POST-PRODUCTION HOUSE FILMS@59 - GINA FUCCI
Films at 59 have been in the industry for over 25 years and are a leading pre and post post-production facility providing a range of award winning services to producers across the globe.
Their credits list includes; ‘Sherlock’, ‘Dr.Who’, ‘The Hunt’, ‘Frozen Planet’ and ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ as well as a host of feature films, music videos and factual programmes.
They employ over 100 staff as well as graduate students. Their Managing Director and founder is Gina Fucci.
WHAT TYPE OF SERVICES DOES FILMS AT 59 PROVIDE?
We are a pre and post production facilities company in Bristol, UK. We offer crewing diary services, shooting equipment hire: various camera formats and lighting, all types of camera, lighting and sound kit, provide high end edit and grading suites, cover all aspects of post sound (Foley, sound design and mixing), as part of our client package, we manage projects through to delivery and broadcast/webcast.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY?
My Dad was a film editor, and I was lucky to be on location with him in New York City. It was an interesting chance to see a variety of processes in the industry and I decided then I wanted to be a film editor too. So, I went off to college. My Mum was desperate for me to be a lawyer but I had other ideas. I was able to take a gap year in Manchester here in the UK and became a cinema projectionist, which was where I met my husband. I went home to the US for my finishing year and eventually came back to settle in the UK. I wrote to all the local production companies named in the Yellow pages in those days, and I was lucky enough to get a job in Bristol working at a hire company preparing kit where I spent time preparing kit. Then I got a job assisting at a company called ‘Films of Bristol’, but after 5 months they went in to receivership and I lost my job. I was young, 21 at the time, and I went into the receivership company with my boss and asked what we could do. One of the board members suggested keeping the building and we leased some of the kit that wasn’t sold off. We worked for free for the first 6 months. He said as we were working for free, he wouldn’t charge us any rent for those 6 months and we paid him back later and that’s how Films at 59 started. We worked for free for two years, paying the operators and buying kit. We decided we would just back-pay ourselves later on. To think I started out wanting to become an operator but ended up becoming a manager.
WHAT SKILLS OR PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES WOULD YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE BIGGEST FACTOR AS TO WHY YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I’d say I am able to put myself in someone else’s position. Early on I was able to listen to what people were saying and offer them help with their situation. Also, I’m a do-er, making teas, cleaning toilets, delivering to clients, paying staff, learning about new kit. Doing things and getting things done are big for me.
WORKING WITH HIRE COMPANIES:
HOW SHOULD A YOUNG FILM-MAKER APPROACH A HIRE/POST FACILITY FOR THE FIRST TIME? ARE YOU OPEN TO LETTING YOUNGER STUDENT FILM-MAKERS HIRE YOUR KIT AND USE YOUR SERVICES?
We either get an email or a call asking for our services and whether they’re a student or non student, they would be treated exactly the same. Each client or student will call with their project and questions, asking what camera to use or whether to use this service or kit and we can help and advise on that. If you make a general first enquiry, tell us your budget and we’ll see what we can do. We might say we can do it for that amount or maybe we can’t. Maybe you could offer an exchange of services? That’s been done before and we’re happy to consider that.
HOW ABOUT INSURANCE?
We get asked to do a lot of student projects. If they want kit we used to be able to put it on our insurance and bill-it on, but laws have changed now so they need to arrange their own insurance. It depends on where they’re shooting too. Some projects we can treat as developmental, I believe in ‘if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’. Some people are uneasy with the idea, of owing a favour, but I don’t look at it like that. Some people say “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. I would add to that, “it’s how you ask and how treat people along the way.
HOW DOES YOUR COSTING SYSTEM WORK?
We can offer a reduced rate but we always provide a full budget quote so they know what it all costs and it gives them a good perspective on budgeting for future projects. We quote in stages too so they understand how much things cost along the way. We quote for all services and they can then tell us which services they would like. We quote in order along the process of production. So this includes pre-planning and discussion, media management, off-line editing, archiving the files, on-line, dubbing, and delivery. We have a project manager who we assign to each project too.
WOULD A POST-PRODUCTION HOUSE BE A GOOD PLACE TO START FOR A YOUNG FILM STUDENT?
It depends what their passion is. We take on runners, and I think it’s good to have a variety of different people in our team. We’ve currently taken on 13 young people who are interested in post-production, kit hire, or even some who are unsure which area they would like to work in. I like being able to bring new talent in to the industry. If I were a runner coming in, and I wanted to be a writer, you could ask is coming in to a post house a good idea? It depends on the person. Maybe it is or maybe not. However, it’s all about building relationships and giving you an idea of how things work. Each department can still inform your chosen role. Just being aware that it takes X amount of time to produce some visual effects, might give them a different understanding of how to approach what they write next time they’re at their computer. Everything informs everything else.
WHAT MISTAKES DO YOU SEE STUDENTS MAKING THAT ARE COMING UP IN YOUR FIELD? IN COMMUNICATIONS, THEIR WORK, EMPLOYMENT APPLICATIONS AND INTERVIEWS.
Communications – This is not just related to students either. Society now has gotten used to short hand communication, which isn’t good. It’s all about the Who, What, When, Why, and How. Look at your email or when you’re speaking to someone and ask if you have covered all those questions? Is there anything you’ve missed? Does the person you’re talking to know you care and that you’ve thought about it from their point of view? Those are the best forms of communication and, nine times out of ten, we don’t get that, so the more planning that can be done the better. Also, people who appear to speak in a language that indicates that they know everything already makes it very hard to get the best out of the person who is giving the advice. Start by saying “I have these experiences, but I feel I need a little bit more . . . ”... We get 250 CVs a week so we have to weed them out from somewhere and normally it’s these kinds of errors that we start with.
Working environment – I think mistakes that people make in general is in assuming. Assuming what they are doing is the best method or process, like file naming for example. Assuming everyone knows what you mean when you call a certain file a particular name. You need to call it something where everyone along the chain knows what it is and where to find it. They name it what makes sense to them but not anyone else. Like a project should be called ‘project name_date_version_file_folder’ etc. The simple things cause the most problems. Other mistakes are those made through enthusiasm. They’ve shot lots of material on set, but haven’t really thought about how to save it, handle it, store it or transfer it or where it goes, so we end up with a build up of material. The ones that are most successful are those that do a little bit of homework before hand, asking the right questions. It doesn’t take long to ask for that advice.
Employment applications - Because we get sent so many CVs and applications, we need methods to weed people out and reduce the applicant pool. First is really basic grammar typos. Some people may be dyslexic, but someone could always read it for you before you send it. Simple mistakes send the signal that if you haven’t bothered with the simplest things, how can I trust you with the hardest things? Also find out about the company you’re writing to. Don’t just send a letter to every production company in a group email. Sometimes, the attention to detail isn’t there either and applicants haven’t even changed our competitor’s name in the email they send to us! Or they call me Tina, not Gina, for example. On the other hand, it’s nice when I get an email saying ‘Hi Gina, I’ve double checked with reception and they said you’d be the best person to send a CV to and maybe you could pass it on to someone who could help.’ It’s nice to see they’ve thought about it.
Interviews – Someone that’s taken care of their appearance is always a good start. They don’t have to come in a suit, but if they do it tells me it’s an important job to them and it’s respectful. Arriving on time too is a good thing. If they are late, then they’ve let me know that they’re going to be late. A key thing is thinking beforehand. No one knows the questions you’ll be asked but you can think about what questions might be asked based around the industry in general. I had a runner interview the other day, with someone I knew who was a friend of the family, and I knew they didn’t know what they wanted to do, but I could see he had thought about what questions might be asked. Everyone gets nervous but that’s fine, we’re all human. It’s good to hear they’ve had a look at our website and tell us about what they do in their spare time that’s related too. Also, I ask why they think being able to make a good cup of tea is important. This might seem strange but it’s not about the tea, it’s whether someone knows the philosophy behind it. It’s the care and consideration you have for who you’ve made it for, to nurture someone who is stressed in the middle of a late night edit or sound mix. Those days are happening more often now, so in interviews that’s important to me. Saying what they can bring to the table is another good attribute. You might not have worked with these particular types of edit codecs or pieces of kit, but you know someone who does or that could be of service. They could say, ‘I feel I’m a fast learner, and absorb knowledge by doing XYZ, and I think that relates to this role ... ’ With mistakes, one big thing is thinking you know it all. Be real in the interview. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, you might cause problems down the line but also you might end up not being happy in the job yourself which isn’t good for you or us.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN AN APPLICANT?
Passion is an overused word but I do look for passion, and enthusiasm and humour. We work in a stressful environment so having a sense of humour is a good thing. If you have experienced stressful situations in the past, this is good to know. As are examples of good communication. All these are things I look out for, but also a bit of personality too, so make sure these parts of you come across. If you’ve shown examples of where you’ve done something off your own back, maybe worked for free to help someone, then that stands out. Self awareness of the team around you are also big factors for team work.
HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS AND HOW HAS THIS IMPACTED ON YOUR WORK?
I don’t think it has changed much. There’s less money and more media sure, but every ten years we experience these changes. New technology has made it possible to do more things and that has created a belief that it’s easier to do. It’s not easier or harder, just different. If you take pride in what you’re doing, preplan and collaborative, it’s the same. For a lot of people in the industry, it’s harder to find jobs – there is a lot of competition. The biggest change is a bigger gap in being able to do something on your phone or on the big screen and a bigger gulf between the two. In summary, it’s over population, funding is less for each project as there’s more choice and more content, creative ideas have to be more unusual and better executed.
ADVICE AND MISTAKES:
WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
My Dad used to say ‘Don’t let the door hit you on the backside.’ I always took that to mean – get out there and go through that door - “do it” and “do it well!”
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE?
Don’t take it too seriously. Just do your best, care about people around you and be prepared. Don’t just wing it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BLUNDER?
I was on a freebie shoot to help someone I knew. I was 18, shooting an interview for an 80th birthday video for a friend’s Mum. We shot a three hour interview and asked a lot of questions about her history and relationship with her Mum. I had prepared beforehand and felt I knew what I was doing but I got so engrossed, I forgot to plug my headphones in. I got really wonderful footage, but by not using the headphones, I didn’t realise I hadn’t connected the sound properly! I had done all my camera testing before hand at home but not on set. Lesson learned.