Welcome to our Data Expert Series! We’re delighted to have you join us today to talk about your data workflow. Before we dive into the details of your equipment and set-up, would you mind sharing some of your past experiences in the industry?
Afrika: HI! Thank you so much for having me. I love Imagine Products and it’s an honor to be here.
How film and tv got me is an interesting story. I come from the music business. After years of touring and singing on stages and in studios all over the world, I was tired of the grind. My good friend and mentor, a popular director at the time, was looking for someone to train as a DIT that would work for his company. During our training, it became very clear that I enjoyed the media management portion of the DIT workflow. So, I became a Media Manager (Data wrangler, loader, data manager). It’s perfect for my personality and skillset.
After training, My mentor brought me into the industry workforce as an AC / PA. I worked for a year doing that and then one day, the EP of a show I had been a PA on called to hire me for her next series. I told her that I was only working as a media manager. She had no idea what that was, but she hired me anyway! That was my first job as a media manager. A full season of a docuseries.
What types of productions do you usually work on? What are the main ways in which they differ from each other?
Afrika: I’ve worked on all types of productions; features, shorts, scripted and reality tv shows, comedy specials, corporate videos, commercials, music videos and more. Now, I work mainly in unscripted and game shows. These types of productions rarely need a full DIT. What they need more than anything is knowing that the footage is securely offloaded and well organized.
Reality and Game shows are very different from each other. With game shows and competition reality, there will be a boatload of cameras and footage. The last game show I wrangled, averaged 11 TB of footage per day for 67 cameras of all types, including BTS and audio. Expect to get a lot of overtime!
With judge shows and some other multi-cam shows like panel discussions and live specials, there is usually an Aja KiPro setup where we record ISOs and line cuts with embedded audio. And with docuseries, which are different every day, you may have 3-10 cameras and 1 – 3 audio rigs depending on what we’re shooting that day. Docuseries usually use various locations per shoot day, so I’m either working out of my hotel room or using the mobile setup in my car. I rarely have to be on set before lunch. Sometimes I show up at wrap.
Afrika Joneé on set of the The Cube
And a follow-up question to that, do you have a favorite type of production to work on?
Afrika: I don’t have a favorite type of production. I enjoy them all. Game and judge shows are usually long term and once you’re in you’re in. Reality shows are fun because it’s run and gun, usually a small crew and the family vibe is strengthened because we’re in small spaces together for long periods of time.
Now everyone has different preferences and a different cart/workstation set-up, could you tell me about yours?
Afrika: All of my kits are super fast MacBook Pros with thunderbolt. Every one of them is equipped with ShotPut Pro (my software of choice), Parashoot, rArsync and playback software. Included in the kit are all kinds of card readers, cables and adapters. I rarely have to provide drives, however, I always have some available for the production to rent if necessary. You’d be surprised how often the drives are the last thing production is thinking of.
I’m rarely on set during filming, but if I am, being tucked away somewhere quiet managing footage with my candles burning and music playlist on shuffle is my joy. Even if my table is in the PO, my area is always a vibe and a welcome space.
Afrika Joneé’s workspace
For those that may just be starting to build their cart/workstation, or are in the early stages of it, what are some pieces of equipment that you consider absolutely essential?
Afrika: Media managers don’t need much in terms of equipment. My essentials are:
1. ShotPut Pro – Hands down! The only reason we’re all there shooting is to get the footage, of which I am solely responsible for. I will not work without ShotPut Pro. Don’t skimp on quality. Get ShotPut Pro.
2. Macbook Pro – The fastest most powerful ones you can afford with Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports. You’re getting a day rate for 8, 10 or 12 hours. If your kit is fast enough to finish in 3 then your hourly rate has gone up drastically… You’re welcome.
3. Various card readers with Thunderbolt connectors – Always find out what cameras are being used and do the research to know what kind of media they take. Have more than 1 of each kind of reader in case you need to switch them out. Card readers can be finicky just like people. Plan accordingly. (Pro tip: Always make sure that production has their own card readers just in case. They are usually renting the cameras and It’s customary for them to come with card readers.)
4. Ancillary software – It’s not “technically” your job as a media manager to playback footage for producers to see, but it can be expected. Always have a good working copy of VLC and Blackmagic & RED player for playback just in case. Parashoot for safety when you are recycling cards and have to reformat them in the field. And aRsync for cloning drives
5. Accessories –Thunderbolt cables of different types and lengths. Various adapters. Red and Green tape, permanent markers, sticky note pads, plastic bins for hot and cold media boxes, surge protectors and yellow lens computer glasses for eye strain. I also always come with a great smelling candle, an assortment of music playlists and a good Bluetooth speaker.
6. Battery backup – If the power goes out you want to be able to, at the very least, finish offloading the current card. Losing power during an offload can wipe or damage media.
Afrika Joneé’s workspace & workflow
Going along with the previous question, do you have any tips for beginners in the field? What’s something you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
Afrika: In reality tv, the media manager can often be called a DIT. Don’t get it twisted, they are NOT the same thing. If you’re not sure what the job is, ask. Find a mentor, preferably one who is a DIT/Media Manager or Post Supervisor/Editor. When I first started, there were many times I encountered a problem that I didn’t know how to fix. I was able to call my mentors and get the problem sorted out. Now I mentor, consult and train Media Managers. They can always call me when they need help day or night. You need someone like that.
Create a system and keep meticulous logs. In other words, CYA – Cover Your A$$. Make sure you set Shot Put Pro to generate logs automatically. And have your own set of media logs for each day in a spreadsheet. That way, even if you’re compromised (tired, frustrated, confused etc.), you still have a record of what cards you’ve received and of the work you’ve done. Logs are lifesavers. Get you some!
Work through your own LLC/Corp. as a loan out whenever possible. Most things you need to do your job can be written off on your taxes. Invest kit rental fees back into building your equipment list. However, make sure that you do at least 1 production per year as an employee in case you have to get unemployment assistance during the slow times hahaha! Be sure to get a good CPA who understands the film and tv business to handle your taxes.
Become a place of calm for your Production Manager/Coordinator. Their job is extremely stressful. Allow them to vent. Be supportive and offer to help if you’re available. They will always remember and hire you for the next job if they can.
Be good to everyone and make a great impression. 95% of the referrals I get are from people I don’t know. Act accordingly.
Be a vault – Keep everything you hear and see to yourself. Be the keeper of all secrets.
Always tell production there is a problem AFTER you have already exhausted every effort to correct it. Then make sure you put it in writing with all the details.
Never let anyone on the set rush you or tell you how to do your job. Ask them if they have any set protocols. If not, do what you know to be right.
And finally, learn how to negotiate your day rate. That’s one of the first things I teach my media management students. My day rate increases every quarter and I still get hired over and over again.
Wrap gift from the set of Judge Steve Harvey
Do you have any on-set stories you’d like to share?
Afrika: I managed media for a very popular comedy show on Netflix. It was filmed in an arena. When I was hired, I suggested that I come in around lunch but they wanted me there at crew call. So I got there and sat around for 6 hours before I received any media. That turned into a 26 hour day for me. By the time I turned the hard drives over to the producers I was pretty much delirious. But all footage was backed up safely because of my 5 step media management system. It never lets me down.
Wow… what a day, thanks so much for sharing. We know a lot of industry members who have stories similar to this so I’m sure it will be validating to hear that they are not the only ones. Also, thank you so much for sharing about both your workspace but also some of your business side tips. That can be very daunting for many people to try and figure out so I know your advice will be greatly appreciated!
For those that have been following this series, be sure to check back next week for another interview!