Mar 262017
 

At the start of the week I received a call about working on a well known BBC business based talent show. The production company do a similar idea to 24 hours in A&E whereby the assistant(s) get to cut some stuff and one they had last year is back editing this year. It would be nice but I prefer A&E so I told them I am waiting on a call from them. They understood as they used to work on A&E and they joke about not wanting to take sloppy seconds. They asked for my CV anyway and wished me luck with A&E. It was a nice call to get – I was recommended to them by a production manager I’ve worked with before which bodes well as the more job opportunities you can get through word of mouth the better – but I do worry that saying no to so many good jobs won’t help, especially if I don’t get the one I really want. I constantly worry about whether I’m making the right decision or not. I’m going with my gut (I think) but my gut feels sick.

A colleague told me the A&E interviews are happening on the Tuesday and she has one. I don’t. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad sign but everyone I talk to about it says it’s because they know they already want me so no interview is needed. I want to just believe and accept this, and deep down I think I do, but I’m going crazy thinking of all possible outcomes and when they might come through. After this January I’m not counting on anything. My colleague says they’ll hear back about the interview by end of the week. It’s going to be a long week for me.

I’ve talked a lot about A&E so I thought I should probably go into some detail about the job I’m on now. 999: What’s Your Emergency? was the first freelance job I got back in November 2015. I blogged back then about how excited I was to be working on it but never did a follow up whilst actually on it. For those that don’t know the show you can catch up on a number of episodes on All4 – I worked on series 3. The assistants’ main job on 999 is trawling through all the footage to find possible stories, cutting them down to about 20 minutes for the producers to view and rating them on their quality. The producers would then watch them all and put them into possible episodes for the editors to cut. Once the edits got underway we would also assist the editors and export cuts, find specific GVs, sync rig material, and trawl the log for similar sounding stories that may have slipped through the net. Finally, once episodes were cut, a couple of us (mostly the lead assistant) would apply the fancy subtitling for the phone calls that make the calls come alive. I started at the beginning of November alongside the main assistant who was on the previous series. A couple of weeks in we were joined by more and more assistants until we had seven of us around early December. Starting at the end of January some of the other assistants came to the end of their contract and weren’t renewed so we slowly dropped down to four and then three of us until April when it was just me and the lead assistant again. In mid May, after several short extensions, they finally ran out of budget for me and the lead assistant was left to carry the remaining edits for what ended up being another 3 months.

I really loved working on 999. I felt like my work made an impact on what was broadcast which felt pretty good. They were a great team to work with and I loved my day to day work. One time an editor tasked me with finding anything in the footage that was a bit weird, a bit mad perhaps, but not as a result of a mental health issue. She was delighted when I found a brief encounter between a police officer and a bloke running down the street at 3am. They approached the situation as if something was amiss – like something was a bit weird. Turns out he just couldn’t sleep and decided to go for a run. Later I found another similar encounter where a man was jogging along the street late in the evening with a small van following in the road. In this instance the runner was training for a marathon but had been jumped in the past so his dad would drive along for security. I also really enjoyed watching the hours of footage from the rig in the ambulances and police cars. This is where you heard all the chatter that paramedics and coppers have during their shifts. There were some spectacular discussions – many which could never be broadcast – but some which made it to air for some light relief between stories.

This year I am only on for a few weeks – one of the filler roles for the busy patch like last series. I have already mentioned how weird it is not taking some sort of control but I’ve gotten around that and just ploughed through the footage not having to worry about media logistics and organising what gets viewed when and by whom. I’m working with a few of the last team and a few new guys – another great team. In terms of progression, however, 999 doesn’t offer so much. There isn’t really much of a chance for any of the assistants to cut anything, we’re really more of a filter for the editors and producers, and for that reason I’m not bothered about not being asked back for the long run. Doing a full run of 999 would ultimately feel like I haven’t moved on in a year and, as I’ve said before, this job is all about progression.

Hearsay tells me another editor on A&E has said that the production team want me back, but I’ve also learned that there is a second round of interviews and that I might not hear back until after then. I’m finishing the week on tenterhooks.

Mar 192017
 

Shortly after my first and only week of work in two months I spent a week fairly depressed from my return to having nothing to do. What made it worse was turning something down in the middle of it. I got a call from someone who had been given my name on a recommendation. They needed an assistant for a great sounding feature doc for BBC to be directed by Henry Singer. Annoyingly it’s from March to August which would mean I couldn’t do 24 Hours in A&E which I’ve been holding out for. Turning it down really played on my mind. In any other situation I would have leapt at it but I really want this A&E job. I decided to contact them to see if they can confirm me for a May start as that would put my mind at rest but all I got was a fairly vague but I guess promising response. I’ll still need something to fill March and April. I have a week pencilled on the BBC/PBS job in April but nothing else. After talking to a mate of mine one weekend I thought about seeing if one of the post houses I worked for needs some shifts covering.

Things started picking up as the PBS doc needed me for a day and on that day I got a call from 999: What’s Your Emergency? asking for 5 weeks. PBS would then give me the week following this as they are flexible so potentially I have 6 weeks of work starting the beginning of March which will take me to 3 weeks before A&E could start. This greatly improved my mood, however I then spent almost a week fretting about confirmation from 999 before they finally called on Thursday, whilst I was at BVE, asking if I was still up for it. It seems they sent an email confirming not long after the first call but it didn’t come through. This was a big relief and added to a great day as I met up with some old mates at BVE, got to see Louis Theroux talk about his work, and found a useful stand about a charity for when you are not earning – something I wish I’d known about back in January.

 

*****

 

I started back on 999 on 6th March, much happier to be back in my element. I wouldn’t say I love my job yet but I really like it and I know I will love it when I am finally editing full time. I was so happy to be back I arrived really early – usually your first day would start 10am so others can get sorted and set up ready for you. I, however, arrived at 8.56am. The others started arriving around 9.20am but the main two (and only people I knew) arrived together at 10, berating me for my over punctuality. Since then I have consistently been first to arrive and among the last to leave each day.

It is interesting to come back into a project where last year I was across the whole show, right from the start but this time around I am just helping out for a few weeks. Last time my opinion on how to do things was sought and I gave it. This year I’m having to hold back on saying how things should be done as it isn’t really my place to do so. This is something I struggle with as I always want to improve things wherever I am. I notice something that isn’t working well or could work better, troubleshoot it, find a fix, and then try to implement ways to improve the system. For example in my first week I came up with a way for shooters to make things better for us when grouping stuff that had been shot by two teams. It’s not really a big issue but their cameras are never properly synced, they just work on rough time of day. My idea was to just have someone clap in front of both cameras at some point during filming – something that would be good practice. In truth it should be common sense but this is TV and common sense rarely prevails. I suggested it to the series producer but his reply made me think he had misunderstood and thinks there is a bigger issue at hand. Then the main edit assistant joins in saying ‘it just isn’t an issue, don’t bother’. I see where he is coming from but I just want to make things better, I don’t mean to whine or moan about a trivial difficulty in our job. It’s just the way I am that I don’t simply find a workaround, I try to figure out how to fix it or make it better. This frustrated me a little on a Thursday evening but I let it go and stepped down to only doing what is needed from my job.

On the flip side, I love it when the executive producer gets passionate about stuff. The exec on 999 is, in my opinion, pretty great to work with. Not easy, but good fun. He gets a spark and goes off on a mad trail of ideas like a kid inventing make believe worlds. It’s how I want to be when making TV and seeing him like this makes me want to work more.

 

*****

 

During my second week on the job I am back to fretting about my next job, or more specifically hearing from 24 Hours in A&E. I’m jealous of everyone else in the room getting phone calls. Around mid week I finally get a call from the production manager on A&E and my heart leaps but he just wants 2 days right now if I’m free and I am not. Sounded like he’d call again soonish though. The next day I receive a call from the lead editor who was championing me last series. He mostly was asking about Avid advice but he also asks if I’ve heard from A&E yet. He tells me he championed me more as he finished up on the last series and said I should text him if I haven’t heard more in a week and he will give them a nudge. He also tells me that the 2 day job was edit work as he was asked about it too so that makes me feel more positive about things.

Towards the end of the week I watch a couple of difficult bits of filming. There’s not a large amount I can say about it but it involved people with serious mental health issues and how there is little the police can do but treat them like a criminal. It’s not a failing of the system as much as there just isn’t the correct system there for someone in this position. Watching it made me quite upset – possibly more so than watching someone have a heart attack like I did last time around. At least in that situation I can see people doing the damndest for them. In this situation nothing they do is appropriate for the person. I hope they can use it in an episode perhaps highlighting the failings of the system. It would be a tricky one though.