Thursday 29 September 2011, 18:51
Would I be interested in meeting the Executive Producer Charles Thompson to discuss? How could I refuse?
It sounded like a dream job and just up my street: I'm Welsh for starters, and Shirley is a national institution after all.
The script for Shirley was beautifully written by Shelagh Stephenson.
As producer your role is to translate the script to the screen working with your director - the super-talented Colin Teague - and together develop a creative vision for the project.
We quickly gathered our team together and started the all important casting process.
We were so lucky that the divine Ruth Negga agreed to play Shirley.
We were also lucky to find all the locations we needed in and around Cardiff and Swansea, including London night clubs!
The sheer power and endurance of this amazing woman means it was a real responsibility to deliver a brilliant portrayal which captures the essence of Shirley.
The very wonderful Ruth Negga really did deliver this.
Ruth immediately submerged herself in Shirley - researching her and studying her to perfect the Welsh accent, the body language, the power of Shirley's performances and her emotional journey.
As well as reading two major works, the most recent biography of her by John Williams and the autobiography of her late personal manager Mike Sullivan, as a production team, we read old newspaper articles, looked at interviews, archive footage and performances.
After sifting through an enormous amount of material, it became clear that the story we wanted to tell was the one of Shirley's childhood, and her rise to international stardom in the 1960s.
It was while working on this project that I discovered so much more about Bassey's early years.
Even as a young woman, her life had all the stuff of drama.
She grew up as part of a large mixed race family living in poverty. Her father disappeared from her life while she was still a baby. Then there was the birth of her first child when Shirley was only 17, her relationship with her ambitious manager and her controversial first marriage to Kenneth Hume.
Poignant themes of the relationship between mothers and daughters emerged strongly for me, with Shirley's mother Eliza (played by the superb Lesley Sharp) along with Shirley as mother to her daughter, Sharon.
Shirley's is a powerful and uplifting life story.
This project had lots of challenges, not least because of the timescale.
The drama had to be ready for September to launch the Mixed Race Season and we were starting the preparation for the shoot in June.
In drama terms this is a very tight deadline - dramas can take years and years to develop and appear on the screen.
The shoot was just 13 days and waking up every morning hoping above hope that we would achieve everything we needed was one of the big pressures.
We did this through the sheer dedication and professionalism of everyone involved, especially Director Colin Teague, First Assistant Director Lee Trevor and Line Producer Catrin Lewis Defis - and of course Ruth herself.
Watching Ruth being filmed as she performed This Is My Life looking sensational in the beautiful Brangwyn Hall in Swansea (which doubled as a 1960s TV Studio) was completely magical and moved members of the crew to tears.
It is in the final moments of the film and it was a coming together and representation of all the talent on this project - from Shirley to Ruth, to every member of the cast and crew.
Katherine Lannon is the Producer of Shirley.
Part of BBC Two's Mixed Race Season, Shirley is broadcast on Thursday 29th September at 9pm.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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Friday 23 September 2011, 11:45
Tuesday 4 October 2011, 12:33