VIVA Variety is a new, four-part series being broadcast on BBC One Scotland, from this evening.
Made by Glasgow-based Matchlight independent TV production company, its producer is Ruth Reid and its exec producer is Ross Wilson.
It is on at 1930 tonight.
Here, Reid answers the questions…
Who commissioned the series?
Viva Variety was commissioned by Ewan Angus at BBC Scotland and, during production, Craig Hunter was appointed as the executive producer for BBC Scotland.
Explain the thinking behind the programme’s ‘look and feel’.
The nation has been fascinated by TV talent contests for over a decade – and so we felt it was time to go beyond the glitz and glamour of show business and see what it was really like behind the scenes of the Scottish entertainment industry.
We wanted to find the real characters and explore the contrast between their on-stage personas and off-stage realities – what motivates them to stay in this famously cut-throat industry.
Each episode has a distinct theme and ‘look’, exploring a different area of the industry, with three separate contributors or contributing groups.
We intercut performance footage with domestic set-ups; and archive with reflective interviews.
The first episode, ‘Almost Famous’, focuses on three singers who have been on the cusp on stardom – but reveals what happened next.
The second episode, ‘I Wanna Be Like You’, explores the world of the tribute act – from Rihanna to Alice Cooper – and reveals just how far the performers will go to impersonate their idols.
The third episode, ‘There’s No Business…’ takes a step further behind the scenes to the world of the entertainment managers and the challenges they face, both with their acts and staying afloat; and the fourth, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, focuses on three very different performers and the very particular challenges they face to remain in show business.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
The series was developed by Jacqui Hayden and the executively produced by Ross Wilson for Matchlight.
I produced the series and directed episodes one and four while Alex Jamieson directed the second and third. Alex and I worked with researcher Katie Hamilton and assistant producer, Katrina Inkster, with whom I had worked previously.
When filming, we split up into two crews; but, for the bigger performances. we would often gather together to ensure we fully covered the events, both front of house and backstage.
After four months of filming, editor, Angela Slaven, came on board with a wealth of ‘ob-doc’ experience, an invaluable knowledge of music and total dedication to the project.
Matchlight’s in-house editor, Chris Buckland, who I worked with on The Commonwealth of Burns last year, edited the final episode.
Both brought great energy and humour to the series.
What kit and software?
We used the lightweight and versatile Canon XF305 cameras with the contributors so we could be with them at every moment (often in very tight spaces and in low light!) to capture the ‘up close ob-doc’ feeling. We also used a number of Canon 5&7D cameras for the performances to fully cover the action on stage and in the crowds.
What were the main production challenges?
We filmed with, and had the task of telling the stories of, 12 different contributors over a period of four months – so we had to be extremely selective with our scheduling choices. We had to ensure every contributor and every performance was bringing something unique, propelling the story further.
On a more practical level, we were filming predominantly at night and over weekends in rowdy bars and clubs so sound recording was very challenging and safety was an important consideration.
A series about entertainers is going to throw up performance clearance issues and so music was a priority from the outset – many of the acts had backing track libraries or signature songs that were near impossible to clear so we bought and supplied them cleared lists for the non-live music.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
We were a relatively young crew so, while we brought huge energy to the series, we all had to learn a lot quickly! We had guidance and constant support from our executive producer, Ross Wilson, and I think I can say for all of us, learning from his wealth of filmmaking knowledge was a privilege.
All of the contributors we followed were great characters and uniquely comfortable with the camera (which perhaps was a blessing and a curse!) – and every night we were out working we were thoroughly entertained (you might notice a couple of times Alex and I were dancing while operating the cameras!).
I’m delighted the feedback about the series has been so positive so far – it wouldn’t have been possible without working with such a dedicated and talented crew at Matchlight.