My 29-Hour Day

Yesterday I got my first real taste of the manic working hours of the industry. As I type this I’m still getting the occasional brain twitch, so bear with me if my writing gets a bit haphazard.

Starting out at 5am in Brighton, where I had spent the weekend, I began my journey into London, stopping off at Gatwick airport to drop off my  girlfriend as she flew back to Switzerland. From there, strung with various pieces of filming equipment and feeling like I was about to set off to destroy the One Ring, I continued into London.

Crashing at my uncle’s flat for a few hours, I then went out to Highgate, where I needed to film a Futurenauts podcast recording as part of my job with Atlas of the Future. This was the second shoot I’d had with the Futurenauts- ‘But wait!’ I hear my probably non-existent readers say, ‘Where’s your blog post about your first shoot Matt? How can you deprive us of even the smallest details of your professional activities?!’. Well, dear (imaginary) reader, the reason I didn’t write about my first shoot was that it was my first ever solo shoot and was frankly rather embarrassing. There were a number of factors which led to this.

The first was that I didn’t actually plan much which, although generally not too big an issue at university, in the real world really starts you off at a major disadvantage. There’s really nothing like a bunch of professionals turning to you and asking ‘What needs doing?’ and you not having an answer to really sear the importance of planning into your brain.

The second was that the kit I had probably didn’t even count as the basics of a solo-shoot, consisting of only a camera and tripod. Now, being used to having access to thousands of pounds of top-end tech at university, going into a shoot without even an LED lamp was much harder than expected. Especially when the kit I did have, a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, was much less forgiving if you don’t know your stuff than the Canon DSLR’s I’ve been used to. Manual colour temperature settings, shutter angle instead of shutter speed and no on-screen indicator crucial aspects like exposure really highlight the gaps in your technical knowledge and mercilessly demand you fill them.

The third was something I couldn’t have really appreciated until I experienced it – solo shoots are HARD. There’s not a small team of your mates all working at various levels of focus until you happen to get everything done. There’s just you – having to keep that pace and energy up at all times and with an intense level of focus to get the shots you need. If something goes wrong, if you forget a shot or don’t get it all done in time, it’s your fault and you’ve got to deal with it. I probably learnt more in those cringe-worthy couple of hours than the whole of First Year.

I now realise I’ve actually written about my first shoot. I hope you’re all happy with yourselves.

BUT, as I said before, I learnt a lot from it and this time round was a much better experience. Going in with a detailed plan and better technical knowledge, I got a lot of good footage and came away feeling much better about the future of my career. As they often tend to, the shoot went on longer than expected and I finished up around 6:30pm. From there I headed back to my uncles to try get a bit of sleep because I WAS NOT EVEN HALFWAY THROUGH MY DAY.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, I was yet to embark on one of the most interesting yet harrowing experiences of my life – a night-shift at ITV Studios. I’d managed to arrange the shift during my work experience in September with Loose Women by sitting down with Nick Thomas, the Head of Editing for Daytime, who invited me along to one.

For those of you who don’t know, the editing suites in broadcast television work 24 hours a day, with editors working in 12 hour shifts. So from 9:30pm to 9:30am, I would be shadowing the daybreak editors who worked through the night editing all the clips (known as VT’s) for the following morning shows. I spent most of the night with a guy called Chris who seriously knew his stuff, having started out in MMA 13 years ago and worked his way up from there. It was a really great insight into ITV’s editing workflows and I continued to learn about the importance of Avid’s hardware in such large-scale operations.

I only had one nap the whole night, which I’d consider a success, even though the lines I woke up with on my face from sleeping on my jacket were so deep they made me look like I’d been mauled by a large cat. I can honestly say that was probably the most tired I’ve ever felt in my life – my body was trying to forcibly shut down regularly, like someone as holding down the power button on my brain.

In spite of this I have to admit it was loads of fun, I’ll definitely see if I can do it again!

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