How do you go about directing the longest single take in British television history? This was the question set for Casualty director Jon Sen by RTS Southern at Southampton Solent University in mid-November.
In front of an audience of students from Solent and Bournemouth University, Sen gave a fascinating insight into the job of masterminding the 52-minute, single-shot episode, which aired last July.
Sen explained that the programme – a celebration of the 30th anniversary of BBC One series Casualty – was shot in a single take to heighten the sense of drama in a busy A&E department.
For cast and crew it was a huge challenge, with creative and technical barriers to be overcome. Concerned that operating the camera would be too onerous for one person, two handover points were built in to the plan. All the floor crew dressed in scrubs, in case they appeared in shot.
Cast and crew worked together to choreograph the whole programme. It was then recorded eight times over the course of four days, with the final take being used for transmission. “It became almost like a piece of theatre”, said Sen, “with two performances a day for a week.”
Sen based himself in the gallery, relying on the skills and professionalism of the cast and crew to get the job done. He paid particular tribute to the work of the camera team.