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The Space Sponsored Partnership with ArtsProfessional

Natalie Woolman explains how a bootcamp to develop a talent pipeline for the multicamera teams of the future will address a serious gap in skills training.

We are in a performance capture boom. Escalated by the pandemic, what was an experimental pilot for the National Theatre in 2009 looks set to become a standard part of many performing organisations’ seasons. 

The Space has supported over 60 capture projects – performance content filmed for broadcast, cinema and digital distribution. In our experience, organisations see the value of filmed performances for audiences near and far who may not have attended in-person performances for reasons of geography, disability or cost. 

While it’s not clear what the future will look like – notwithstanding the fact that the sector is still wrestling with big questions around digital rights, monetisation, organisational capacity and audience development – it seems certain that performance capture is here to stay.  

A growth area but a skills shortage

However, this exponential growth has exposed a serious shortage of multicamera directors, producers and vision mixers with experience of creating live/recorded cultural content. 

These are not easy roles to recruit. They demand not only the technical skills for a complex, multicamera live shoot, but also a well-developed understanding of the art form being recorded. 

A filmed capture of a production is essentially a director’s cut – with the camera directing the audience’s eyeline in a way that is impossible in a theatre, studio or concert hall. 

As The Space’s Creative Director Fiona Morris explains: “In order to realise the stage team’s vision, and to reflect the highlights, pace and narrative of a piece of work, the multicamera team need to understand that genre at a deep level. 

“A filmed Romeo and Juliet pas de deux that is all close-up shots will frustrate ballet-lovers at home by not giving them eyes on the footwork, but one that is all wide shots misses the intimacy of the moment.” 

Building a new talent pipeline

There is currently a lack of a talent pipeline to learn from the highly trained and experienced teams currently recording these productions. These are specialist roles that need investment in terms of training, shadowing and hands-on experience to ensure the UK continues to produce the highest standard of performance capture work.

In response to this need, The Space and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have teamed up to launch a ‘Filming Performance Bootcamp’ in partnership with Solihull College and University Centre to develop the next generation of multicamera teams for performance content. 

Across two cohorts, the bootcamp will train performing arts professionals to develop skills as a multicamera director, producer or vision mixer. Applicants do not need experience in filming or live capture but will have a developed understanding of live performances and an interest in interpreting this for digital audiences. 

Transferable skills

Performance capture expert and Course Associate Hayler Pepler explains: “There is a considerable skills overlap between some roles already within the cultural sector, whether it’s the timing, technical and organisational skills of a Deputy Stage Manager calling a show in a theatre, or the detailed understanding of a marketing executive regularly speaking in an agreed tone to an organisation’s audiences. Both skills can be easily mapped across to capture production teams.”

At the heart of the bootcamp is a partnership with three West Midlands-based performing arts organisations – the Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Rep and Birmingham Royal Ballet. These organisations all recognised the growing need for capture skills within their own teams and are offering shadowing and training opportunities for the bootcamp cohort. 

Pepler hopes bootcamp graduates will benefit the broader West Midlands ecosystem of cultural organisations: “We’re eager to build basic production skills to ensure the best possible cost-efficiency for organisations looking to build a digital body of work but without huge resource to do so. And crucially to advise that bringing a technical specialist [..] can transform the production value of a specific output.”

Recruiting the next generation of multi-camera talent

Madeleine Kludje, Associate Director at Birmingham Rep, took part in the first bootcamp which started in May. Describing her experience so far, she said: “I think the pandemic has made everyone look at their skill sets and realise they need to be more flexible.

“Everything I am learning is incredibly relevant for my career in the next three, even five years. I had been hesitant about working in TV and film, but this has made me realise how connected they are to theatre. Just being behind a camera has been insightful and opened my mind about how I would want to shape something on stage.”

In building this new talent pipeline, there is also a focus on diversifying the multi-camera teams of the future. As Hayley Pepler says: “We need capture teams to embrace the broadest range of skills and backgrounds to ensure that our reflection of the stories we are capturing is sensitive, accurate and ambitious in scope.”

Training that isn’t in a vacuum

Classroom learning and on-the-job training at some of the region’s most important performing companies is geared to getting recruits jobs after the course. The course includes masterclasses with industry professionals and hands-on experience in professional studio surroundings. Additionally, participants will be supported to develop effective CVs and offered interview practice. 

The bootcamp also provides networking opportunities that will help build and futureproof a multi-skilled workforce for the region.

And Birmingham Rep’s Madeleine Kludje concludes: “What’s been great is having a group that come from theatre and dance as we are able to talk to one another about how we could apply this [learning] to each of our organisations.”

Natalie Woolman is a Producer at The Space.


Applications are now open for the next Live Capture Bootcamp. Further information about the course and details of how to apply are available here. For enquiries, please email bootcamps@solihull.ac.uk.

This article, sponsored and contributed by The Space, is part of a series spotlighting new ways of creating and distributing digital content, and exploring the wealth of new technologies and platforms coming online.

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image of Natalie Woolman