ABERDEEN harbour is one of Britain’s oldest businesses and one of Europe’s most modern ports.
Every year, more than 8,000 boats pass through it, many involved in the oil and gas industry.
Here, in this six-part observational documentary series, made by locally-based Tern Television, The Harbour tells the stories of life on a waterfront “pulsing with international trade and people, cargo, containers, the odd close call and not a little banter”.
Episode one is being broadcast this evening, on BBC One Scotland, 1930-2000.
Here, Harry Bell, executive producer at makers, Tern TV, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the production?
Ewan Angus, commissioning editor, television, BBC Scotland.
Who are the key personnel in making the programme?
The series was predominately filmed and directed by Biança Barker, the producer was Jane Cameron, assistant producer was Annie Woolridge, production manager was Diane Dunbar and the editor was Jonny Craigmile. The exec for BBC Scotland was David Harron.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’?
We wanted the series to look dramatic, but also have the feeling of entering a new world.
The harbour is cheek by jowl with Aberdeen’s busy city centre, but we wanted to invite the viewers into a special place where a small army of men and women work, 365 days of the year. We wanted to show the skills, the fun and the teamwork, but also the dangers of the jobs that keep the oil industry going.
To do this, we filmed the might and majesty of the huge oil vessels, but also the strength of the little pilot boat pushing its way through heavy seas, and the contrasting quiet but intense atmosphere inside the harbour control tower.
There was plenty of dramatic weather with scenes of gales lashing the harbour, and a storm at sea with the Bibby Sapphire dive ship.
Down on the harbour’s edge, there was a great feeling of camaraderie among the boatmen, and in the Crown and Anchor bar there was the North-east humour of Val, the barmaid.
We wanted this mix of elements to create an introduction to something unexpected with great pictures and a cast of memorable characters.
Kit and software?
The series was shot on Canon XF305 and edited in-house on Avid.
What were the main challenges in making the programme?
The harbour is a very large precinct to cover and a lot of quite technical and complicated works go on there, so we had the challenge of getting access to what can be dangerous environs and making a series that isn’t too technical but not too superficial.
Gaining the trust and permission to film was a challenge as there are so many different companies involved but once we gained that trust, the privileged access was astounding.
What have you learned and enjoyed from the experience?
Aberdeen Harbour is an unique harbour and few realise what really goes on there, so it has been fascinating to get an insight into this hidden world.