RIAT - Lead Producer James
Written by James Coe


The weekend of 14th-16th July saw Fairford, a discreet village in the Cotswolds, play host to the largest Military air show in the world, The Royal International Air Tattoo or RIAT as it’s known to many. Over 254 aircraft, all meticulously flown in to create the largest military airshow in the world.


The level of organisation, detail and precision is… well… military. The scale, beyond comprehensible when you have seen behind the scenes and it’s nearly all run by volunteers accounting for the 130,000 people coming through the gates across the weekend.


With this in mind, it was my task this year to produce the event from our side. Fortunately for the pilots, that didn’t involve me in the air traffic control tower co-ordinating landings for the Saudi Hawks and the Red Arrows, but actually involved overseeing our filmmaking approach, schedules and crew for the event.


Now, our marketing team tasked me with creating this blog covering the following questions: ‘What was it like?’ ‘What were the struggles and the highlights?’ and ‘How do you think you did?’ – so let’s get into those honest responses and see what RIAT was really like through my eyes.


RIAT through a Producer’s eyes


Now for context, RIAT isn’t like a ‘regular’ shoot. A typical pre-production process might go: client brief, design brief, scripting and call sheets, but this is an event with a tonne of moving parts. Literally.


If I’m honest, I was excited at the challenge, but also a little terrified. One of our largest clients, capturing a year’s worth of footage over one weekend. Lots of pressure on my shoulders. If you’re in the wrong place, well, tough luck, it’s not happening again, they can’t just quickly do that barrel roll for a second time. 


So, I had to approach this in a completely different way. A couple of months before the event, I sat down with our Senior Account Manager, Luke, or Mr. RIAT (as he’s affectionately known by me) and we started populating a categorised list of what our broad objectives looked like in terms of campaigns, (in-line with our social strategy), so that I could then start to make some sub-headings that sat underneath these to treat as mini-narrative pieces.


Once I had these broad categories, I then added the specific ‘hero’ briefs (these are larger scale pieces for specific awareness objectives) and a list of content that had been compiled by Jessie (Senior Creative Lead) and the Social Team that we referred to as ‘general HUB content.’ This is content that we needed more of/didn’t have from previous years or areas that we wanted to highlight during our regular social posts throughout the year.


From this list, I was then able to start thinking about a ‘shot list’ and what I might be able to capture for each of these objectives. Now this is slightly challenging when you’ve never been to an airshow and have no context of this, but luckily since starting with PinPoint in February I’ve had a strong involvement with RIAT and understand some of the nuances of the event.

 Moving Parts

Something that I found incredibly challenging, particularly as someone that is detail-oriented and organised, was not having an event schedule to work from. Unfortunately because of all of the ever-changing events and flight times, really, the show schedule is never fully set in stone, but I was able to receive this a few days before I was due to go to the event.


When I had a working document from the show, I was able to start populating a filming schedule, which I split into two teams. One team was to be led by myself and the second was to be led by our other Producer, Dan.


After burying my head in Google Docs for what felt like days, I came out the other side with a timed schedule for both teams that allowed us to cover all of the areas we needed to film but, also allowed us to double-cover ourselves in terms of capturing key areas of the site, such as the different hospitality zones and enclosures.


If I’m completely honest, because of the nature of the event, the planning felt far removed from a typical shoot and actually, the closest relatable experience I had to this was actually planning my wedding. Lots of people, with lots of different tasks, all to be coordinated at specific times… I mean the only difference really was that we left the aisle in an F-35 fighter jet, whereas this year they were strictly on the runway. I digress. 


The Event


Then, we got to the event. One of the DOPs (Director of Photography), Rich, and I were the sole crew on the Thursday before it all kicked off, as we had been granted access before the general public and the day couldn’t have gone better. Blue skies all around, pilots were practising and everyone was in high spirits for what promised to be a great weekend ahead.


We were given special access to join the Netherlands crew as they landed, taxied in and checked in to the border control at the flight centre. This was a big highlight; being up close with the F-16 and F-35 jets that I can only describe as phenomenal. 


RIAT - Lead Producer James


The sheer scale and power that these machines have is breathtaking, even to the ‘average Joe’ like myself. It was amazing to interview the pilots about their flight (despite the language barrier; my Brummie accent) and it was a unique perspective on a part of the show that many forget even happens in terms of the logistics of co-ordinating the pilots to the actual event.

Then, Friday, the first day of the event. We’d had a great night meeting up with the rest of the crew and after an early start, got to the event in some of the worst weather I’ve ever had the ‘pleasure’ of filming in.


All of those days of hard work before the event and the schedule was thrown completely out of the window. Dan and I put our heads together before our first production meeting to re-work the schedule so that we could focus on internal areas while the persistent rain continued to lash down on the showground.


If I’m honest, this was my biggest worry and definitely proved to be our biggest challenge for the weekend. But, no matter how good the preparation is, the weather is something you just cannot control with an outdoor event, so from stories of heatwaves in 2022, my 2023 Friday ended with putting my sodden trainers in the tumble drier at the AirBnB in an attempt to dry out and fend off the Rain-Gods for the weekend.


We kept spirits high and actually, the change in schedule had some blessings, as we were able to spend extensive time in the popular Techno Zone, capture Princess Kate and Tim Peak with the RAFCT children and shoot some great footage in the hospitality areas while the weather put a stop to the majority of flying.


Saturday and Sunday went swimmingly (excuse the pun) and our rejig of the schedule and constant reviewing of footage allowed us to work really well in tandem. Our editor in charge of DIT, Sandy, was able to advise which categories we might need more coverage of for us to pick up on the Sunday.

My original plan had been to mix up the teams across different days, but because of the constant changes to the schedule, I took the decision to keep the teams the same as I wanted to ensure we had full knowledge of what we had covered as a team.

And then… it was all over. A beautiful rainbow greeted us on our exit and a few beers and pizzas with the team was gratefully received after a weekend of over 1 million collective steps for the crew.


On reflection, one of the things I enjoyed most about this was working as part of such a great team. As a person who is big into team sports, I thrive on the challenge of bringing people with different attributes together to work collectively to achieve a common goal and that’s exactly what we did.


Charlie and Mia, our fantastic runners; Charlie now a RIAT veteran and Mia’s first ever job on set after graduating from University of Gloucestershire this year were both key team members in ensuring everything ran smoothly for both teams. Rich and Joel, our incredibly talented DOPs captured all the brilliant cinematic footage you’ll witness across the RIAT socials in 2023 and both have a second year under their belts.


Laura and Sal held down the social fort, dealing with tonnes of queries from the public, lots of ad-hoc client requests and kept calm and collected throughout, never wavering. Luke, who ate, slept and breathed RIAT for weeks is probably just relieved that everything went to plan, but he was integral to how well the production went and of course, Dan, who was my right-hand man and a fantastic producer for the second team, someone that I was able to lean on for advice when I needed it and a person that I was grateful to have with me in the trenches.


And a special shoutout to someone who was an unsung hero in the production. There are a lot of different things to think about as a Producer outside of the actual shoot. Accommodation, food, travel and logistics to which I couldn’t have done all of this without the support of Alex who was integral to the smooth running of the operation.



So that’s RIAT. An incredible event. From a person who used to refer to aircraft as ‘planes’ and was a complete non-enthusiast, I’ve personally done a complete u-turn (which we described in 2022) as ‘The Awe-Inspiring Home of Flight’ really surpassing every expectation I had. 


And now we start on the prep for 2024, where the show will be bigger, better and the marketing material even more engaging and inspiring as we continue to bolster our approach with our talented team.

RIAT - Lead Producer James

My advice for enjoying the show, go there with open eyes and an open mind. The 2024 theme is after all, ‘In The Air, On The Ground And All Around.’ Soak it up.


Maverick to Goose, over and out.

Written by James Coe – Producer

If you’re interested in finding out more about what PinPoint Media do for The International Air Tattoo, you can click here to read:

360 Marketing Campaign for 2023 https://pinpoint-media.global/case-study/riat-2023-360-marketing-campaign/

or click here to view The Royal International Air Tattoo’s social content including their TikTok account  https://www.tiktok.com/@air.tattoo?lang=en  or Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/airtattoo/