11 Nov 2020
Cristina Palmer Romero was looking to transition from production to post- production when Fate took a hand.
A place on the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund Make a Move programme supported her to step into post on the new Netflix young adult drama, Fate; The Winx Saga.
Cristina, who grew up in Wiltshire but is now based in London, first got a paid production job 20 years ago. Within a few years, she had worked her up to production coordinator level mostly on continuing drama. She was in the TV world where she wanted to be.
Interestingly, though, she also had a brief stint in post-production in the early 2000s working on Holby City. She got on well with the post supervisor and so was offered a job as a post-production coordinator’s assistant and quickly became part of the BBC’s talent pool of freelancers, winning her a stint on Casualty too. But at that time, she felt continuing drama was a bit of a “conveyor belt”, so there was only “two days for everything in post and no budget for VFX, which made it feel like the boring side of TV and programme making,” Cristina says.
Instead, she was determined to get back into production, so when the opportunity came up to be production coordinator on Holby City she took it. A few years as production coordinator and production manager followed on TV series and movies, such as Draining Lizards and Elmina’s Kitchen, before she moved into documentaries as a production manager.
Then in 2007 she went on a maternity break and decided to make it a complete break from production to do other things, while bringing up her children. It was to be nearly a decade, in 2016, when she eventually returned to London to the production world. But the long hours were proving difficult to manage.
“I didn't really want to be a mother who worked 12/13 hours a day in TV production, and I was also feeling unhappy back in the purely logistical side of production, so I had started to pursue some ideas and explore the possibility of making a big step up to producer level,” she explains. “But then life threw me a big curve ball, and I needed to make a decision which would help me balance work and my kids, for me this meant leaving the production side altogether.”
This is where she turned to ScreenSkills, in particular Nicky Ball, HETV senior new entrant manager, for advice and support about a potential move back into post-production and how that could help her balance things in her life.
“Nicky was amazing. She spoke to me a lot about high-end TV and how the post-production for these shows was very different and involved some great technical challenges. She recommended I reach out to heads of production that I knew and put the feelers out to see what was going on.”
Soon after, thanks to a couple of leads provided by Nicky, Cristina realised she knew a couple of people on the production of a big show for Netflix called Fate: The Winx Saga. She reached out to them earlier this year, and although they were coming to the end of filming in Ireland, they offered her the opportunity to do some part-time shadowing in London of the post supervisor, Pete Oldham, with a bit of academic training.
“But a couple of weeks before I was due to start, the post coordinator pulled out, so I was offered the job,” says Cristina. “I spoke to Nicky and it seemed like a sensible way for me to get stuck in and have a much deeper learning experience working full-time. Plus, I didn’t have any qualms with stepping down to coordinator level.”
So, by signing up to ScreenSkills’ Make a Move scheme, Cristina was ready to transition into the world of post-production with a plan in place, including weekly on-the-job academic training with Pete that would take a deep-dive into the workings of the VFX department, sound department and anything relevant to the job, especially on the technical side.
This invaluable scheme has proven beneficial for many productions that pay into the High-end TV Skills Fund, which supplies financial support to employ and train individuals into higher grades. The subsidy is flexible and can be used to cover salaries, mentoring or other expenses such as attending short courses.
Despite initial concerns that post-production might be too technical for her to handle, Cristina soon realised that the role is still very much logistical, which is her forte. “It was largely a lot of paperwork, doing deliverables, and coordinating key team members for meetings, diary management of the executives and show runners, working alongside their PAs, and managing the post schedule.
“The biggest task that was completely mine was organising all the Automated Dialog Replacement (the process of re-recording dialogue by the original actor after the filming process), which through lockdown was a never-ending task of home recording, but I was able to run with it.”
Pete also leaned on Cristina (with her production experience) to lead on the music side too, working with the music supervisor and the execs and show runner to keep spinning the music options around, so they were meeting the schedule deadlines.
“But what was a really big and pleasant surprise, was how much more involved with the creative teams I was, as opposed to in drama production when there are hundreds of people and it is hard to see all of the working processes. In post on Fate it was so much more intimate, by the very virtue of a small team finishing off the show, and I loved that.
I was blown away by the VFX department and watching the evolution of the effects through post was really fun,” Cristina says.
She has now finished working on the first season of that show, although Fate 2 is potentially in the works. But looking ahead, her short-term goal is to continue doing post production coordinating on a few more high-end TV shows, with all the effects or animation involved, “so I can gain more understanding and knowledge, including on timescales, then potentially be a better post supervisor”.
Make a Move encourages and promotes professional development. The aim is to enable those on the scheme to apply for work at the more senior grade they are targeting, by the end of their participation. All job roles on a production are currently eligible, but the scheme is not intended for entry-level positions.
Potential 'move ups' can include almost anything - location assistant to unit manager, make-up artist to make-up supervisor, production secretary to production coordinator. The roles supported by the scheme so far show the diverse range of possibilities: costume designers, art directors, assistant production accountants, script editors, location managers and production managers. Individuals can only participate in Make a Move after being put forward by their employer. The candidate can be a completely new person to the selected team and department or an individual that has already worked with the team.
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