‘Rip It Up: The story of Scottish Pop’ starts Tuesday July 17, on BBC TWO Scotland, at 2100hours.
It is being screened over three weeks.
Here, producer, Pete Stanton, from BBC Studios, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the documentary?
The series was originally commissioned by Ewan Angus then picked up by David Harron at BBC Scotland. The BBC were keen to celebrate Scotland’s proud and eclectic pop music tradition and the time felt right as the National Museum of Scotland were preparing a major new exhibition on the subject. When it comes to pop music, Scotland has an embarrassment of riches, so we wanted the series to mirror the Scottish musical world in scale and ambition.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s look and feel?
There is a rebellious streak a mile wide in pop music which can make it feel gritty and also the venues that gigs take place in can be a little…grimy!
We wanted the series to maintain a visual aesthetic that would subtly mirror this idea, so we chose to film in (often very cold!) industrial spaces and actual gig venues themselves.
It was important to us that there was as much visual texture as possible and this was achieved by mixing classic set up interviews with archive footage and specially shot documentary sequences.
Who are the key personnel and how were they recruited?
Our commissioner, David Harron, is a big music fan and so was a great help from the beginning. Along with our executive producer, Rachel Bell, they formed a very supportive and constructive senior editorial team and helped us wrestle some very tricky narratives!
The programmes were produced and directed by Margaret Shankland and myself. At the very beginning of production, we decided to self shoot as we felt that this would allow us to film the highest number of contributors possible within our budget.
We felt that a series with the ambition of Rip It Up needed to have as many voices from the musical community as we could fit in to make it feel legitimate.
Our assistant producers were Becky Marshall and Carlin Wallace. Carlin and Becky were both recruited for their depth of musical knowledge and production skill and experience. Margaret and I had worked with them both before and, as such, were more than confident that they would add a huge amount to the team. They both contributed a great deal to the editorial process and the programmes are infinitely better for it.
Our editors were Dave Clarke and Berny McGurk. As with Becky and Carlin, Dave and Berny were approached not only for their editing expertise, but also for their vast musical knowledge. I worked closely with Dave to create narratives that we felt were honest and compelling and Dave’s visual verve lifted the programmes to a standard beyond that which I had envisioned.
Our principle sound recordist was Dougie Fairgrieve. I’ve worked with Dougie for years and trust him implicitly so he was my first choice. Also he is a former live sound engineer and loves music too, so that didn’t hurt! We also worked with Bob McDougall a lot who was also excellent.
We filed our title sequence with a camera crew consisting of Fraser Rice and Martin Newstead. Margaret and I have worked with them both for years so we knew that they would do a great job, which they did!
What kit and software?
We filmed on the Canon C300 Mk1. Initially, we considered filming on the Mk2 to future proof against 4K, but we decided that it was overkill for our current production process.
The interviews were shot on 2 C300s both using Canon Cine Primes (mid on 35mm and wide on 85mm for the lens geeks!).
The lights and locations are our secret weapon. We used a Dedo PanAura 5 Octodome with a 400w Daylight bulb to create a nice natural wash of light over our contributors. We wanted it to descend naturally into darkness in the background of the shot, so we only lit the background subtly with tungsten dedo spots if we felt it was necessary.
The documentary sequences were mostly shot on single camera, again on the C300 and using the Canon Cine Primes to maintain visual continuity. We also shot a lot of slow motion on a DJI Osmo. This was editor Dave Clarke’s idea and added a lot to the visual tone of the series.
The title sequence was shot on a mixture of the Canon C300 Mk1 and the Sony FS7. I wanted the titles to contain a mix of slow motion and regular footage, so we chose the FS7 for it’s excellent slo-mo capabilities.
We edited on Avid at Serious Facilities in Govan. I love working there as it’s very well run by very nice people.
What were the main production challenges?
The main challenge we faced was attempting to condense almost 70 years of pop music history into three hours that would make sense to the viewer.
I think that we achieved this, but, unfortunately, that meant we had to leave a lot of things out. Deciding what to leave out and saying goodbye to sequences with bands we loved was one of the hardest parts of the process.
Also, just the sheer number of interviews we shot created a challenge due to the amount of work it entailed all the way through to the edit, but, as challenges go, it was a good one to have.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
I most enjoyed working with a great team, meeting lots of interesting people and really immersing myself in Scottish pop music. I’ve always loved music, but it has been a real privilege to be able to explore this rich subject at the level of detail that documentary filmmaking demands. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was how to better compartmentalise ideas and sequences as I was working on two programmes simultaneously. I had never done this before, but it was a hugely rewarding and instructive experience.