Filming at BBC Maida Vale

Filming at BBC Maida Vale may require some advance planning to ensure that your filming project runs smoothly. I was fortunate to be awarded a commission by the well-known Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir to create a showreel film for their website which included some filming at BBC Maida Vale. This case study explains what happened.

Julian checks his radio mic menu settings whilst monitoring the sound with a pair of headphones as the choir rehearse in Maida Vale studio 3
With my two camera tripods in place, it was time to set up the radio microphones during rehearsals.

Filming a live performance

The film was to feature a number of their current performances. While planning the filming and production schedule, it transpired that one of the Choir’s performances was to be recorded live at the Maida Vale studios as part of BBC Radio 2’s 2016 Easter programme ‘At The Foot Of The Cross’. The Choir’s representatives and I were keen that their role in the programme should be filmed so that I could include some of the footage into their new showreel film. With their agreement, I contacted the producer of the radio programme to ask if filming would be permissible and was pleased to hear that she was also happy for the filming to take place so that it could help the future ambitions of the Choir.

Obtaining filming permissions from the BBC

From my previous experience of working for the BBC, I knew that I would have to work out what permissions I would need to authorise my filming. As well as satisfying a list of BBC business criteria, I was also asked to fill in a risk assessment form, supply a copy my public liability insurance certificate, apply for a filming permit and also to send my PAT (Portable Testing Certificates) for any mains-powered equipment. The main point of all of this was to ensure that the BBC would not be liable for any Health and Safety or contractual/copyright issues that might arise. As I planned to use four battery-powered LED panel lights, it was not necessary to supply my PAT certificates (my camera and sound recorder were also battery powered). I have £10 million PLI cover with my union BECTU so that part was easy to satisfy as well.

Working as my own responsible manager

I completed the BBC’s risk assessment and film permit forms as required and then sent them to the team responsible for the BBC’s Maida Vale studio and also to the programme’s producer. The producer kindly made a few adjustments to my risk assessment form and asked me to work as my own responsible manager while filming, which I was happy to do. As I’ve previously completed the BBC’s production training, the BBC’s Health and Safety training, I was able to reassure the producer of my relevant qualifications for this work.

For a videographer, proper planning means being highly proactive

I called the security reception desk at BBC Maida Vale over the weekend before filming to check that all was in order and they assured me that my name would be included on a list of attendees on Monday morning. Before setting out, I called the security desk again, and they confirmed that yes, my name was on their list so I would have permission to enter the building, which was great news.

However, a few moments later, I was copied into an internal BBC email which requested sight of all my relevant forms. Even though I thought I had covered all the requirements, it seems that some of the appropriate team had not been copied in. I immediately responded to this request as I was waiting to book a taxi to take me to Maida Vale. Luckily everyone involved also reacted quickly and, after a series of emails, I received a final confirmation of filming permissions.

I learned from this that it’s not always easy to identify precisely which personnel you need to deal with at such a large organisation as the BBC to ensure that you have the necessary authorisations for any filming assignments there. Even though I had planned ahead and believed I had covered all the BBC’s requirements, somehow one of their team (who had a considerable say in the matter) had not been copied into the discussions.

Filming at the BBC studios in Maida Vale

When I arrived at Maida Vale studios, I set up my four large panel lights, two cameras on tripods and sound recording gear and was ready in time to film the Choir’s rehearsal. After this, an audience of 200 joined us all in MV studio 3 for the main recording of the programme which included a wide variety of performers. I then filmed the live performances of the Soul Sanctuary Choir and their band. The recorded programme had a few edits and was transmitted for 2 hours on Good Friday, 25th March 2016.

It was exciting to be filming at BBC Maida Vale and to see such great performances. I am sure this recording will make a significant contribution to Soul Sanctuary Choir’s final showreel film and their new website. The final film can be viewed on the Soul Sanctuary website. If you would like any help with the filming of your project, please get in touch.

You might like to read some more helpful advice and tips from these articles and from my video production blog.

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Julian Langham

Julian started his career in media in 1994; shortly after Julian was invited to join the BBC where he was quickly promoted to Editor. Julian left the BBC to develop his freelance career in 2009. Highly-practised and skilled in constructing engaging narratives, Julian’s key strength is his ability to produce strong visually-led stories. In his work, Julian shares his passion for creating powerful synergies between story content, visual rhythm and music.

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