DESCRIBED as “both intimate and heartwarming”, Tèarmann / Home from Home follows unprecedented access over four months at two children’s hospices – Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch – both operated by the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS).
It is being broadcast on BBC ALBA on Tuesday October 4, at 2100.
Here, producer/director, Lindsay Goodall, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the series?
Bees Nees previous series for BBC ALBA, following the work of the Paediatric Retrieval Service, had brought us into contact with the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS). We felt strongly that the incredible work being doing by CHAS deserved to be brought to the attention of a wider audience.
Following access discussions with the CHAS team, exec producer, Alasdair MacCusih, took the idea of a documentary to BBC ALBA, who supported the idea and commissioned an one-hour documentary.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’
I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the hospices, and the experiences of the families and the staff.
I really enjoy observational filmmaking, and this fluid style also suited the nature of this documentary as I could follow life as it unfolded and, hopefully, cause as little imposition to the families and children as possible during filming.
I knew, from the start, that I didn’t want to rely on ‘talking head’ interviews, as I wanted the audience to be in the room and on the journey with the families.
It was really important that the children had a strong voice in the film too so I tried to film at their height and from their point of view where I could.
From the very start, I wanted to make a film about the children’s hospices which would make people smile because there is a lot of laughter in Rachel and Robin Houses.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
I was brought on to shoot, direct and produce the film after it had been commissioned.
I was supported throughout by the team at Bees Nees Media, in particular production co-ordinator, Courtney Welsh, and exec producer, Alasdair MacCuish.
I worked with an amazing editor, Anthea Harvey, who I had worked with before, and we were very fortunate to have Julie Fowlis on board to record the narration, which she did beautifully.
What kit and software?
I shot on the C300 with an on-board mic and radio mics.
I really wanted the film to look beautiful and I think this kit allowed me to do that.
In the hospices, there are always lots of children and people and it can get really busy, and sometimes I’d be going from room to room following my contributors.
So I had to choose kit which I could use on the run and carry on me. We edited at The Hive on AVID and graded in Symphony.
What were the main production challenges?
It’s always interesting filming with children! And a lot of fun too. But there were also lots of challenges.
I was really nervous the first time I visited Robin House. I really didn’t know what to expect. But that all disappeared when I got there – the atmosphere is lovely and the CHAS staff were so kind and welcoming.
A big challenge was learning how to talk openly about illness and death which is something we tend to shy away from.
Of course, it was particularly emotionally challenging. I didn’t spend huge amounts of time with the families, but it was quite intense getting to know them and their children over such a short period.
I think it’s an unique relationship you build up when making documentaries like this – you have license to ask people questions you wouldn’t normally ask someone you’d only just met, but you also have the obligation to make sure they’re okay throughout the whole process – during the shoot and also in preparation for the broadcast.
It’s a privileged position to be in, but the challenge is to do things right by the people you’re filming.
I was also very conscious that these families were dealing with so many of their own challenges, that I didn’t want to add to their stress or take away from precious family time.
Plans often change at the last minute for families who are dealing with medically complex needs, so it was also really important for the whole of the production team to be as flexible as possible.
There have been a lot of tears shed throughout the production of Tèarmann, I think by everybody who has been involved in making it. So the emotional challenge was definitely the greatest.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
The children, families and staff I filmed with and met taught me some important lessons – not to focus on the small stuff and to try and make the most of life.