Keif Gwinn is a director and producer based in the UK, focusing mostly on short film content. Keif, alongside co-creator and host CMJ Taylor, with co-producer Nick Briggs, together spearhead the Youtube channel British Rationals. Rationals follows a mock interview of an on-the-beat style newscast, with each episode’s aim to be as relevant and fresh while they lampoon that day’s news. Via email, we talked with Keif about the show and the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in making an episode.
FinalBoss: Hi, Keif. Congrats on four seasons of British Rationals. How’s it all going?
Keif Gwinn: Thank you! All very well thanks. We kind of count the 2018 – Year in Review shows as season 5, because we had a production break between the end of four and producing the end of year review shows over December. Still, 52 episodes to date!
FB: Everything about the show is so very, very British. Rationals “characters” are people that you could quite easily overhear in the pub, and the whole thing has its own sort of weird sense of backwards patriotism, I feel. Rewatching through some of the faux interviews, I personally was reminded of “Creature Comforts” stylings. How important is that comedy “voice” for you?
Keif: Yes it was very important to us when we created the show. We wanted everyone to feel real, have an identifiable personality and every time you meet a character, while your time is short with them, over time you’ll get to know them. Gogglebox for news was a thought we had, when describing the show to people. We’ve found it’s important to have a strong personality come through clearly on the character. They’re all exaggerations of people we’ve met, and they’ve also developed on their own through the run, with some going in some wonderful new directions.
FB: How does the writing process work? How do you decide what topics should be discussed that day, or not? What is off limits?
Keif: From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to do something ambitious. We started daily, and so to produce five minutes of character led topical comedy every day would require a lot of ideas. We used to start at 9 am, get a coffee on and read through the news looking for interesting topics to cover. We tended to settle for one or two international, one or two UK based and a ‘puff piece’. We tended to stick to regular political disasters, however, in our first two weeks we had a terrorist attack in France that we couldn’t ignore. The biggest rule is we don’t punch down, we’ll mock the people whos fault it is, or our own characters. We’d lock the stories in for about 10:30 and then have a read through at 11am when the actors started arriving. We work the same way now, but spread out over the week, with one story getting locked in Monday, another Tuesday leaving one open for last minute things. We then do a writing room Wednesday to go through all the submissions and fix a script for a Thursday lunchtime filming. We generally film for two or three hours around our casts availability. Then head back to HQ to edit the show together. It’s all shot around Covent Garden as I used to have a flat there, so was the only way to make it all on the same day. I’ve got it down to about three hours edit, I could do it in two and half by the end of the first two weeks. We have a slack channel that’s open for anyone in the team to make a suggestion on stories and lines. We have a rota of performers scheduled in advance so we know who we are writing for, occasionally with last minute substitutions.
FB: Brexit – am I right?
Keif: BREXIT brexit brexit. We can never stop the brexit. Arguably we did try and avoid covering it too many times, simply because it gets repetitive. It’s all the things that have spilled out of it however, with Tommy Robinson who I was unaware of until we did the last episode of series 3. The media’s meltdown over Corbyn. The Tory parties internal meltdown. The country is the most divided it’s been in my lifetime.
FB: British politics is in-arguably – one of the worst states that it’s ever been. As a creator, creating in the circus that is political satire, do you relish a subject as turbulent as it is right now – or does it just fill you with unbridled fear?
Keif: It actually makes it harder to try and satirise these clowns, as they do such a good job themselves. It really does feel like all the adults have left the room and left the squabbling teenagers in charge. So we’ll sit at the back and snark. For all the rhetoric about ‘our country’ I’m not seeing a huge amount of clear leadership on what can be done to make the country a better place for everyone to live.
FB: How long does a single episode usually take to film? Is it a very small crew that you work with? The turnover time must be ridiculous, surely.
Keif: Yes! The first twenty episodes were made on a daily basis. Start at 9, finish by 5pm. We now spread it out over the week to give us more time for writing, but production is about the same pace. Three hours filming, three hours edit. Getting all the subtitles on can take another 45 minutes if it’s just me available. Then another hour or so with social media to get it released. It’s a very tight turnaround but it does mean it gets done.
FB: When’s the new season out then?
Keif: We’re in prep for it. We might change the format slightly which will make it easier to make, and open more opportunities for laughs.
British Rationals’ official channel, along with all of the past episodes, can be viewed here, and you can join their Facebook page and keep up to date here. There’s also lots more interviews from FinalBoss.
Jon Holmes is a writer based in the UK. Alongside his work writing for film, he is a multi-accoladed filmmaker in his own right, and also performs. He can be followed on Youtube at Hans HS and on Twitter on @jonnyjonjon1