Putting it Together – A Production Manager’s Baptism of Fire!
By Katie Hecht
Well, it’s been an “interesting” year so far hasn’t it?!
In my role as Finance & Production Manager, I start drawing up next year’s C4K budget in Feb/March, once all the finances have rolled out for the Christmas Tour and we start thinking about our fundraising and performance plans for the upcoming year. As the UK went into lockdown, we at C4K went into crisis management and wondered whether our usual Christmas tour would be a workable option this year. We’d started the new year with big plans - laying out our grand fundraising and budgeting targets, hoping to extend our 2020 tour to cover Northern Ireland, finally visiting EVERY children’s hospice in the UK. We soon realised, as funding options were disappearing over-night, that we would have to extensively rethink the whole year. It was our sincere hope that Covid-19 would be a thing of the past by Christmas and we could mount something, anything to fulfil our charitable objectives and do what we LOVE!
As one day of lockdown became a week, then became a month, our plans for the year were constantly evolving. How could we reach our audience amidst this pandemic?! In line with each new scenario or idea, I would come up with a fresh new budget, keeping costs low, always aware that every other charity in the country will be looking for funding from the same sources. As I rewrote budget after budget, it was soon apparent that a tour this year was just not possible. We all agreed that it would be safer for our audience to receive our show digitally in 2020. It was a difficult decision to make; to admit defeat in a way, by saying we believed Covid would still be around at Christmas, although we all hoped differently. So, as we begin Lockdown 2, when we would normally begin rehearsals, we are in the final weeks of the edit on our Film of 'Benson’s Christmas Letter'.
I usually take on the role of production/stage manager for the tour each year. I make sure everyone has all the props, costume, set & equipment they need and tie up all the loose ends before sending them on their merry way around the UK. Taking on the logistics of making a film was a whole other gambit! As an actress, I have worked extensively in TV and Film so had, at least, a little insight into how to pull a film production together.
Gathering all the creatives and production team was our first task. We had our usual bunch of talented creatives in writers, designers and directors, but we spent a long time searching for the right production company and digital designers. We had to make sure that they could match our creative vision for the budget we had. No mean feat, I can tell you! All of this had to be done alongside the development of the script. Not the best way to work things but with the late decision to make a film at all, and the time constraints that came with it, the project was constantly evolving along the way.
Next came lining up our wonderful cast, read-throughs, story boarding and prop design, green-screen studio hire as well as the logistics of pulling all these pieces together.
The design elements were more than we could’ve hoped for. Our fabulous designer, Simon Rowe, had translated the scenery from the script to the sketch book perfectly. He knows exactly the world we want to create, so when we handed them over to Scriberia, the digital designers, they were able turn the beautiful drawings in to digital backdrops to frame our story.
When it finally came to filming, our amazing production company, Loaded Productions, ran a fun filled, professional, busy couple of days. Camera crew and equipment were prepped and ready to go. Actors were well rehearsed. Props, costume and scenery had been delivered. Food and drink were on tap. Time was tight but everyone involved worked hard to achieve our shared objective, slotting in their own piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Once the final snap of the clapper-board had been clapped, the cast and crew celebrated with well-deserved Prosecco and cake.
I cannot tell you how excited I am for you to see the final product. I look over the editor’s shoulder every now and then to take a sneak peek and I immediately get a warm, Christmassy feeling all over, seeing a scene come to life. C4K is a labour of love for all of us who work under this banner, and this project has shown me how we can push the boundaries of our comfort zones if you really believe in a group of people and want to spread some Christmas joy to those who need it most. This year has been a particularly difficult one for so many people, but they say that special things can be created during times of hardship.
Stay safe everyone, and Merry Christmas xxxx