Lewis Gets Inked: Q&A with Gretchen Shoring

Meet the creatives: Gretchen Shoring

Lewis Gets Inked: Q&A with Gretchen Shoring

A unique pool of talent has been brought together to create Epson’s new ambitious film, Lewis Gets Inked. Over forty people shared their expertise on the day including a special effects team, stunt supervisors, a movement specialist, lighting technicians, photographers, and more. We caught up with the people working behind the scenes to discover what they loved about the shoot, how they got started in their dream career and what other interesting projects they’ve been involved with.

Gretchen Shoring, producer, Citizen Films

A former factual TV Series Producer and Director, Gretchen brings extensive production expertise, having spent 12 years at the BBC and on commissions for ITV and Channel 5. Gretchen set up Citizen in 2009 with the aim of bringing strong storytelling know-how together with the ability to deliver good looking, creative and innovative films to the corporate market. In her spare time she volunteers as a Trustee for the charity ChildHope.

What role did you play in making this film?

I run the production company, so we not only produce the content but we also have a lot of input creatively with Epson. I wouldn’t say I’m the boss, but the buck does stop with me in terms of the responsibility to deliver to Epson. I’ve selected the creative team to work on this and I’ve made sure that they’re the best possible people for this particular job.

[On this project] I’m also the producer so I’m the one who has to hold the purse strings and tell everyone what they can and can’t have. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, and everybody tries to make it work as best as it possibly can within the budget. I’m always very keen that as much of the investment as possible is shown on screen. 

Who will be involved during the shoot?

We have some key creatives who work with us all the time, but we tend to choose the team according to the brief. For example, Rina Yang, who is our director of photography, is well known for a particular style of shooting and a gorgeous, lush way of lighting. That’s the style that we’re going for and that’s very much her kind of thing. We chose our key creatives according to the project.

It sounds like a corny thing to say, but it’s a totally well oiled machine. Everybody knows the part that they’re playing. It’s a bit like running a small army. It takes a lot of man power, skill, and resources to make these things work well. And I think that’s something we do really well in the UK; the expertise that we have in films, commercials and TV – I think we outshine anywhere else in the world.

The head count [for the main shoot] is running at about 50. We normally have about 30 people working on our bigger shoots.  This time we have more because of elements like the incredible set build, special effects and the stunts, which means that we need to have a set design team, a special effects team, and a stunt supervisor.

What have you most enjoyed about making this film?

Delivering an idea like this, and fine-tuning it with Epson and the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team,  to make it absolutely sing, is exactly the kind of work that really excites me.  We’ve considered every aspect - the pace of it, how the voice-over will play against the action and Lewis’ amazing performance. These are areas we’ve been discussing for months.

The other interesting area is the special effects. We don’t often get hold of a printer and get to soup it up so that the paper will be spinning out at a really high speed and fluttering around the studio with the world’s biggest Formula One™ star center stage. And the opportunity to cover him in paint is something that no woman would really not want to do.  I think the unusual aspects of this idea are really fun and enjoyable for everybody.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

The best bit is the creativity. Having previously worked in BBC TV for a long time, and being able to bring those sorts of skills and experiences and training to the commercial world, is really exciting. It’s a different tool box; the way that TV is made most of the time doesn’t involve these incredible stunts and lots of CGI, and the budgets and production values can be very different. I think having the opportunity to work with the UK’s top creatives and brands like Epson - who are absolutely at the top of their game - is very exciting. 

Without a doubt, the worst bit is having to tell people no. Holding the purse strings as the producer - it’s a little bit like being the bad cop. And the other thing of course is making it run to time. Also, we work incredibly long hours as well, so I’m feeling my age at the moment.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on and why?

Thinking back to the BBC, shows like Crimewatch were really interesting. That kind of documentary filming where you are telling real people’s stories - it's something that has followed through to some of the work we do today.  For example, we produce short films for Macmillan Cancer, so we are still going out and filming about real lives.  Since moving into the commercial world, we’ve done some really big budget productions. Last year we made a lot of brand films and adverts for Sprint, who are a big mobile phone provider in the States. We’ve had an opportunity with them to film really big scale productions, with massive casts of people, kitting out whole office buildings, so again, that was a big challenge, and interesting in terms of the size and scale of the project. 

How did you get your first break into the industry?

I got my first job working at the BBC as a secretary in the finance department - it was incredibly dull. But it provided a stepping stone into the more creative side of television. That was my first big break, if you can call it that.

I come from a family of film makers; my Dad is a film technician as are two of my brothers. I spent a lot of my childhood on film sets; summer holidays were spent appearing as an extra on Merchant Ivory [production film company] period drama shoots, with the likes of Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve known it all my life really, so I had a good understanding of what was involved. 

What advice would you give to people starting out in the creative industries?

I would say just try and work as hard as you can, be really enthusiastic and available, and do whatever’s required. I started off as a secretary, lots of people start as a runner. It’s about getting your foot in the door and getting known to people. A lot of it is common sense, really, like any job, so being there and being really smart and available and super keen, I think are the key things for me.  And that’s how I perceive anyone that comes to us who is starting out.  If they’ve studied an aspect of what we do, all the better – if not, a keen attitude to the work involved goes a long way. 

Follow the link to watch the full video: http://www.epson.co.uk/lewisgetsinked