Opening our new Manchester office is a massive deal for us, so it’s only right that the person heading it up is…well, kind of a big deal too. Let us introduce our new Senior Producer Abi Atkinson.
With thirteen years in feature films and TV drama under her belt, not to mention an enviable little black book of contacts, resident Mancunian Abi was made for the role.
She’ll be manning LS Towers at Fivefourstudios in the heart of Manchester, producing mega shoots for a bunch of exciting new clients, and of course taking on the role of resident translator, helping us navigate our way through the many complexities of the Northern accent.
While she was up in Edinburgh last week, learning about our own challenging dialect, we took the chance to sit our newest recruit down and find out what she’s all about.
Abi sits in front of me clutching a strong black coffee. She’ll need it after all the back and forth she’s been doing between Manchester and Edinburgh. So Abi, who are you when you’re not producing shoots for the likes of Hurts (your first shoot for LS) and Sam Smith? She laughs at my shameless name-dropping, “it’s funny but I’m actually a very different person when I’m not producing. I think friends would describe me as a bit of a hippy – carefree with a love of art, music, yoga, theatre, and of course aerial hoop and mucking about on the farm with my horses. Basically, the total opposite of the organising and budgeting I do by day!”
You have a big name for yourself in the world of production, how did you do it? “It’s really been working my way up the production ladder, mainly through working in drama and feature films. I’ve been lucky enough to work for some great production companies like BBC, Baby Cow, Red Productions, Warp Films, Vertigo Films and Princess Productions.
"I still get those pinch-me moments when I’m co-producing a music video for someone like Sam Smith though!"
You’ve got a lot of love for Manchester, tell us what makes it such a special city? Abi’s face lights up, “where to start! Manchester is an incredible city, full of talented, artistic, friendly, diverse and passionate people. There’s a real sense of pride and comradery, particularly in the face of adversity, that’s hard to rival elsewhere. It’s got a great music and arts scene, as well as great galleries, theatres and nightlife.”
"Manchester is an incredible city, full of talented, artistic, friendly, diverse and passionate people."
Why do you believe so passionately about making pictures in the North? “After a short stint in London working for CNN, I just knew I wanted to work in the North. I absolutely love London to visit and I’ve shot there numerous times, but my heart was always in the North. I think there’s an abundance of extremely talented people, great studio spaces, interesting locations and fantastic crews. We’re also a pretty happy bunch, and I always think a happy crew makes for a great film.” We couldn’t agree more.
What gives the North the edge over London? “The great thing about the North, is you can usually shoot far more locations and get a better variety of shots within a day’s filming. It’s much easier to travel around, and logistically it’s quicker, easier and cheaper to coordinate and sort any parking dispensations and permissions required. In short, you get more bang for your buck up North!”
Any places we should drop by next time we’re in town? Abi laughs, warning me that I might be here all day. “Some of my favourite places have to be The Wonder Inn, Home Mcr, Easter Bloc Records, Soup Kitchen, Band on the Wall, Royal Exchange Theatre, Hope Mill Theatre and pretty much all of the Northern Quarter.” I’m already in the process of booking myself a one-way ticket to Manchester, when she throws a couple more in the mix - “ooh, there are also some amazing landscapes an hour or two from the city centre - Macclesfield Forest, the Yorkshire Dales, Littleborough, Cumbria…there’s always something going on and it’s become a real creative hub over the last five to ten years.”
What makes Fivefourstudios a good base for you in Manchester? “Fivefourstudios is a great space to work in. It’s got a such a cool vibe, a lovely bar and breakout area for meetings, and three studios so there are always interesting people milling about. It’s equidistant to Media City and Manchester City centre and there’s a great little independent coffee shop that serves AMAZING homemade cakes! Oh, and a lovely little café with lots of scrummy Caribbean/Mediterranean inspired food on offer, what more could a girl want?!” Abi doesn’t need to tell me, I’m already wiping the drool from my chin.
Time for the juicy stuff, who’s in your little black book? “Ooh all sorts! Crew, cast, suppliers, advisors, armourers, stunt men - you name it! I’ve kept every unit list, call sheet and contacts list from over the years. Always good to dip in to when you’re in a bind! And there are a few ‘special’ numbers in there, although I’m pretty sure they will have changed by now!” Remembering that Abi’s worked with Tom Hardy, I spend a little longer trying to find out who these ‘special numbers’ belong to. Fortunately for Tom, Abi is a true professional and will never tell. And anyway, I have a far more pressing question…
Any party tricks? “Actually, I can do the splits! Normally after a few drinks...” I ask for proof, but Abi tells me I’ll have to wait until the Christmas party. Roll on December!