It’s beloved by armchair antiques experts and pulls in afternoon TV audience figures of 2-3 million. It’s BBC2 favourite ‘Flog it!’ – and the best team TV director Fiona Scott says she’s ever worked on.
“I worked on Flog it! from 2012 to when the series ended in 2019 (100+ shows) as a location director,” recalls Fiona Scott, founder of Scott Media. “I was responsible for filming on-site valuation days, where an antique expert talks about a member of the public’s treasured item before it’s later filmed going under the hammer at an auction.”
But despite it being a high-pressure environment (she was responsible for two camera operators, researchers, off-screen evaluators and an ‘expert’ she was assigned to each day), and despite the programme makers needing enough footage for four-five episodes per filming day, Scott says there was “never any drama” because everyone on the team was professional, but also passionate about their work.
“In TV, it’s common for lots of different freelancers to just be thrown together, and there is also an expectation the job will just get done – even though many of the people assembled won’t have met before. At Flog it! though I never felt team dynamics was ever left to luck though, because having a great atmosphere behind the camera would really show up on-camera, and so it was vital to the success of the show.”
Eliminate the unknowns
To create camaraderie, the key – she says – was preparation to eliminate as many unknowns as possible. This, she said, would allow as much creativity to be unleashed as possible.
“Because we’d never know what people would bring in, we had to minimise anything that could trip us up, so we could just get on with the filming,” she says. “So, the series producer would meet all the directors the next before the shoot and meticulously go through everything that could possibly be thought of – what segments had been shot in advance (so any related items brought in by the public could potentially be filmed); the rules of the venue, even where to park. If my team and I didn’t know these basics, lots of precious time could be wasted, and lots of unnecessary angst would be flying around.”
On the day of a shoot, when Scott would meet her camera team / researchers, she would also spend the first few moments explaining how she worked and what she expected others to do. “I’d describe my expectations for the day; and I’d also explain how I worked – for instance I prefer macro lenses for close-ups, which require more time to set up.
Basically, I just got all our goals agreed with upfront,” she says. She adds: “Being clear from the start gave people what they needed to know about the standards I wanted to set – but never in an overly authoritative way. We all shared what our contributions would be, and I felt this helped us trust one-another and ensure we approached the day with verve and enthusiasm.”
Creativity and collaboration
By allowing her team to be inquisitive, and have the ability to think on their feet, she says genuine collaboration was created. “We made sure the antiques expert was intrinsic to the team as well, giving him or her creative license too,” she says. “This was especially important when it came to capturing valuations,” she says. “They’d confide in us quietly when a really expensive piece came to the table, so we were prepped, and could get the camera set up to record people’s surprised reactions.”
She adds: “I remember on one show, an expert thought it would be fun to scare the audience behind him by flashing a creepy looking old doll at them. This required some complicated set ups, moving cameras around, but we decided it would be fun, and it worked. It’s an example of how we all felt we could put creativity into what looks like an outwardly formulaic programme.”
By being encouraged by the series producer to never be embarrassed to ask ‘’silly questions’, some real TV gems were also captured. “We were all trusted to be very agile, and think on our feet as items came in, and this often paid off,” she says. “On one occasion we had a gentleman come in with a toy train set. We were all set to start filming, and I realised that I didn’t know his name, so I asked it. As he said it, his surname rang a bell – Moorcroft. I said ‘you’re not related to ‘the’ Moorcroft family are you?,’ (the famous pottery factory), and it turned out he was. (See picture). That little bit of small-talk, and confidence to ask questions, led to the programme filming a whole separate segment on him. This would never have happened if we weren’t comfortable as a group to be inquisitive.”
Of her team she says: “I think what was special was that while we all came together quite randomly, we were all able to build up an emotional connection with each other quickly. We knew what we wanted, we trusted each other’s skills and we went about our teamwork in a psychologically safe environment.”
She adds: “Our overriding goal for the day was always to try and create a ‘feel-good’ factor – making sure we chatted to everyone, no matter what they brought in to show the experts. The key to achieving this was that we all felt we had ownership to play our own part in making the day feel special for visitors coming to the day. Working on Flog it! was genuinely the only TV experience I can think of where there weren’t cross words between team members.”
Scott says she knew that if she created a feel-good experience for her team, it would show up on camera – and this is something she says is very visible on the finished programmes. “When all the necessary organisation is in place, your mindset for when you arrive on a shoot can only ever be fantastic, and if that’s what you’re thinking, that’s generally what you’ll create,” she says.
“Having a fun, collaborative, close-knit team never made our work feel like a conveyor belt of items to film. We all wanted to make this the best experience we could for everyone."
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