Following on from last week’s post on the pros and cons of creating promos for our projects, writer and filmmaker Jaye Swift explains her reasons for making a trailer for her TV series. She writes:
‘Several years ago I wrote a seven part TV series about the Bevin Boys called ‘The Forgotten Conscript’. The Bevin Boys were young conscripts balloted down the coal mines towards the end of World War 2. Their story had been lost over the years and I decided it needed to be told!
Now, although seven scripts of 60 pages (each) is asking a lot of the reader, those who have read the full series tell me they love it!
As not many of the Bevin Boys are alive today, the question was how to get their story out there before all of them were dead. Having sent the synopsis to a couple of production companies they got back to me to say there was little appetite for period dramas at the moment. Yes, unbelievable.
So, I had the idea of making a trailer for the series. But if I was going to do this, then I would have to make it properly with no expense spared. I’d already produced several short films and a documentary so had a trusty crew and actors who’d performed in plays and films.
As filming at locations that were period appropriate was paramount, the task of securing sites began.First off, I approached two coal mine museums in South Wales. The first, though happy to help, only allowed filming in certain areas of the mine and for a limited period – which was no use at all. The second, a coal mine in The Rhondda Heritage Park, couldn’t have been more accommodating, offering non-stop help from beginning to end and were absolutely brilliant.
A third location was also secured for scenes outside the coal mine. For this I approached St Fagans National Museum of Wales who had several locations which would be imperative to pinpointing the backgrounds of all five Bevin Boys. I needed a castle, a smithy, and a farmstead which would act as several locations. However, because St Fagans is a National Museum, there are very strict rules and regulations which cast and crew had to adhere to but it was worth it as all the locations used there, set the tone and left the viewer in no doubt that they were in the 1940s.
Having secured cast, crew and locations, the next thing was to hammer down the costumes which had to be authentic and look the part. To do this, all my actors had to attend a costume fitting at Marigolds in Cardiff, who were absolutely faultless in their help with my production.
As we were filming a trailer which spanned a story that covered ten months, several costume changes had to take place to emulate the passage of time. Over 100 items of clothing were hired. At St Fagans, a cowshed was used as the changing room! Our green room was the magnificent Coal Miners Oakdale Institute which incidentally had a plaque installed in memory of the Bevin Boys.
For the pit clothes, I had to create my own, so months of trawling charity shops saw me with a large array of suits, jackets, trousers etc. As clothes were rationed during WW2 and working the mines resulted in pit clothes wearing out quickly, the Bevin Boys were not given a uniform (other than a helmet!) which meant they also used second hand shops to buy whatever they could to wear underground. To give the pit clothes the appropriate ‘worked in’ look, I put them through a cement mixer which roughed up the garments to the point so that they had holes and tears throughout. I used black and brown acrylic paint to dirty up the shirts’ collars and cuffs.
While all the above post production was taking place, I had to work out what scenes I wanted to film from my seven part series. I decided that I would like to be able to break down the trailer into five separate mini trailers – one for each of the Bevin Boys characters; this was why I wanted home scenes interspersed throughout with coal mining scenes. I could then put them all together to tell the larger story of all five boys.
In all there were 50 scenes at each location to film – a lot to ask of the crew, but we managed to get everything done. We kept to schedule at St Fagans but went well over schedule at the mine- I think my cast and crew were beginning to hate me by the end of that final day!
In the past I recorded several interviews with Bevin Boys, and am considering using some of their voices on the trailer.
As I write this, the trailer is in post production, My intention is that when it is complete, it will be sent to would-be producers for them to watch which shouldn’t be onerous with it being 5 minutes long. It will be the ultimate proof of concept of this little known story which needs to be told. As we are coming up the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2, it’s time the Bevin Boys story got out there, and I intend to do it!’