Alana Taylor on Her role as a production assistant at Epic Studios
As promised last week, here’s this month’s Epic Studios production crew blog, featuring production assistant Alana Taylor. Alana tells us about her experience at the studios since starting here as an apprentice last year, including a ‘behind the scenes’ look from her perspective, at our recent World of Sport production with ITV. If you’re looking to get into TV production, we hope that Alana’s story inspires you!
Hi Alana. You joined Epic Studios as a trainee production assistant in September 2017 and have since taken to the role like a fish to water! I know how diverse your job is here but could you share a bit about what your average week at the studios may look like?
Every day at Epic is different, depending on the event I am working on, whether it be TV, sporting events, music gigs or conferences. My main role is to assist with the set-up, production and post (the pack down and the de-rig) of any event. The easiest way to get this across is probably to give you some examples…
Let’s say we have a music gig and the room needs setting up, my role is to assist the tech team and prepare the room, this includes rigging anything that is needed – such as the curtain divider, moving chairs, setting up the tiered seating if need be. But I also take any opportunity to learn more about lighting or sound. I tend to ask everyone else in the team lots of questions about their roles and to see if I can help in any way. As a result, I can now fully rig and technically set up the LED wall panels – both physically and with the P3 Martin software [the software needed to run the LED wall].
Alternatively, if, for example, I happen to be working on one of our Mixed Martial Arts productions (which are live streamed) my role is to create a call sheet for the production, with all relevant information, including crew, contact details and information about the venue such as parking. Once this is complete I am then responsible for making sure the call sheet is sent or given to the correct people in the production. I also help with the rigging of the event, such as constructing the ‘Mojo barrier’, and the general set up of the room. During production, I am given an active crew role, sometimes I’ll be a camera operator, or occasionally I may be in the gallery using Clarity software, which produces the graphics on-screen for the live feed.
As you can see my job is incredibly diverse and works with the variety of events that Epic produces. My main interest is in TV, however, expanding my knowledge about lights, cables and rigging along with health and safety etc., allows me to work in various areas and assist in many ways with the overall product. As my apprenticeship is in broadcast production this is my focus – but in terms of where that could lead to, there are endless possibilities, so any additional knowledge I can pick up on the job can be helpful in other areas.
I came and went several times during the proceedings while we had ITV here recording World of Sport Wrestling earlier in the month and I don’t think I saw you stationary once! Someone told me that your phone picked up over 52 thousand steps and 44km over the 3 days of recordings, is this true? And if so, how did you manage to have a smile on your face every time our paths crossed?
Yes, 52,053 steps, and that was just for the 3 days of actual filming! The week before that we were prepping and doing a lot of long days to get the studio in the best position for when all the production and crew came in. As a team, Epic Studios crew all did a similar amount – everyone was working their hardest to get this production to the standard that it needed to be. It is brilliant to work alongside people that have the same mindset as you, to get the job done no matter what it takes and make it something to be proud of. There was something very special about how hard everyone worked for this, it was one of the biggest moments in all our careers and to be able to share experiences like this with each other is what makes our team so supportive and productive.
I was the studio runner for the WOS production (hence the number of steps). My role was different every day but my overall goal was to ensure that everyone had what they needed, no matter what department, to make sure things ran smoothly and, most importantly, that everyone had an enjoyable time at the studio and while working in the environment.
The question should be how could I not have a smile on my face? TV has returned to Norwich, for an incredible company, that I work for, and I had the opportunity to work on it with them. I am still buzzed about it, I feel so blessed to have been involved! I kept looking at the call sheet all week thinking to myself – ‘is that really my name, on the same document as some of the top professionals in the TV industry?’. It’s that ‘pinch yourself’ moment where you feel you must be dreaming. Whether it was running around making teas and coffee’s or rigging items in the grid to be used in the wrestling drama, each day was as exciting as the last. I’m still smiling thinking about how incredible the week was and how, as a team, we demonstrated that we can really do anything we set our minds to.
How did you find working alongside ITV production team members and how did you make the most of that experience?
It was incredible! From set-up, the studio was packed full of industry professionals, creating and designing the layout. The lighting crew were using lights in places that I had never even thought was possible before. Across all departments everyone was so friendly and helpful, assisting one another in all the processes of production. ITV team members were really open and talkative and took an interest in my role at the studio. I personally worked closely with the production coordinator and the production management team, which was fantastic fun and full of insights for me. It was great to meet like-minded people that have a passion for TV and to join them (along with the rest of the Epic team and the talent involved in the show), giving it our all to ensure the production could run smoothly and to its greatest potential. There was never a dull moment. The whole experience made me realise just how many different roles are involved in a TV production and how important every single crew member is – not only to make the product a success, but to ensure that there is a comfortable, safe and enjoyable environment for everyone to work in.
The area in TV that I strive to work in the most is floor managing. Therefore, I took the opportunity to network with the floor manager and assistant floor managers. I asked lots of questions about the role and the best way to gain success in that line of work. Luckily, I was also able to spend any spare time I had watching the tech rehearsals. I watched the floor managers work, noting how they spoke to people, the language they used, how they managed the floor, how they communicated the directors voice to the floor etc. I found it so interesting how smoothly things ran and how FMs made everyone involved in the rehearsals feel comfortable and to stick to the time limit, whilst accommodating those in the gallery and the talent on the floor.
During the actual filming of the shows, I was a runner backstage, assisting with anything and everything. Jobs tended to come in waves, so I would be super-busy for a certain amount of time and then it would calm down. In those calm times, I approached the assistant floor managers that were also backstage organising everyone involved and talked to them about what I wanted to do, hoping for tips and advice. After a few shows had passed and I had got to know the assistant floor managers better, they asked if I would like an opportunity to help organise the wrestlers backstage alongside them. I tried to play it cool but was screaming with excitement inside, I said yes of course!
I can’t say too much about what I was organising before the broadcast of the shows as I don’t want to give anything away about the final episodes but I can say that I got to work alongside one of the most highly respected assistant floor managers out there, who was an inspiration. The way he managed backstage and the energy he exuded made everyone feel so comfortable and confident. Everyone knew what they were doing and where they were supposed to be. I learnt so much in the short space of a week and am incredibly grateful to have been given that opportunity. Overall, working for ITV was amazing and a breathtakingly good experience for everyone at Epic. We have learnt a lot about the studio and ourselves as a team. On a personal level, I feel I have an even better sense of direction regarding the area/s of TV production that I would most like to work in.
Is there any advice you would like to give to others who want to work in the industry?
To anyone looking to work in the television industry, my best advice is to go above and beyond in everything you do. You have to keep actively looking for the next opportunity and making sure you take up any that arise. If you’re a student, try to get some hands-on experience around your studies, it’s those extra opportunities that will make you shine and push you the extra mile!
Where do you see yourself in the future?
It’s hard to say where I see myself in the future as it’s so unpredictable but I would like pursue floor managing and see where that journey takes me. Regardless of where exactly I end up, I have to say that if I’m working in TV and continue to be surrounded by a good team of people, I’m doing okay. Better than okay, I’m thriving!
We welcome your comments and questions. Please comment or ask questions below to receive a response direct from our team!
[images: Courtesy of Lee Harper and Alex Thursby]