Finding an ambulance in a pandemic sounds like it should be a punchline. Zinger aside, it’s one of the daily challenges faced by filmmaker Jake Cauty, and it’s what is on the list of things to do when we catch up with him. His filmmaking firm JPC Film had just bagged the Corporate LiveWire and Prestige Awards, Most Innovative Video Production Company 2021!
The prize is a reflection of the work the South Devon production company has been doing. A feat in itself, and that they have managed to continue filmmaking during the pandemic shows the determination and ingenuity of Jake and the team.
We know about Jake’s filmmaking chops from the last time we chatted to him about his films The Panthers and The Youngest Pilot. “Since then things have snowballed into madness,” he says. They’ve been making highly watchable films for a US Youtuber.
“The films we do for him get seen by so many people. In 10 months we did 12 films and got a billion views,” says Jake.
That level of audience demands a lot of work.
“We get a concept through, or we pitch a concept. When we get a green light for that, I’ll write the script, and get that script green-lit. Then we search for actors, locations, props, wardrobe and makeup, and get extras and organise catering for everyone.”
By building on their experience the team got to the point where everything was in place for them to do it as fluidly as possibly. Girlfriend, Kelly, does production management for these jobs. Friend, Jamie, is the producer.
“While he’s sorting actors and locations I can concentrate on scripting and sorting out camera gear. On the set, Kelly will be dealing with all the actors and making sure the wardrobe is all sorted and keeping everyone on schedule,” says Jake.
It goes like clockwork, which is just as well, they have so many of these shoots to do with quite a quick turnaround, the team needs to be dedicated to deliver them.
“I’m now the creative director, that means producing more and better content with the idea of building up the Youtube following, making it bigger and better each time,” says Jake.
As you’d expect, there’s something fulfilling about getting so many views.
“When you’re putting that much effort in, and they’re being seen by billions of people, it feels important, and it makes it all worthwhile,” says Jake.
When the first lockdown was announced, three months of bookings were cancelled immediately. When we caught up, they were managing to keep filming following the BFI film production guidelines for being Covid safe.
“We’ve got rapid Covid tests we offer actors that we do ourselves before we do any filming and we’re distanced on set, everyone’s masked and covered head to toe in sanitiser. We clean the location before we go in and we clean up when we leave,” says Jake.
All this adds time and logistics. And finding actors from the right places who are going to be using private transport can be troublesome. Based in Newton Abbot, Devon, the productions need to show a spread of ethnicities.
“If you go on any talent database looking for actors and you need an Indian or Chinese guy to play a role, if you focus on Devon, they’re not coming up. If you got to London you get thousands. But with Covid, it might not be appropriate to get actors from London – and then there are the costs of travel accommodation.”
Also in Devon they’ve got a lot of resources and contacts, and even the mayor of Newton Abbot – who’s been really helpful with getting locations and helping out with shoots. They’ve built up their own database of local crew, actors composers that they’ve met locally.
“It definitely has its bonuses but it also has its flaws, we have to work with what we’ve got and every time something comes in from further afield we have to be careful,” says Jake.
The Most Innovative Video Production Company prize is a fantastic piece of recognition and will help propel the company to the future, he says.
“You have your head down in a project, and in this environment you’re a bit stressed out. Then this call comes in that you won an award! It brings everything back into perspective. We all do love what we’re doing, but to get that recognition is really quite special.
“It reinforces that people can come to us, we can do something that they trust, and they can feel safe that we can deliver.”
A sense of community, collaboration and creativity is underlined with the music videos Jake makes for the modern folk band Harbottle and Jonas.
“I never stop creating. I always have to be making something, whether it’s filming or photography. Doing these music videos helps with that fire in my creative brain that just needs to keep going.”
It’s a mutually supportive working relationship.
“It’s always nice to help out local people as well,” says Jake. “They’re in Devon and they’re definitely feeling the effect of Covid. It’s nice to be able to produce some music videos or some live videos and post it out. They get some recognition and it’s quite fun to do it as well.”
That support extends to the grassroots of the industry in the South West. Jake explains: “When I was fresh out of college I tried so hard to get onto film sets. I was in touch with producers and production managers and runners and no one could facilitate that. I just wanted to learn
“Right now we’re writing a horror film (which has got some interested investors already) and we’re doing those things. We’ve had people working on these: they are local, they were still studying at college and they come along for experience. Every time someone does that, we can help teach them with whichever area they’re interested in. Part of it is I didn’t have these opportunities when I was young, and I thought I can offer that to other people
“It’s helping everyone out and everyone’s getting involved and it’s a nice way to do it.”
With a pocket full of prizes, bags loads of views and a brimming creative network, the hard work of spreading that confidence and filmmaking from a Devon base seems to be paying off for Jake and his team.
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