Made Here: Building Dream Homes, BBC Two

BUILDING Dream Homes documents the ups and downs of building, renovating and extending homes across the country, through the eyes of the architects.

Being broadcast every weekday evening, it follows a different build in each episode. In addition, across each week, the show follows the highs and lows of one big house build.

This new series has been playing at 6.30pm for the past two weeks and is on screen until Friday.

It was made by Raise the Roof Productions for BBC Two.

Here, Sarah Walmsley – Raise The Roof creative director and executive producer – answers the questions…

Who commissioned the series?

BBC Daytime, in particular Jo Street – commissioning editor, Daytime – who is based in Scotland and Damian Kavanagh, controller of Daytime.

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

We wanted to create a property programme for the BBC, something that had the ambitions of Grand Designs and felt fresh and different. Looking at building projects through the eye of the architect gave a slant that hadn’t been seen before.

We were determined to have impressive builds and projects in every show. We wanted to follow the action in a very observational way but we also wanted it to feel glossy and a treat to watch.

Who are the key personnel?  How were they recruited?

Myself plus Andrew Walmsley, a freelance executive producer with a strong track record in working on property shows and with Raise the Roof. His experience on Grand Designs made him a shoe-in for this job.

We had two directors on the series: Jonny Wharton is a staff director and development producer at Raise the Roof. He’s an excellent self-shooter, is great with contributors and has a great eye for a story; all qualities we were looking for in our directors.

We had never worked with Chris Harries before; he applied through a Facebook availablity list and he came with excellent references from people we knew and trusted. He had worked on Location Location Location, but it was his track record in obs doc that drew us to him. He’s a great shooter and had tireless energy and enthusiasm for the series.

Meanwhile, producer, Dan Twist, worked on the development of the series with Jonny and found many of the architects we featured. As he had already established a relationship with the architects, when the series was commissioned, he was the obvious choice to work as the producer across the series.

What kit and software?

We shot the majority of the series on a Canon XF305 using a Go Pro for in-car interviews and time-lapse sequences. Shooting the final house reveals we hired in a few extra pieces of kit: a track and dolly and mini-jib. This helped us achieve the glossy shots that you associate with a higher budget property programme. The jib was used for exteriors and establishers of finished rooms, whilst the dolly provided us with some excellent tracking shots. We hired a monitor so that we could record and check that all the movements were smooth enough as both viewfinders on the 305 are quite small.

The edits were done remotely using Interplay, in conjunction with Serious Facilities.

To say that Michelle Reece and Gordon Hayden simply edited the series would hugely underplay the part they played. They were integral to its look and shape. They worked tirelessly on the material for five months, moulding the show and its editorial. When the series started they decided that they would edit from remote offices using the interplay system. After a few teething problems, this went well and they pioneered a new way of working with us. Michelle and Gordon have worked with Raise the Roof for many years and they were the first editors we approached when we got the commission as not only are they strong editorially, they have extensive experience in both property programmes and obs doc.

What were the main production challenges?

The small but perfectly formed team had to work incredibly hard to stay across all the stories.

There were 19 builds across the series filmed over 11 months. Dan, the producer had to speak to all the contributors on an almost daily basis to check on progress and schedule the directors’ time. This was vital so we didn’t miss any key moments. The two directors self-shot all 19 builds and all the inspirational homes between them. This was a massive undertaking and meant they were filming almost every day.

The distances between projects also caused logistical issues. We had one director based in Scotland who covered all the Scottish builds and one director based in London who covered the southern builds, travelling between Cardiff, Poole, the New Forest and London.

The bad winter weather and the nature of builds meant that project schedules all extended – almost without exception. This meant that we had to keep teams on for far longer than we anticipated.

We covered more projects than we featured on the programme in case any fell through – an inevitable problem when filming so many builds.

The quantity of material needed to film, to cover a story, was enormous. The knock-on effect in the edit meant the editors and edit producers had a huge amount of footage to work through. On the up side, it also meant that we were able to tell the best possible stories.

What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?

To allow time for the building schedules to overrun… and once you’ve allowed that time, add some more on!

The team were fantastic, hardworking and dedicated and it was a joy working with them. The access the architects and their clients gave us meant we were able to make programmes we were all very proud of.