At 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, filming on season one of Wolfblood finally wrapped. Of course, the work is far from over – the editing, special effects and composing team still have their noses to the grindstone – but this seems like a good time to take stock of what I’ve learned from my first original TV project.
It’s always more complicated than you think. Write what seems like a simple scene with your lead actors talking in the school playground – and in practice, that involves dozens of background artistes being carefully directed, two cameras shooting a couple of takes from each of several different angles, and a continuity nightmare.
Put your scene out in the woods, or on the moors, and everything becomes a thousand times more complicated. One of the great things about the finished footage I’ve seen is how it conveys the feeling of a village dominated by nature and the great outdoors – but that’s come at a price. A price exacted mostly by the weather! All filmmaking is a compromise between what you saw in your head, and what you can actually achieve on the budget and timescale. The cast and crew have done wonders, but in future, we may have to pick our battles when it comes to exterior scenes…
Sometimes you get lucky. Who could have anticipated that there would be a school in the throes of closing – half-empty and available for us to film in, even during term-time – only a brief drive from the village we were using as the fictional Stoneybridge? That instantly provided us not only with the school sets, but with a production base, a couple of empty halls to build interior sets in – and a ready supply of extras from the remaining pupils!
And sometimes you don’t. Did I mention the weather?
Finding the balance between serial story and story-of-the-week is important. Every show has a different balance between the ongoing, often character-focused elements, and the events of that week’s episode. Establishing that balance probably does more to pin down the tone and style of your series than any other single element. Quite a lot of the development process was spent examining different options – everything from an adventure-of-the-week format to a fully serialized story – and in the end, it paid off.
And last but not least, casting is everything – because the right actors make your writing look brilliant!
So now it’s a mad rush to finish up the episodes before transmission, which looks likely to be late this year or early next year. As soon as I have any details on transmission dates, they’ll be on the blog…