It felt good to be in a room full of people at the RTS Cambridge Convention last month: great sessions and speakers, brilliantly curated by Ben McOwen Wilson of YouTube. Of course, there was much drama when John Whittingdale stepped in for outgoing culture secretary Oliver Dowden, but this was a great way of demonstrating to the UK broadcasting industry that the Government knows better than most what constitutes great drama.
Our Friend In
As Bristol City Council’s new senior film manager, I have finally reached a position where I can support and promote my two main passions – Bristol and filming in the West Country.
My role is to oversee the work of the Bottle Yard Studios and Bristol Film Office, and make sure that Bristol can build on its past successes and deliver a single, complete and consistent offer encompassing studio and location filming. And, despite the pandemic, there has never been a better time.
Robson Green has done it. Professor Alice Roberts has also given it a go. Darcey Bussell tried it in Scotland recently. Kate Humble did it naked. Susannah Constantine took an axe with her when she did it. Barely a week goes by without someone from either Countryfile or The One Show doing it. And Port Talbot resident David Bryan credits it with helping to save his life.
I have never before been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty.” The words of Steven Spielberg when asked his thoughts on Devon when he was here filming War Horse on Dartmoor in 2011.
Cinema has long held a fascination with Devon and Cornwall. Some of Hollywood’s most celebrated directors have shot here. Ang Lee filmed Sense and Sensibility in South Devon. Roger Mitchell shot My Cousin Rachel there, too, and Tim Burton has used both counties as a backdrop.
Barring an unexpected – but probably unsurprising – large asteroid impact, the most tumultuous year in living memory is finally limping to its end. At this time of year, we would normally compile a review or two but who wants to relive 2020?
It seems the biblical equestrian quartet has been riding roughshod for months; countless losses and the unending upheaval of the pandemic; acts of violent racism; raging wildfires, floods and even a locust plague in East Africa. As a result, we’ve all changed this past year.
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 I scrapped the previous three as “the news” made them immediately out of date.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…
The past six months have been a period like no other in Ireland. Our lockdown has been followed by a partial lifting of restrictions that has us bobbing up and down between level two and level three of the pandemic regulations.
The good news is that production has resumed, and it is slightly surreal that Matt Damon, star of Contagion, a spooky thriller about a deadly virus and a global panic, has been spotted pottering about in Dalkey, a small seaside town south of Dublin, where he chose to spend lockdown.
I have had a few cool titles in my time – head of youth, head of the north, the pope of soap. But none quite compare with that of Dr Paul Litchfield, formerly titled surgeon commander, in charge of Royal Navy nuclear, biological and chemical defence.
He’s now an independent medical adviser to ITV and a great guy to have on your side – or, indeed, on a Zoom call during a pandemic. That’s exactly what the discussions needed: level-headed rationality to chart a way through all the lockdown fear caused by the nightly news beat and to get the soap teams back to work.
March 2020 was by far the most surreal month of my working life. For the safety of our staff, we decided to close our offices on 18 March, the day after St Patrick’s Day, which usually means mass celebrations here in Belfast and one hell of a hangover. This year, it brought only an eerie silence.
I will never forget calling the staff together and telling them it was going to be our last day in the office. We all packed up, laughing and joking, but when it came to saying goodbye, the realisation hit us that we didn’t know when we would all be together again.
When Dr Frank Atherton, Wales’s chief medical officer, said in late April that the pandemic curve had not just been flattened, but squashed, it was reassuring on two levels: it signalled to viewers that the Welsh NHS appeared to be over the worst of Covid-19 and it also suggested that our editorial strategy was working.
Dr Atherton had given a number of interviews to various media outlets that day, but only ITV Cymru Wales viewers heard his seminal statement that the Welsh Government’s lockdown measures had “squashed” the virus in Wales.