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The Field Of Blood: Directing the drama

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David Kane David Kane | 15:15 UK time, Friday, 26 August 2011

About five years ago Andrea Calderwood's company, Slate Films, sent me a book to read asking if I would be interested in adapting it.

Set in Glasgow in 1982, and telling the story of Paddy Meehan - a young girl working in a newspaper office - The Field Of Blood was full of detail and character that I recognised.

I'd worked as a photojournalist in the early eighties shortly after leaving art school.

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Preview of The Field Of Blood

I said yes. Being a natural cynic I imagined I'd write the screenplay and it would be passed from desk to desk at the BBC and finally languish on a shelf, all but forgotten.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call to say that it was going ahead.

The head of drama Anne Mensah and commissioning editor Ewan Angus at BBC Scotland hadn't forgotten about it after all.

Andrea asked if I would direct it.

I hadn't directed anything for nine years - not since my last feature film Born Romantic - and was quite happy working from home solely as a writer, but it was an opportunity I couldn't resist.

My main challenge was to make a period drama on a low budget.

Firstly we reset numerous exterior scenes in what would be our two big interior sets, the newspaper office and the Meehan house.

We then concentrated our design efforts on those two locations, building them so we could create exactly the look we wanted.

Jayd Johnson as Paddy Meehan and Jonas Armstrong as Terry Hewitt in the newspaper offices

Paddy Meehan (Jayd Johnson) and Terry Hewitt (Jonas Armstrong)

We discovered an old documentary, Friday's Herald, about a day in the life of The Glasgow Herald circa 1982 and set about recreating the office as it was then, with a bit of All The President's Men thrown in, to give it a little glamour.

I wanted to add the bright casino look of The Washington Post because our newspaper office had to represent a modern future to our main character, Paddy.

It was in direct contrast to the dark claustrophobic household of her religious family.

The music came from my memories of what people I knew were listening to at the time.

I felt Paddy's taste would be more masculine so we went for Gang Of Four, Elvis Costello and The Jam.

I didn't want to go for 80s songs that had been used too often.

The city of Glasgow has changed so much in 30 years. The Field of Blood might as well have been set in 1882 as far as we were concerned.

Street scenes were particularly problematic, as we had a limited budget with which to dress them. It dictated the style we would shoot the film in.

Finding the right cast was the most important element to me.

Our main character was a 19-year-old working class Glaswegian.

Chubby and vulnerable, but also smart, feisty and ambitious, she had to be attractive in a slightly unconventional way.

Jayd Johnson as Paddy Meehan

Paddy Meehan (Jayd Johnson)

Producer Willy Wands mentioned a girl he liked from River City, Jayd Johnson, but she was at drama school in New York and wanted to finish her course.

After a few weeks we still hadn't found anyone. I asked about the girl from River City again.

They gave me an episode to watch and I immediately felt Jayd was our girl. So, with a bit of padding in the right places, we had our Paddy Meehan.

I felt an immediate rapport with Jayd and her work ethic was astounding for someone so young.

She also didn't mind wearing a brown duffel coat most of the time.

Luckily I had worked with David Morrissey, Ford Kiernan and Peter Capaldi before and sent them the scripts.

Although I didn't want to pressure my friends into doing me a favour, I silently prayed they would say yes - they did.

With Jonas Armstrong, Bronagh Gallagher, Derek Riddell, Stephen McCole, Matt Costello, Gavin Mitchell and the rest of the cast in place we felt very pleased with ourselves.

Although it was a very tough schedule the filming of The Field Of Blood was a great experience.

I had a fabulous crew and we managed to finish, exhausted, but on time.

One person I haven't mentioned is Denise Mina, who wrote the novel.

Denise has been shockingly supportive to a group of people who took her book and started changing lines, re-jigging the plot, and generally buggering about with it.

She is a fabulous writer and adapting her novel was a pleasure. I just hope I get to adapt another one in the future.

David Kane is the writer and director of The Field Of Blood.

The Field Of Blood is on BBC One at 10.15pm on Monday, 29th August.

You can watch exclusive interviews with actress Jayd Johnson and author Denise Mina at The Field Of Blood programme page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    I note the point you made about shooting in Glasgow and trying in the 21st century, to portray the Glasgow of the early 1980s. I spent quite a bit of time in Glasgow in the 1979 to 1985 period and then didn't visit again until July 2011. I was amazed by how much the street scenes had changed! On theing that stuck in mind was contrasting an event in 1983 when I missed the 5-50pm train (then the last one of the night) to London and being left with no cash; not even enough to satisfy the guys who used to hang around Central station and ask for 'money for a cuppa tea'. I trudged the streets for about 2-hours before finding a cashpoint of the right 'flavour' - that was because Glasgow then was more 'Scottish'. Fast forwarding to 2011 to some extend (except the basic architecture of most city centre buildings) you could be anywhere in 'the west'. Of course shop fronts and associated glass plus signage are a major change.

    Well doen for pulling it off!

  • Comment number 2.

    The task of introducing and filling-out so many characters in just two episodes must have been a daunting task. To have succeeded and not, literally, loose-the-plot must have taken some doing. Brilliant story, acting, directing, cinematography and script all created the star of the show- tension. Congratulations and thanks for the best drama of 2011. But why couldn’t the BBC manage to allocate just a cup-full of the bucket-loads of publicity lavished on the tedious Torchwood, to this half hidden gem?

  • Comment number 3.

    Not thinking I would enjoy this drama, I was pleasently surprised! Espically so at the way in which the subject matter was handled, the story came over as gritty and amusing but with characters you warmed to, despite their flaws! Don't let thi be Paddy'd last job! Another one please!

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry I missed last night's episode, does anyone know why is it not on i-player?

  • Comment number 5.

    Most annoying that the second episode was on very late - too late for me - and it hasn't been available on iplayer?? Whats the point in that?

  • Comment number 6.

    Agreed - I really enjoyed the first part, missed the second and was looking forward to catching up on iPlayer as usual. Why isn't it there? Is it to boost forthcoming Christmas DVD sales? When will it be repeated on TV if we can't watch on-demand?

  • Comment number 7.

    Really enjoyed it. Deserved much higher profile. Congratulations to all involved.

  • Comment number 8.

    I also enjoyed the first part of this however I am also dissapointed this is not working on the iplayer??? Will this be fixed and also will the time available be extended due to this being a technical error?

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi everyone, I hope you've spotted that Episode Two is now available on iPlayer - sorry you've had to wait longer than expected to see how the story concludes.

    golla_mitch, I don't think the expiry date has been changed, but the good news is you still have until late on Monday to catch up.

    You can watch it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0110g6q/The_Field_of_Blood_Episode_2/

    Editor, BBC TV blog

  • Comment number 10.

    Excellent, just watched the second part. I agree should have had much higher profile. Could there be more episodes in the future?

  • Comment number 11.

    Unfortunately I missed the second episode and like others couldn't find it on iplayer. @David Thair why wasn't the expiry date updated? I thought the concept of iplayer was that things are available for 7 days! Not very happy :(

  • Comment number 12.

    Having just watched this drama I really enjoyed it apart from one thing. Various comments were made about the lead character being 'fat' and unattractive. The actress was however slim and attractive. Even with the duffle coat she still looked good. It was very off-putting. She could not have been more than a size 10/12. It is concerning that the director saw this actress as 'fat'.


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