This will be Shauna’s sixth year behind the scenes at the Carols in the Domain in Sydney. She has a background in television and in 2002, the owner of Active TV that produces the Carols, asked her if she’d like to get involved. She loves music and Christmas so it was her dream job.
Active TV also produces other events throughout the year such as the Tamworth Country Music festival in January and the Australian round of the World Superbike Championship held at Phillip Island.
What do you do in your job?
I’m the General Manager of Active TV that produces Carols in the Domain – one of the biggest events that we organise so I am also the producer of that event. Active TV produces the event and the live broadcast – the Seven network just broadcasts the show.
We usually start organising the event six months in advance, sometimes earlier, as there are so many things to organise. One of the main things is making sure that the Carols remain a free community event. We have to organise corporate sponsors and support from the New South Wales Government.
As far as producing the event is concerned, my main role is to secure the artists for the event. I liaise with producers, managers and record companies to try to book the artists as early as possible. As the year progresses and we get closer to the event, more staff come on board – freelancers, event managers and catering managers.
I spend most of my time in the office and behind a computer, but we also go away to work on location. For example, when we produce the Carols we stay in Sydney for 12 days prior to the event. We take about six staff from the office, and onsite we work with staff who come from other places for the event including the stage manager and the catering manager.
We work as many hours as it takes to get the job done – in the week leading up to the Carols that could be as many as 16, 18 or 20 hours a day. It’s a big event and, as with all big events, no matter how organised you are, there are always things you have to do at the last minute. Thankfully, we have a great team of people, many of whom have been involved in the event for years. If we get eight hours sleep we’re doing extremely well. It’s usually more like six. I think in my early years I sometimes only slept two or three hours a night.
We used to have some down time after the carols but now we go straight into the Country Music Festival after a Christmas break. Generally, it’s always quite hectic in television and, because I oversee a lot of our productions, I have to stay on top of many things.
I was in the right place at the right time. I left Channel Nine in 1997 and I was working for an overseas production company that rented offices next door to Active TV. I met the owner of the company who is also the Executive Producer of the Carols and, in 2002, he approached me to work on the event. I began as a freelancer and it became a full-time job in 2004.
It is – a lot of people come back year after year so there are never any huge openings. The staff work so hard and such long hours but they come back every year because they love the event.
We don’t tend to have a lot of volunteers for the Carols, but other big events often do, and this can be a good way to get involved. A few years ago we had a volunteer who worked really well and the next year she was asked back as a paid staff member for the Carols – she still works on the event now.
You need to be extremely organised, be able to multitask and juggle a lot of balls. The ability to remain calm and keep your sense of humour is also important. Good people skills are paramount – it’s a big production, there are many people working on it and mishaps are bound to happen. When they do, you have to make sure you’re a good team player.
In my job, good contacts are also important. But that’s not something you will have when you’re starting out – relationships with artists’ management and record companies are something you develop over time.
Seeing the performance after all the hard work that everyone puts in for such a long time. When I watch the program go to air, see the artists on stage and the crowd of 40 000 or 50 000 with candles, I kind of forget all the things I’ve gone through for the last month.
With an event as big as the Carols, when you first start, it is hard to juggle everything. It takes a while to really feel confident in the job. It probably took me three years to feel like I really knew what I was doing. You can’t know every little thing – sometimes I am still finding new things. The good thing is that there are so many great people working on the Carols that if you don’t know something, someone else will.
Things do go wrong, but we just work out how to solve them. That’s one of the things about live television things can’t just go wrong – you have to fix them.
I’ll be trying to stay awake! The Carols is always the Saturday before Christmas and this year that date is the 22nd, so I don’t actually fly back to Melbourne until Christmas Eve. I’ll spend Christmas Day with my husband and family relaxing and eating.