EPISODE one of The Force: The Story of Scotland’s Police was broadcast on BBC One Scotland on Monday. Episode two is this coming Monday.
Here, Sarah Howitt, series producer and director, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the programme?
Ewan Angus was the commissioner at BBC Scotland, while David Harron was our esteemed commissioning executive producer.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s look and feel
The series is made up of three, key elements: first-hand testimony from retired police officers (and some experts); contemporary actuality sequences with modern day police officers, and lastly archive.
We shot all our interviews with the Eyedirect system, so that contributors were looking into the lens.
We deliberated over this for some time, and did a test shoot before deciding to go ahead with that.
We shot a lot of the actuality in slow motion – i.e. high speed – when we were out with the police, I think the effect of that was really worthwhile.
Who are the key personnel?
We had a fantastic team on this project. Mick McAvoy was the executive producer for STV Productions.
I directed a lot of the series myself, but I had a fantastic producer / director, Alison Pinkney, on board too who focused on episode two – The Detectives.
Patricia Wink ran a tight ship as production manager, and we had a team of three brilliant assistant producers – Laura Kingwell, Kirsty MacFarlane and Andrew Laing.
Our director of photography was Steven Mochrie who I work with a lot, and trust to the ends of the earth.
Sound was the responsibility of the mighty Richard Paterson.
What kit and software?
We shot predominantly on Steven Mochrie’s Sony FS7, a little, self-shooting by myself, Laura and Andy on my own Canon C300, some use of DJI Osmo+ and GoPro Hero 4 and also drone filming done with Peter Keith and Upabove TV on the DJI Inspire 2 and 1 respectively.
The series was edited on Avid driven by the crème de la crème – Angela Slaven, Jude Suggett and Dave Hipkiss and the colour grade was done by Jon Bruce on the DaVinci Resolve and our dubber, Claire Asenova, was our dubber using ProTools 12 – all our post was at Edit 123.
What were the main production challenges?
Access and consent. Filming with the police is never going to be easy.
Obviously, the access to film Police Scotland was in place alongside the commission, but, at that stage, it’s just an agreement in principle.
Once the reality kicks in, of what you’ll film when and precisely with whom… that’s when it gets complicated and time-consuming.
It took what felt like an eternity to get our first actuality sequence with the police in the can. Luckily, we were able to film lots of brilliant interviews with retired cops while the negotiations went on.
Once you do begin filming with the police, that’s when the legal side of things can get complicated, but we mostly found fairly elegant ways around that.
If we get a second series, I’d like to think we’ve oiled the wheels for some very significant access next time… watch this space.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
I learned enormous amounts, but probably the over-riding thing would be that the police force has definitely changed.
We featured the stories of women in the police in episode one, and learned just how hard it was for the small minority of women as recently as the ’80s and ’90s.
Clearly, we now have a Sex Discrimination Act, and things have moved on, somewhat.
But there remains very few women or minorities in the senior ranks, and, of course, the police should be truly representative of the population it serves, like all our social and political structures.
I also learned that there are lot of very good people walking the streets, wearing uniform, who really care about what they’re doing.
Enjoyment? Every moment was a pleasure! Probably creating a look and feel for a series, and then (mostly) pulling that off.
Episode two of The Force: the Story of Scotland’s Police is on BBC One Scotland at 9.00pm on Monday 4 December.