I was personally asked by my lecturer to executively produce the Motion House Project. This was quite a privilege to be honest as I was being asked to manage a huge project and deal with a lot of responsibility before anybody else. I must have proved myself in Iceland and also in my short film that I am competent and reliable enough to take on this role.
I had learnt so much about producing the Iceland films and also my short film for my module that I felt I could get the job spot on this time round. I had made mistakes in the past and not done things properly but it was a learning curve for me and I ironed out my creases and did the job more proficiently this time. I am not saying I am an expert executive producer or the best but I have certainly learned the role better and am more experienced at it. I am more confident about my skills. When I Exec Produced Gryla Productions, I was learning the job as I went on. This time with Motion House, I am developing my learnt skills and ways of thinking even further.
I am in an exec group of three people; myself and two third years. As they are finishing their FMPs and their big projects and the end of the year, the workload got shifted on me. It was down to me to find out everyone who wanted to be part of the group and when I could use them.
I set out making a database into which I put everyone’s names and availability which I had asked for. They were originally grouped by the role they wanted. I decided all I needed was a handful or directors and producers, a lot of camera operators and a few sounds technicians. As I read into the brief MH had sent me, I realised I would need three different crews. As their effectively ‘stage’ was going to be a huge ship they would build out of wood and large shipping containers and they had asked for a time lapse of it being built, I allocated a “Ship Build” group to tackle the filming of this. They would be tasked with going to wherever the ship was being built or deconstructed or stored and documenting this. They were not needed as much as the other crews but when they did work, it would be the most intense. The second group I created was a “Motion House” group. They were tasked to document the dancing rehearsals and performances as well as interview the dancers and the organisers, the crew and people behind the scenes. They are needed frequently and sometimes for long periods of time so I had to create a bigger group to make sure someone on each role was available. Their main crew of six would shoot as much as they could but if they were unavailable, I had reserves on standby (a few people from the Ship Build offered to be stand bys as they were not needed all the time). The third group were pretty much the same as the MH crew but instead they concentrated their filming on the “Legs on the Wall” aerialist and acrobats that had come across from Australia to be part of the project. Again, I had reserves for them too. To be honest, one massive crew could have covered both MH and LOTW however, Tim my co-exec decided that they be split as they could be in different places at different times.
For the big final performance, everyone who wanted to be part of the project will get to go to Victoria Square in Birmingham to film or record etc. I will have to manage this effectively nearer the time when we know more about the event.
On a separate note, I also have group members who will also be responsible for photographing or filming our work there and documenting our process and development with the project.
After I had established the groups, I met with Tim and Laura my co-execs. We decided that I and only I will solely be the liaison with Motion House. Obviously, the crews will get to know people they are filming but any contact between the two parties will be through me. This prevents communication confusions, people getting wrong messages or not knowing information and also it is more professional to have just one contact with us. Once I find out information, I pass it on to the producers who in turn pass it onto their respective crews. It is a very effective method of working I think although I constantly have to be on the ball, working hard and actively talking to the producers and crews. It is also good because any feedback, problems or questions get directed to these producers and they get back to me and let me know. Then I can sort the situation out or get things done for them.
My next task was to meet the contact within Motion House I will be dealing with. I got hold of Justine and started emailing her to establish a contact with her. However, I always feel it is both professional and just good relationship wise to physically meet people in person and so I strove to do this with Jus. Instead of waiting on emails, I got hold of Jus’ telephone number and rung her to establish a proper contact with her. She was impressed from a professional point of view that a young person learning the trade was so bold and confident enough to make an effort to make this connection. Once I in regularly communication with her, I could get hold of more information and paperwork I needed. I had to obtain risk assessments, health and safety paperwork, more detailed schedules, parking permits, insurance documents (including their public liability insurance) and details of whom I need to contact regarding different issues. Because I made sure I spoke regularly over the phone to her, this was much much easier than the exchanging of information I had done with Gryla Productions. I could chase up things I needed as could she. I was prompt to send her information as soon as she asked for it and if it was not to hand, I would get it as soon as possible and then tell her when I had sent it to her. We needed a copy of the university’s Public Liability Insurance as well as a complete list of everyone who would be working with us. This was mainly for H&S as well as passes to the NEC (where we were/are filming) at her end.
During my talks with Justine, I asked whether there was any budget available to cover our costs. This was not paid work but I was hoping we could get reimbursed on travel expenses. Jus said there was some available and after I had worked out a deal on the mileage it would take to drive there and train ticket prices, we came to an agreement that we could get reimbursed.
Within a week, I had formed teams ready to go. I sent the Ship Build crew over first; unfortunately I could not accompany them. They met with Jus and got things rolling filming wise. The feedback I got back from MH and the crew was great – everyone got on and things went smoothly. Then a problem hit me. Due to the nature of their work, their schedule can change very last minute and at the beginning this was not made clear to me. I was given one day to scramble a crew together and get them over to the NEC. This posed a problem as that particular weekend, nobody was available to go. I managed to get one producer and a camera op that thankfully had a car to transport us. The NEC is easily accessible by train but I would rather take kit in a car so it doesn’t get lost, stolen or broken. Myself and the two scrambled crew made our way over the NEC to film. It was also my chance to meet and make contacts there.
My policy of knowing something about everything and everything about something came into light that day as my producer had no camera skills and my cam op was not trained on the camera we were using, the JVC. I taught her how to set it up and use it effectively. On the day I also directed her whilst I went about doing my producing duties of meeting people, talking to people, finding out what was going on, where we could and could not film etc. Ideally these tasks are better done by two or three different people but I am confident enough that I can do it all on my own – just as my resources are stretched out, I am not as effective.
After a long day of filming I realised a very important factor. I needed a more broken down schedule of each day Motion House were active so I could use my crew most efficiently. It was no use sending a crew to film for 8hrs if only a couple of hours are film worthy etc. I got onto Justine about this and she started sending me schedules with complete breakdowns of the days. As I still had not met her, it was tricky going through the schedule and deciding when we would definitely be needed. I emailed her back an edited version of the schedule she sent me which had dates we would definitely be there to film.
Whilst I was there, I strove to meet everyone important to the running of things as I could. I developed a list of people to contact regarding certain things which I posted on the Facebook group. One of the key people I met was a security guard to the NEC itself. Tony was not part of Motion House but was in charge of the building itself. He was a cracking chap to chat with but building up this relationship with him has given me lots of benefits. Firstly, if there are any issues whilst we are there, Tony would either help me or sort it out for me. It made getting access to places in the building easier. It made our storage of kit easier. I also developed such a good link with him that he said if our crews were not filming, he would slip us in to other exhibition halls personally. This was great as it was something I could give back to the crew and also a resource if moral gets low.
I met the stage manager, Barbra, who is in charge of everything whilst working around the stage. She was friendly enough to meet with but not too approachable with things we wanted to do filming wise like getting on to the ship to film or filming the rehearsals on the ground from the ship. However, through building a personal relationship with her and building her trust in me I have managed to more access filming wise. We are in discussion at the minute of this more exiting style of filming; we are also looking at potential places to put static cameras to film the performances from an insider’s point of view. Barbra is also trying to give us time to film interviews with the dancers. As they are constantly working in the hanger and must have time for breaks, it becomes difficult to get interviews but we are working on facilitating these. She is also helping me to organise a day when we can go to Birmingham and film the Legs on the Wall guys in their long term accommodation they are staying in (they are away from their homes in Australia for about two months). I suggested this as it would be great to get a more personal approach to the final films. Barbra is also in charge of health and safety on the set. One part of this is making sure people sign in and sign out of the building. Last Friday, my crews went home whilst I was still talking with Justine and I could not enforce them signing out. When I realised after they had left as I went to sign out myself, I had to deliver a firm word to the producers of each crew to make sure this is done. It may seem trivial but it is important that we abide by their rules and act professional.
The Motion House work is ongoing and is a brilliant opportunity for me to hone my skills as an executive producer. I will strive to do the best job I can and in the end have some work I am tremendously proud of.