Picture, sound and mastering

Cara Sheppard, Director of Operations and Business Development at Warner Bros De Lane Lea, took time out of her busy schedule to talk to audiofile about her career. Sheppard comes from a post production background, joining from Sky where she had spent six years, most recently as Senior Manager in Post Production Operations. Before Sky, Sheppard was Head of Post Production at Goldcrest for three years. Warner Bros. De Lane Lea is a film and TV post-production facility located in London. Feature credits include Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Bond-Spectre, Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation and Captain Phillips.
Sheppard began her career working on set in production, firstly as a runner then onto being a Producers/Director assistant. “I think being exposed to the production world and having on set experience which followed through from Production to Post and release gave me a good insight to the whole lifecycle of making a film. By seeing every stage and working with the executives seeing the final product come together through the edit, grade, mix and scoring is what focused my career on specialising in Post production.”

Sheppard has been with Warner Bros. since 2017 heading up De Lane Lea in Soho and their other facility at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden which specialises in on-set digital dailies, film scanning, workflow and colour pipeline management and VFX workflow supervision. “It was my ambition to turn what was previously just a feature film sound facility into a full-service postproduction facility for features, high-end television and streaming content. We’ve recently expanded our services into supporting production by offering digital and film dailies and we’re now focussed on our expansion and growth into our new purpose-built post facility in Soho which is currently under construction and due to open in 2021.”

When it comes to challenges Sheppard is no novice. “I think moving from being the client to becoming the service provider has offered many advantages in terms of seeing situations from many perspectives. I am responsible for a successful commercial and corporate business whilst also being responsible for keeping my clients happy.”

De Lane Lea is among the best-known names in sound. It has also had, since the early 1970s, one of the best addresses in London, with premises on Soho’s Dean Street. The facility has broadened its operations beyond its core, historic sound offering by undergoing an expansion. “I think it was essential to expand and evolve as a facility. The industry landscape has changed dramatically and all facilities, service providers and vendors need to keep up or risk being left behind. We’re a full picture, sound and mastering facility which is constantly evolving. We have been very lucky with our recent expansion over the last 18 months that we have been able to install an entirely new state of the art picture pipeline and workflow which makes us incredibly efficient and enables us to offer an exceptional level of service to our clients. After the launch of our full range of services and dailies facility recently, we’re now looking at our new building for 2021 where everything is being purpose built to our exact specifications.”

We asked Sheppard who inspired her the most and we were not quite expecting her reply! “Is it a cliché to say Richard Branson? I find his business acumen, core values, instinct, passion and success completely fascinating. He clearly believes in himself; he believes in others and he is incredibly passionate about everything he does and looks like he is having a great time doing it!”

A consistent contributor to industry journals, panels and events Sheppard also sits on the Facilities Council for UK Screen. “I sit on the council with some peers from other facilities and I think discussing industry wide issues in an open forum, even amongst people who would be seen as our competitors is incredibly helpful. We all have a great relationship and level of respect for one another and we are stronger in affecting change within the industry as one voice. Our discussions can range from Brexit to skills shortages and beyond.”

With ongoing chatter about the lack of skills in young people coming into the audio sector Sheppard is a fan of internships, apprenticeships and work experience. “We fully support our junior members of staff, offering in-house training and work shadowing followed by the opportunity to assist some of our creative’s who are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. More support from well-established and highly qualified sound editors, supervisors and mixers is the key to maintaining a good level of knowledge within the industry.”

Over the years Sheppard has also seen the industry change. “The main change is this new genre of content from the streaming platforms. Before, we had traditional ‘telly’ and feature films. There was very little crossover in talent (behind and in front of the camera), technology, level of quality, budget and expectation between those two genres. Now with SVOD content there is this whole new world of incredibly high end episodic content with the look, feel and budget of high end feature films which is quite extraordinary.”

As a woman in audio Sheppard has worked in this industry for a long time and that has come with challenges. However, she is pleased to see things are changing and women in film are being given more of a voice. “I’m proud to be in a position now where I can help make sure that equality and diversity are among our key values at WB De Lane Lea.”