I have been intrigued to find out more about the creators behind projects that I have been fortunate enough to see and/ or hear for a long time now so I've decided to do something about it. And That's My Story is a series on this blog that shares with you a bit about the creators I've met along the way and their journey towards fulfilling their dreams; it will run for as long as I can find people who are willing to share their story. Today, I would like to introduce you to the lovely and funny Kelly McGolpin, producer of Chewing Gum.
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Casting your minds back to mid September this year, you may remember me sharing a little story as to how I found myself at the preview screening for the new show on E4, Chewing Gum. Anyway, whilst I was there I had the opportunity to meet the very welcoming producer of the show, Kelly McGolpin (thank you Lesley!), who ever-so-kindly agreed to take part in my ATMS series - thank you Kelly! If you have ever wondered what a producer does or are intrigued to find out more about Kelly's story so far or want a peek into the world comedy, then sit back, scroll down and have a read. I hope you enjoy seeing what Kelly had to say as much, if not more, as I did.
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|Michaela Coel as Tracy Gordon in Chewing Gum // Source: Courtesy of E4|
HI KELLY! COULD YOU PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
I am a 34 year old scripted comedy producer. I live in Hackney, along with comedy I am also into yoga, swimming, thai food, my friends and family and smart silly people.
WHAT ARE TYPICAL DAYS FOR YOU AS A PRODUCER DURING THE PRE-PRODUCTION, PRODUCTION AND POST-PRODUCTION STAGES OF A PROJECT?
Hectic. I guess the big job is carrying the flame of the show from creation right through to the finish line. And there are lots of obstacles along the way. But you get people on board to help you en route. Pre-production is probably the most 'busy' as this is when it is all coming together- and your team gets bigger by the week. You spend your days running from location recces to compliance meetings, the writer’s room to costume and art department meetings, as well casting sessions and scheduling and budget discussions. The writing stages- are the best- writing rooms are a lot of fun and certainly where my heart lies. As producer you lead the writers through the process, share and encourage ideas, set them deadlines, help structure their days, offer notes. And you are the main communicator between the writers, the execs and the channel- and the production team. The filming bit, production, is about early starts, late finishes and lots of 'getting things done'. 'Problem solving' -all day long. And you are there to make sure it all gets done, well- and on budget, and on time. It is a challenge to reach the end of each day having got everything you need shot. But it helps when there is a warm glow of 'teamwork' and (hopefully) lots of funny moments on set. Editing and post-production can be very fiddly - and it all depends on what your budget is like as to how mad it is. You work alongside the director and the editor, you help to shape each cut – and then interpret and feed in notes from the writer, execs and the channel. Whilst trying to make sure that flame that is the heart of the show remains at the centre of the show. Then you have the finishing stages- the grade to make it look right, the sound mix to make it sound right. It is a bit of a battle, but if you all share have the same vision, it can be fun and very rewarding.
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU HAVE A LONG HISTORY WORKING IN COMEDY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS GENRE THAT HAS PIQUED YOUR INTEREST FOR SO LONG?
My grandparents on my mum's side were East enders and both had a brilliant sense of humour which filtered down into the family I think- everything was silly if it could be, or at least that is how I remember it. And we watched a lot of comedy growing up - I remember dancing around the living room with my brother to the theme tunes of shows such as 'Red Dwarf', 'The Young Ones'- they were the highlight of the week. I love the connection you get with comedy. Everybody getting something and laughing together is wonderful. And making other people connect to something is great.
AND HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM PERFORMER TO DEVELOPER OF SCRIPTED COMEDY?
I started writing and performing comedy at university. I was studying Drama and English at Queen Mary in Mile End - we had a performance art module as part of the course and every Tuesday night we would put on shows and perform pieces we had written to an audience. All of us gravitated towards making funny stuff- and we started writing shows and taking them up to the Edinburgh festival. A lot of us Queen Mary people have ended up in the comedy business. When I graduated I worked as PA to some great heads of comedy, and learnt a lot from working alongside them - and I would run comedy nights on the circuit in London. I just fell out of love with the performing bit. To be a comedy performer you have to want it more than anything else - and I wanted to make comedy and collaborate with others - not just be in it. I didn't feel the need to perform anymore. I started producing my own stuff in my late twenties, having built up a decent amount of contacts in the industry and having had some production experience. I was offered development roles and started developing scripts and ideas with writers and performers I connected with and felt others may connect with.
|Cast of Chewing Gum // Source: Courtesy of E4|
HOW DID YOU COME ACROSS MICHAELA COEL'S 'CHEWING GUM DREAMS' AND HOW DID YOU BECOME THE PRODUCER FOR THE STORY'S ADAPTATION FOR TELEVISION?
Michaela’s agent suggested I read her writing - she thought I would love it. And I did. I had just been working with Doctor Brown and we were discussing how he makes comedy from the everyday- he sees comedy in everything- his comedy is about truth as much as it is make believe. As is Michaela's. I don't even know if she was out to write a comedy- but I arranged a meet with her. From there we started to hang out, talk about her writing, her world. I read lots of other bits she was writing at the time . One day we played about with a camera - I got her to speak the lines of the play straight down the lens - like she was speaking to her best mate at the back of a bus. We ended up constructing a script that was partly ‘Chewing Gum Dreams’ the play and partly other things she had written as well as other ideas/ characters we had spoken about. I remember Michaela saying ‘You remixed my shit and I love it - I want to make this show’ and that was our intention set. We got a taster script together- got a brilliant cast together and performed it to C4. They gave us money to make some on screen tasters and from those, we got a series on E4!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY AS A PRODUCER?
Be around good people, learn from them. The role of PA was great for me as it meant I got to work with some fantastic bosses, who would throw scripts my way, ask my opinion on things, show me cuts from recent edits and get my thoughts, send me along to casting sessions and give me small projects to produce. Go watch comedy, a MUST. Especially if you live in London as we are so lucky to have one of the best live comedy scenes in the world. There is comedy going on here every night of the week all over the place. Always meet talented people you connect with- hang out with them. Go meet their agents- get to know them. Watch stuff. Try writing stuff, share ideas, pick up a camera and film ideas. Get stuck in.
AND LASTLY, CAN YOU PLEASE SHARE 5 FILMS THAT LEFT A LASTING IMPRESSION?
Amelie. Synecdoche, New York. Ferris Buellers Day Off. The Godfather- all of them. One film we spoke about ages ago in reference to ‘Chewing Gum’ was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’. Which is super dramatic and not funny at all. But the little girl in it carries the audience through. She makes us connect to a world that we may or may not already know- either way she welcomes us in, takes our hand and shows us around. As does our Tracey I think.
...And that's my story.
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And there we have it folks! I hope this little insight into Kelly's journey as a comedy performer turned producer for scripted-comedy has not only shed light on what the role of a producer is but also inspires you to go chase after your dreams. Thank you again Kelly for taking the time to answer these questions!