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For Art UK's 'Being...' series, we take a look at a day in the life of a professional working in the arts, heritage or museum sector.

Sarah Thacker

Sarah Thacker

What's your role?

I am a Producer / Director for HENI Talks, a non-profit, educational platform dedicated to sharing insights about art history on film from leading artists, curators and academics. All our films are freely accessible at www.henitalks.com

My main responsibility is to propose original film ideas, manage their production and ensure they go out on time and to budget. So, basically, I oversee the films from concept to online publication, in line with the project's programme.

Since we're quite a small, tight-knit team (we're a team of five, including another Producer / Director, a Senior Camera Operator, an Editor / Camera Operator, and a Social Media Researcher), my role in the creation of the films is all-encompassing, and everybody mucks in.

Filming Freud's couch for 'Metamorphosis of Narcissus: When Salvador Dalí met Sigmund Freud'

It's a fairly fast-paced role as we release films every two weeks, and we work on two to three projects at a time.

I feel really lucky to be working with a lovely team on such a brilliant project. I'm a total art nerd, so it's a dream to be able to research and engage with important art histories, artists and scholars.

Mars enjoying a HENI Talk on the Pisa Pulpit

Mars enjoying a HENI Talk on the Pisa Pulpit

What's your morning routine?

If it's not a shoot day, I usually rise around 6.30am – kneaded or nibbled awake by our little cat Mars. Then coffee. Sometimes two cups are necessary.

Since we're often filming in museums and galleries which only permit filming before opening hours, shoot days can see me rising much earlier – 3.50am is the record thus far.

I've occasionally had people describe my job as 'glamorous' but there's also a lot of standing around in cold car parks waiting for the crew, hulking kit up multiple flights of stairs, etc. – grounding experiences before meeting whatever great scholar or artist we're filming with.

What's your journey to work like?

As for many Londoners, my commute is usually a crush. If I'm lucky, I'll get to sit in the tiny space between train seats usually reserved for luggage. I tend to start responding to work emails on my phone if I can manoeuvre a little room to do so, scan the news, the arts press, or read an essay or article related to an upcoming shoot.

Shoots have taken me to some amazing cultural institutions across the country, and the early trains are usually quieter for reading through notes, honing questions for the speaker and thinking over the shot list.

What's a typical morning at work for you?

It's quite hard to describe a 'typical' day in the office as the films can be wildly divergent, and it depends on where we are in the cycle of creation*, but I'll either be in the edit suite collaborating with the editor in the cutting of a film, or at my 'proper' desk organising a shoot, researching locations or the topic of a film, transcribing an interview, sourcing supplementary archive footage or artworks, tending to the website, responding to queries or dealing with general admin.

I sometimes get to go on little adventures away from the office: to the National Art Library for research, to recce a site for an upcoming shoot, or to meet a speaker to discuss the 'story' of a film.

Fraser Watson filming one of Lee Krasner's collages

Fraser Watson filming one of Lee Krasner's collages

What's for lunch?

I should bring a packed lunch in every day to keep costs down but sometimes it's just too much of a rush, or impractical for a shoot. Our offices are slap-bang in the middle of Soho, so I'm spoiled for options — though I tend to keep things cheap but nutritious. Sometimes work curbs my lunch break but I always try and escape for a few minutes to one of the local scraps of greenery, to reset for the afternoon.

What's a typical afternoon like?

Usually, I'll be continuing what I commenced in the morning – we spend about two weeks editing longer-form films, and a week on the shorter films, so I can be stowed away in the edit suite for fairly long stints. However, my time in the edit suite is spent multi-tasking: contacting institutions for images, negotiating fees and the perils of copyright, costing-up films, liaising with artists – all the while managing the content, artistic direction and energy of the film at-hand with the editor. We get through a lot of biscuits.

What do you do after work?

A plus to London life is having so many cultural things to do at one's fingertips. I often head out to an exhibition opening, lecture, performance or book launch. I think it's quite important to keep abreast of what's going on in the scene. Quieter nights call for a long stomp along the river to blow away the cobwebs after a day desk-bound, then home to my partner and little puss.

Sarah at the Tate

Sarah at the Tate

*To make a film, I work through the following production cycle: 

  • Research (the location and plotting logistics for filming, finding an appropriate and willing expert speaker on the subject at-hand, looking into the best angle on the topic and translating this into questions for the speaker, occasionally scripting voiceover)
  • Production (managing the shoot, liaising with the location and arranging transport to ensure the crew gets there on time, overseeing the crew on set, interviewing the speaker, and working through a thorough a predetermined shot list of artworks, etc., to ensure we get the material needed)
  • Post-Production (transcribing the interview, making an edit script out of it, sourcing appropriate archive footage and imagery for the film, negotiating on prices for this, overseeing the artistic direction of the edit, producing the credits, writing the accompanying website text and uploading to our video platforms)

Sarah Thacker, Producer / Director for HENI Talks

HENI Talks videos enrich various artist and artwork pages on Art UK: try films about Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Paul Nash or Paula Rego, for starters.

Do you work in the arts, heritage or museum sector? Would you be kind enough to share an example of your working day for our 'Being...' series? Please get in touch with Art UK at editorial@artuk.org as we'd love to hear from you.