The crew at Tailored Films have been very busy over the month of July as they have been all over Ireland shooting for their kid’s TV series ‘Ace My Space.’ There were 10 different children selected to get the bedrooms of their dreams. But, instead of jumping into the excitement of the life on-set, I want to take a tour through the editing room where the show is brought to life by some very talented people: Steven Allen and Oisin O’Neill.
I sat down with both of them individually and spoke to them about the process of editing, their way of doing things and their careers. Through talking with them, I also learned a thing or two that I did not know before. Things such as the critical importance of organisation and the enormous time investment that goes into completing just one episode of this series. Steven shed some light on how he prepares the footage for Oisin to then assemble into what we in the business call a rough-cut, a process that starts with the task of converting the very large, raw video files into small, more manageable files. Although they are lower in picture quality, it allows the editing software to run smoother, thus allowing the editors to work more efficiently. After the conversion is complete, every single video file has to be renamed according to the day of the shooting, the episode number, the scene, and the take. If that sounds like a lot… it’s because it is, but it is no match for Tailored’s editors.
Soon after that, the real work can commence. Now, each in their proper labels, the video files are combed through to see which one can offer the best towards the final cut; which particular sections of the various takes can be used in a particular scene, and as they do this, they lay them out in the timeline of their editing software in accordance to the script. Once this has been accomplished, the low-grade sequence is reconnected to the high-quality, original video files. The edited sequence retains its order but is upgraded in its picture quality and is what will be aired. Even though this is Steven’s first time working with both Tailored Films and a TV series, he is competent in his work and knows how to get by in a crunch.
Before joining Tailored, he worked making corporate videos where he was tasked with a gruelling amount of work, to be done by a strict deadline. If that isn’t enough to prep one for film production, I don’t know what is. Even though there is a million ways to do things in terms of editing, Steven works closely with Oisin to make sure that everything is the way he likes it so that once he get his hands on the files he can work easily with a seamless transition between the both of them.
Now that Steven has finished the organisation and the video conversion, it is time for Oisin to trim and give the final edit to the sequence, work that entails much of the same skill as the former in the process. Oisin has been working as an editor for 12 years and that time spent showed as I watched him work. To get to where he is now, one has to first understand the basics of whatever software one is using. After that, the advanced skills and techniques soon follow; the keyboard shortcuts, the speed and ease of going through the clips to then drag them onto the timeline. Not much else is left to say about the post-production side of things. It is a long process, and takes much patience and dedication, but one that lets the final product shine in its most brilliant form and capacity. Conversely, during production one can see the more hectic side of things.
I had the privilege to be in attendance for three of Ace My Space’s shooting days, during which time I was able to get some insight as to what goes on so that the production can run as smooth as possible. One instrument working towards that end is Ger McAuliffe, Ace My Space’s production assistant. He is a wonderful man with experience in TV, having worked on a few drama series. AMS is his second kids show — the first taking place over the months of March to June of 2019 — and there is an inherent difference between working on a serious production and a more light-hearted one. For the former, the crew is of smaller size and tends to be more lively and much communication went on amongst the various departments, something that he did not see when working on the drama series; something that allows all those involved to work together efficiently and effortlessly. Of Ger’s many responsibilities, one of the most prominent is making sure that everyone is happy, and being available to do whatever needs to be done, an aspect that goes hand-in-hand with the most difficult part of the job: prioritising.
Even though the Ace My Space team comprised of only 16 members, the work load placed on his shoulders was enough to make any inexperienced person shudder. He had to make sure that he can get everything done under a strict time limit, and be sure to complete the tasks both in order of importance and duration. If something would take the majority of the day, that duty would have to be postponed to open room for others that might be less costly in terms of time. All of what he does also alleviates the pressure from the show’s line producer, Eithne Fitzsimons, as she handles the books and finances.
Every occupation comes with both reward and struggle, and the thing that makes it all worth it is seeing that, at the end of the day, everyone is happy and safe. The result of a hard day’s work, something that is not as easy to gauge as one might think. Of course for film and TV the end result is clear and obvious: the final cut. But for the production assistant, the indicator of a job well done is the attitude of the cast and crew. If, at the end of the day, they are happy then that means Ger can go to bed knowing that he did all he could and came out the other side totally successful.
Of the many take-aways and lessons learned Ger has from Ace My Space, the one that is most prominent is just how crucial communication is. Coming from a larger production to a smaller one allows for more clear, concise interaction among the various departments and leaves little to no room for guess work as to what needs to be done, a facet of AMS that is not universally shared with other productions. But one thing that is shared is that one has to be able to roll with the punches, so to speak. Although AMS is a semi-scripted show, there are at many points where what is said and what is done and needed is completely improvised. Take the aspect of design for instance. Say that the design team needs a certain article of clothing to complete a costume, but no such article can be found. What is Ger to do? He has to communicate this short coming and find out that it is the vibrance of the colour and not the colour itself that is important.
As the first season of Ace My Space comes to close, Ger is not without employment as he is off to work on a German crime TV series. This job will be unlike the project from which he is coming, but this is not a bad thing, for the change in pace he views as positive. Running around set and throughout town, chasing various items is satisfying for a time, but too much of it over an extended period can become grating. Ger is looking forward to this new chapter in his career and all of us at Tailored Films sincerely wish him the best of luck.
Finally, I would like to introduce Ace My Space’s director, Ruth Treacy. She, along with the rest of her team look back on what they were able to accomplish, the triumphs and disasters.
Through the planning of the series, it was deemed necessary to introduce an element of uncertainty into the show for entertainment’s sake. At the episodes half-way mark, a “disaster” strikes the AMS team where something with the design or the children goes awry. These are scripted and entirely expected. But it is the things that are not expected that cause the most frustration, chief among which is time and weather. Since the design team had to set up their equipment outdoors to keep the noise and mess of their power tools away from the set (the house,) they were exposed to all of Earth’s elements, though they tried their best to keep them at bay with a portable easy up. The time pressure to make sure that everything is in place for the reveal of the room is stressful, and having to deal with all of the unexpected takes time away from what is important. But the thing that smooths those road bumps is the amazingly talented crew.
This was AMS’s debut season, and doing a reality kids series has been tricky from concept to production. Planning everything in the minute-by-minute format, budgeting time for unexpected interruptions all come with the territory, but after all was said and done, everything went to plan and exceeded expectations. But, as I hope you are aware, Tailored Films is not solely involved with television and have many feature films under their belt and are confidently experienced with both formats. And with that experience comes the knowledge and wisdom to recognise the similarities and differences between them.
One of the big differences between a feature and a TV series is the production timeline. In television, you get the finances faster and that allows the production to commence and wrap in about 6 months, whereas in film the development could last 3-5 years followed by a long editing process. Even though working on features allows for a bigger budget and has opportunity to work with big-name actors, doing TV is just faster, has a smaller team, and most of the work can be done in-house, meaning that Ruth and Julianne Forde, the cinematographer, can be more hands-on than they might otherwise. And that is especially helpful when preparing the home’s residence for the Ace My Space team to essentially take over their house.
Eithne and the production coordinator Caroline do all they can to make sure that the home owners know what to expect when the team arrives and work for two solid days. Someone that is not totally familiar to how the show works might not completely understand exactly how much their home is taken over by the crew of 14 people. In the end, they do deal with it pleasantly because they are getting a room renovated for free. Some of the families followed-up with AMS and expressed their happiness and satisfaction with how polite and accommodating the crew was, because, in the end, they are doing it for their children who’s ecstatic excitement is enough. One girl actually burst into tears when she walked into her new room, a reaction that remained steady across the board.
Aside from the obstacles of weather and general time constraints, the most challenging aspect of the shooting dates was balancing the capturing of things on camera for entertainment purposes and clearing out and making room for the design team to get their work done; very tight on time.
Catch Ace My Space on RTE2 from 9th November 2019.