The Messenger

This blog post is my way of expressing more than 140 characters to those who’ve interacted with me regarding Big Brother on Twitter recently. I write it to inform and remind ūüôā

I should also point you in the direction of my blog disclaimer, for your consideration.

My job at Big Brother is a technical one. I Direct the cameras within the House to cover people, areas, tasks, etc, to the best of my ability. What happens to that footage once it’s shot isn’t my remit. It disappears into the ether via fibre optic cables and the magic of electronics to other people in other places who do other things with it.

I’m a Director, not a¬†Producer. I have¬†no¬†say over editorial decisions nor have influence over what can and cannot be done. I do my bit on Twitter to support the show completely off my own back, and at risk of being severely bollocked for it with the potential to not being asked back in the future. I don’t want this, and I’m sure you don’t either. This very blog post will be printed out and handed to my boss for consideration.

I appreciate people think I might be one who can flip a switch and turn any Live Feed on or off, or have control over when or how it’s shown, or indeed its contents, or have answers as to why it can’t be 24/7. This simply isn’t the case. I don’t have those answers. But as an original fan, I sometimes ask the same questions you do. If I was able to answer them, I would.

As much as people think ‚ÄúRubbish. You work for the company so you can do something‚ÄĚ, let me give you an analogy:

The guy at the printing press isn’t responsible for the headlines of a newspaper.

I appreciate people reach out to whomever they can for answers, and I understand peoples thoughts. But I can’t answer questions if I don’t have the answer. I’m not in those circles.

Don’t get me wrong. I read all messages I receive, and I genuinely appreciate (most of) them. I try to respond¬†if¬†I can, where appropriate, in a way that’s appropriate.¬†I’m a fan of the show at the end of the day, and I care about it just as much as you do.

Crowd Funding The Future

I’m a fan of “Crowd Funding”. If someone is passionate enough about an idea, it’s possible to bypass corporate red tape and make that idea come to life with the help of others. Websites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo allow people to show off their ideas and have people contribute money towards their project. And if the crowd-sourced contributions hit an amount set for the project within an allotted time, they get the money and the project goes ahead. As a way of getting people involved, some projects give something back to their contributors such as a finalised item, a limited edition version of their project, a signed copy of a DVD, etc. It’s a great idea.

“Why would you want to do this?”, some may ask. My answer is simple; we are an incredibly creative bunch, and not everyone gets their chance to shine. I’m a firm believer in giving people a helping hand if I feel it’s likely to give them a positive outcome.

I’ve backed a few projects in the last year, all of which I thought were worthwhile as standalone ideas. Furthermore I looked at the potential these folks had and the impact their projects might have on their future. I’ve backed a photographer looking to showcase his¬†stunning images, a software team creating a fantastical futuristic¬†arcade racing game, and a technology company who want to get people active with their stylish button-sized¬†activity monitor¬†(who were looking for $100k and ended up with over half a million!).

One project I missed out on was a feature film called Least Among Saints by Marty Papazian, a feature length portrayal on the life of an injured soldier who moves next door to a single mother. It went on to become an award winning feature shown around the world. As an independent filmmaker Papazian wrote, directed and starred in it. He now has a solid future ahead of him, something I wish I had been part of.

My latest discovery is a UK based team looking to fund an independent film. Writer and director Andrew Harmer, producer James Heath and Liam Garvo of Dresden Pictures have put together a winning press package which deserves attention. Their Kickstarter project,¬†The Fitzroy, is a feature length 1950’s style post-apocalyptic comedy based on a beached submarine being used as a hotel; The Fitzroy Hotel. That idea alone was enough to get me wanting more! Having seen the artwork on their Kickstarter video and the detail of their website¬†and blog it’s a no-brainer for me to have pledged something to their project. At the time of writing this blog they had 246 backers and 65% of their goal funding (¬£39’403) with 10 days to go.

I truly hope they make it.

I mentioned before about their “press package”, and it’s something worth mentioning separately. Gaining exposure is essential in such a venture, and what these guys have done is create a team of people skilled in what they do and a detailed and enticing way of getting people involved. They have a regularly updated blog of the project, they keep in touch with their backers, they have a well designed website, and the perks they offer in return for targeted pledges is something I haven’t seen before. Fancy a download of the movie, or maybe a physical blu-ray version? How about your name in the credits and an invite to the premiere screening? Maybe a gas mask prop from the feature? What about a post-apocalypse survival kit? Or, how about becoming an animated character as part of the opening titles? These are all brilliant ideas to which other projects should take note.

As a side-line to their feature idea, and the reason I initially found the project, they created and uploaded a short film called “Choke Mate”. Although based on the world of The Fitzroy, where earth is engulfed in a poisonous gas, they state that the result is somewhat of a darker world. What got me interested is that they took ideas and suggestions from their supporters and in just over 48 hours turned around and uploaded their creation.

Stellar work, worth applauding. And funding…

If you feel like you’d like to donate something towards their goal, you can contribute to the project by¬†clicking here. In the meantime, here’s the team’s over-the-weekend short entitled “Choke Mate”:

As an update to this blog, I’ve since discovered some other work from Andrew Harmer. This comedy short is also worth a watch:

It’s almost time…

Pre-Production for Big Brother 2012 started for the House Directors on 14th May. Of course many other people never left the site when the Celebrity version finished on January 27th. In fact, the Task Team had two weeks off and were right back in again. But for the Directors who were just starting back again, the first two weeks consisted mainly of training new staff and ironing out potential issues and problems with the camera positions and the new design. The Big Brother House gets a makeover every series, with sections ripped out and new features installed. Old items are taken out and new items put in. And every season it gets bigger and better. But it does mean the Directors need to start fresh with installing enough cameras in the right place to capture all the action.

It’s a real buzz to walk around the camera-runs during the new build and see an army of designers and fitters laying new carpets, applying wall prints, testing lighting, installing furniture, installing hot-head cameras, new windows go in, one-way mirroring applied, etc. Every day sees something new come to life. It’s great to see the camera stack come ‘on-line’ one camera at a time. At the beginning of the contract the Reality Gallery monitors looked like this:

Big Brother 2012 Reality Gallery monitor stack

As you can see no cameras were up so there wasn’t much for us to work with! Installing everything takes a long time and there are miles and miles of fixed microphone and camera cables to install and test. The hot-head cameras aren’t permanently up inside the House. They travel around the world to be used on other television projects (The F1 racing, for example). Once they are fixed inside the House they are adjusted to make sure they are straight and balanced. During the run it’s common for a House Director to state the infamous words “Camera 13 is on the piss”. And once we’re on-air you can’t just walk into the house with a spirit level and a screw driver to fix it. They are either sneakily fixed through the night whilst the housmates are asleep or during the day whilst the contestants are locked down in another area of the house or on a Task. Clearly this is an inconvenience so getting it right before transmission is vital.

By the beginning of week two most of the cameras were up and we were able to do some training. It’s traditional for new staff to go in as test Housemates and spend a few hours roaming around whilst the Directors follow them and carry out further camera adjustments. It’s customary that the Loggers (the people who type up and timecode everything they see and hear 24/7) and the Runners (the ones who make the teas and coffees and do a lot of work that others can’t/won’t do) be the subjects for these tests. They sit down in the lounge area, we cover it. They try out the beds, we cover it. They roam around the garden, we cover it. It’s a good one-day test.

A week or so before the Live Launch show there is a full dress rehearsal with actual contestants who have applied for the show. It’s called Guinea Pigs, and lasts anywhere between two and five days. This run-through also happens on other reality shows such as ‘I’m A Celebrity’. It gives the Producers a chance to see the House in action, allows the Editors to cut together ideas they want to use for the series and allows the Task Team to see how some of their ideas will play out. More importantly for the Directors, it allows us to see what sections of the House need more coverage by moving and adding cameras.

By the end of week two, the 2012 Guinea Pig rehearsals were coming to an end (just as I was beginning to learn their names!). To add to my adrenalin levels, on the last day the Production team had a deliberate fire alarm activation to see how the crew would handle it. We did pretty well, following the procedures set out by Health And Safety. You can imagine my horror as I watched the housemates disappear from camera coverage through a fire door from the garden and into the camera runs, quickly apprehended by the Security team and escorted to a safe house. I could hear them but not see them. Such a horrible feeling!

Last minute changes are made in the final days before Launch. Where things haven’t worked out they are adjusted, removed or replaced. New boards go down in the camera runs to stop any squeaky floorboards that have developed during the set-up. Black drapes are put over every mirrored window in the camera runs so the Housemates can’t see a thing, even if they press their faces right up against the glass (which is a rule break, according to the Big Brother Housemate Welcome Pack). With minutes to go before Launch there are still people in the house making final adjustments. Just as Brian is recording his “in thirty minutes” and “in fifteen minutes!” teases, the Gallery crew are handed laminated sheets with Housemates photos and names on. This is the first time we get to see who the contestants are. Contrary to popular belief, 95% of people working on the show do not know anything about the Housemates before Launch day. The Producers are extremely good at keeping secrets and using code words.

As the title states… It’s almost time…

If you haven’t seen the teaser trailer, here it is:

Terrorism in the Workplace

I felt the need to write this post after finding the following grab-bag underneath a desk (in fact, every desk) when I was freelancing as a Studio Director in April 2011:

Bloomberg Emergency Kit

Initially when I first discovered the bags I said “what a brilliant idea”, and thought nothing more of it. But driving home after my shift I started thinking about exactly why they are there. Clearly, meetings have been had to implement the costly logistics of such items, and more importantly, their necessity. It’s actually quite a big thing. Let’s break down what we have here:

A bright orange reflective bag, a glow stick, a dust mask, bandages, two satchels of water, and a reflective heat blanket.

Just for a moment, try and envisage a scene that would require such items… We’re talking about a situation where we need to find this bag in low light, requiring the glow stick to aid visibility or the need to be seen by others, using the bandage to stop bleeding on either yourself or others, using the dust mask to reduce breathing in particles from the air which may be harmful, using the emergency heat blanket to keep you or someone else warm, and having enough water to last three days… these are all things that become useful and necessary in an emergency situation.

They are items regularly found in kits designed for earthquake victims. Bear in mind these are under desks in offices in Central London.

This, if ever, was the first time I’ve felt directly affected by the now overly-used term “terrorism”. Terrorism is fear, and defined as¬†the use of violence and/or threats to intimidate or coerce. Somewhere along the lines (likely post 9/11) someone Senior in this company has identified the building ¬†we work in as a more-than-likely target. Budgets have been set to pay for these items and their upkeep (the Datrex emergency water packs have a shelf life of 5 years, for example). Steps are in place for new staff members to be introduced to these measures and the reason for their requirements.

And it’s not just these individual grab-bags that are in these offices. I’ve also spotted large blue rucksacks with the Star of Life logo on them, a worldwide identifying emblem for emergency medical services. I really must ask how much training their first-aider staff go through!

It’s a huge logistical step to implement these safety and security measures within such a massive corporation, and¬†certainly puts a spin on the need for the emergency exits to be pointed out (something a lot of people are ignorant towards anyway, ultimately to their own demise. Do you know your routes out of your workplace?).

I hope these items never have to be used and I highly praise the person/people who came up with the idea (preferably not a company, making money out of fear).

I was even more impressed to discover whilst Directing two shows over in Hong Kong (via London!) that they have similar grab-bags under their desks too. Though I appreciate that studios inside the sky scraping Cheung Kong Centre building in central Hong Kong is more susceptible to an earthquake than London.

Surely every place of work should have such measures? If not for use within the confines of their own office, but perhaps to include the every day person on the street caught up in a tragic event? An example here would be the people involved in the bombings of London on 7/7. A better example would be those who became victims of the 7/7 Tavistock Square bus bomb, which ironically exploded near the British Medical Association and was hosting an event for medical staff and doctors. The point in case being that when medical attention is close at hand, lives can be saved.

The simple act of being given one of these emergency kits makes a significant statement; where you work is of high importance, and so are you.

On the other hand some people will say it’s just a bag.