Meet the Team | Dave Stephenson
Welcome to the latest installment of our meet the team series, where we get to know the amazing people behind The Finish Line. This time, we’ll be chatting to Head of Picture Dave Stephenson, who joined the studio as a Finishing Artist in 2018.
Dave was born in Guildford and loved computers from an early age. He’d take them apart, put them back together, and teach himself programming languages. After studying Computer Systems Engineering at university, Dave ended up programming back-end data systems in the middle of the dot-com boom. His career then took a pivot when he decided to pursue another interest: television and media.
How were you first inspired to work in the post-production industry?
I’d always been interested in this industry. I even based a piece of A Level coursework on the theoretical introduction of digital TV, which wouldn’t take place until ten years later! While I was growing up in Wales, however, working in TV didn’t really seem like a realistic job choice.
It was only after building a career in IT that I decided to make a change and became a camera operator. Learning on the job for low-budget projects meant I often had to capture and edit my own footage and the realisation set in that I was much better at post than shooting. I’ve since worked on all sorts of different projects, from tiny corporates to features that have premiered on the red carpet in Leicester Square. I was even able to put my programming skills back into use creating templates for animated graphics.
When did you join The Finish Line?
I joined The Finish Line as a Finishing Artist in 2018. The company stood out for its forward-thinking championing of remote post production, portable finishing suites, and the focus on staff wellbeing. Not to mention the huge range of content the team delivers to an incredibly high standard.
I’ve recently taken on the role of Head of Picture alongside my continuing position as a Finishing Artist. As Head of Picture, I manage the day-to-day technical and administrative aspects of the business and support other Finishing Artists with their own development and career goals.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Variety. I love the fact that every project has its own unique challenges. The producers, directors, and execs are all likely to have been working for months and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds creating the show, so it’s a real privilege to be able to give it its final polish and make it sing.
What is the most challenging aspect of the job?
As with everything in the industry: timescales. The Finish Line operates on an 8-hour day, rather than the industry standard of 10+, which means our artists are able to deliver their best work without burning themselves out. It also really helps producers and directors, because they’re not waiting around until 6pm to start viewings. There’s still more to do to guide the industry to a healthier work-life balance, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Do you have any advice for people looking to follow a similar career?
Try everything. There’s no right way: give a brief to ten camera ops and you’ll get ten different styles of shot; ask ten editors to cut a sequence and each will be different. You may not be happy with your work, but that’s a good thing – when you are, that means you’re not looking to improve. And technology will keep changing – it’s an opportunity, not a threat.
But, most importantly, it’s a job. It’s not more important than your health. It’s not more important than your family. You will never do your best work when you’re broken. This is becoming more understood in the industry, but we’re not there yet, and it’s only by people being brave enough to speak about it that it will continue to improve.
Want to work with Dave on your next project? Get in touch with us here.