Our Friend in Guadaloupe: Tim Key

Our Friend in Guadaloupe: Tim Key

(credit: Red Planet Pictures)
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Passion and resilience help Tim Key’s team overcome the challenges of filming in a pandemic.

This is the fourth version of this piece that I’ve written. I scrapped the previous three as “the news” made them immediately out of date. I’m going to plough on with this one, although I fear that, by the time it is published, it will be entirely irrele­vant thanks to world events, but hey ho. Like everyone, I’m resigned to the fact that there’s no way of predicting anything this year…

Apart from one thing, and that’s the passion and resilience of everyone in the creative industries. I know about this first hand, as I’ve had the privilege of working with a team of people this year who have been determined to get our particular show on the road again, in spite of the huge challenges that Covid-19 has thrown at us.

A disclaimer first of all – at Death in Paradise we are luckier than many. We had good insurance in place, our show is as Covid-friendly as one can be (no sex scenes, no huge crowd scenes, lots of outdoor filming, no public transport, etc, etc) and we were working to the French, rather than the British, guidelines, meaning social distancing of one, rather than two, metres. And the country we film in, Guadeloupe, has been very supportive and keen for us to get going.

But things have been extremely difficult. We’ve wrestled with the practicalities of filming during a pandemic – logistical, creative and moral. We were – and still are – determined to deliver the show to the BBC to hit its usual transmission in January. Which means a ludicrous post-­production schedule, given that filming started nearly four months late.

Getting to the end of the shoot is in no way guaranteed – new lockdowns in the UK and France add further complications to a production that has not been short of complications.

Over the past decade, we’ve become pretty used to navigating “complications”, from hurricanes to the boat carrying our gear breaking down in the Atlantic and arriving four weeks late. With our friends in Guadeloupe, we thought we could cope with pretty much anything.

And it was our 10th year – we had big plans, our creative focus very much about rewarding long-term viewers while also driving the show forward. We were feeling buoyant as we approached the start of our shoot. And then we had to stand down and send our team home while we worked out what on earth we were going to do.

We are now about two-thirds of our way through the 22-week shoot. I think we’re going to make it to the end, just before Christmas, but I’m not taking anything for granted. I also think we will get the show on air as usual.

But our industry is in real trouble at the moment, and my friends (and family) who work in theatre and live events have it even tougher. The arts are so vital to the creative, financial and mental health of a country and I’ve no idea what the next 12 months will hold.

I am confident that the audience who love Death in Paradise will be able to tune in for a slice of intriguing, light-hearted, joyful, Caribbean escapism at the start of 2021 and I am extremely proud of – and grateful to – the wonderful team who have made that happen.

As the TV and film industry starts to bounce back, I pray that theatre and live events won’t be far behind. I feel privileged to be part of this wonderful, challenging, frustrating, joyous, ridiculous, rewarding and vital industry. Now, I’ll just put the news on and see what’s occurring. Oh…

Tim Key is executive producer of Death in Paradise for Red Planet Pictures.