Tuesday, 28 September 2010

TV crew shooting something near my workplace

A common sight in London, but a TV drama is being shot around Chancery Lane. Walking to work for my Sunday shift I notice several dozen equipment trucks, vans and cars parked all the way up the lane with dozens more crew members buzzing around, unloading huge lights, cameras, dollys, sound equipment, boom mics, some weird wheeled contraption with massive rubber tyres, lots and lots of what appeared to be scaffolding, and more and more lights. So many lights! The entire street was overrun with people bedecked in expensive equipment milling around and loading and unloading. Apparently they are shooting a TV drama about lawyers on location in Chancery Lane (Chancery Lane is around the corner from the Royal Courts of Justice, down the road from the Old Bailey, and houses the Law Society directly opposite the building in which I work).

The sheer volume of equipment and personnel was immense. The hire costs, wages, parking, fuel and catering alone must have cost enough money to bankroll a small nation. I'm aware that I know nothing about the demands of professional television production, but I began to wonder, surely this is too much? I have no doubt that a larger or more complex production would require even more people and equipment, but has logic gone out of the window here? Is television production such a gluttonous, corpulent beast of an industry that it requires this many people and this much equipment on hand? Is this just the way the industry "is"? it seems the producers are throwing money away, surely there must be a more efficient way to point a camera and a couple of lights at a bunch of people in lawyers wigs discussing their love life?

Of course, walking past a bunch of trucks and some people lugging cameras around is the closest I've ever been to the set of a TV drama. I am not even a dilettante when it comes to television. I do know that there is a lot more involved in these projects than people ever realise, but after reading about industrious and talented newcomers making entire feature length movies with next to no equipment or crew, seeing the outlines of such a top-heavy beast makes me wonder how efficient the television system is. But then again, television - just like commercial cinema- is a business. overseen by professionals, underwritten by insurers, and things have to be done a certain way.

Efficiency is practiced by small filmmakers not for efficiency's sake, but because doing as much as possible for as little financial outlay as possible is crucial to the survival of self funded or low/no budget projects. I know that I'm comparing the incomparable, but after seeing what one driven individual can do with minimal equipment, seeing the commercial system at work is akin to watching a profligate behemoth, devouring everything in it's crumbling vicinity with foul tumoured jaws, all the while slowly dying of agonising dysentery, thrashing and screaming and pissing all over itself, laughing deliriously and drenched in sweat from psychotic public masturbation, screaming at anyone who dares to glance at the revolting spectacle as it ejaculates torrents of blood up the sides of London landmarks.

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