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Three months in Production with Channel 4 trainee Sebastian Bowen

Sebastian Bowen has been working at North One Television as a trainee Coordinator for three months as part of the Channel 4 Production Training Scheme. Here he tells us how it's been going so far:

Within my first month at North One Television I could tell that it was not going to be easy. It turns out that my manager’s promise to throw me in the deep end was not an empty one. Within hours of joining North One I was up to my thighs in work. My first project was going to be working on Celebrity Haunted Hotel Live; a new reality show in which brave celebrities book themselves into a haunted hotel for a chilling two night stay.  

Initially I was drafting and organising delivery schedules to site, booking travel arrangements for the crew and staff, booking additional staff and crew for the production… It was an endless conveyor belt of duties that needed addressing before crashing into a huge pile of Seb’s failed responsibilities.

Although the experience was a daunting one with a learning curve so steep that it would have challenged even the nimblest of mountain goats, I wasn’t about to quit. The first thing I had to get comfortable with was the speed at which ideas can be confirmed, changed, amended, confirmed, changed, amended, confirmed… get the idea. I realised very quickly that being flexible and extremely organised was going to be the key to staying on top of everything. My Outlook task bar list was starting to look like a telephone directory and the fact that it kept reminding me every five minutes that I forgot to do something yesterday was not helping my self-esteem.

After a week or two things began to look familiar and my nerves started to settle down, which allowed my brain time to catch up and gain a better understanding of what it was I was trying to achieve. I realised how important it is to remember to take five minutes and breathe when things get a bit crazy on a production.

It wasn’t too long before I went on a recce to Pluckley in Kent; the location of our up and coming spooky production. I was able to grasp a better understanding of the production and what we were trying to achieve. I found myself becoming proactive as opposed to reactive.

One of my biggest tasks was arranging for four huge outside broadcasting trucks to get onto the tiny site where we were going to be shooting. These trucks are massive, they are pretty much buildings with wheels.  Also the hotel was still running as business as usual so nothing was allowed to be delivered any sooner than a day before we were due to use them.  

In addition to the four OB trucks I had two other large vehicles, eight portaloos, a satellite mass, a skip, tree surgeons, health and safety equipment, photocopiers and all of the other production equipment and snacks; don’t forget the snacks! All of this needed to be delivered on the same day with a window of five hours before business needed to resume at the hotel.  To top things off, I had a one mile narrow single lane country road for the vehicles to travel down to site. No pressure then.

I am happy to report that in the end everything did go to plan. Some of the logistics took a little longer than expected and not everything turned up on its allocated time slot but all of my objectives were achieved within the time frame I was given. Once the production started the days became longer and sleep became a luxury I could no longer afford, but everybody pulled together and rotated shifts.  The live show was successful and over the course of the week I was able to build good relationships with the majority of the crew members. I used the opportunity to learn so much from my production team and the external crew.

Once the production was over, another important aspect of the task was restoring the hotel back to how it was before we arrived. The de-rig took about two days before everything was fully stripped. After which I did additional clean up and arranged for a tree surgeon to return to add any finishing touches. I had a great response from the hotel owners in regards to returning the hotel back to its former glory. I was the first member on site and 12 days later the last to leave. I was happy knowing that they were also happy with the way everything had been conducted.

Overall I learnt a lot from this first production and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I felt like I wanted to hide in the toilet or cry and run away. I took comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only person who felt like this. It was normal for everybody. The trick is to stick with it and follow it through. Have a plan and follow it as closely as you can. Be flexible to change and make notes about everything. Understand that you are part of a team and other team members are there to support you, everybody has the same intentions and expected outcomes so pull together when needed.

It’s now close to three months that I have been on the scheme and I am still enjoying it and just as excited as I was when I started. Now I’m looking forward to seeing what the New Year will bring. 

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