In March 2019, Jonathan Leech notched up 21 years with Beacon Productions. He’s seen many people come and go, worked on every major production the group has made, and seen many highs and low points over the past two decades. Last month, I concluded the first of our two-part interview by asking Jon how significant he felt the first Awards for All Grant we received back in 2004 was. He agreed with how massively beneficial the
£5000 was, especially as it allowed the level of our equipment to progress. But, he confessed:
“I forget exactly what we bought with it though, you’ll have to remind me!”
I think it was The VX9000 Sony DV CAM Camera, An Iainiro Red Head light, and a very long tube of lighting gels. There were probably some other bits too… Beacon’s technical kit throughout the years… Tell us about it.
“I don’t know where to start…! At risk of boring the shit out of the membership, the cameras have gone from SVHS analogue tape to DV then MiniDV digital tape to SD card, Compact Flash card and now C-Fast cards with the new Ursa. With this progression comes the increased use of lenses as opposed to the very limiting built-in jobs on the earlier cameras. Sound-wise, we’ve gone from a £30 mic to broadcast standard £650 mics, and instead of only recording sound directly into the camera we’ve got the
flexibility of recording to a separate device or both at the same time for safety. And we have lights!”
Filming in Beacon took an upturn in 2000 with the involvement of TV12 and local television; what was that like and what did it mean for us?
“TV12 was a great experience. Despite their lack of funds they had some decent digital cameras and microphones. It was a great leap for Beacon in general as well as personally for some its members. I think those of us
involved in producing programmes for TV12 really enjoyed it and it felt like working in “proper” TV, despite being quite low-key. Then Portsmouth TV and Southampton TV came along and the experience ramped up another few notches.”
The first four years of SB on TV had a new soundtrack for every episode, plus the various other productions themes…it seems inconceivable now that you had the time…
“Back then I had quite a big studio setup at home and had invested thousands in equipment, both synths, off-board processors, mixers, etc, and in 1998 went from multi-tracking on an Atari ST and tape machines to my first PC-based digital setup. I guess what I’m saying is that back then I had the time, the gear and the ideas and enthusiasm! Currently the studio is no more but will hopefully be reborn later this year…”
Do you think more of yourself as a composer/arranger, or a technician?
“Generally a technician (master of none, etc..) (aren’t we all…) but I still do
compose for Music Tech exercises and exams. Once there’s new equipment at home there’ll be a lot more composing going on…”
Where would you like to see the club go next, more online presence or ticking along nicely?
“Personally, I like it how it is as it is ticking along very nicely. Online presence is already there and I’m sure will continue, as is the way of the world these days.”
Without risking going over an old anecdote, there was one small incident many years ago which both Jon and I were involved in. It obviously made its way into our own outtakes show and compilations, but also to a larger, national audience. “I think your monitor’s just blown up…” relive the tale…
“Have a look through the archives of Steve Penk’s “TV’s Naughtiest Blunders” I think PTV forwarded it on to them with a batch of their own out-takes… In short, we were filming SB in Steve’s loft 20 or more years ago and, shall we say, a professional broadcast monitor had been borrowed from somewhere! During a take, a fizzing sound emanated from said monitor and it packed up. I said the above quote, and then it went “BANG”
as a number of electrolytic capacitors exploded inside. Cries of “Fuck me
backwards!”, an expression I’ve never used before or since, plumes of smoke, and a struggle to get the monitor out of the loft (and into the garden)
ensued. Needless to say, the monitor’s circuit board was totally bolloxed.
A clip I do urge you, dear reader, to hunt down, mainly because it starts with Joshua Ive checking himself out on the monitor, then the monitor explodes but the camera keeps recording, despite being thrown on the floor. A couple of us were downstairs when Jon came steaming down the
ladder carrying a monitor on fire, plume of smoke dragging behind him, which he launched on the garden to cool down.
After 21 years, what keeps you renewing your membership?
“Steve’s hounding at the start of the year!”
And finally, as I ask all of my interviewees, what can Jon Leech do
that no one else can?
“There’s nothing I can do that no one else can. I’ve just been doing what I do forever really, and will continue as long as I can. There are many who can do a better job!”
Humble he may be, the quiet and assuming talent that is wrapped up in a
black t-shirt. I may not be the young charge that once handed Jon lanterns for him to rig in the local theatre like I used to be, but I have never forgotten that he took the time to explain what it was he was doing and how it should be done right. Plus, he could also cartwheel off the stage and land square on his feet on the auditorium floor, just another of Jonathan Leech’s many, many talents.