I have loved every minute of my two weeks work experience on the BBCs The Paradise drama.
I was placed under the AD team (AD stands for Assistant Director) who were a fantastic bunch of people and took very good care of me. For the first two days I felt and looked like a frightened little rabbit. Slowly, with encouragement, I began to understand the mechanics of the immense, well oiled machine that is The Paradise.
As a Runner, apart from making tea and coffee you are asked to 'lock off' which means ensuring that a certain area is kept quiet while a scene is being filmed. This role requires you to wear a radio with an earpiece and shout "Rolling!" "Quiet Please!" and "Cut!" at various appropriate moments in time. The task isn't especially difficult but at first you may feel like a bit of a lemon. Especially when you are shouting "Rolling!" very loudly down an empty staircase and you are the only human being in sight.
For me, one of the most valuable aspects of running is getting the odd glimpse of how the director works. I learned so much from watching how the director blocks the scene with the DoP and then finally seeing the scene captured on camera. All the movie making books in the world cannot teach you what I learned from spending two weeks on set.
And finally, FINALLY I now understand the reason for needing a team when making drama. It was incredible to watch the speed and ease with which the crew set up for a scene. The minute the crew rehearsal was over, the set becomes a frenzy of crew members, flying from here to there, laying tracks, hoisting cameras, placing props and unravelling cables so that the actors and DoP can set to work.
You are constantly taught that film making is a team effort and because I learn visually I had to see it to believe it. Now I do. Of course the BBC have the best. Everyone in that team knows their role inside out and works their guts out to get the job done.
One of the main things I have taken away with me is the time you should take on your shots. Watching this production made me realise that I zip through shots when I'm making short films. This is it. This is the art. Take your time over it. Think about what you are showing. Don't just point and shoot because everyone is waiting.
If you can convey a scene properly and tell the story with one shot, do it. "Keep the audience in their seats" (a wise man once said) Don't cut and jump around with every angle possible in your shots. Take the angle that best tells the story and don't go overboard.
Something else I learned and has become firmly imprinted into my mind is that you don't have to decide your shots from reading a scene and planning beforehand. You can plan your shots as you watch the actors rehearse. That means you are working with what is there instead of carving in stone your own preconceived ideas. Drama is moving, it's living, you can only see it when it's happening.
I always imagined that as a director I would have to know every shot in my head before filming. Like it was expected of me. A thought which always worried me and sometimes gave me palpitations.