The Field Of Blood: Directing the drama


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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.

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.

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.

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.

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