Countryfile: presenters on directing

This film is the third in our series looking at the programme's production lifecycle and includes tips from the presenters on how they like to be directed.

Matt Baker, Adam Henson and Ellie Harrison are all presenters on Countryfile, the BBC factual TV show broadcast on Sunday evenings on BBC One. This film is the third in our series looking at the programme's production lifecycle and includes tips from the presenters on how they like to be directed. 

Matt Baker’s tips
A factual TV presenter has a very interesting relationship with the director.

The director has often spent weeks or months planning and scripting from the office. A lot can change when you arrive on location. Pre-conceived ideas have to be changed when the weather, contributors or stories don’t really work in reality.

"I like it when directors are collaborative." – Ellie Harrison

Matt Baker believes that, in his experience, compromise is the key to a successful shoot. Use your ideas and your script as a framework but don’t be afraid to change your plans. It’s better to capture the atmosphere of where you are and what is unfolding on the day, plus creative problem solving often results in great TV.

Adam Henson’s tips
Resident Countryfile farmer, Adam Henson, believes that his memories of starting out and being new to TV have helped him appreciate what a strange world it can seem for new comers. It is important to remember this and have empathy with new contributors or new presenters.

Take care to explain what you have planned, so they can understand why constant resetting and repitition is necessary. Once they realise that filming a variety of shots helps make a better film, they will be able to relax and contribute properly.

One director suggested that Adam talk to the camera as if it is an old mate. This advice has helped him to relax and talk normally when on camera. The director should set the tone on a location shoot. It is their job to create a relaxed atmosphere resulting in a productive environment.

Ellie Harrison’s tips
Ellie likes directors who are collaborative and keen to incorporate ideas from the whole team. She also believes directors should have authority and be good at communicating.

A good director can put contributors at ease, especially if they aren’t used to making TV. It also helps to explain what’s going to happen so they don’t feel excluded or overwhelmed.

Finally, Ellie favours creative direction, similar to techniques used by drama directors. Ellie appreciates personal feedback from the director on her style and delivery of each piece to camera. However, it's important to remember that each presenter responds differently, so directors must be able to adapt to the individual ways of working.