Paul Jackson is the CEO of Eyeworks UK, and the chair of the Royal Television Society (RTS) Craft and Design Awards in the UK. Reflecting on his many years in television, from his years as a young producer at the BBC all the way to his time at RTS, Jackson explains why it’s important to recognize and nurture the talent behind the scenes.
I have loved chairing the RTS Craft and Design Awards over the last four years, not least because as a young producer working at the BBC – when it was in its heyday as a fully resourced, in-house production studio – I benefited hugely from the vast pool of talent and expertise in these departments. We could not have made shows like The Two Ronnies without the camera skills of Ron Green and his crew, the vision mixing of Heather Gilder or the costume design of Mary Husband. The same applied to the consummate video tape editing of Ed Wooden on The Young Ones or the brilliant makeup of Sally Sutton on Three of a Kind. Having seen first hand how irreplaceable these professionals are in the success of a show, I was delighted to be asked to get involved with an awards program dedicated to them.
One interesting anomaly in modern television is that we now see today’s highly skilled craft and design professionals working on a whole host of reality shows. At first one might wonder what place editing and lighting and costume and design might have in a world where we assume we are watching real people in real situations. Of course, we all know that in fact reality programs are only possible as a result of modern editing techniques that allow productions to monitor and meld together previously uncontrollable volumes of material.
The speed with which good segment teams can log and build a story as it develops, from a chaos of audio and video feeds is something we never dreamed of before the advent of digital recording. (I remember Ed Wooden late one night at Television Centre, electronically sending a piece of footage many times around the whole basement edit complex so as to delay its arrival on his old two-inch video show master by a few frames; now all he would have to do is dial in a number on his keyboard.) The skill of the people who do that job is now recognized at the Craft and Design Awards, where the post-production editing team on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here won the award for Best Tape and Film editing in 2006. Interestingly, that same year, the show also won the Production Design award for Entertainment shows; recognition that building the camp itself as well as the studio for [UK comedy team] Ant and Dec and those remarkable, seemingly death-defying jungle trails all in the middle of nowhere, is a triumph of the art.
The old skills also deliver for these modern, real people entertainment shows. The importance of costume and lighting to a show like Dancing on Ice is fairly obvious, and indeed both have been consistently recognized as award winners in the last few years, as has the actual camera direction, by Paul Kirrage. The importance of the whole design concept was also acknowledged when Britain’s Got Talent won the Production Design Award in 2008. Alongside the extraordinary innovation we have seen in the tools available in the edit suite has been the discovery of the most amazing possibilities in the use of graphics. Last year’s Innovation Award was given to Headcases, a 30-minute topical sketch show that could not have been made without the speed and flexibility of modern graphic packages; both of which the show pushed to the limit. The Judge’s award that year went to drama program, City of Vice, which again could not have been conceived without the stunning graphical treatment which allowed us to travel through the streets of 18th century London with such simplicity and conviction.
So, as the time for entries to this year’s award is upon us, have a look out for all those quiet background moments of brilliance that make the biggest and best shows such compelling viewing. For more information or to enter the awards visit www.rts.org.uk.