Making Forward Forty: What Really Goes On Behind The Camera
MAY 26, 2017
Fun, games, and fashion aside, creating each season of Forward Forty TV is a helluva lot of work. A packed week of 15-hour-long workdays and back-to-back shooting schedules are at the tip of an iceberg for a season worth of episodes that’s almost four months in the making.
And it doesn’t get any easier as our production and filming gets better.
As we enter the second half of our second year, and wrap up our first ever digital life+style show, what goes on behind the scenes and the lens of the camera, has only multiplied a hundredfold.
Plan, prepare, execute, edit, release.
Plan, prepare, execute, edit, release.
Plan, prepare, execute, edit, release.
We say it like a yoga mantra on loop. But unlike the primordial ‘Om’ that unites the universe, our mantra reminds us of the never-ending, all-consuming, life-changing, exhilarating ride that is Forward Forty.
Read on for a sneak peak of exactly what goes into making Forward (and to celebrate our bloopers and gaffes galore!)
The base of a good production is thorough pre-prep. Planning for a season of Forward Forty TV starts almost anywhere from three to four months before our planned filming dates.
Chantelle, Miguel and I sit down and brainstorm possible ideas for the upcoming season. Anything goes at this point, as long as the concept fits into one of our five featured segments – beauty, fashion, wellness, food, and success. Each must be given equal attention so that we continue to dole out content on both life and style.
After the initial brainstorming session, ideas are collated into categories. Chantelle creates a document explaining briefly – in two lines or less – what each idea is about. Next, the ideas go through their first round of cuts. I am brutally honest at this point because when I’m done, only 4-5 from each category remain standing.
Once we’ve settled on our top 20-25 vignettes, we begin ironing out the details. The first step in the process is to separate the videos into two piles – ones with scripts where I am in front the camera sharing a story, and others created with just compelling visuals and music.
We begin researching, consolidating, and writing out our first drafts. Once they’re all done, it’s time to edit, trim down, and re-write them in a “TV voice.” I read them out loud, add pauses, intonations, and comments, and the scripts then go back to the drawing board, where they’re typed up in their final incarnation.
Storyboarding and Pre-Production
Once the words are set in stone, it’s time to get creative. Chantelle works on breaking down the script, slotting each line into a grid, and ascribing distinct visuals, graphics, and b-roll to each section. We look to our favourite Youtubers, music videos, films, and social media videos for inspiration, and then conceptualise the most creative ways to shoot our videos.
We start with the big picture – the feel, look, and tone we’re going for – and then work our way into the details. We try our best to maintain a healthy variation in length, and zaniness. This is where the magic begins.
Next, Chantelle and I begin planning out our shots. We try to include multiple angles per concept, and vary our shots, so that our audience has a visually rich experience with each video. We then allocate props and locations to each shot, add in a column for graphics where necessary, and send the scripts off to print.
Finalising The Prep
Once our freshly printed scripts are delivered, we sit down as a team (yes, again!) and go through them a final time. We add in shot changes, extra props, notes, comments, fix any grammatical and tone issues, and then curate two lists – one for props, and another for locations. Our scripts go through one last rewrite and reprint, and the real work begins!
A few of our team members are put on prop duty, where they scour Trinidad for the right flowers, backgrounds, glassware, tiles, and other decorative pieces. This year, we were lucky enough to have the incredible folks over at The Gallery lend us some gorgeous pieces to use. We were spoilt for choice with their high end selection of jewellery, vases, accent pieces, and couture kitchenware, and almost couldn’t bear to give them back again!
The last piece of the puzzle is getting our sets ready. Last season Miguel and I bought background paper that added pops of colour to our various sets. This time we experimented even more, changing up our lifestyle sets, so that meant getting carpets cleaned, pillows fluffed, and tables polished to the nines.
Finding The Right Team
A production is only as good as the talent involved in it. This year, we were focused on trying something new.
And so we brought on the uber-talented Romano Francois as our Director of Cinematography. To say that Romano is a ray of light would be an understatement. His attitude and energy were infectious, and even 15 hours into a seemingly endless shoot, he had us in fits of laughter. Miguel acted as Romano’s grip and audio assistant.
Over protein shakes and sparkling water spritzers, we had our first full crew production meeting, where we went over scripts and shot lists, and finalised any leftover details.
The last step is to sort out wardrobe. This is one of my favourite parts of pre-production because I get to do what I do best – style! I sort out outfits, changes, jewellery, hair pieces, shoes, accessories, and other details to define and pull together each look onscreen. Finally, a day before we begin filming, I head over to the salon to get my nails done (because trust me, no one wants dirty nails showing up in a video), and relax a bit (Ha! Like that’s possible)
The first day of production is usually frantic, as the team adjusts to the long-hours, multiple set changes, and a new work schedule. We film anywhere from 3 to 5 videos a day, over a span of two hectic weeks.
My day starts with a 4 am wakeup call, a quick breakfast, and then a 6 am appointment with my makeup artist. This year, we welcomed Paulla De Souza, the local brand ambassador of Black Up Paris – a brand specially formulated for coloured skin – as our makeup artist. Not only was Paulla the beauty godmother I’d been looking for (no joke, she transformed my face!), she was also an incredibly calming presence on set.
So what exactly did we film?
Well first, there’s some success…
A little bit of food…
A lot of fashion…
And a touch of wellness
Not only was this production one of our most extensive, it’s also one that has taught me the most. The hardest part, for me, was learning to relinquish control. Having been so involved in Forward Forty for the past 17 months, performing each creative role, it was hard at times to step back and allow other ideas to prevail. Having the right team made this easier, but there were still moments where we butted heads (all in love, of course), and had to compromise our opposing points of view.
Production can get intense. Those long work days can definitely take a toll on your health and team morale. Tensions can run high, timings might go askew, and sometimes, we might have to do twelve takes to get a shot right. But through it all, the most important thing you can bring to the table is a fun attitude. Keep it light, laugh out loud, take a moment to yourself and you’ll breeze through the tough week!
Another thing I love to do is celebrate small milestones. This time around, we indulged in French pastries at Le Jardin, took breaks with our pets, and tried converting certain team members into vegans (quite successfully!). The going might get tough, but remember, just keep going.
We might be clouded by nostalgia and emotion, but this season of Forward Forty TV is truly a labour of love. We can’t wait to show it off to you when we debut our pilot on August 13th, 4 pm, on Facebook.
Tune in to watch it with us and stick around for our Live FB Q&A session immediately after. See you soon!