Published Monday, 01 October 2012
I live down the road and across the Foyle from Ballykelly. It takes no more than half an hour altogether to drive from my door to the main street of the village so, in many respects, this was a very convenient place for us.
You were home with your filming done each evening by tea-time and you could sit with your feet up in front of your own fire looking over your notes for the next day. You could watch your favourite television programmes with your own all-empowering remote control in your hands. You could even, more importantly, satisfy your craving for a bowl of Rice Krispies in ice-cold milk from your own fridge before bedtime. This is an addiction I have suffered for several years now and no amount of sensible and concerned protestations have been able to cure me.
But, notwithstanding all of these advantages, there was something missing. This is no reflection on the people of Ballykelly who could not have been more pleasant, accommodating or hospitable.
That something was what we call "the total immersion" experience. It means, quite simply, living in or near the place in which you are making the programme for the best part of a week.
Usually there are five of us in the crew and we try to book into an affordable and friendly hotel that is near to our chosen location. It's a good way to get a proper feel for the place, to have plenty of time to spend with people, to get into casual conversations that very often provide you with information or insights that prove invaluable in the making of your programme.
It helps you to keep your focus on the job in hand without the distraction of domestic concerns that would otherwise occupy your thoughts and demand your attention. It's also a good way for the crew to share the whole experience. We sit down together to a meal each night and talk over the day's events, about how we're going to shoot something tomorrow and how we have to remember to get such and such a shot. Filming, for me, has always been, and always should be, a collaborative activity, a shared experience. The results are much better that way.
So you pack your bag the night before the first day's filming, trying to remember all the little bits and pieces that will make your life as comfortable and familiar as possible when you will be staying in a strange hotel room, knowing that you will not be home for several days.
Invariably you forget something or somebody else has forgotten something, usually a phone charger or a new bottle of Head and Shoulders that was sitting on the hall table, so you end up knocking on somebody's door in the hotel corridor but they can't hear you because they're in the shower using your shampoo. You get the picture.
When we filmed at Ballykelly, we all went home at the end of each day.
So you can see why I'm conflicted.
I've never remembered to pack a packet of Rice Krispies. And I've never stayed in a hotel that serves them last thing at night before you go to bed. With ice-cold milk.