Made Here: Dangerous Drivers’ School, Channel 5

SCOTS independent TV production company, Matchlight, returned to Channel 5 screens last week, with Dangerous Drivers’ School, the second episode of which is being broadcast this evening, at 2000 hours.

The series puts qualified drivers through an intense ‘rehab lesson’ with an expert instructor who hopes to give them back their driving confidence and mend their bad habits.

Last week, episode one attracted an estimated 1.3 million viewers, a 5.6 per cent share of the available TV audience.

Matchlight’s managing director, David Smith, answers the questions…

Who commissioned the series?

Steve Gowans, head of Factual Entertainment, Features and Entertainment at Channel 5.

Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’

It’s essentially an observational documentary. With a lot of factual entertainment shows there’s a real pressure to build a format, but Channel 5 seemed most keen on the documentary sensibility we brought to the subject and we’ve made every effort to play it that way. While there are format beats we want to hit as we progress through the hour, they’re not heavily underlined and shouldn’t interrupt to the stories we are telling.

Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?

Ross Wilson is the executive producer, Graeme Hart is series producer and Eddie Hutton Mills is the producer/director. Matchlight’s Chris Buckland cut the series in-house with Joe Spiers and our head of production, Pam Nelson, oversaw the production process with her assistant, Paul McCaffrey.

What kit and software?

We shot on a variety of formats. As well as self-shooting PD using a Canon XF305, we had a cameraman on days with our celebrity contributors. Each car was rigged with two Sony minicams recording to Key Pros in High Definition format plus two or three Go Pros minicams.

With that many sources, one of the biggest issues is the volume of material generated and getting the data from each source to work alongside the others in Avid. All of the timecodes are synced to make matching the footage in the edit as easy as possible – which sounds like it should be straightforward enough. Multi-camera studio shoots do it all the time but, by definition, we were always on the move, always outside, so it took a lot of effort to achieve.

We cut in-house using Avid and then completed post-production at The Hive – just across Woodlands Road from our office here in Glasgow. They used Avid Symphonies for the online and grade.

What have been the main production challenges?

Casting the series is the essential first step. Lots of people have serious driving problems but not all of them will work on TV or within the format of our show.

Many of us drive too fast but to give the series the necessary variety of story you want to deal with more than just ‘boy racers’ (whatever their age).

Logistically, it’s then a case of matching the problem driver to the right instructor and making sure that our crew can get around all of them – from Northern Ireland to the South West of England – in the most effective and efficient order.

What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?

That almost any driving problem can be addressed with a bit of patience, kindness and wisdom.

For a lot of people, it really is a loss of confidence that holds them back. Seeing them regain the initiative, get back behind the wheel and conquer their fears is hugely rewarding.

For those who suffer from an excess of confidence, it often comes down to showing them how much less stressful it is to drive at a more reasonable pace.

I also learned – though I really should have known already – what an amber light means. It’s not a warning light for ‘amber gamblers’ to put your foot down. It means stop if it is safe to do so.