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Working for the BBC….

Working for the BBC….

means a few surprises from time to time. Like telling people that it’s not a place where they shower you with money while you hang out backstage with Matt Smith or even Huw Edwards, for instance. Although there are a few fantastic non-financial bonuses, of course – like working on election night. Really must blog about that one day.

Anyway, it also makes for the occasional surprise in the rest of your life – like this ad I spotted on my Facebook page, basically begging for a job.

Suffice to say that most of the people that I know who are in a position to hire someone at the BBC don’t have Facebook accounts, as far as I know. Although I dare say the person who placed that advert would find such non-social-media people to be freaks of the highest order…

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

I was recently given the opportunity to produce a short film for work about a new website, coming soon for internal workers. Since I hadn’t really made a short film since my student efforts with Stephen Fry in 1995 – when we were outputting to VHS! – I thought it’d be a great chance to learn what had changed in the last 15 years. A lot.

Whereas before we literally pointed and shot the camera at our interviewees, this time we also had a lighting kit to contend with. A huge lighting kit on a trolley that came in a flight case – and I was told this was the portable version. It did make a difference in terms of the visual image, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort of rigging everything up and blinding our interviewees. But if that’s the professional way to do it …

Of course, I was the one asking the questions, although it took me a while to master my brief, as they are wont to say in the civil service. But by the time I’d recorded and logged all the interviews, I had enough soundbites to put something together, although it then became a bit of a mad dash to try and find alternative footage to pep up the visuals – and amazingly, if you want to film at the place you work, you need a permit. Plus there’s so much footage in the archives that it’s actually very difficult to try and find the footage you want, that somebody else MUST have surely filmed.

All in all, we spent a day and a half filming, and got about 90 minutes of raw footage out of eight quick interviews, most of them lasting less than ten minutes. It took me a couple of hours to transcribe the interviews to create a rough “script” to take to the edit suite.

Having spent most of my working life vainly trying to get work computers to do basic video editing, it was a real blessing to walk into a properly maintained edit suite running Final Cut Pro, being run by an editor who knew what he was doing. Even if it didn’t seem that different from Adobe Premiere Pro. We even managed to add in a couple of graphical flourishes and a visual gag. I did miss the physicality of doing it myself though – of pressing the buttons, using the jog wheel etc.

So two meetings, 14 hours of filming, 2 hours of logging, a couple of spare tapes for extra shots, and 8 hours of editing later, I can say that I’ve managed to help produce a 4 minute internal film that five key stakeholders seem reasonably happy with. Which is an innovation in itself. But then, Geoff managed to make this video in 5 hours…

Now I’ve got a vague hunger to see what else I can film and edit. Of course, that would mean finding a subject, the time, the motivation – oh, and the equipment as well.

Name my booking system!

Name my booking system!

At work, I’m currently project managing the development of a booking system for various internal events.

But it has no name. Well, aside from Booking System. Which is, needless to say, not particularly attractive.

So… any suggestions from the crowd?

"Mae gen i TGAU yn Gymraeg"

"Mae gen i TGAU yn Gymraeg"

I recently had a work meeting with someone senior who turned out to be from Wales. Thus one small tangent of the conversation involved me saying I was from Wales, and stating that I had a Welsh GCSE certificate. Second language, of course, but who’s counting?

Of course, what happens? I get back a short work email … entirely in Welsh. I can distill the odd phrase or word and get the gist of the email – all but the last sentence.

Now, do I:

– admit defeat, and reveal my inadequateness in using Welsh (after all, I’m not genetically Welsh and haven’t lived in Wales for three years)?
– soldier on, find someone to translate the text for me, and fire off some pithy comeback in Welsh, and keep the illusion going?

Oh, these work dilemmas…

Money money money

Money money money




lust money

Originally uploaded by catsfather

The ongoing saga of MP expenses has opened up a veritable kettle of worms in terms of what people earn, what they expect to earn – and crucially, how that compares to the rest of the population.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has a handy calculator that compares your income against the British national average (£390 for a two-adult household, after taxes and benefits).

My details against the IFS calculator show that I have a higher income than around 85% of the population. Then again, I’m in a single household with no dependents.

I’m reasonably happy with my salary – I don’t feel rich, but I don’t feel poor either. I’m not buying Tesco Value baked beans, but neither am I buying organically grown gourmet beans flown in from Fiji. But then once I discovered that some people earned far more than I did, I was slightly peeved for a while – for no good reason. My income hadn’t changed at all, but the knowledge that other people were doing far better than I did suddenly started to rankle slightly. For no good reason.

There’s a fascinating – if somewhat biased article – in The Guardian about the *emotional* gap between those working in the City and their reality. How everyone in the City assumes they’re working for a slave’s wage, yet can’t grasp the reality that they are far better off than most people. Because, alas, most people aren’t around them – they only see their peers.

Which is probably why MPs had no clue that the rest of the country would see what they were doing as thieving.

I’m fairly sure most of my friends would consider themselves to be average wage-earners, not earning that much more or less. But then the reality is, in fact, that they’re probably all earning far more than say 75% of the population.

Hiding my Doctor Who love…

Hiding my Doctor Who love…

Ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan. Not quite to the point of putting up posters but I definitely bought the magazines and recorded the programmes on VHS.

It did get to the point when I was notoriously knowledgable about it in my hometown, and when I accidentally recorded over my prized recording of Remembrance of the Daleks, even my TV-phobic parents knew how important it was to my 14-year-old self.

However, it became time to grow up, go to university and put away childish things. Although of course, the knowledge would always emerge somehow sooner or later – and it’s not as if pretending to like The Sundays hid my geekiness. But I consciously shied away from being too close to what counted for Doctor Who fandom at the time. Even if I did run the Cult TV society at University…

Fast-forward ten years, and Doctor Who geeks and fans are everywhere. And I mean, EVERYWHERE. In all shapes, sizes and ages.

Doctor Who almost always comes up at some point in work. But while I concentrated on trying to be cool at university (and failing), they unabashedly carried on with the love that dare not vworp its name, and started running conventions and the like. Now, they go on holidays with the production team and things like that.

I recently had a work meeting with a young mid-20s lady with a glamorous name, and was amazed when unbidden, she started talking about her love of Doctor Who, and namechecking Troughton and the like. Never mind the fact she knows what happens at Christmas…

Of course, working at BBC Wales for five years, three of which were spent looking enviously while other colleagues ran off taking pics on location and in studio didn’t exactly help. But ah well, not even the Doctor can change his own past (Eighth Doctor excepted, of course)

Presentation palpitations

Presentation palpitations

Today, I had to give a very small presentation to a workgroup I’m part of. Nothing fancy, just outlining a possible solution to around 30 people sat in a room. I know most of these people, there weren’t any senior figures in the room – all I had to do was talk for about 20 minutes about possible solutions, and lead a discussion.

I wasn’t that nervous till I was stood in front of everyone in front of the projector. Then I just started gabbling. On topic, but I talked very very quickly, rushed through the slides and frequently changed trains of thought and metaphor depending on the current thread of discussion. By the end of it all, I was slightly worn out and it took the calm voice of the moderator to bring the whole thing to a close.

This wouldn’t be so bad except that I have to give a professional presentation in the Netherlands at the end of May. No idea about the size of the audience, but given that other speakers include leading brands, it’s probably a fairly big deal and I’d be representing a major brand, needless to say. Then again, it’s not South by Southwest…

Can you hear the people sing?

Can you hear the people sing?

As I speak, there is the glorious sound of a gospel choir working their way through a bunch of classic hymns and not-so-classic modern pop tunes.

This would be great, if it was not Friday at 4pm, they were on the ground floor of the building I work in and only the bottom two floors (those belonging to BBC Worldwide) are enjoying the party, complete with mince pies, wine, DJ and glitterball. In the meantime, the wage slaves up above have to – in theory – keep working.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t arrived back at the BBC just when the Christmas party limit was slashed, so my “departmental” Christmas party last week was at a bar, and consisted of some free drink – and far too late – some very unChristmassy canapes. Although I’m lucky I got to go to one at all, I suppose…

Then again, my first BBC Worldwide Christmas party was quite an eye-opener. I’d only been working for a week, and got shepherded to the party at Heaven, which included girls dancing in cages, and ice sculptures where you could drink vodka from an ice woman’s breast. This was 1997, mind you…

The agony of the short-distance writer

The agony of the short-distance writer

Despite having spent most of my life writing words for websites (and project proposals, that sort of thing), and having had two jobs with the word “Editor” in the title, I’ve never really considered myself a writer.

Recently, I was asked to write a short article for Ariel, the BBC’s internal corporate newspaper. On a topic I knew a lot about, indeed, that I somewhat relished.

However, I kept putting it off week after week until finally, today, I was told that I had to get it to the editor by lunchtime or knives and screams would be heard. So I knuckled down, looked at the few notes I’d made, and in an hour, I’d turned out 425 words of prose that’s almost professional. It’s elegant, the end references the beginning, and it’s one of the best articles I think I’ve written. And I knocked it out in less than an hour.

I’d whip myself even more about being such a procrastinating fool about it, but it seems I’m not that alone. Douglas Adams famously declared that “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Most of the emails that Russell T Davies sends out in The Writer’s Tale are of him either avoiding starting work on a script, procrastinating over working on a script, or the insane things that happen as he tries to finish his work to deadline.

What is it about writing that encourages procrastination to such an extent? How is it I can quickly knock off a blog entry, no problem, but trying to write an article causes huge amounts of internal angst? How come editors don’t want to strangle their contributors at every available opportunity? And how can I stop procrastination in the unlikely event I ever get asked to write another article?

Embarassment at work… (sponsored post)

Embarassment at work… (sponsored post)

So far, my most embarassing desk-work moments have involved:

– merrily miming along to a superlative Pet Shop Boys track called I’m In Love With A Married Man.
– shrieking like a girl when I played a video that unexpectedly turned into one of those scary jumpy videos.

But fortunately, I’ve not yet been caught looking at things I shouldn’t have, quite like this:

Video placement paid for by ChannelBee