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?