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The Call Centre - the series producer

Jon Connerty

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Making a documentary about a call centre doesn't, on the face of it, sound like the most exciting proposal - let alone a whole series of programmes about the same place. Then I watched Nev and his team members on the 'taster' tapes and immediately wanted to produce the project.

Nev is a brilliant character for television, a larger than life personality with a fantastic instinct for a memorable one liner. He has the kind of on screen charisma you can't teach - he'd be watchable boiling an egg.

Nev from The Call Centre

Nev's employees were the same, engaging likeable personalities who came across on screen exactly as you found them in real life. As documentary makers we were spoilt for choice about whom we wanted to follow and which stories we wanted tell.

One of the main challenges was keeping track of the stories and at the same time trying to meet and get to know as many people as we could. Everyone took on this responsibility, from the directors to the assistant producers to the runners.

It's easy to get distracted in an environment like a call centre and end up only filming louder more extrovert characters (of which there were many). What the team did brilliantly was find a whole range of different people. I'm sure every viewer will have their favourite - whether its Nev, Hayley the tea girl, sales agent George, Chickenhead or Dwayne - the list goes on and on.

George strikes a pose

It was a pleasure making this series as everyone, from the commissioner down, shared the same vision - to make a warm and engaging series which reflected life in the call centre as it really is and the people there as they really are, the ups and downs - the inbounds and outbounds.

Some programmes about young people rely on negative stereotypes - irresponsible kids drinking, having sex and shouting their way from one contrivance to another. They shock and make headlines but do a disservice to a generation.

The young people at the call centre are a far more representative and interesting lot - keen to get on, determined to make something of themselves, loyal friends and hardworking employees.

Chloe hard at work

We spent nearly seven months at the call centre and by the end we had hundreds of hours of footage to choose from - it was both a blessing and a curse! We had edits going simultaneously in both Cardiff and London, effectively doubling the possibility of things going wrong, but the post production team at BBC Wales dealt with this hugely complicated logistical undertaking brilliantly well.

In any edit there are a million ways to build a programme from the same rushes. The challenge was finding the right tone, pace and style for the series, getting the right mix of stories and characters, and then feeding that into five edits across two countries.

The process needed the editors and directors to be resilient, unselfish and creative - and they delivered. As with any production worth its salt, it was an occasionally bumpy road (not without its diversions!) but the end result is a series of which everyone involved, from the production and post-production teams to the contributors, can be truly proud.

To quote Nev: "Surround yourself with the right people and the rest is easy."

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