#TurnOnTuneIn at The Hospital Club London: Dan Gold, Simon Raikes, Dan Reed

TurnOnTuneIn at The Hospital Club is a networking event with a difference: you get to hear leading names in the TV industry.

Here’s a handy summary of the talks from Dan Gold (IMDb profile), Simon Raikes (IMDb profile) and Dan Reed (IMDb profile) at The Hospital Club London, in the form of 10 commandments of good documentary-making.


The 10 Commandments of Good Documentary-Making (by the Guys Who Have Been There, Done That, Bear the Emotional Scars)

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1. Put a team together of motivated, highly skilled people (Dan Gold)

2. You need a good idea and someone to push it (Dan Gold)

3. Timing and luck are really important (Simon Raikes)

4. Think about making a mini movie told like drama – it’s all about the narrative (Simon Raikes)

5. Tell a good story and don’t let anything get in the way of that (Dan Gold)

6. Make it feel “Hollywood”, make it feel visceral (Simon Raikes)

7. Hold on to your vision (Dan Gold)

8. Secure the access (to good contributors) to be able to film extraordinary things in front of you (Dan Reed)

9. You need these key values and assets: Persistence, Good casting, Keeping access after you have secured it, Taking a lot of sh*t and not reacting (because people will give you a hard time), Stamina,  Filming with the best equipment you can find and the best editor you can find within the budget (Dan Reed)

10. Do less, achieve more aka a director should not interfere too much (Dan Reed)

OK, so we’ve got the commandments – now let’s work our way back to what the speakers said at the TurnOnTuneIn event. Here’s a few highlights.

Dan Gold (Director, Producer)

Dan Gold shared some clips from his Channel 5 documentary Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty (2014)

Dan commented that making a history drama documentary where people spoke medieval French was challenging and worried that getting the commission off the ground would be difficult, but the timing was right.

The aim is to entertain people, and Edward II’s story provides plenty of intrigue, revenge, murder, betrayal and sex, making the topic even more extreme than fiction. Dan said that he was lucky to work with Dan Jones (Wikipedia profile) as a presenter.

Simon Raikes (Commissioning Editor, Factual, Channel 5)

Looking back at the whole process that brought this documentary to the screen, Simon Raikes said that he wanted “to do some really good history”. He had read Dan Jones’  book about Plantagenets  (The Plantagenets: The Kings Who Made England). Simon likes history and thought the book was brilliant; more importantly, Ben Frow, Channel 5’s controller, is just as passionate about history. Lives of people living during the Plantagenets reign read like a film script.

Simon remarked, jokingly: “We all knew there was a collegiate intent to go beyond the Plantagenets for ‘the Millwall of terrestrial TV'”.

Dan Reed (Director, Producer)

Award-winning director Dan Reed (Amos Pictures) showed a trailer of his TV documentary The Paedophile Hunter (2014), a clip from his (much copied!) documentary Legally High (2013), and his HBO documentary Terror at the Mall (2014):

Dan’s presentation style at TurnOnTuneIn was very engaging – he came to the front of the stage and gave us some fascinating insights into his work.

He compared film making to farming, both taking plenty of time for planning and then, when harvesting comes, you need to have all hands on deck and work around the clock; documentary making, instead, is like hunting/gathering as you go out in the field and then come back to see what you’ve got and how you can use it.

Dan is particularly interested in telling stories about how the internet has created conflicts and connections that didn’t exist before.

He stressed the importance of gaining and retaining the trust of his contributors and ethical issues about when to intervene and when to observe. This was particularly difficult while shooting (pardon the pun) his Legally High documentary on online legal drugs and the people who make them and use them (his documentary includes scenes of real people shooting up drugs).

Thanks to The Hospital Club and host Beren Money (@berenmoney) for an excellent event.

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Dan Reed – picture by Paola Bassanese

Dan Gold (left) and Simon Raikes (right) – picture by Paola Bassanese

Paola Bassanese is an author, freelance writer and social media consultant (profile).