She’s been a child actress, student, Production Co-ordinator and now’s she’s a Christmas Elf; for our second Team Tuesdays feature, we had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with our very own Jennifer Barrie.
As goes with the territory of Official Christmas Elf (it even says so in her job title), Jen is wearing a gold, sparkly hat and has a general air of festive excitement. In the past couple of weeks she has transformed the Edinburgh studio into a Santa’s grotto of fairy lights, snowflakes and artfully positioned ivy. Her daily dose of Christmas trivia has lit a competitive edge in the team that only winning – or her baked confections - can satisfy (she once famously built a gingerbread house and filled it with tiny, gingerbread Owens for the office Secret Santa).
It’s a lot for a girl who, she claims, only started to love Christmas after her first LS Christmas last year. So what else don’t we know about Miss Barrie?
Read on to find out…
Jennifer came to LS in July 2014, one week after graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly known as The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, or RSAMD), where she had been studying for 3 years for a BA in Digital Film and Television. Was it a culture shock? “I graduated on the 1st of July and then less than a week later I was in the LS office. I even got asked to come in a day early – there was a production going out that I could help on. In that time I had to pack everything up and move my life back to Edinburgh. I was ready though… there’s a lot of free time in between actually finishing uni and then graduating!”
Jen’s graduate film The Scribbler went on to pick up Best Drama at the Royal Television of Scotland Student Awards, Best Student Work at the Royal Television of Scotland Awards, and be nominated for three BAFTA New Talents (Best Drama, Best Music and Best Editing, which it won). Is filmmaking something Jen wants to continue to do? “Shorts are interesting because they usually have limited-to-no budget. They’re challenging to produce, but that’s what’s nice about them; they’re kind of addicting in a way. I’m definitely ready to do another! Right now there’s a potential project brewing with the Scottish Film Talent Network, but it’s at a very early stage; they’re not chosen until February and then start to be made from spring.”
So why the move to LS? “I’ve known Sarah [Drummond, Head of Production] for a long time, from working with her in her days at Plum [Jennifer started working when she was sixteen]. Wendy worked there, too. Sarah had always kept in touch and, when she knew I was graduating, she asked me to come in and meet Marie. I got the offer a couple of weeks after that. It was a happy moment… I’d known of LS for a long time! I think I’d been pestering them for work experience since I was 14 or 15!”
In the eighteen months since she joined The Company, Jen has worn many hats. Production Co-ordinator. Production Manager. Producer. Health and Safety Queen. But what does a day in the life look like? “When I’m in the office, the first thing I do is catch up on the mountain of emails that have come in overnight, before making a to-do-list; so much gets added throughout the day that it inevitably goes awry! I spend a lot of time speaking to crew, looking at accommodation, travel, booking vehicles, making beautiful production documents (laughs), speaking to the client… a lot of the logistics.”
On being on set: “If I’ve prepared correctly then I shouldn’t have too much to do on each day; my job is to be preparing for the day after. Things always change throughout a shoot – change in cast, crew, location, unit moves – so I’m always planning ahead, organising everyone else and making a plan of how the shoot will get wrapped on the final day. More often than not you’ll find me standing at the top of a hill trying to get signal, with a laptop perched awkwardly on my knee.”
The many jobs Jen has worked on for LS include international pop promos, small (but great) branded online content and global TV commercials. “02 was a good one. I was on another shoot when it confirmed and so travelled back at 3am in the morning to help prep for it. It was logistically challenging with so many crew, sheep and everything else that comes with shooting on a Scottish island.” Favourite job? “It’s hard to beat things like Florence [+ the Machine]. Vince [Haycock, the director], Nick [Goldsmith, Producer at Park Pictures] and Steve [Annis, the DOP], are all so good at what they do. We worked so well together and it was a great thing to be a part of. You see how much the hard work pays off when you watch the videos; they’re so beautiful.” It was only to be Jen’s first taste of music video production; she went on to produce Birdy and Rhodes’ video for their single Let it All Go just a few months later.
“I took the initial enquiry and saw it right through to the end, which was a really nice thing to do. It was a one-day shoot at our exclusive location, Glen House, but a long day – we drove all over the estate filming different aspects. I love how the director - Sing J Lee - completely flipped the Scottish landscape on its head.”
“I enjoy every job that I do at LS. There are always good points, otherwise you wouldn’t work in production.”
Action on set and celeb mingling aside, Jen always takes the time to read industry press, bettering her knowledge and proving to be as a badass-industry-guru. “Anything that I’m doing I have to be interested in. I want to read about it; I want to see what else is going on. What is the best work out there, how to work on stuff like that.” Is there anyone who she would really love to work with? “I really like Daniel Kleinman, particularly the comedic side of his work. I would love love love to work with Kim Gehrig or Aoife McArdle – completely crushing on them right now! We’ve worked with Somesuch a few times so every time we get the brief in I hope it’s one of them. There are so few female directors so it’s brilliant to see these two at the absolute top of their game, and working across both the creative and technical aspects.”
Has she always been keen for career in production? “I’ve always loved films. When I was 8 a friend of the family was making a short film and asked me to be an extra. It was the best day of my life at the time! After that I went home to my mum and said, “I’m going to make films”. I got an agent and went to lots of auditions, did amateur dramatics... I think I always knew that film and production was for me, it’s just the approach that’s changed.”
So what’s next, in the Great Big Production Journey? “One thing I’m working on is making us even more eco-friendly. I went to the Edinburgh Film Festival this year, as a delegate for LS, and one of the of most interesting industry talks I went to was about productions and how they are quite wasteful in how they work, what we could be doing better, how to be sustainable. I found it really interesting, as it wasn't something that I’d heard anyone in the industry discuss before. We’ve since joined AdGreen, are working on being as eco-friendly on set as possible, recycling everything in the office… It’s not without its challenges, but next year we’re aiming to build on it even more.”
And 2016…? “I’m hoping that this time next year I’ll be living in my own, bought flat in Edinburgh. It’s a big milestone but I can’t wait. Work wise I’ll be at LS. Growing. Working on some personal projects… it’s going to be good.”
We're looking forward to it, Jen. Now, cough up the gingerbread...
Jennifer's Top 5 - Films
1. The Maltese Falcon
2. Spirited Away
5. Pan’s Labyrinth