The Life of a Multi Camera TV Director
Our last #MarchOnMen contender is Multi Camera TV director and Founder of J Genesis Media, Jan Genesis. With Big Brother, I’m A Celebrity and Sky Sports News under his belt, we had to get a peak behind the scenes..
How it all started
I stumbled into my career if I’m honest with you. I did a university degree in Media Technology and Digital Broadcast because I had enough UCAS points to do it. At the end of the course, our tutor set up a visit to Bloomberg and everyone on the course went except me, because I’d never heard of Bloomberg and I was focusing on exams so I didn't really see the point at the time. After the visit, I was told how great Bloomberg was and how they were setting up an internship for a Broadcast Technical Operator, so I applied and managed to get the role!
Young, Black and Professional
When I started in television at the age of 21 there were very few people of colour, and as one of the youngest, and least experienced in my department, I was always looked to draw on the experience of my colleagues by shadowing and asking questions.
When you’re making a TV programme, race becomes irrelevant. Yes, it’s obvious that there aren’t many other black people behind the scenes, and it would be great to see more behind and in front of the camera across the board; and yes, diversity is an issue but at the same time, for me, the most important thing is having someone who can do the job well.
"Although finance content didn’t excite me, directing did, so all I had to do was tailor it to content I enjoyed working on"
As a director, one of the key skills is being able to react quickly and think on your feet. Being ready for the unexpected has certainly impacted my personal life. If someone was coming around for dinner, for example, and my meal plan were to go horribly wrong, I always try to have a backup option to hand.
When you’re working in a reality environment, you can never be sure of what’s going to happen. On shows like I’m a Celebrity and Big Brother, you are working with people who have signed up to be on a TV show. They are playing to the cameras and they are going to want to do things that make them seem interesting on TV. However, something like 24 hours in Police Custody, you’re working with people who have not necessarily signed up to be on a TV show, and not always going to considerate of the fact that there’s filming going on. I try to always have a plan A, B and C.
There’s been a few moments when I’ve been quietly proud, but I always look at myself and think I’ve got such a long way to go. One of my proudest moments has to be actually getting a Director role in the first place. There was an internal opening for a Director role at Bloomberg and there were other people who I felt were more qualified for it at the time, but I was offered the role. I guess, I displayed an ability to learn stuff quickly, and I had some different ideas. Although finance didn’t excite me, directing did, so all I had to do was tailor it to content I enjoyed working on; so then I’d be doing a job that I enjoyed, working on content that I enjoyed. My friends and family often describe me as the ultimate opportunist!
"Being ready for the unexpected has certainly impacted my personal life. If someone was coming around for dinner, for example, and my meal plan were to go horribly wrong, I always try to have a back up option to hand."
Foundation. While having a degree to work in TV isn't compulsory, it is advisable, and many courses now include a lot of practical learning, giving valuable hands on experience.
Ask questions. Show interest; be resourceful so if you can do something to make someone's life easier, make it easier. Talk to people, and not only the director. Talk to lighting, talk to sound, talk to vision, talk to production because all of that comes in to play.
Get in industry. If you can get a paid internship as a Production Assistant, that’s ideal but even if you can get a position as a Runner, take it. I worked with a Runner on Big Brother who was keen on being a Director. 2-3 years later, he’s now one of the Directors on the show, doing the same job he watched me do.
We’re thrilled to announce that Jan’s portfolio is continuing to grow, so please tune in to the shows he’ll be directing over the next few months:
24 Hours in A+E - Channel 4 (April)
Cheap, Cheap, Cheap – Channel 4 (Spring/summer ‘17)
Dara O’Briains Go 8 bit – Dave (Spring/summer ‘17)
Love Island, Series 3 – ITV (End of May)
Socialise with Jan too - Instagram: @J_Gen1 | Twitter: @GenesisJan1
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