• Mitch Parris

Greatest Moments Witnessed whilst Being a Sports Director at Sky Sports & Freelance Director

This is Chapter 2 of 3 in the guide to becoming a TV Direction within Sport. The PitchTALKS team sat down with Graeme Spink, Former Director of Sky Sport, and now Freelance Director of some of the biggest sporting events in the world.

Welcome to a brand new episode of Bringing You The Game by PitchTALKS. Chapter 2 focuses on the greatest moments and events witnessed whilst being on duty for Sky Sports and now Freelance.

It was mentioned in the first chapter of this blog about the jobs that have taken you all over the world. What was some of the greatest moments that you've witnessed whilst being at Sky?

It's one of those things, you witness it, but you’re never there. Like I say, you and your team are in a car park.

I mean the Lions Tour in 2001 was probably the first big job I went on. I went out there as a Assistant Producer because that's sort of the progression that you go. I worked a lot on the super bikes with a guy called Martin Turner. Who's Exec Producer and Director.

He got the head role on the rugby union when they won the rights to that, and he knew me from working in the VT and the superbikes and said to me, look, I know you want to get into directing and stuff, but do you want an AP role?

I actually took an AP role. So that was where I moved away from VT and sort of learnt through him.

So I went on the lions tour. Yeah. It was phenomenal. Anyone who is a sports fan, I think, whether you're a rugby fan, it's the pinnacle, even for the players it's an amazing tour.

I think the funniest thing is I actually saw one try live.

As you're stuck in a truck and where we weren't the host broadcasters, you're just adding on the studio part to it. So you do all your pieces in the week. You have a studio on site, but it's the host broadcaster that actually cuts the match.

So other than getting analysis ready for half time and full time. There's not that much to do.

So I actually said, right, you happy for me to nip inside? Yeah, go and watch for five minutes, and I got in just as Brian O'Driscoll did his amazing run and dotted down under the post, and to be in the stadium.

That was amazing. You know, it was just, I'm actually here working on it, but I've seen that and I didn't see it through a 24 inch monitor. I actually witnessed it with my own eyes.

Another one, I mean, I didn't strictly work on it but I went to the Bruno vs McCall fight Wembley cause I knew the Director who was working on it and sort of said to him any chance you could get us tickets and he's like, "yeah just pop down".

So I arrived, I got to the trucks, and then I actually went in with the camera man who was filming some stuff, and he just kept walking me further and further, no one stopped me and I found a seat. It was about four rows behind the ringside, so not actually ringside, but still you'd turn around and go, hang on that's someone from EastEnders and so on.

So that was again a phenomenal atmosphere and it wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been at Sky.

Then I think it was two years later, I worked on the Bruno vs Tyson fight. Which I think was Sky's first pay per view boxing fight. Just to work on it, it was brilliant.

We came on air to run the first VT, and again this is back in tape days, so you put a tape in, press play, play the next one, mix it, eject the tape, put another tape in.

And you know, it wasn't just a click like it is now. I remember we'd got through six pre-records that we've done at the time. There was a link to the people out in the States and we came back and we went into a big VT.

This 10 minute long VT was one we set up of the week. And I remember leaning back in the chair looking round and every single head was just stood behind us. It's when you go, I was really glad I didn't see you before we came on air because you couldn't help but go "Oh, they're watching, they're watching".

One final one that'll stay with me is watching the Ryder Cup as a punter at the Belfry.

My girlfriend, wife now, was a production coordinator with Sky, so she was working on it. So I had somewhere to stay, just needed a pass, knew the Production Manager very well.

There was even a point that I got to take a buggy that no one was using around, and being able to drive around the Belfry, following Tiger Woods, that was just brilliant.

You then left Sky, and took on a Freelance Television Director role. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you're doing now day to day?

One of the other directors that I worked had a husband who is in charge of ATP media. And he got in touch with me literally a couple of days after he heard I was made redundant from Sky, because she already went and told him what had happened.

He got in touch and said, right, I might have something for you. So it's not what you're normally doing. It's Directing Tennis, but it will get you back into work.

Obviously, I was like, okay, great. He said I'll get back to you in a week or so and I didn't hear from him for a week.

Then he came back to me and said, I want you to go to Indian Wells and Miami to work with Novak Djokovic who's being filmed for an Amazon Documentary.

So I was like, sorry what? When do you want me to go! So I did that, which was great because it was leaving the following month.

They actually asked production if they could keep me on to go out there and help with the relief shifts.

So that's sort of what I did, actually the funny thing is the first match that I sat down and actually Directed was a Carl Edmond match, which I knew was going out live on Sky.

So that was a funny turn of events, after not needing me, it's a double barrel, as I'm now actually making your [Sky] content. It was just a nice feeling, nothing malicious in it.

It was just nice to know that they had faith in to you to go and do that.

So after that shoot they asked, do you mind going to Monte-Carlo? You can imagine my response, "No, I don't mind".

From there it just kind of spiralled into lots of other great shoots from Chelsea TV, Premier League Productions, and other sporting events which get broadcasted all around the world.

Being watching by millions and millions of people, so it's just great.

I feel like it's a silly question, but what do you love most about what you do?

Most of it, all of it, I love to travel. It's the camaraderie of people.

You are a big team, you're there, one place after another. You're essentially with your team for virtually a month, everyone gets on, and it's just like working with your family.

I mean, again, I hate that being away from the family for so long, but you know, needs must.

That's one of the things slightly changing now with remote productions, you don't get away as much.

There's obvious limitations when working from home, and not actually being there, but the coverage is certainly getting better whilst we're all remote working.

For more on the 'Becoming a TV Director at Sky Sports' series, following any of the links below:

Tune in to the Podcast Here

Chapter 1 - Getting into Television Production , The Director of Sky Sports Role & How Technology has Developed

Chapter 3 - Career Advice: Getting into TV Directing and Broadcasting

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