[UPDATE: It’s still available to hear for another week on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b051ryql]
Myself and long-time collaborator Peter Price have been making a documentary about the Conservative Party with the Guardian journalist Hugh Muir. Entitled ‘Erasing Enoch – The Conservative Quest for the Minority Vote‘, we interviewed Tory bigwigs and activists on the ground to see what they’re doing to change voting habits amongst the non-white electorate (historically, the Tories have done quite poorly with these voters).
We recorded for eighteen months. That’s not a typical amount of time (I guess on average it’s just four weeks), and certainly most R4 docs would never do that. But we wanted to tell the story of BAME candidates as they attempt to find a seat, and you couldn’t get that in one interview. Instead, we revisited speakers several times, to see how their attitude to the party changed over the course of the programme.
That made over-recording a worry; we had to be sure we weren’t going to have days of recordings to trawl through. Because of the long record, we decided to transcribe all the interviews, so we could reference them quickly, particularly before doing another interview with the same candidate.
After collecting what we thought was the candidates’ story, we used the last five weeks to record experts and follow a more traditional documentary-making schedule; interviewing Conservatives such as Damien Green and Baroness Warsi and independent observers like Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote. Recording so late in the process meant we could thread the long-form story with very recent developments (such as the latest polls) to give timeliness to the finished programme.
One last production note: we wanted to do as much of the recording outside of studios, to give a sense that this was a programme about party activists going door-to-door, shaking hands and kissing babies. So I think there’s just one or two interviews recorded inside.
Doing a programme with a Guardian journalist means that some papers are more likely to cover you than others. Hugh was kind enough to pitch a version to his paper in the run-up, which ended up as the G2 cover story, but we were delighted to see it appear in the Telegraph as well:
Big thanks to Richard Clemmow, our exec, for passing on some fine advice throughout the process, and to Mohit Bakaya at Radio 4 for having faith in our long lead time.
AND of course to Peter Price and his company PPM Television. Here’s to the next programme (whatever that is)!