SAE Liverpool Film alumnus Sam Birch creates behind-the-scenes content for Netflix, BBC, Disney+ and Sky

24 Aug 2020

Digital Film Production graduate Sam Birch was recruited to join start-up production company Bright Branch Media after finishing his course at SAE Liverpool. We spoke to Sam to learn more about the behind-the-scenes content he’s been creating, as well as learn about his return to set after COVID-19 stalled productions around the world.  

What have you been up to since graduating? 

I currently work for an independent production company in South Wales producing Electronic Press Kits (EPKs) and behind-the-scenes content for Netflix, BBC, Disney+ and Sky dramas. We work on projects such as His Dark Materials, I May Destroy You, War of the Worlds and A Discovery of Witches. As well as this we also develop and pitch original programme ideas for broadcast. Our first documentary In Search of Dracula with Mark Gatiss aired last Christmas on BBC2. 

What is the production company called? 

The company is called Bright Branch Media, it is a new start-up company only launching less than a year ago but we’ve had a great first 11 months. 

What does your role entail? 

My role is to assist our producers in developing engaging and entertaining behind the scenes content. We brainstorm ideas, pitch them to the show's execs and film the original content; interviewing the talent and capturing on set b-roll. Then we edit these features together and deliver them to the broadcasters, so we’re with the process from start to finish. Another strand of my job is to come up with development ideas for new documentaries and series; this involves researching possible story arcs as well as meeting with potential talent.

What do you like the most about your role? 

Being on the set of these television dramas and seeing a room full of talented people come together to bring a programme to life is a great part of the job.

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The most challenging part of the job is thinking of strategies to stay current. The market has never been so saturated so it’s more important than ever to make your work stand out. 

What do you think made you stand out when first applying for the role? 

With the company being a start-up, I was fortunate that someone I met a few months prior recruited me externally as they were assisting in the company launch, so I didn’t actually apply for this role.

How did studying at SAE prepare you for the kind of work you do on a day-to-day basis? 

A lot of the work produced at SAE was created with others and this hasn’t changed since working in the industry, so the collaboration side of production is something I took from my time at SAE - learning how to work with others to produce the best possible product.

How has your work been affected by Covid-19? 

A huge part of what we do is work alongside productions, documenting the behind the scenes of process. So when productions went into shut down a few months ago this put a halt on this side of our work. All shoots were postponed, rescheduled or cancelled so everything was a bit up in the air about how and when we’d all be able to return safely to set. Thankfully, as of a couple of weeks ago, we have been able to return back to set. We’re currently working on a production which has a huge amount of COVID-19 precautions in place to make sure everyone is safe at work. All cast and crew are COVID-19 tested multiple times before being allowed on set and a strong 2-mere social distancing policy is enforced by COVID Coordinators and Assistant Directors. For us, it just means being vigilant about how we approach filming; using a longer lens if applicable, shooting outdoors wherever possible, making talent feel at ease in a perhaps uneasy atmosphere etc (can’t imagine it’s comfortable being interviewed by someone in PPE.). During the peak of the pandemic though we were lucky to have had a back catalogue of work that needed editing offline so I was able to spend time cutting this material. I feel very fortunate to have been secure through COVID-19, a lot of creative individuals have suffered which was tough to see.

What are your long term career ambitions within the film/television industry? 

I think a lot of people spent ‘lockdown’ writing, filming or getting creative on something and I see a lot of these projects slowly coming to fruition now, so I look forward to working with these talented individuals on these projects in the future.