Countryfile: Pre-production

Countryfile, BBC One's weekly magazine series, reports on rural and environmental issues and news, with recorded packages and presented pieces to camera which discuss and reflect the countryside and the communities that dwell in them. Our production goes behind the scenes with the team, this time with researcher Claire Blindell.

This film is the first of three in a series looking at the programme's production lifecycle. Now you can find out how Countryfile is put together, from start to finish, commencing with a researcher’s role during pre-production. 

Countryfile researcher Claire Blindell shares the day to day responsibilities that this busy role entails.

The main purpose of Claire’s job is to set up a location shoot with the Countryfile presenters. This involves about two weeks of research in the office, a week with the director and a recce of the location and stories. All this work culminates in a two day shoot.

One of the most important skills for a researcher is to be able to find good stories. Talking to people is the main way that stories are unearthed.

When looking for contributors the ideal person is somebody who’s enthusiastic about a subject but is also able to stay concise. Look for a good story teller who can make things clear to the viewer about this exciting thing they know. Since TV is a visual medium, the contributor should ideally be showing us things.

"Talking to people is the main way that stories are unearthed." – Claire Blindell

Selling your stories
To find the right stories it’s important that you know your programme and target audience well. A main location researcher on Countryfile needs to find four or five strong stories. You need to be able to sell those stories to the producer as if she is your audience.

Tell a simple story well
As a researcher on any TV programme, one of the most important things is to tell a simple story really well. Compiling detailed research is vital and with so much information available online it is easy to feel bogged down in reams of data. But by keeping an eye on what the actual story is, you should be able to see through the data and communicate the story to your team.

The schedule
As a Countryfile researcher, organising the schedule is one of the most important tasks. This is the document that works out exactly what’s going to happen on a film shoot. It’s all the timings, practicalities and the logistics. This is one of the most difficult and time consuming parts of the job and can cause the most stress.

A researcher has to be organised. Before you go out on location there’s a lot of time in the office looking at maps, working out the times and logistics. This is all useful when you are out on location. Your preparation will help things go smoothly and if things do change on the day, you are able to react and adapt.

With so much to do and to remember it is useful to keep a checklist. Before a shoot you can write down everything that is needed such as stock, camera equipment and schedules. Developing your own coping strategies will help take the stress out of the job and make you a better researcher.