The invisible job

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Let’s roll credits on a roll call of reality shows on my resume: Big Brother, MasterChef, My Kitchen Rules and Beauty & the Geek.

I worked in “post production” as a “post producer”. In other words, I was responsible for the future of the footage filmed in the past.

Consequently, I never met my closest colleagues. Julie Goodwin – I cut* her up more than my steak but we were never introduced. Manu – well, we never said boo. Gary, George and Matt – I saw plenty of them in reel life, just not real life.

You see, at post production HQ it’s our job to snip ‘n’ tuck hours of footage into a compact, compelling episode. Depending on the the size of the cast and crew, we can be dealing with dozens and dozens of hours of footage from multiple cameras. Then there’s the endless pages of quotes. Tenacious transcribers (often film school students) type and timecode the “grabs” – the stuff the contestants say straight down the barrel a la “when I burnt that capsicum, I knew I was toast”.

In my experience, the end is the best place to start. If you cut the last segment first, then you know what needs to be signposted in earlier segments. It’s important to note this is a collaborative process.

As a post producer I worked hand-in-hand with editors (in some cases two or three simultaneously). Invariably, we spent more time together at work than with our families at home. Frankly, them’s the breaks in showbiz. Yup, it’s pretty close quarters. More often than not, we’d be working in a soundproof edit suite not much bigger than a hotel en-suite.

When you’re clocking long hours, it’s certainly a sweetener to not have to frock up. A friend with a “real job” offered me a lift to work one morning and was horrified at the ensemble I’d pulled together – which I may or may not have slept in. “Hurry up, go get dressed, we’ve got to go,” she said all flabbergasted and huffy-like. “What are you on about, I’m ready to roll!” I worked behind the scenes, so I dressed not to be seen. See, it’s not so obscene.

What is kinda crazy is the one way street we walk as producers. A few years ago, not long after MasterChef had wrapped, I approached one of the contestants boarding a flight at Sydney airport. As luck would have it, we were sharing a plane from Sydney to Brisbane. I just wanted to say hi and catch-up but here’s the catch…she didn’t know me. I’d spent months watching footage of her on location and in the studio. I’d poured over transcripts of her every word. I’d virtually memorised her entire MasterChef “journey”. I felt we were having a shared experience but we weren’t. That, my friends, is the essence of the invisible job.

I see you but you don’t see me.

*”cut” is tv-talk for “edit”…no Julie Goodwins were hurt.

Would you enjoy a job like that?

18 Comments

  • Reply March 24, 2015

    Sally

    This is great Tonia! Totally fascinating!!

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Tonia

      Oh thanks Sally, you’re too kind. Stay tuned, lots more tales to come. x

  • Reply March 24, 2015

    Diana

    Tonia

    Thank you for sharing that story. I am sure that there are many out there that can relate (even if they don’t work in a high profile industry).

    I really enjoyed the post on many levels – and it will be one that sits with me while I people watch and think about the role they each play in the world we live in.

    Cheers

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Tonia

      What a lovely comment, thanks Diana. I can relate to your thoughts on watching and wondering…I ride the bus these days and I’m always curious about the lives of the other commuters and where they’re going and why. x

  • I love hearing about other people’s jobs. They always sound so interesting.

    Your experience as a post producer and meeting the ex-contestant in real life (rather than reel life) is a bit like me recently meeting some bloggers that I had been regularly following on their blogs. I felt like I “knew” them but they didn’t have a clue who I was!

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Tonia

      Ditto Ingrid! I’ve had that experience at a blogging meet-up too. It’s great fun putting a face to the name, isn’t it? It really is a small world (online and offline). Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply March 24, 2015

    Renee Wilson

    SUCH a cool job, Tonia! I would have loved to have worked on all of those big name shows. Do you watch those shows now and think ‘hmmm, I wouldn’t have cut it that way?’ That would have been such a surreal experience to see someone you’ve spent so much time with cutting and feel like you know them, but they don’t know you at all.

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Tonia

      Thanks Renee. You’re spot on – seeing contestants in the “real world” really was a surreal experience. Such great fun to be able to reminisce about my old life in this series of telly posts. Thanks for tuning in x

  • I can rather relate, in that I case people for a living and when I finally meet them, for me it’s like meeting a long lost friend. Whereas they hardly know me and probably find it a tad creepy just how well I know them.

    • Reply March 25, 2015

      Tonia

      Having been “cased”, I loved it Raychael and look forward to meeting face-to-face some day. Thanks for stopping by x

  • A big part of my job is editing with words, I wonder if I’d like doing it with TV footage? It does sound fascinating … thanks for sharing, Tonia!

    • Reply March 25, 2015

      Tonia

      You’d love it Janet! I can see you swapping words for vision/audio and weaving your magic (in a gorgeous frock of course) x

  • Reply March 25, 2015

    Caroline Culleton

    Tonia. This takes me back to a past life! Not TV but advertising, spending hours in tiny editing suites watching the hours/days if not weeks of shooting condensed to a mere 30″. It was a younger persons life … not for me these days

    • Reply March 25, 2015

      Tonia

      Ah the memories…life really is quite the tapestry, hey Caroline? Glad our paths have crossed on the flip side.

  • Loving this insight into the whole process. It must be frantic when there is less time between filming and screening, like Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, etc!

    • Reply March 25, 2015

      Tonia

      Thanks Gael – yep the deadlines get the heart racing! (Stay tuned, I’m planning a post on LIVE TV too) So pleased you’re enjoying these posts as much as I’m enjoying “producing” them.

  • Reply March 27, 2015

    Zita

    Thanks for the fascinating insight! I don’t think I’d be happy with seeing that many celebs and not ‘seeing’ them!!!

    • Reply March 27, 2015

      Tonia

      Thanks for stopping by Zita. Have a great weekend.

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