The Garden’s Lucy Bowden, Series Executive Producer, shares her experience from ‘behind the scenes’ of Superhospital.
How many staff were involved in the shoot, please give us an idea of all their different roles?
There were 20 people on the shoot, ranging from the Series Producer/Director to 4 Producer/Directors, 3 camera operators, 4 assistant producers, 4 location assistants, a production manager and a co-ordinator.
How many hours of footage were filmed in total?
We had four teams filming across the Royal Derby Hospital for 6 weeks, from October till early December last year. In that time they gathered many, many hours of footage and during the editing of each programme we have condensed this down to 4 x 43 minute programmes.
What were the toughest shots to pull off?
Some of the shots were technically difficult to set up – filming glide-cam (like a small steadicam) in A&E for example, or using drones (small helicopters) to capture aerial footage. But some of our best material was from being in the right place at the right time, having good relationships with staff who trusted us to follow the agreed consent protocols before filming with any patients. Each of our teams were constantly moving around and filming in different areas of the hospital, and over those 6 weeks they became familiar faces to 100s of hospital staff who saw them on a regular basis. At times the members of the production teams would also be emotionally affected by some of the scenes they filmed– either because they captured a joyous moment or a sad one. They felt very privileged to be trusted to film in some very sensitive situations.
How did staff reaction to the presence of the film crew change over the course of the shoot?
Staff told us that they became less aware of the crew over time, and they appreciated how hard the crew tried to be unobtrusive and sensitive.
Was there anything which you thought would be straightforward which ended up taxing you unexpectedly?
I don’t think that we thought anything about filming in the hospital would be straightforward! We were aware that it was a busy, challenging working environment and that we needed to be flexible and sensitive if we wanted to carry on filming there.
What element of the finished programmes are you most proud of achieving?
We feel very proud that the programmes are emotional, dynamic and very watchable – and that we achieved this without compromising our relationship with staff and patients.
How did your initial idea for the four programmes change over the course of the shoot and the edit?
When I look back at the taster tape for the series, I think the ambition for the series carried right through to the finished programmes. We wanted big emotional stories at the heart of each programme, we wanted the stories to be led by staff from a range of departments across the hospital, we wanted to get under the skin of staff where appropriate so that we got to know them over the course of an episode, and we wanted the production values to be high end.
Given the unplanned nature of hospital life, what ‘happy accidents’ or unexpected elements most changed the course of the different storylines?
We didn’t expect to film a baby being born in the A&E ambulance bay! On the whole though, we always knew that we couldn’t plan the filming, so we made sure we anchored ourselves to staff who we felt would be a good guide to the day to day life of the hospital. We wanted to see the life of the hospital through a variety of different eyes – both medical and non-medical staff – and we cast people widely, so that we felt like we had a good balance of staff across the series.
What’s your lasting impression of the Royal Derby Hospital and the staff working in it?
Our production team all gained a great deal from filming in the hospital – we felt very welcomed by staff and patients. The hospital comes across as an extremely caring environment, and it has a real community feel to it. It was also extremely inspiring to see how staff dealt with difficult situations day in day out, with a great deal of humour, warmth and compassion.
Who are The Garden?
The Garden is a television production company that was launched by Nick Curwin and Magnus Temple in June 2010. Our purpose is two-fold: to make cutting edge, ambitious, distinctive factual programmes for major broadcasters in the UK and internationally; and to be the most ideal production company we can be, where programme-makers can do their very best work and that always delivers exceptional television. The Garden have previously produced other popular hospital-based factual series such as ’24 Hours in A&E’ and ‘Keeping Britain Alive’.