In Hometown: A Killing we wanted to document the REAL journalistic process. The idea was that if we featured what is usually hidden from the viewer, the unreturned calls, the no shows, the journalistic dead ends it would make for a much more genuine and compelling story. Then the only way to follow through on this ambition was to embed ourselves in the community and live the experience but to be able to do that required some creative thinking both on and off camera as well as a collective faith that it would all come good in the end.
The first thing we had to challenge was the way talent is used in a documentary. With journalist/ presenter Mobeen Azhar spending effectively three months back in Huddersfield solely focussed on this project, he and the team were able to be incredibly re-active. Following tip offs from friends and chatter on social media we were often arriving at crime scenes even before the police had finished putting their cordon in place. Traditionally documentaries rely on some kind of police access to get you into these kinds of scenarios but being on the other side of barrier tape gave us a unique POV and allowed us the freedom to ask much more interesting questions.
The second thing that was important to us when making the series was context. The story of drugs and violence in Huddersfield is complicated. There are many social, economic and cultural factors at play and these are a crucial part of the story. Quick hit, archive driven packages allowed us to jump out of the narrative for a moment, explain some important context before diving straight back into the action of the scene. These ‘history hits’ plus other devices such as the ‘video pause’ and the urban dictionary style definitions allowed us to deliver important information without killing the energy of Mobeen’s urgent investigation.
The third piece of the jigsaw was tone. Yes, this was a series about drugs, violence and a tragic death in Mobeen’s hometown but it was also about friends, nostalgia and the love and hate relationship that we all have with the places we grew up in. So then in that context, we felt humour, in the appropriate places was not only valid but vital.
Finally, a dedicated music researcher spent weeks sourcing the music for Hometown: A Killing as we wanted to not only give the viewer a taste of what was being listened to on the streets of Mobeen’s Huddersfield but also underscore the nostalgia that he was feeling by being back there.
Watch the Grierson Awards 2020 live - 7pm, Thurs 12th November - Register here