Finishing is such sweet sorrow

Expanding on my previous post: there’s something peculiarly wonderful about finishing projects, some aspect of the TV process that seems to fundamentally agree with me. Something to do with timescales of a few months, packaging everything up at the end of it, and being able to say, ‘I could have done this or that, maybe more of that would have been better – but you know what? What I did was this, and that’s the end of it.’ The residue of weeks of deliberation and toil, impassioned debates, hair-tearing creative bursts, late nights, surmounting seemingly-impassible obstacles, and bashing against failing or inadequate or inappropriate kit to force it to bend to your will… is a small pile of tapes.

There’s always a moment, late on in the dub process, where you line up the tapes on a table, regimenting them in neat, serried rows. Then you… look at them. Often the editor and dubbing mixer will join you in silent contemplation. You’ll never see those tapes again, yet they’re what you’ve been working towards all along. They’re the physical embodiment of all the effort, toil, and creativity of all the individuals involved in the series. Tens of thousands of pounds buys you, in the end, a few hundred feet of iron-carrying tape, wrapped up in neat blue boxes with discrete sticky labels bearing obtuse technical details.

Of course, the real product of TV happens in people’s living rooms, as they watch the show. But as programme makers we never see that. The tapes are our offering to the deities of transmission; having nurtured their contents, we set them free (via courier), wish them well, and… hope.

It’s a bitter-sweet moment, leaving one in a state of mildly perplexed euphoria which can last as much as several weeks. In this case, I barely have time to enjoy it, since I’m frantically trying to clear the decks in Glasgow in preparation for the new London job on Monday. Pity.

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