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This week we meet with the two Talented TM-ers behind BBC2's (Wingspan Productions) "Horizon Special The Vaccine" (9pm tonight) and C5's (Knickerbocker Glory) "Great British Gardens with Carol Klein" (catch up on My5).

"Horizon Special The Vaccine" - BBC2

Cat Gale, Producer/Director:

Give us an insight into the making of the show?

This has definitely been one of the most challenging projects I've worked on - because of the subject matter, but also because of the incredibly challenging times we've all been having to work though.  Negotiating access to the teams at the very start of the pandemic was really tricky as everything was moving so fast, they were all so busy and the world’s media was knocking on their doors.  It’s also a very different process getting access to a pharma giant like Pfizer, compared to an academic lab like Queensland or Oxford, or to the Chinese CDC.  So each approach was different and it took time and persistence.  In all cases we had to ensure our team had the trust of the scientists we’d be following, and I think the fact that we were genuinely in it to capture their personal perspectives for the long haul helped.  We also made a conscious effort to follow a small number of teams as closely as possible, so we didn’t spread our own resources too thinly.   

Access for filming was another challenge simply because filming during a pandemic is really hard.  Everything had to be done legally, taking all safety precautions required, and these varied across different countries at different times throughout the year.  But working with the scientists we almost always found a way to shoot in person, and I think that brings an intimacy to the story that’s really important.  That human contact is something we’ve all lacked over the last year.  

What did you learn?  

I've learned such a huge amount working through the last year it's hard to know where to start.  What I value most about this job has come into much sharper focus.  That it's entirely possible for everyone to be stuck at home for a year and to still tell a story with emotional heart, factual integrity and visual flair if you connect with the right contributors and collaborators.  More than any of that, though, the biggest lesson is not really anything to do with TV.  It's what a small number of extraordinary people can achieve when faced with a challenge like the pandemic.  Bearing witness to that has been hugely inspiring.  I hope that the film gives people some hope.

What was it like to work for the channel/production company that hired you?  

I've worked for Wingspan Productions a lot in the past, and I cannot rate them highly enough.  They're a tiny indie, but somehow always seem to pull the most ambitious projects out of the bag.  We partnered with an equally tiny US-based company called the Global Health Reporting Centre and together delivered two films - one for CNN Original Films (that showed in the US as 'Race for the Vaccine') and the other for BBC2 (Horizon), plus a slightly longer version for international distribution based on the BBC cut.  This co-pro set up, along with financial support from Tangled Bank Studios, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Pulitzer, was the only way we could both have the geographical reach and finance a production that had to follow the vaccine story in so many places for as long as we needed to. 

Practically speaking, over the course of a year the production ultimately involved a huge number of different people from all around the world - the credits list is rightly very long - but we were a very small core UK/US team holding it all together.   That's where working with a team I knew incredibly well and knew would be as immersed and fully committed as me, made it doable.

How did you get the job?

Wingspan started talking to the Global Health Reporting Centre very early on, as the outbreak in China was beginning, about trying to get a film commissioned to follow the scientists at the coalface.  I'd fortunately been with the execs from both companies at a film festival in early 2019 and had talked then about how great it would be to work together, so they reached out to me to do the initial development to get the ball rolling.  I was free at the time and in a previous professional life had been a virologist, so if there was ever going to be a project for me this was it.

What is your top TV tip?   

Value your differences.  Stories are best told by teams as diverse and interesting as the people we hope to reach with them.  

"Horizon Special The Vaccine" airs on BBC2 on Wednesday 16th June, 9pm.

"Great British Gardens with Carol Klein"

Jessica Matthews, Series Director:

Give us an insight into the making of the show? 

Great British Gardens is an incredibly rewarding series to work on, in that it tells the story of our nation's most spectacular gardens over the course of one year, and as a director you're able to get to know the contributors and explore the gardens and their character in a much more involved way than many factual programmes. With that does come some challenges: it's difficult to commit to four shooting blocks over 12 months, and so shooting and directing duties were shared between me and the very talented Simon Brant (who also edit produced the first episode). It also meant that we were desperately keen to resume filming after an initial pause for lockdown in spring 2020, and thanks to the perseverance of our team we were able to get the whole year in the bag...albeit with some changes. 

What did you learn?

Spending time with Carol Klein, who is so passionate and knowledgeable, and others among the most eminent gardeners in the country, meant that I couldn't help but pick up a few horticultural tips along the way. One of the great joys of working in specialist factual is that every day's the best kind of school day!

I think as a team we also learned that we could rely on each other, and help to make some really good telly despite some very challenging conditions.  

What was it like to work for the channel/production company that hired you?

Knickerbockerglory TV are a fantastic company, who make excellent programmes and who I've found to be the antithesis of our industry's negative examples: supportive, inclusive, and even before Covid they were encouraging of flexible working. They also profit-share with staff and freelancers and donate a portion of their profits to charity.  

How did you get the job? 

I was encouraged to go for the job by Kerry Richardson, a fantastic SP who I've previously worked for and who has acted as a sort of unofficial mentor to me over the years. TV needs more Kerries. 

What is your top TV tip? 

If in doubt, ask!

"Great British Gardens with Carol Klein" first aired Monday 14th June 9pm, C5. Also available on catch up with My5

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