Tools to Build the Story

Windfall Films is one of those lovely production companies where they nurture their employees and try to provide opportunities for them to upskill. So they organised a camera training workshop run by the Indie Training Fund, which offers all sorts of courses and bursaries for all kinds of skills you might need in the TV industry.

We got trained on a PXW-200 – the model with which Sony are replacing their PMW-200. At the higher end, both Canon and Sony cameras do pretty much the same thing, but the buttons are in different places. So after mastering the buttons and what everything meant on the display screen, it was time to put our theoretical knowledge into practice!

It was a real treat being taught by a highly experienced DoP (Director of Photography). He followed us around as we worked with the cameras, giving us tips and tricks that would help the final product look its best.

But I think the most important thing I’ll take away from that workshop is a clear understanding of how technology and story come together when making great TV and film. The composition, lighting, spacing, angle and focus of a shot can tell far more than a thousand words when you’re building up your story, so when you’re filming, it’s important to know which different cameras have different advantages, and what the technical abilities of the cameras can do to help you build a scene.

Tools to Build the Story

The Long Arm of…Education

Education in Kenya’s Prisons

I was heavily involved with this film – I remember like it was yesterday the long Skypes over dodgy WiFi with our contributors in Kenya, the panicked emails with the fixer who was supposed to get our permissions sorted for us, the heart-stopping moment when the Kenyan embassy tried to confiscate the Director’s passport…so it’s wonderful to see all that work emerge as a moving, poignant film!

The African Prisons Project, run by the enigmatic Alexander McLean, works to educate the inmates of Kenya’s overcrowded prisons, many of whom are illiterate. They’ll teach them through from primary to Higher Education – some even graduate with a Law Degree from the University of London! Along the way, they learn how to defend themselves in court, to stand up against injustice and to help out their inmates and families. This project really is life-changing.


The Day They Came to Me

It was a relatively unremarkable day halfway through January, and things at Windfall were going well. I was working away on some research for a few new science documentary ideas, comfortable in my job and fairly sure that Windfall would want to keep me on. I was planning to ask to be set to work on a production, as I felt I needed a bit more action than the regularity of development.

But with just one email, that all changed. It was from a production company with a very good reputation, one I saw as a giant of factual film-making. And they asked me if I might be interested in working on an eight-part drama-doc about Ancient Rome!

A phone call established that it would be a six-month contract, the longest I’ve ever had, and that I would be working with one of my favourite presenters, Bettany Hughes, and a colleague from my first ever TV job. It sounded like the dream team!

So on that bombshell, I had to go an inform my boss at Windfall that I would be moving on. As lovely as she is, I couldn’t help but come to her with a huge grin on my face and ask to leave her at the end of my contract. For me, this one email has marked a huge turning point in my Trail to TV – now, I’m not searching for the next breadcrumb along the path, rather, a whole loaf of bread has been generously tossed in my direction!

I think back to this time last year, when I was still working night shifts, still struggling to pay my bills, still desperately applying to any TV job I could find – and I’m happy and relieved. It did all pay off after all. My networking, my hard work, my attention to detail. They were worth something after all.

I’m so excited to start on this new project, and am very much looking forward to sharing the highs and lows of my first drama-doc production with all you lovely readers!

The Day They Came to Me