Aug 17, 2012

Recce tips

If you’re lucky enough to get a recce before your shoot, make it count with these tips – many learnt through bitter experience!

1. Don’t Recce to find your story

A recce is a chance to see how your story/film/programme will shape up in the location. It is NOT where you find or decide what your story is. If you don’t have a story stood-up before you go on a recce, you’re recce’ing too early. That said, your recce might throw up some new information – whether editorial or practical – that may change your story and you will have to react to that.

2. Prioritise

You may not get time to recce every last location and meet every contributor. If so, work out what you really need to see. When I’m on a recce, I always aim to meet the key contributor and visit the main location followed by anything I had a bad feeling about. Beyond that, recce anything that is a potential health and safety issue ahead of supplementary contributors and locations.

3. Listen

Put your imaginary headphones on and be your sound-recordist for a moment. We all know how annoying it is to be interrupted because of background noise. It’s more annoying if you could have pre-empted the issues. Transport is the single biggest issue, followed by building sites. But there are countless other examples… Next to a school? You’ll want to film without clashing with noisy break times.

4. Look around – and up!

Sometimes you end up so focussed on what you can see on the ground and talking to contributors, you miss great filming opportunities. The main one is the chance of using buildings at your location for a high angle shot. Even if you realise later, it may be too late to get access or complete any health and safety requirements. You might also need to take into account the position of the sun through the day – it might dictate when you will film in a particular direction.

5. Take pictures

Whether stills or video, it’s worth taking a few shots as an aide memoire. Some pix might be useful for your risk assessment or sending to your cameraman. Also, if you use your GPS-enabled smartphone, you’ll have the co-ordinates where you took the picture which can be useful back in the office.

6. Check your diary

Talk to your contacts and contributors on the ground about timings… not just availability but I’ve lost count of the number of events that have thrown me on the day – and not just big annual events but even things as simple as the day the bins are collected. Where relevant, you’ll also need to think about tide-times and sunrise/sunset times.

7. On the way home

Think about some of the practicalities you can piece together from your day(s) out. With everything you’ve learned above and your experience of the journey times around the area, ask yourself some questions – What’s the best filming order? Where will we stay before and after the shoot? Where will we have lunch? etc

8. The Next Day

Work on securing any location access you need and let everyone know you intend to film/not film with them. Start putting together your schedule – it doesn’t have to be full and final yet, but at least have a starting point.

Aug 10, 2012

TV Geek Tip 1: Dropbox

In the first of an occasional series of computer/tech tips for tv types, I sing the praises of Dropbox.

Dropbox has saved my life so many times – especially when working away from the office – perhaps at home or on a shoot.

So first up what is Dropbox? It’s an online storage system. Once installed on your computer(s), phone and tablet anything you put into Dropbox on one device is immediately available on all the others AND through any computer via the Dropbox website.

You can store any file on there but only the regular stuff is viewable in the mobile app version (images, PDFs, Word docs, some movie formats etc).

From a TV production point of view I tend to put my scripts on there so I can work on them wherever I am. Once I receive the schedule that also goes on there – I never print them out anymore. Then on my iPhone, before each shoot I ‘favourite’ the key documents I need access to. This downloads them to the device, rather than having to download them each time I want to see them. On the iPhone, phone numbers in schedules tend to be clickable – bonus!

You can also email documents – or a special link to the file – from your phone. On one show, I was always needing to send forms for people to sign, so I put the forms on my Dropbox and just sent people the link for them to print, fill in and return – rather than carrying a stack of paper everywhere.

Obviously the uses are not just limited to TV and TV Directors, you’re sure to find something in your work or home life where Dropbox can help.

You can sign up for a free forever account here. You get 2GB as standard but using any of the links on this post will give you 2.5GB.

Just a note on a limitations not mentioned above there is no edit function on the Dropbox mobile apps, but you can use other apps that connect to Dropbox to do this – such as GoodReader on iOS.

Jul 5, 2012

I want to work in tv…

I had an email today from someone asking for help getting their first break in tv production. I thought I’d post up a modified version of my advice here.

Keep doing the right things – formal courses, online courses (BBC College of Production), writing nice emails to people who have caught your attention. Be nice, positive, polite, friendly and will get you somewhere eventually. Make sure your emails and well written, free of errors and succinct.

Be clear about what you want to do. Do you want to work in production (the editorial/creative side – runner/researcher/director/producer etc) or production management (nuts and bolts/finance etc – production manager/prod co-ordinator) or more craft skills (editing, camera, sound etc).

Keep an eye on The Unit List website/twitter feed for odd days of experience you might be able to do (there are other sites but this is free and easily accessible). Keep plugging away with Work Experience, shadowing, placements etc – and make sure you develop a good looking CV that you update after EVERY experience.

Use your shiny CV to register at places like BBC Production Talent and The Talent Manager – they are one stop shops for BBC talent/staffing managers and a big group of Indies respectively.

Make sure you get at least one thing out of every opportunity – a new skill, experience, contact. You should watch, listen and ask sensible questions at sensible times but number one priority when you’re doing a job is doing THAT job well. Above all else, it’s no good finding out about the latest tapeless-HD camera technology from the cameraman if the presenter is late because you didn’t pick them up – you won’t be asked back.

Don’t be too focussed on the BBC – it’s a big employer but not the only one… Probably about two-thirds of TV isn’t made by the BBC so spread your net wide.

Talent managers, production managers etc will want to check you out – some just through your CV – but many will Google you to look at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. – either before or after they call you. Make sure what they will be able to see on there gives a positive impression – so delete the dodgy-photos or outrageous opinions etc or sort the privacy settings out. However NO presence whatsoever raises suspicions (especially if they think you are quite young) so don’t delete yourself completely from social media.

For more advice have a look at this – and the other links on the page – really practical advice from someone who really knows the score.

This advice could go on forever but feel free to tell me if I’ve missed something crucial or got it completely wrong.


Andrew Painten | 07931 353515

Andrew Painten

Hello. I'm Andrew Painten a freelance television Producer/Director.

Click here to view my CV and list of credits.

If you have any questions or would like to book me for your production, please contact me.

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