How do you make a fully-fledged, prime-time science doc in a month? I was wondering the same thing when I got a call to Edit Produce “The Year Britain Flooded”, showing tonight at 9pm on Channel 4. “First of all – get a helicopter,” says Bob Strange, the exec. “Just get to the scene as quick as possible and get up in the air with an expert. That’s the opening sequence of the film.”
By the time my Editor Chris Roberts and I started cutting, someone had shot that scene but not much else. There was no script to speak of, few contributors lined up, and some rough back-of-napkin sketches for the graphics. What we did have, however, was a clear sense of the story we wanted to tell…and some extraordinary YouTube clips.
When it comes to extreme weather, nothing beats a person in the street with a smartphone. The quality is often rubbish, but who cares? Someone screaming his head off while a wall of water rushes towards him conveys the drama of a flood better than any graphic or talking head. We knew those clips would be the heart of the film and we spent most of the first week viewing, categorizing, and labeling them. Rain clips, flood clips, lightning clips, landslide clips, animals trapped in water clips – hundreds of them. Then rushes started to…flood…in. By the end of the week, I could see the outlines of a show.
In week two, Edit 2 started up, and two days later Edit 3. By the end of the second week we had four suites running ten hours a day. At first, we all just picked theoretical sequences off a list and started cutting them, not knowing how long they were supposed to be or what was coming before or after them. Scenes bounced from one edit to another as they moved from part 1 to part 3 to part 2 and back again. But somehow, order started to emerge from the chaos – by the start of week three, every suite had one part of the show. By the end of that week, two of the suites were stood down and I had half a film to work with. And then, in the last few days, it was just Chris and I again: this time with a one-hour documentary, complete and ready for online.
Did it work? Please watch and let me know!
“The Year Britain Flooded”, is showing tonight at 9pm on Channel 4.