The Luke McQueen Pilots

I had the pleasure of helping on a shoot to promote the new series by comedian Luke McQueen for BBC Three. BBC Creative staged a fake protest outside New Broadcasting House to ‘stop’ the series from going out.

I edited this piece for social to promo the show from that shoot, crafting my own narrative from the additional material shot on the day. Luke is a great improviser, and you can watch his series on BBC iPlayer here.

Look out for a cameo from a disgruntled Jeremy Vine

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How Big Should My Short Film Be?

How big should a short film production be?

It’s a tricky question, not just when planning a shoot but when writing and creating your work. It affects everything. From locations, to talent, to lens choices.

So my current dilemma is this: Should the narrative short film I am writing be kept small and achievable with my own kit and resources? Or should I write for a bigger production with funding, crew and more advanced kit?

The correct (and logical) answer of course is to write without constraint and change to fit the production when you get to it. It makes sense. It allows you to chop and change the creative to suit your production when it comes to it.

But (and here’s the crux of this piece) it is SO TEMPTING to write big, aim high, and never actually make the film you wanted to make.

I’ve been through the funded and commissioned shorts route a few times and it brings with it a set of expectations that demand a certain type of production. You have notes and sign off and schedules and budgets to stick to, which is all extremely helpful, but there is always the nagging feeling that the film you are tying to make could be made quicker, smaller and without the apparatus of a production team around it.

So, what have I decided? I think, in this case, I’m going to keep things small and do things my own way without funding. That gives me scope to experiment, try things, and essentially prototype something bigger much more quickly. I feel it’s an experiment worth conducting, and I’m sure it will be a learning experience too.

I’ll keep you posted and hopefully share some of the process along the way.

Spoken Word for BBC Three

I recently produced and directed a series of Spoken Word pieces for BBC Three. The videos cover a range of topics from debt to sexual harassment.

The first piece by Nicole Murphy debuted on BBC Three’s Facebook page and generated 400k views, 6.5k shares, and over 10k reactions. I think this shows that spoken word can be a powerful vehicle for messages on event the most serious topics.

The production was very small and extremely fast turnaround but that made it all the more fun to do. We shot 12 films in two days with the edit for the lot taking two weeks in total. Not bad at all.

You can also see two pieces by Birmingham poet and rapper Casey Bailey on Facebook and on the BBC Three website.

Shares And Shareability

In 2017, videos I’ve produced for BBC Three have been viewed around 5.5 million times and shared around 6,500 times on Facebook. I’m pretty pleased with that, but there’s always room for improvement and self-reflection.

So I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about shareability. What makes people share? What makes something shareable? And what trends there are in highly-shared content? It is, after all, a large part of my job. But the answer is not as simple as psychology or platform optimisation.

Looking back on those videos, and looking at the wealth of video content we publish on Facebook at Three, I’ve been aiming to find some correlation between content and shareability to improve what comes next.

One factor that feels like something tangible to put into practice is simplicity.

Of the content I reviewed, a defining factor was the specificity of the format on offer and the clarity of the opening few seconds. The formats that got shared and viewed the most, in my opinion, were the videos that told you everything you needed to know about the series from the title, the opening gambit, and perhaps also the thumbnail. They offered the ‘promise’ of good content and a clear story, and then delivered on that promise.

I’ve heard several times that ‘subtlety doesn’t work for us’, and I agree. It’s for this reason that formats, especially new ones, need to do what they say on the tin and vice-versa. That’s not to say subtleties won’t emerge or be communicated through the content, but the topline sell should be simple, clear and honest.

Another aspect I’ve noticed as a result of my review, is the vantage point from which a story is told.

A big thing I’ve learned this year is to take a big step back from my content and look at the broader strokes of the story I wanted to tell. Sometimes you need to take a different position to tell the overall arc of a story, rather than the individual stories within it in order to communicate it effectively.

For example, the VR films I made around mental health were a labour of love and I’m really pleased I got to make them. They did well, with over 2,900 shares and 1.5m views across all versions. But in hindsight I should have made an opening film about the bigger picture in broader strokes – how we were using VR, why we were doing it, how the contributors felt about using it – instead of diving into their individual stories in a new medium from their perspective. Hindsight is wonderful is this regard!

Some proof for this is the overview film BBC masterbrand made about the series which took this approach. It performed very well – better than the individual films in fact – because it simplified the story being told for an audience unfamiliar with the process. It connected because it introduced the story as something new and different, not something you should accept and understand on your own as you watch.

So, although it’s not quite the end of the year it felt like a good time to reflect and feed into what I develop next. Concentrating on simplicity and reviewing the vantage point for my story feel like actionable things to take into my next phase of content making. Much better, in my opinion, than trying to divine content strategies purely from analytics and recently-received wisdom.

BBC Promo Film and i Paper Interview

This week we’ve had some lovely promotion for Step Inside My Head (aka My Mental Health In VR).

First we had a film made by BBC marketing to explain what we did and how which features me flapping my arms around in a green room. It’s a great overview of what we were hoping to achieve.

And today we also had a double page spread in the i newspaper focusing on Katy’s story and how we tried to get inside her head and present it to audiences. There is genuine interest in how VR can help with mental health issues and I’m a firm believer in its power to provide new perspectives.

Appearance on BBC Breakfast

Last week I appeared on BBC Breakfast News to talk about Step Inside My Head, a series of films I produced for BBC Three using virtual reality to explore mental health.

Charlie and Naga asked some good questions and I was really proud of my contributors James and Katy who were brilliant with very little preparation time. It was a fantastic opportunity to expose more people to the possibilities in VR and to talk about mental health in a new way.

That’s live TV off the bucket list at least.

My Mental Health In VR – BBC Three

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For the past few months I’ve been making a short series of films that use virtual reality to help express mental health conditions for BBC Three.

The series combines powerful interviews with people with mental health experiences with innovative mixed reality filming using Google’s virtual reality painting tool Tilt Brush.

The project involved brokering deals with Google to use the Tilt Brush technology and YouTube Space London to use their state-of-the-art facilities, as well as taking advice from BBC R&D and mental health charities such as MIND.

The series is available to watch on BBC Three’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, and the BBC Three website.

I’ll be appearing on BBC Breakfast on Friday 22 September on BBC One to talk about the series, so tune in 8-9am!