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Veteran film producer Thomas eyes TV drama move

Jeremy Thomas is sitting in his top floor office at the Recorded Picture Company, which is decorated with memorabilia and press cuttings from his 40 year career as a film producer, and enthusing about Danish TV drama The Bridge.

The fact that there is now room on TV for complex, well written and entertaining dramas like The Bridge, he says, makes the idea of working in television very attractive for film producers like him.

Indeed Thomas, who won an Oscar in 1988 for producing The Last Emperor and has made over 60 films including Sexy Beast and Stealing Beauty, admits he is now looking to diversify into television. “I feel there are stories I want to tell that need more writing to them, and maybe a bigger budget,” says Thomas, who starts shooting a new Jim Jarmusch film in July and makes, on average, two films every year – including, most recently A Dangerous Method and Kon-Tiki (pictured, above).

Thomas explains that the media landscape has changed significantly since he started in the business. Back then, dramas like The Avengers and The Persuaders! were made very basically and very quickly. Television talent naturally sought to move on to film, which was considered to be at the top of the creative industry pyramid. That’s no longer the case, admits Thomas. “Now there are three pyramid tops – film, television and games.”

The boundaries between film and TV drama have blurred along with the technical skills required to make them. And the biggest TV dramas, like Game of Thrones, are made with movie-size budgets, and distributed globally to huge audiences. But, crucially for Thomas, TV dramas like Mad Men, Homeland and The Killing provide creatives the space to explore their ideas more fully. Ironically, this is happening at a time when cinemas are hankering after big vfx-laden films with short running times that allow multiple screenings during the day.

This thought makes Thomas reflect on the 163-min long The Last Emperor. “If I was going to make The Last Emperor these days, I would have to make it as a TV movie,” he acknowledges.


Posted 25 June 2012 by Tim Dams

Does your indie want to be in the Production 100?

Would your company like to be part of Televisual's Production 100 survey, our annual round up of the UK’s leading indie TV production companies?

Televisual is just starting to research and compile the highly regarded Production 100 survey, which is now in its 19th year. Not only does it round up and showcase the UK’s leading producers, it’s also a good opportunity for producers to voice their opinions on the state of the market, their broadcaster clients, suppliers and fellow producers.

If your company would like to be part of the Production 100, drop me email at tim@televisual.com and I will send you a survey form. There’s no cost or commitments required for taking part - the Production 100 is a completely objective report on UK production sector, as you’d expect from Televisual.

The Production 100 will appear in the September issue of Televisual and on www.televisual.com. You can see last year’s survey here.



Posted 22 June 2012 by Tim Dams

Greg Dyke's advice to the incoming BBC director general

Here’s some worldly advice to the candidates vying to become the next director general of the BBC from the corporation’s former boss Greg Dyke.

Five candidates are being interviewed this month for the job by BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and vice-chair Diane Coyle. They are: Ofcom chief exec Ed Richards, BBC Vision director George Entwistle, BBC director of news Helen Boaden, BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, and director of BBC Audio and Music Tim Davie.

Greg Dyke, who has just turned 65 and is chair of the BFI, remains a highly regarded former BBC director general by BBC staff, eight years after he left.

He won’t be drawn on who should be the next DG, but he does offer this advice on the qualities that the candidates to replace Mark Thompson need. “If you don’t sleep very well, don’t apply. Never go on holiday, because every time you go away, stuff happens. Understand that crises at the BBC come out of nowhere. You think you are having a good week and then – bang! – it hits you.”

But his final point is perhaps the most important, all the more so in light of the manner of his abrupt departure from the BBC. “Understand that you are never, in the end, going to be popular with politicians. That is not the job – so don’t even try. Be fair, but the job of the BBC is to understand and question politicians of all parties but particularly the government of the day. That is the job, so they are never going to love you.”

Dyke adds:  “Most governments get into power thinking the BBC is alright, but once they are in power they don’t. The Tories and Lib Dems are having a rough time in government and, I suspect that they are calling the BBC everything [under the sun] because that is what they do. It is about killing the messenger.”

He hopes that the Levenson enquiry will lead to changes in the media landscape, saying it should lead to the creation of a “proper regulatory structure for the press.” He points out that all broadcasters are already regulated by Ofcom, without great harm to their effectiveness.

Dyke also thinks that BSkyB would be far better off without the involvement of the Murdochs – and seems to enjoy their current difficulties. “As someone who has campaigned against the Murdochs for 20 years as I have – certainly in my time at the BBC I did things specifically to stop Sky from the digital television world [Dkye championed the launch of Sky competitor Freeview]– this is a great moment.”

He calls BSkyB a very impressive organisation, but questions why it hasn’t become a British international media player. “Well, the reason is that BSkyB, which has the money to be that, can’t be that because of the Murdochs. They would do far better to be freed up of the Murdochs – then they could be the big international player.”

Dyke’s comments are taken from an interview with him in the June issue of Televisual


Posted 19 June 2012 by Tim Dams

A summer of pain or gain for TV?

How are this summer’s line up of major events, such as Euro 2012 and the Olympics, affecting indie production? Five leading TV producers give their view on the impact of all the big events on commissions, kit and crew

Richard Thomson, md, Wall to Wall
At this stage, we haven’t seen our business significantly affected by the events of 2012. The main disruption appears to have been triggered by the scheduling departments, with most indies left wondering whether their programmes will go out pre or post Olympics. On a purely practical note, it has been more difficult to obtain OB units, large screens and other production equipment, as we discovered making The Voice UK. To complete our studio set, we had to specially import more screens as none were available in the UK. However, given more people will be watching TV, surely the summer of events can only be a good thing?

Melanie Leach, md, Twofour Broadcast
The myriad of events taking place this summer has resulted in a number of unexpected opportunities for Twofour, from producing a significant documentary series as part of Channel 4's Paralympics coverage to celebrating the jubilee for Sky Atlantic with God Save the Queens. There is undoubtedly pressure in terms of securing facilities but we've found that suppliers are keen to try and accommodate our needs ahead of non-domestic producers who may be parachuting in for just a few days.

Nick Bullen, md, Spun Gold

I don’t feel this year’s events are going to create a production hiatus. We’ve produced programming around the Diamond Jubilee with All The Queen’s Horses: The Diamond Jubilee Pageant for ITV. I don’t feel channels are commissioning less. They are now focusing on next year and the need seems great. The channels have got the money, and it’s the indie’s job to prise some of it away from them. Every event needs to be celebrated and every event needs alternative programming scheduled against it. Take your ideas and get out there and sell. There are plenty of slots to fill and if you’re not knocking on the door, you won’t be heard.

Howard Myers, md, Rival Media
At Rival, we’re fortunate that roughly half of our commissions and revenue come from outside of the UK, so we’re less affected by the ups and downs of factors like the British economy and big events that take over the schedules.  Saying that, this summer a lot of our favourite crew and suppliers are either unavailable or working to capacity, especially the OBs and edit flypacks. We’ve not noticed any particular downturn in commissioning activity at the main UK broadcasters, which is good news, but I’m not looking forward to a summer of travel hell in London.

Liz Tucker, md, Verve Productions

For us, the upcoming summer of sport and festivities has not really impacted on business and that seems to be the general consensus amongst most of my colleagues in the indie sector. As a niche company, I made a decision early on that because of the huge range of programming being developed and commissioned around these events, the most effective strategy for us was not to compete in an already crowded market place, but to offer commissioners and viewers something completely different. And indeed our major current project, a powerful but ultimately tragic human story, could not be further away from the Olympics or the Jubilee.




Posted 13 June 2012 by Tim Dams

How indies are going digital

A multiplatform strategy now makes creative and strategic sense for indies – but not necessarily much money. Here's how a number of producers are rising to the challenges of the multiplatform world

An online penis gallery; a lung functionality app; live online footage from a foxes den; a digital storybook adaptation of The 39 Steps; a social network for allotment seekers. These are just some of the digital projects created by independent TV production companies in the past year. Indeed, TV producers are creating more projects that straddle TV, online and mobile than ever before.

What’s different compared to previous years is that the incessant hype around digital has dissipated. Most indies display a healthy dose of realism when they discuss the business of creating content especially for digital platforms. It’s no longer viewed as a route to great riches – in fact, far from it. Most say it is a very difficult business to operate in.

But the indies most active in creating multiplatform content – such has Maverick, Keo, Tern, Endemol and Windfall – say that it can be an integral, even critical part, of the way their company now operates. “If anyone is thinking of moving into multiplatform, I always say they shouldn’t do it for profit motives, but for creative and strategic reasons,” says Maverick TV’s head of new media Dan Jones, who won a Bafta for his work on Embarrassing Bodies Online.

Over the following pages, Televisual investigates how a handful of indies are tackling the challenge of creating digital content for multiple platforms – looking at their business models, their projects, their partners and their clients.

Business models
The digital departments of most indies usually began life as seedlings, and have slowly grown over time. Many were set up on the promise of work to come, which has not necessarily materialised as broadcasters – particularly the BBC – have cut back on commissioning multiplatform content since the economic downturn.

The vogue for digital departments was probably at its peak three years ago, and has since receeded. Indeed there are now a range of business models: some indies are investing in standalone digital teams, some outsource to other companies and others hire in freelancers to do their digital work.

For example, Windfall, the producer of Foxes Live and Surgery Live, used to have its own dedicated Windfall Digital arm. But, says Windfall’s David Dugan, it couldn’t be sustained and was abandoned. Windfall’s digital activities are now fully integrated within its TV production department.

One of the UK’s most successful digital outfits is at Maverick Television, which has 25 full time staff as well as freelancers who work on TV as well as non-TV digital contracts, including a major one for the NHS. Fifteen of those staff are completely integrated with the TV team, sharing development.

Keo Films, another indie with acclaimed digital output including the Hugh’s Fish Fight multiplatform project, has a digital team of 10.

Endemol, meanwhile has a digital team that works on its high profile projects, including Million Pound Drop, Bank Job and Big Brother.

But the indie likes to bring in specialists from outside to help it deliver its projects, says David Flynn, co-chair of Endemol’s Digital Board. “What works best is getting the best creative people to develop ideas and the best digital people to deliver the ideas. You can have inhouse teams, but one of the challenges is that each of the projects has different demands and potentially different skill bases.”

So Endemol likes to work closely with third parties to deliver its digital projects. For example, it worked with Monterosa on The Million Pound Drop and The Bank Job. Windfall, meanwhile, contracted the building of its Foxes Live site to Numiko. Endemol’s Flynn adds that it is key to have executive producers who work specifically in digital at the indie who can ‘live and breathe’ projects, managing quality control and delivery.

The market
Channel 4 is regarded as by far the most important and influential client in the multiplatform world, with commissions including The Million Pound Drop’s playalong game and the Embarrassing Bodies website. Its online department has a budget of £12m and its budgets for multiplatform projects usually range from £20,000 to £300,000, although very few projects are at that top end. However, C4 says that only a small number of its TV shows – less than 10% – will get a full multiplatform commission.

The BBC, by contrast, is described as “missing in action” and “only focused on making shows available through iPlayer’. Big brands like Dr Who are supported, but many indies say it has pulled back significantly from multiplatform since the licence fee freeze in 2010.

ITV, similarly, will support big shiny floor shows and brands like The Only Way is Essex with online activity, but is not regarded as a major multiplatform player. Neither is Sky.

Few indies think it is possible for their digital departments to survive on the production fees from TV work alone, such is the hesitancy of traditional broadcasters to invest in multiplatform.

Also, unlike TV production, there is no secondary market for multiplatform content. “There aren’t great examples of interactive elements of shows being licensed overseas,” says All3Media’s head of new media Andy Taylor. “Nothing else flows back, there’s no IP in it.”

Moreover, it’s incredibly difficult to make money from apps. “The vast majority don’t even break even,” cautions Simon Meek, head of Tern Television’s digital arm, who reckons the average app makes £5k a year.
Meek says indies would need around four or five reasonably sized digital commissions from broadcasters worth £20-80k each to sustain a department. And that is a major challenge given the paucity of TV clients right now.

So digital divisions have diversified in the search for business. Maverick, for example, has used its expertise from Embarrassing Bodies to win a ground-breaking digital project with the NHS in the West Midlands, worth a reported £15m over five years. It also runs film4.com for Channel 4, and creates digital content for other indies’ shows, including Objective Productions’ The Real Hustle.

Tern’s digital arm, meanwhile, was set up five years ago and has survived by diversifying into new areas, in particular gaming. In fact, Tern has just spun off its digital arm as a standalone outfit called The Story Mechanics. It’s now looking for funding and is transferring its skills in film and TV into the world of interactive games. For example, it’s creating a digital adaptation of John Buchan’s classic spy adventure The Thirty-Nine Steps for a games publisher.

Likewise, television is only part of Keo Digital’s focus, says md Nick Underhill. Keo Digital is a standalone division that creates content for Keo projects, but also creates digital projects for other indies, brands and organisations.
Keo’s digital division was set up after the success in 2009 of the Chicken Out website that accompanied Hugh’s Chicken Run series. It also ran the award winning Fish Fight digital campaign (see below), is responsible for the River Cottage website and launched allotment project Landshare (which it has licenced to Australia and Canada) and a renewable energy site Energyshare, which was sponsored by British Gas.

Underhill says that digital now accounts for 23% of Keo’s turnover, with money coming from brands via sponsorship or from broadcast production fees.He adds that there are funds available for digital projects from institutions like Nesta, the Technology Strategy Board and Creative England. Keo is also talking to county councils about “large scale, long term projects”. The digital arms of TV companies, he reasons, are experienced in ‘making stuff famous’ and drawing in audiences, in a way that councils might not be.

And, of course, YouTube and Amazon, are now commissioning original content in the UK. “All of the top 10 indies are talking to YouTube,” says one indie, pointing out that producers will need strong digital expertise – or to partner with digital experts – to win a share of the £10m that the video site is spending on UK commissions.  Indeed, YouTube director of TV Ben McOwen Wilson said earlier this month: “Indies must realise they are not just delivering a show. On YouTube, it’s as much about engaging, finding, embracing and reacting to your audience as about the strength of the video.”

The opportunities

Few indies say that their digital activities deliver direct profits back to their company. Each company that has a digital arm, however, agrees that they play a crucial role in enhancing their creative reputation and helping to win television commissions as well as business from non-TV sources.

Endemol’s David Flynn says that digital can be a revenue generator. “But, for us, the most important thing about it is creative as it is commercial.”

Maverick’s Embarrassing Bodies, for example, is a classic example of a well integrated multiplatform proposition. Indeed, as Televisual went to press, its My HealthChecker iPhone app was at the top of the free chart on iTunes App Store with over 300,000 downloads, following the start of Embarrassing Bodies: Live from the Clinic on Channel 4.

Maverick’s Dan Jones says the indie tries to develop ideas from the very start to work across different platforms, while acknowledging that not every show suits multiplatform or that every broadcaster wants digital support for a show. But he and several of his colleagues in the digital department will sit in with TV execs during early brainstorms, in particular for C4 shows.

Embarassing Bodies
, he thinks, works well across different platforms for different reasons. TV is very much a ‘sit back medium’ for audiences that creates ‘watercooler’ moments the next day. Social media is part of this watercooler chat about the show.

But if viewers can identify with any of the illnesses in the show, they will then go online to the Embarrassing Bodies website to find out more and carry out deeper research.

The show’s smartphone app takes this one stage further. The app features tools such as a breast checker that allows viewers to take the phone into a private space, often the bathroom, to examine themselves in more detail.
Crucially, the data that Maverick receives from the show’s digital plaforms feed directly into the editorial of future shows.

For example, viewers can go online or onto the app to take Embarrassing Bodies’s NHS approved health check, which involves them inputing basic data about their lifestyle. 750,000 have so far taken this test, says Jones. It means that Maverick knows a great deal about the viewers who are watching the show, and can tailor editorial accordingly.

Trends can be extracted from the data, which can tell Maverick, for example, which profession has a high risk of diabetes or which age group is most likely to suffer from OCD. All of which enhances the show’s relationship with viewers and with Maverick partners, like the NHS.

Indeed, All3Media’s Andy Taylor thinks the strong multiplatform angle of the show has resulted in it winning more TV commissions. He traces a direct line between commissions for Embarrassing Bodies to Embarrassing Bodies Live and then on to last month’s Live From the Clinic. Which goes to prove that digital can be a sound investment for indies.

Multiplatform moves: what indies are up to
Confusingly, the terms ‘multiplatform’ and ‘digital’ are often deployed in the TV industry to cover a whole variety of initiatives that take content beyond the television. But it’s helpful to break the digital and multiplatform activities of indie TV producers into three distinct areas, says Andy Taylor, All3Media’s head of new media.
1. Multiplatform content: creating apps, games, social media and online sites that support TV shows. All3Media-owned Maverick Television’s Embarrassing Illnesses is a good example, with a host of digital applications to support it. “It’s a small market and not every TV idea needs it,” acknowledges Taylor. “But we believe that multiplatform can be key for making a show bigger, bolder and noisier than without it.”
2. Digital distribution: making clips and TV content available online via services likes Lovefilm and Netflix. “For us, this is a really big business and makes money,” he says.
3. Digital licencing: licencing online, game or mobile spin-offs from successful TV brands, such as The Cube, which is produced by All3Media-owned Objective. The rights to the show are owned by the producer, and the spin-offs were not necessarily part of a pitch to or funded by the broadcaster.

Multiplatform case study - Foxes Live: Wild in the City
Foxes Live: Wild in the City, which aired on Channel 4 in May,  was developed as a multiplatform project by Windfall Films for C4 from the very beginning.
With four shows on C4, three on More4 and 24/7 live streaming from two dens, it used the web to allow viewers to follow the movements of tagged foxes in the UK.
The project was created in just 10 weeks, and incorporated a questionnaire and the opportunity for people to send in sightings. Windfall’s David Dugan says the data gathered fed right back into the show and directly influenced the editorial, describing it as a form of “citizen science.” When one of the foxes, Chico, was released back in Manchester, the site crashed as more than 1,000 people a second tried to follow him online.The next day, C4 hugely increased the site’s capacity so it could cope. Windfall worked with Leeds-based digital agency Numiko to create the site.
Hits: Over 2m page views and 300k visits following the first broadcast on TV
Average page views per visit: 7 
Video streaming: close to 100,000 plays
Viewers who took part in online Foxes Live survey: 18,000
Number of sightings from viewers: 19,000

Multiplatform case study - Hugh’s Fish Fight
Keo Films and Keo Digital launched the Fish Fight campaign on C4 and online in January 2011. The idea was to raise public awareness about problems in the fishing industry, in particular to end the practice of discards.
Over 750,000 have now signed the Fish Fight petition on the show’s website, www.fishfight.net. It has over 230,000 friends on Facebook and 25,000 followers on twitter. The website has had almost 2m visits from over 201 countries/territories
The TV show won a BAFTA in May 2011, but the impact on government policy seems to have been the campaign’s most significant victory.
The Fish Fight EU campaign launched outside the European Parliament in May 2011, with EU Fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki joining Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to unveil an interactive statue which shows how many people in Europe have signed the petition. The campaign’s main website  has been joined by 11 more microsites in 11 countries in Europe, including Poland, Greece, Spain, Germany and Portugal.
In July 2011, Damanaki revealed the draft Common Fisheries Policy reform in Brussels, which specifically includes measures to end discards.
“The impact of the TV show wouldn’t have been half as good without the digital element,” says Keo Digital md Nick Underhill. “The impact on people and politicians has been astounding.”

This article was taken from the June issue of Televisual


Posted 11 June 2012 by Tim Dams

Prometheus' space age effects

Many of the vfx for Ridley Scott's Prometheus were created in the UK. Here's how the director's Promethean universe was created

Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s first venture into science fiction filmmaking in over three decades. The legendary British director of Blade Runner (1982) and Alien (1979) has cited the latter as “the jumping off point” for the $120m film, which was shot in 3D on Red Epic cameras.

The sci-fi world of Prometheus was created at Pinewood and on location shoots in England, Iceland, Spain, and Scotland. But special effects also played a crucial role in creating the look of the film and, like the shoot, took place around the world.

The UK’s MPC was the lead facility, while the other main vfx houses involved were Fuel in Australia and Weta Digital in New Zealand. MPC, which had previously worked on Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, began pre-production on Prometheus in November 2010, delivering the last of its 418 shots in April 2012. In all, MPC’s total crew on the film was 120 people.

They had to create some of the most iconic images in the film: the planets, moons, space, star fields, sandstorms, as well as the two key space ships that are central to the action, Prometheus itself and alien craft the Juggernaut.

MPC’s vfx supervisor Charley Henley says the effects were created in a typical visual effects production line process that saw the work pass from team to team in the company. In pre-production, the ‘asset build’ team began animating and creating the key effects, which were approved by Scott himself. Meanwhile, a team in India handled the majority of match moving and roto, preparing the groundwork for the insertion of the vfx. Their work was then handed to a layout team in London, who placed the pieces. This passed on to lighting and finally to a team of 40 compositors to finish it all off. “It’s a really large multi-team process,” says Henley. “And each team is very specialised.”

Scott, he says, was keen for the effects to look as real as possible and to feel grounded in reality. The digital work was seen as an extension of the physical sets created in Pinewood or action scenes shot in the mountains of Iceland. Even the space environments created by MPC related in some way to reality, and were created after Scott spent time with NASA experts. “Our brief was always to find something real on earth – that could be extreme – to keep the vfx in check.”

Scott’s dark and gritty visual style also emphasised realism. “He always wanted things to look dirty and rough and used,” says Henley, who cites a key scene when the spaceship Prometheus smashes into the Juggernaut. The brief was to emphasise the debris and the total mayhem of the collision. “He would always say more is better, big it up and make it as hectic and gritty as possible.”

Scott was heavily involved in the vfx. “He was often based in London, and through pre-production came in to work on the pre-visualisation of some of the scenes. We had interactive sessions with him – we gave him a particular pad of paper and a pen and he would sketch camera angles and do storyboards on the fly that we would pick up and do cg versions of.” And, after the shoot, Scott was in MPC discussing the looks, grades and finishing of shots. Henley adds: “He’s a really fascinating and enjoyable director to work with for vfx because he is so visual himself. It’s very satisfying to have direct feedback into the look. He is so interested in the lighting and the mood of the scene that you straightaway find that his input gives you a style.”

Details

Set in the late 21st century, Prometheus centres on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth civilisations. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilisation, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.

Director 
Ridley Scott
Stars
Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender

PRODUCTION CLIENTS

VFX Supervisor
Richard Stammers
VFX Producer
Allen Maris

KEY MPC SUPERVISORS
VFX supervisor
Charley Henley
VFX producer
Marianne Speight
CG supervisor
Matt Middleton
2D supervisor
Marian Mavrovic
VFX prod manager
Katherine Smith
Animation supervisor
Ferran Domenech
Lighting supervisor
Daniele Bigi


Posted 08 June 2012 by Tim Dams

A picture of Britain in a Day

Director Morgan Matthews explains how he reduced 800 hours of footage contributed by 4,000 people from all over the UK into a 90-min doc that is a portrait of the UK in a single day

A cheery Morgan Matthews comes onto the phone while in the final stages of post on his upcoming documentary Britain In A Day. It’s almost locked – the grade has been done, and the mix is happening next week. Given the scale of production, it’s perhaps surprising that he sounds so upbeat. Britain In A Day is a feature length film that’s been compiled by whittling down a mountain of footage sent in by the public.

Following a BBC appeal for content last year, 12,000 clips were uploaded to a dedicated Britain In A Day YouTube channel from around 4,000 people – about 800 hours in total. The idea was to create a self-portrait of Britain in its Olympic year, recording what people all over the country were doing, thinking and experiencing on one day -– 12 November 2011.

Matthews spent a good month just viewing all the contributions, and then another 12 weeks editing it all together. “It’s been a difficult process, but very enjoyable – I am surprised at how enjoyable. It’s interesting to make a film in a completely different way and to draw something meaningful out of all this disparate footage.”

And the best thing about all the homemade footage, he thinks, was that it was much more personal and intimate than anything a camera crew could have captured. The choice of day was also important. The 12th of November was a Saturday, so the contributions were largely shot at home rather than work. What comes through most strongly, he believes, is how important family is to people.

“In times that are otherwise insecure – financially or with careers – people are looking for security in their relationships, whether with partners or family. A lot of people were keen to show us their family – or their lack of family which they felt was missing.” By contrast, very few people talk about their jobs or financial situation.

There is also a sense of the zeitgeist. Politics makes its way in via footage of the Occupy Camp outside St Pauls. England were also playing Spain at Wembley that day, and Strictly Come Dancing was on TV – and many people filmed themselves watching them on TV.

The film, he thinks, also records an ageing population as well as people recording relatives with terminal illnesses. Cancer features quite a lot, indicating that contributors wanted to record relatives who might not have much time left. Five people featured in the film have died since it was made. 

But above all, he believes it’s a film about happiness and what makes us happy. “It is reflected in the footage – we are quite preoccupied about our sense of happiness. We are aware of whether we are happy or what would make us happier. Because of this unease that has permeated since the recession, people are just a little bit more insecure and aware of their own happiness and what that happiness is related too.”

Technically, the documentary was a huge challenge to pull together. The videos that were uploaded to YouTube had over 150 different frame rates, coming from various kinds of phones, digital stills cameras and video recorders. Surprisingly, the very best shot footage could sometimes be the most difficult to work with as it looked almost too professional for the film.

But the biggest hurdle was often sound – much more so than the pictures. Poor quality images could sometimes add to the atmosphere, but video with poor quality sound was very difficult to use.

Matthews knew from the start that he wouldn’t personally be able to view all of the images. So a team of 13 ‘loggers’ looked through everything, logged it according to subject matter and scored it based on a one-to-five star system. Anything that rated from three to five stars, Matthews would view. In all, he thinks he watched 250 hours.

Then he began pulling it all together, working with editor Peter Christelis and others on four Avids. Chronologically, this was fairly straightforward as the film is structured to follow the hours of the day, starting at 12am when some contributors were partying, others winding down for the night.

“The biggest challenge was keeping the rhythm going. Essentially it is a 90-minute montage – and that is quite difficult to sustain.” Matthews felt it was important to cut it so that the film had ‘significant meaning’ but also ‘peaks and troughs.’

He’s keen to point out that he learnt a lot from viewing Kevin Macdonald’s Life In A Day, the feature doc that inspired Britain In A Day and that was also produced through Scott Free Productions. “If Britain In A Day is good, it wouldn’t be nearly as good if Life In A Day didn’t exist because that set the bar so high. We were inspired, challenged and pushed by it.”

Britain in a Day airs on BBC2 on June 11 at 9.00pm


Director
Morgan Matthews
Editor
Peter Christelis
Producer
Liza Marshall
Executive producers
Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Kevin Macdonald
Executive producer for the BBC
Charlotte Moore
Co-producer
Jack Arbuthnott
Composer
Martin Phipps
Music supervisor
Nick Angel
Supervising sound mixer
Glenn Freemantle
Line producer
Ann Lynch
Production company
Scott Free London



Posted 06 June 2012 by Tim Dams
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