In order to learn more about being a producer, I talked to a couple of people to find out about what it entails.
Dominic MacDonald is a producer for the BBC, mainly working on children’s TV shows such Gigglebiz and Zingzillas (The Children’s Media Conference 2013). This is the exact route I want to go in, so he was the perfect person to contact. I asked him a number of questions through email and he sent me back a Word document answering them all in incredible detail.
Talking to Dominic has massively helped my professional development as I now understand what I can do to improve my chances of making a career as a producer. The great thing about the advice that he gave is that I can use it regardless of if I don’t necessarily work on TV and I produce other content instead. For instance he said that along with getting into script editing, producers need to get experience in working with actors, budgets and schedules. I think that this can apply to any kind of producer.
Question 4 was about the rise of online streaming, such as YouTube and Netflix. I asked this question because this is a realistic career path that I could end up taking. Dominic talks about while there is clearly a fall in terrestrial TV, there is still a space for TV itself through these digital routes. Having said that, Dominic hasn’t struggled to find a job working with the BBC. I think this is due to the fact that he has worked there for a long time, so he is trusted enough to be brought back consistently.
Throughout the answers he gave, he constantly referred to “good storytelling” and how one needs to understand it in order to do anything in the media industry. This wasn’t surprising as he’s not only a producer, but a writer too. However he made a valid point; writing a good story or script is the starting point to making a great TV show. He suggested I deconstruct my favourite TV show and look at how the story is structured to figure out what makes it work so well.
In my final question about advice that he would give to someone trying to get into the TV industry, Dominic gave me a lot to think about. He asked me a bunch of questions such as “Why would a producer want to employ you?” and “What special skill could you bring to the table?”. I think knowing the answers to these questions will definitely help me improve professionally, especially for job interviews.
I also talked to Deborah Longmore who runs a photography business as a newborn and child photographer (Deborah Longmore Photography, 2017). Working freelance and creating my own business as a producer is something I could possibly end up doing in the future, so I wanted to know a little more about how and why she started her business. Deborah’s answers to my questions can be found below.
Talking to Deborah has benefitted my professional development and it’s helped me better understand what it takes to start a business. It’s not unusual for it to take a very long time to build up a following and client base; in Deborah’s case it wasn’t until 3 years of the business running that she was able to quite her job as a paralegal and work in her company full time. It was interesting to find out that she started her company not knowing much about how to run a business. This is something that would hold me back from ever wanting to start my own business, but knowing that others have done it is actually great to hear. It’s also given me hope that if I do choose to start my own business as a producer, if I’m good at what I do and I have a real passion for it, it can end up working out for me as it has done for Deborah.
I worked on a range of productions during this module which have helped my professional development. I worked as a sound operator on both Anita’s and Shahid & Matt’s FMPs. However these productions were very different. Anita’s Unity in the Community is a documentary about a community worker (Facebook 2017), whereas Shahid & Matt’s Between the Lines is a crime thriller about a man who envisions his own death (betweenthelines 2017).
During Unity in the Community, I had to set up two types of audio equipment. I worked with lavalier microphones for the first time, which was attached to the interviewees and a rifle mic as a backup sound source.
On the other hand, during Between the Lines I only worked with a rifle mic. What’s more, on the second day of shooting, I didn’t have a mic stand as there was a lot more movement with the actors, so I had to follow them around. This was different to Unity in the Community as the interviewees sat down in one spot and barely moved at all.
This experience was vital, as I’ve not had a lot of opportunities to concentrate on sound and just like Dominic Macdonald, I’ll need to work in many different areas before I’m able to make it as a producer. It also goes to show that even though I have the same job role, because the productions are so different, it affects what I will be doing during the shoot. I’m glad I worked with the lavalier mics as I found out that they’d be perfect to use on my own FMP.
As well as working as a sound operator, I also got a job working as a camera operator working for Under the Influence, a Youtube channel that is dedicated to providing “a diverse and cultural platform in which all people can come together and have a voice.” (YouTube 2017). Below is an example of what they do.
It was intriguing working as a camera operator in a TV set up, as I’m used to being on the organising side as a P.A. Although I did my job as a camera operator to the best of my ability, I was definitely in a producer mindset as I was constantly wondering how the show could be improved. For example, for a YouTube channel without a big following, I think 20+ minute videos are too long. I took a look at the average time watched on the videos and it was only about 6-7 minutes, which shows that viewers aren’t even watching half of the videos.
I also think that once the channel does start to grow, it can be expanded so that the show isn’t only getting views from university students. However because it was my first day on the job, I chose not to voice my opinions. If I do get asked back, I want to make opportunities to talk to the producer, Noel, more often until I get comfortable enough to make some suggestions. This experience has definitely benefitted my professional development, as it’s something I can put on my CV and it’s confirmed that I definitely want to be a producer in the future.
betweenthelines. (2017). betweenthelines – About. [online] Available at: http://mahmo123.wixsite.com/betweenthelines/about [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Deborah Longmore Photography. (2017). Newborn, Baby and Child Photographer Birmingham West Midlands UK. [online] Available at: http://www.deborahlongmorephotography.com/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
Facebook.com. (2017). Unity in the Community. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/unityinthecommunityb21/about/?ref=page_internal [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017].
The Children’s Media Conference. (2013). Dominic MacDonald. [online] Available at: http://www.thechildrensmediaconference.com/profile/dominic-macdonald/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2017].
Vimeo. (2017). Unity In The Community | A Conversation With Sharifah Mian. [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/209106714 [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
YouTube. (2016). UnderTheInfluence: Ep 1 – Is flaunting your partner online healthy? #UTInfluence [@UTInfluence_]. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyhYfRv4HLk&t [Accessed 9 Mar. 2017].