We Talk to 1st AD Dan Winch
18 January 2013
Dan was 1st Assistant Director for acclaimed film & TV drama productions including: Tyrannosaur, Boy A, The Mark of Cain, The Crimson Petal & The White, Appropriate Adult, and House of Saddam.
Over the past year, Dan worked with Lynne Ramsay on her short film Swimmer, which was released as part of London 2012, and Working Title’s adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong.
Most Recently, Dan line produced ITV Studios Mrs Biggs for ITV1, and returned to Working Title for the additional photography of Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, and John Crowley’s Closed Circuit.
We notice that one of your first credits was working as a runner, and that you’ve now progressed. Do you think it’s important to work your way up the ladder?
I’ve always felt it important to aim high with my work standards and ambitions. It’s been equally as important for me to recognise when to seize new opportunities, as it has to recognise the need for a thorough understanding of the role I was currently undertaking; before embarking on a career climb. One of the wonderful aspects of our industry, is that it’s possible to progress in so many different ways. This might not always involve accepting a different job title. On each occasion I’ve completed a project, whether as a runner, 3rd, 2nd, 1st AD, or Line Producer, if I’ve accomplished and learnt from new experiences, I’ve viewed this as a climb up the ladder. I’ve never had a desire to tackle a different job role without feeling like I’ve put my own stamp on the current one.
You’ve worked on both features and TV dramas. Do they operate in different ways? If so, what do you like about each of the genres?
I’m equally proud of my TV drama and feature film experiences. Inevitably there can be differences between the two genres, as a result of budget and requirements for a distributor or channel. When it comes to the set, the goal is identical. How to ensure what appears in front of the camera (or cameras), is going to captivate the relevant audience. The pressure, the buzz, the approach resulting in my calling “action”, are all the exact same. Feature films will often allow more ‘time generous’ shooting schedules than TV drama. Occasionally, high end TV drama will offer more ‘time generous’ shooting schedules than feature films! The distinctions between the two genres are becoming less clear cut. Boundaries are being pushed and explored in every direction for the sake of vision and budget. One of the skills of assistant directing/producing, is ensuring whatever the genre, whoever the audience, that there’s a common creative process and atmosphere. I have a love of working on both TV drama and feature films.
You’ve had a varied and interesting career to date. Is there a secret to staying in work? And also, do you have any tips?
I always aim to bring a passion, positivity, and determination to help deliver work of a high standard. With many of the challenges I’ve helped tackle, there’s often more than one possible resolve. Listen to all those around you, and take on board every bit of advice from the experienced professionals you have the privilege of working with. Respect your colleagues and their crafts, and you’ll gain their respect. Be confident about your decisions, ensuring you can justify them with a strong logic. Never be afraid of changing your decisions in response to changing circumstances. Experience will give you confidence and strength with this. When on set – “always have a plan, and always know what you are waiting for”. As an assistant director/producer, your personality can influence the mood of a production. Use this ability wisely. In these times of challenging budgets and schedules, manners continue to cost nothing. Be direct, lead with authority, and never stop enjoying.
We notice that you’ve moved into producing with Mrs Biggs. Is this something that you’ve always wanted to do?
In recent years I’ve enjoyed being involved with the broader production process. As an assistant director, I commonly commence work on projects post weeks, months, sometimes years of pre-production development by the producers. Amongst many aspects, the successful outcome of a project is pivotal on an achievable production and shooting schedule. I’ve strived to apply my experiences of these particular aspects as an assistant director, to the broader process as a line producer. We filmed Mrs Biggs in the UK and Australia. Achieving all that was required on both sides of the world within a specific period ahead of shooting, was reliant on a meticulous schedule incorporating recces, planning meetings, and of course travel. We managed to successfully accomplish the ‘almost’ logistically impossible, as a result of careful planning.
I very much look forward to wearing both my assistant directing and line producing hats in the future, and continuing to work on projects I feel passionately about.
What can you tell us about Mrs Biggs?
Depicting the events and aftermath of the great train robbery through the experiences of Charmian Biggs, wife of the notorious Ronnie – Mrs Biggs was transmitted on ITV1 in 2012.