring actor Michael Byrne), I raised the finance for my debut feature, which was released around the world and picked up by Netflix. This has led to countless other opportunities shooting all over the world. It’s been a fascinating ride!
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to TV & Film Composer, Jim Hustwit, about his career to date – creating scores for major broadcasters, understanding the director’s vision, and writing for the bin.
What is a typical working day for you as a composer?
The expected response might be, “lounging around in my pants procrastinating”, but I start the day more like an entrepreneur than a creative layabout. Exercise, meditation and a hearty breakfast before I hit the studio to get creative.
I like to do my idea generation at the beginning of the day. So I’ll just sit at the piano or with a guitar and play around with ideas. Hopefully inspiration strikes and I start to hear an idea in my head so will try to translate that in to a rough recording. I believe in writing for the bin. i.e. being prepared to throw away ideas. It takes away some of the pressure and fosters a more creative environment.
You have a background in investment banking and marketing. What made you want to pursue a career in music production?
I’m an idealist. I believe that if you are going to spend 80% of your life working, you have to do something you love. Banking and marketing left me somewhat unfulfilled.
Music and film have always been my passions. As standalone art forms they are incredibly powerful. When effectively combined they are even more so and for me that is a way of connecting with people and hopefully moving them in some way. Combining the two professionally became my focus.
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to Edit Producer and Producer/Director, Farrah Jaufuraully, about the joy of working on kids TV, the creativity of the edit, and the perils of working with animals.
What was your first job in the industry?
From the age of 15, I dipped in and out of work experience: I worked at my local radio station, had a stint on BBC Watchdog when I was at university, and then took on a summer job as a Runner for a west London film company. Two months after I graduated, I was offered a Researcher job on a Nickelodeon show.
You’ve worked on some of the UK’s most popular programmes. Which would you say has been favourite to work on so far?
Tough question. I’ve really enjoyed the shows where you genuinely help somebody make a life change and you go home feeling like you did something useful. Shows such as Embarrassing Bodies and The Joy Of Teen Sex were series where I played a part in solving people’s problems. Equally though, I enjoyed TOWIE and World’s Most Talented because I loved my team, and going to work was a joy.
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to Sound Designer, Paul Guiver, about the rise of technology, the dark arts of the Foley Artist, and creating sound effects with coconuts.
How would you explain the role of the Sound Designer to a layman in one sentence?
Storytelling with sound: creating mood, light, shade and adding dynamics to the soundtrack.
What made you want to pursue a career in sound production, and what was your first job?
I was a musician in my teens and early twenties, this gave me experience of composing, recording and eventually making records. During this time, I was producing my own music and becoming more and more interested in the technical side. When I saw an advert in one of the national newspapers recruiting people for a television production course I jumped at the chance. I absolutely loved it; a perfect marriage of technical and creative skills and knew this was the direction for me.
My first job was working for Radio City in Liverpool as a Music Mixer / Engineer. It was a fantastic first job – recording both the shows and live performances.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about the world of sound design?
Ha! Probably the use of coconuts to create sound effects! Seriously, good sound design, ADR and foley is often transparent, people are only aware of the art if it is badly performed. It’s a backhanded compliment if a scene where the sound has been totally replaced goes un-noticed.
In this edition of Word of Mouth, we talk to Producer/Director, Terry McGough, on his career as a film maker: working with leading brands, superstar musicians, and embracing the rise of branded content.
You originally started out as a photographer; what made you want to pursue a career in filmmaking?
I was a music photographer and was asked by an artist’s management company to come down onto a music video shoot to film some behind the scenes imagery for PR use. For the first time in my life I saw what a cinematographer actually did.
The artist was a very beautiful girl but the difference between the artist sitting in the dressing room and the one that the cinematographer had lit was just an incredible optical illusion; playing with light, he had transformed this girl into a superstar. I had never seen anything like it, it was like watching a magician paint with light.
I literally had a light bulb moment and fell in love with cinematography and just knew that this was the art form for me, as it just resonated with me. I began researching cinematography and taking any chance I could to get on set, paid or unpaid, just to be able to watch and learn. Then as I got into fashion photography, I took all those things and got to practice my lighting on models. I didn’t always get it right, but in time it just clicked – now my lighting skills are the cornerstone of everything that I do.
In this edition of Word of Mouth, we talk to Grierson-shortlisted Series Producer & Series Director, Colin Rothbart, about his career highlights, including a six-year self-funded documentary project, enjoying the locations on Holiday, and catching slugs for The Big Breakfast.
How did you first become a filmmaker, and what would you say was your first big break?
I definitely took the long hard route, as I didn’t know anyone in the industry. From the age of 16, I’d done unpaid work experience at The Sun and Time Out in my school holidays and then luckily got a job as a hospitality runner at TV-am, making tea for everyone from Kylie to Thatcher. This would have been great if it had lasted – but TV-am lost their franchise six months later! So I suppose my first big break after studying at uni and doing a Journalism postgraduate degree was as a Runner again on The Big Breakfast.
You were shortlisted for a Grierson Award for your self-funded documentary, Dressed As A Girl. How did that project come about?
That was something I did in my spare time over six years. I had many friends on the alternative arts scene in East London, so one of them said we should be documenting this for posterity – so I did! But with no funding and a full-time job, it took a while to come to fruition. In the end, the fact it was filmed over six years meant the storylines had much more substance. It’s played around the world in film festivals and is currently on Netflix.
In this edition of Word of Mouth, we talk to Drone Camera Operator, Will Davies, on how the drone revolution is changing the way TV is made, and what the future holds for the technology.
How did you end up becoming a drone pilot?
Technology led me into it – having always been someone who dives into new technology at the earliest opportunity, when the aircraft started hitting the professional mainstream market, I put a toe in the water. A vast amount of flying experience later, and an even vaster amount of money spent on new aircraft to keep up with the demands of TV and film production, and here I am today – four pro-aircraft and about sixty batteries that need constant charging.
What are the main advantages of using a drone over more traditional aerial filming?
This is a great question, because for a while production crews were using drones in place of helicopters because of the cost savings. The beauty of using drones now is that everyone can afford to add that extra dimension to their production – independent companies have us available on tap, and by the day if necessary.
But by far the best thing about using an experienced drone pilot is that you can (for example), have the drone film a chase on foot through a multi-story car-park, through trees, or other awkward spaces – something a helicopter would never have been able to do – and also there’s no running out of tracks, no cranes, jibs, or dollys required. Just a huge amount of flexibility and quick-turnaround shoots.
In this edition of Word of Mouth we talk to Development Producer, Charlotte Davis, about her career in TV, eating doughnuts with Chicago cops, and easing Jimmy Nesbitt into a wetsuit!
What made you want to pursue a career in production, and what was your first job in TV?
I graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Film, TV and Theatre studies, but I never wanted to get into telly really. I wanted to be a football journalist, but after a few months doing just that at the Daily Record, I realised just how tough that was. I got very confused. I was RUBBISH!
So, instead, I lucked out. I got a place on the Carlton production training scheme, and spent a year making a magazine programme called Shift for the (now defunct) Night Network. Heady, awesome, brilliant times. Alex Menzies (now a commissioning editor at C4), Anne Mensah (Head of Drama, Sky) and Asif Kapadia (ruddy well Oscar winner), were all knocking around the Carlton CPU at the same time. None of them return my calls now though (ha ha ha!).