Interview: ABC Insider’s Huw Parkinson a.k.a. @rabbitandcoffee

Every Sunday morning, a fair percentage of people click on the TV set at 9am to watch the ABC current affairs show “Insiders” with Barrie Cassidy. And Chez Hague is no different.

What with the weekly line-up of political journos, usually a guest pollie to be grilled by Cassidy and the unmissable “Talking Pictures” with Mike Bowers, the “Photographer at Large with the Guardian Australia, what is not to like?

But as they say, wait there is more.

Not every week, but often, “Insiders” has another gem of a segment, and this contains a mashup video (some would say “pisstake”) of a current and pertinent scenario, usually political, mostly Aussie based, but always very funny, and very, very clever.

The author of these masterpieces is one Huw Parkinson, who goes by the Twitter handle of @rabbitandcoffee – and no I don’t know why either! His own bio describes himself as as a person who currently “Makes witchcraftery for ABC’s Insiders by mixing (mostly Australian) politics, film & TV, four ounces of newt, a dash of spider maths and three bags of kitten fear.

This video mashup by Huw has had over 6 MILLION views!

FV^VR had the good fortune to be able to interview Mr P about his work, his methods, tools and what may be happening, if anything in the future.

FVF^VR: Are you the sole person on each project ie: do you do all the research, techie stuff etc yourself or are others involved in the process?

HP: Yes, I mainly do all that on my own. Sometimes the show’s producers will very kindly help me search for a clip or two and occasionally we chat out a few potential ideas for videos – but generally it’s mostly me.

FV^VR: From concept to finished article, how long does a single project (eg the recent Brex-IT) take?

HP: It varies all the time. Sometimes it will take weeks, other times it will take days. It depends on quite a lot of different things.

 

Usually if I’m making something based around a single press conference or interview then, if it can work at all, it will often be something fairly quick and easy as there’s simply not that much footage to worry about. Other times there will be a tonne of interviews and doorstops and question times to work through and that can really slow it down.

Likewise, when I’m working with a TV show like Game of Thrones or Arrested Development with 40/50 hours plus of potential material as opposed to a single two-hour movie, then that will also complicate things and slow down the process.

With Brex-IT it was a different story yet again. I had actually started the video back in July when Boris Johnson resigned – however it became clear to me back then that there simply wasn’t very much footage at the time of Theresa May or Boris Johnson talking about the matter. A lot was said in writing and in official statements and not very much on camera (which is obviously essential for my work)

So I put the video to one side and moved on to other things. Time went on, eventually Boris re-emerged at the conference and both he and Theresa May had started to finally address the elephant in the room when journalists quizzed them about it on camera

So, I jumped back into the edit and was able to finally make the video I wanted to. All up it was probably about two week’s work split between July and October.

FV^VR: What software tools are used and on what platform (eg Mac or Windows (or LINUX) and After Effects / NUKE / Boris RED / DaVinci Resolve / Blackmagic Fusion etc.

HP: It’s pretty much all done through the Adobe Creative Suite with Premiere Pro for the edit, After Effects for the effects work and Audition for the odd audio edit (removing music from a line of dialogue, or cleaning up the background noise.)

FV^VR: What reactions do the “subject matter” give to you? Are they impressed, dismissive, silently amused, severely pissed off, or are you to be avoided at all costs a la The Chaser Boys.

HP: On the few times I’ve seen any direct response from someone who has featured in one of my videos, it’s usually when they’ve shared it out on their social media, which leads me to assume they enjoyed it.

I haven’t ever met any of them in person or received direct feedback.

The rare times I’ve been to Canberra since I started making these videos was when Parliament wasn’t sitting. I imagine if the video features someone who is getting a fairly negative response in the general electorate about something they’ve done or said, then I don’t think my video’s necessarily will help them feel any better about things, but I get the impression most are able to at least see the humour in it.FV^VR: What distribution mechanism is in place other than the ABC and Facebook if any (eg YouTube, VIMEO etc)

HP: We just post a copy out on the ABC/Insiders channels on the various platforms, (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and also there’s usually a copy on the ABC website too.)

Before I was making these for Insiders I used to just post a copy on my personal YouTube channel and have a backup copy on Vimeo. I didn’t actually have a Twitter or Facebook account at the time and only set them up after some of my early videos started getting a bit of attention.

FV^VR: Do any of the ABC overseas affiliates run the works under licence eg BBC or Canada, NZ, USA ?

There’s nothing like that set up for these. With a few exceptions the videos usually have a mostly Australian focus so there isn’t much I would imagine would interest people in other countries.

Sometimes when there’s a video focused on US or UK politics then maybe some show might decide to play an excerpt or make an article about it – but no, we don’t have any formal arrangement.

FV^VR: Is there a single on-line library where all your work past and present can be viewed or is it trashed / totally mothballed after a period?

HP: My personal YouTube channel features all the videos I’ve made. These days the actual videos are published via the ABC News YouTube Channel, but I still keep the playlists on my personal channel up to date with all the new ones every time.

Do you have any long term projects on the go such as a full length movie or maybe an idea for your own TV show? Perhaps similar to “Insiders”, a segment on say, 7:30. or  (tongue firmly in cheek), a Huw Parkinson / Anabelle Crabbe co-production perhaps?

HP: I’ve been privileged to work with a small but talented team on some documentary specials in the last year and half and that’s been a real fun change scenery, but if there was ever to be some sort of other long term project in the works I would think it would be a very very different beast to these mashup videos.

Two and a half minutes outings tracing around politician’s heads is probably enough for me at the moment. I don’t think I would survive making a feature-length version of these kind of videos.

Finally, on the topic of which platform is used for his “witchcraftery” creations – ie Windows, Mac LINUX etc, Huw says it all in two words.

“Very Mac”.

Huw Parkinson’s YouTube Channel can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/rabbitandcoffee/about

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