At first I thought it was an email from a private group wishing to visit the gardens, but as I read on, it soon dawned on me that this request was different! You always dream of being on GW, but to have the BBC approach you is quite sublime.
Throughout the whole process, from initial contact to filming, the team were fantastic - clear communications, prompt responses and above all else, highly professional and as equally supportive.
The Sound Engineer arrived first, regrettably with a migraine, which he fortunately managed to avert with fifteen minutes of sleep before the others arrived. He was soon joined by the Director, Camera Operator and Production Team – we chatted for ten minutes and then it was down to business, as time is precious.
We discovered that to record three minutes of TV ready footage - it takes five hours. For five-seven minutes - ten hours and anything longer will then run into multiple days. Therefore, I gave them a quick tour of the gardens and they took furious notes, commenting on where to film, what would make a great backdrop, how the noise of low flying aircraft would impact the piece and where they should start.
The purpose of the feature was to discuss and explore the concepts of formal design and contemporary planting, which Mark Lane was presenting on GW. I had only known of Mark through his time on GW and the garden design practice that he operates, but I have come to understand that he is an extremely talented presenter, plants-person and inspirational designer. Oh, and by the way, he is a very amiable bloke too!
Mark arrived with his PA Georgie, half an hour later and I introduced myself. We spent a good forty- five minutes meandering through the gardens, chatting about the design, the vistas, challenges and the finished effect. As a relatively new designer myself, having positive feedback from him was humbling and inspiring.
Mark then re-joined the team as they laid out their preparations for the day. The day itself is largely scripted before they arrive on site, as Camilla does a lot of preparation work with the garden owner beforehand, asking for pictures, thoughts and ideas. These are knitted together into a general script for the team, allowing them to hit the ground running when they arrive.
Having sat down with a cup of tea to set about my daily task of answering my emails and social media that had come in overnight, I anticipated that the team would get on with their production. However, fifteen minutes later Camilla asked me to join them in the Potager. I was greeted by the Sound Engineer who had now recovered from his migraine to ask, “Have you ever worn a microphone before?” “No”, I replied! Thirty seconds later, mic at the ready, I was sat down chatting with Mark at the table – he was great at keeping me relaxed, joking and chatting, while all along in the background the Director was getting ready to roll. Then, after about five minutes……”We’re rolling………and action!”
Mark sprang into life, welcomed me to GW and thanked me for letting us share our beautiful gardens. He asked me a series of questions based on the overall theme of formal garden design, referencing a number of features from our gardens: the Knot Garden, the Potager, the long, yet formal borders, the clipped topiary, the contemporary planting schemes and the Mediterranean Borders. It was all a blur and after what seemed like an age, waiting for aircraft to pass over, I thought that was it. How naïve I was - the team run through it again and again from multiple angles, asking the same questions, which is then pulled back together in the editing suite.
Once finished, I left them to complete their filming throughout the rest of the garden. They focussed their time in the lower gardens, the Knot Garden and the Mediterranean Terraces. Every piece they filmed, was captured on average four-five times to ensure they got the finished article just so!
The whole team were extremely professional, none more so than Mark, who demonstrated an in-depth knowledge and a passion for the subject, which you only really see on the 4th or the 5th take! The Camera Operator never stopped; when he was not filming myself and Mark, he was capturing footage all over the garden, in places that even I had to question why he was there– a master finely crafting his work, that is for sure.
At the end of the day, it was the turn of the Sound Engineer to step up. Mark pondered the script with the Director and they began recording the voiceovers, the parts of the feature where you see the unusual shots of the gardens, but with no presenter. I would say this lasted about an hour, but it was extremely clever how they knew what would be needed, several weeks before the editors would get hold of it all for the final piecing together.
It was an exhausting day for all involved and the team finally packed up and left just before 6pm, but there was still time for photos together, without a grumble and full of smiles. A big thank you to Camilla, who was a real star pulling it all together in the background, while keeping timings and schedules on track.