November effect makes slow TV slow going
10th December 2014
10th November 2014, 0630AM, low of 50, strong gusting winds from SW, sunset 0440, rain from dawn, whenever that is. Perfect conditions for the start of shooting on BBC4’s Make.
Ride to Welling, a town at Kent, with arch-recordist David Harcombe, who has been preparing for this moment for days, as has DoP Andrew Muggleton, also transiting somewhere out in the darkness, with a van full of kit. This is the onset of the Make shoot, just one skirmish in the BBC4 campaign that will bring Slow TV to Britain.
This glacial story-telling comes, appropriately, from the frozen North. Having remade the crime genre, Scandinavian television producers are now reinventing documentary, with the strictest definition of what it is to observe – unmoving frames, long-held shots, minimal intrusion by music or commentary.
Our slow subject is knife-maker Owen Bush. After the most exhaustive photographing and story-boarding, we’ve begun the first of four days, with the reduction of a sandwich of steels, arc welded in a blaze of light guaranteed to give us all Klieg eye. The track to establish Owen in his steam-punk mask lasted fifteen seconds and the end frame held for twenty more, and that’s the tone for the whole thing.
Extensively lit and with more grippage than a Bond film, we move at Norwegian pace towards elevenses at ten o’clock, greasy pies and instant coffee with six shots in the can. Around Wednesday we might get to the anvil.