NFTS Directing and Producing Television Entertainment MA and Cameras, Sound and Vision Mixing Diploma students were treated to a masterclass from BAFTA winning multi-camera director, Nikki Parsons who has made her name over the last twenty years on household shiny floor and Saturday night entertainment shows from Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent to Dancing on Ice and The Voice UK.

Introduced by NFTS Head of Television, David G Croft as the “top multi-camera director in the country,” Nikki kicked off the session with a potted history of her career and the many shows she has worked on.

As a freelancer, Nikki explained how she never really knows what she is doing next: “I mostly focus on one project at a time. For example, I’ve just finished working on the Britain’s Got Talent Live Finals followed by the Classic Brits.” Nikki then gave the students valuable insight into the process she goes through once she starts a show. “We start with a planning meeting where we discuss what the format of the show is, what the channel is expecting, who the show is targeted at and so on. It’s always good to know what you’re aiming for so I make sure I ask as many questions as I can at this point. It’s very important to listen and ask the Executive Producer lots of questions as that helps you pick the right team and work out how to shoot. As a director who is brought on to a show, you have to follow the format. It’s not your job to change it around.”

On team selection, Nikki counselled: “One of the most important jobs is to pick the team as you are only as good as the team around you. I always pick the vision mixer, script supervisor, floor manager, camera supervisor, and help to choose the graphics company and sound supervisor and sometimes I also help to find the set and lighting designer depending on what stage you have been brought onto the project. As a freelancer you tend to gather a team around you and end up working with the same team as much as possible.”

On creating a camera plan, Nikki advised the importance of asking how many cameras you can get which is budget dependent and finding out what the set is going to look like as that can have a big impact on camera positions: “The camera plan needs to work with the set. You will need to negotiate with the set designer to agree where you can put cameras.” Nikki explained how it helps her to view this process visually: “I have to be able to picture the set and where the cameras are and imagine what the performer is doing.”

According to Nikki, this planning process is particularly vital when planning a live show as “you know you have a very tight rehearsal schedule so it’s very important to plan as much as possible so you don’t waste valuable studio time.”

Another tip Nikki gave the students is to attend the edit wherever possible: “In my opinion you should always go to the edit if possible as sometimes what you intended can be changed in the edit. Make sure you have as much creative control as possible.”

NFTS students regularly benefit from once-in-a-lifetime masterclasses like this one. If you’d like to get access to top industry executives and learn from the best in the business, apply for our Directing and Producing Television Entertainment MA by the 27th September –