Working Lives: Meet the studio manager for Pinewood Studios

Working Lives: Meet the studio manager for Pinewood Studios

Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes (Credit: Ollie Upton/ UKTV)
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Pinewood Studios' senior TV manager Naomi Dulake is interviewed by Matthew Bell.

Naomi Dulake has been at Pinewood Studios for six years, working on some of the UK’s biggest shows, including UKTV celebrity gameshow Taskmaster and Lee Mack’s BBC One sitcom Not Going Out.

What does the job involve?

When we get a production confirmed at Pinewood TV, I latch myself on to it two or three months before it comes into the studio. I book all the kit and the crew; oversee the building of the set; and book the recording days and the strike days, when the set is dismantled. If the show has an audience, I have to get them on and off site, too.

Do you work long days?

On recording days, I can work up to 14 hours. Two episodes of Taskmaster – each with an audience of 300 – are shot back to back in a day. A show takes two and a half hours to record, with only a 20-minute turnaround – when we get one audience out and the next in – between the first and second show.

Taskmaster has a massive following and we always try to find a way to accommodate its fans for the ­recording. They’re usually a happy bunch. I look after the talent, too, and any issues they have with dressing rooms, hair, make-up and wardrobe.

Do other shows shoot differently?

Sitcoms such as Not Going Out rehearse on set and we have them at the studios for much longer – usually six weeks or so. Each week, we do rehearsals, a technical run-through, a pre-record and then a recording in front of a live audience. We turn the sets around and then start work on the next episode the following week.

At the other end of the scale, we shoot three, sometimes four episodes of Warwick Davis’s ITV quiz Tenable in a single day at Pinewood.

"Your job can become your life at times"

Has the job changed over the years?

Programme budgets have fallen over time, but productions still expect the same service.

What does Pinewood offer shows?

Three TV studios and a small but experienced team – returning productions see the same faces, people who really know their shows. Having said that, it takes a huge number of people to actually shoot a show. On a recording day, we can have anything from 30 to 70 people working on the studio floor, plus another 20 in the gallery, and the talent.

How do I become a studio manager?

It’s great to start as a runner because you meet everyone on the team and learn about their roles. Personally, I started as a co-ordinator for an outside broadcast company, before moving to Pinewood.

What qualities do you need to have?

You’ve got to be calm, collected and organised, especially with scheduling. And be approachable – productions will want to talk to you in confidence.

What are the best and worst aspects?

I love the fast pace and solving problems, and you get to see what you’ve worked on very quickly on TV. The worst? Your job can become your life at times. While I’m working on one production, I’m also preparing for the next shows to move in. I can be busy on anything up to six productions at one time – but everyone thinks they have my time exclusively. 

Pinewood Studios’ senior TV studio manager Naomi Dulake was interviewed by Matthew Bell.