How we transformed Lark Rise's sets for The Night Watch

Monday 11 July 2011, 10:50

Martin Boddinson Martin Boddinson Production Designer

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I am the production designer on The Night Watch and prior to that I was production designer on Lark Rise To Candleford. This was convenient really because, as you will see later, the two shows are inextricably linked.

I am responsible for the look and feel of the show. It is my job to convince you that you really have stepped back in time to the Blitz era - that you are living and working in London and experiencing those events alongside the characters in the film.

I am responsible for not only designing the sets - both interior and exterior locations - but also for the props required to dress these sets, the vehicles that will drive along the roads, the sandbags that will line the streets, even down to the street signs.

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Helen is rescued from the rubble

The exterior of that building was used for the bombsite location, where Kay is searching frantically for Helen.

The opening shots of that sequence, where the camera pans down off the window of a bedroom and then tracks past the exposed broken edge of the building, was all shot in one night.

The damaged building that you see was the real building, though heavily braced and supported, and visited by BBC Health and Safety before we were given permission to use it.

The Night Watch was, without doubt, the hardest job of my career, for many reasons.

But, on the night when we were filming the scene where Kay attends the bombsite where she finds the dead children in the Anderson shelter, one of the extras used in that scene came up to a member of my department.

They said that as a child, during the Blitz, they used to play on bombsites like that and, to quote, "It used be just like this, it really takes me back."

In moments such as that you feel, well, maybe regardless of everything that was against us - time, money, etc - maybe we did our job properly. Maybe?

Martin Boddinson is the production designer on The Night Watch.

The Night Watch is on BBC Two at 9pm on Tuesday, 12 July.

Read a post by The Night Watch and Lark Rise To Candleford's costume designer, Pam Downe, on the BBC TV blog.

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

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    Comment number 1.

    Nice to see something well acted and different on the telly. I wasn't an avid watcher of Lark Rise so don't know the locations but I kept thinking that the ambulance 'depot' was used in that series about the fashion industry a year or so back. Was it?

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    Comment number 2.

    A reasonable self-pat on the back, Martin; but since you drew attention to the detail before I watched this rather good drama, I would suggest that the essential element of a bomb-blasted building is the layer of rubble and dust that would cover and settle on every surface; and that includes the furniture being tossed around whilst our hero searched for bodies. See still photo (of dusted and polished furniture) above....
    Try knocking down even a small old internal brick wall, or better, one of lath and plaster, and you will get a skip-full of rubble for your trouble...and your set-dressing.

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    Comment number 3.

    I thought the look of this was perfect - never watched Lark Rise, but have read Nightwatch. This looked how I imagined it. It was a great drama, but why was it only a one-off over 1.5 hours? It felt incredibly rushed and crammed in, particularly at the end. As Martin says the book is so full of detail - and the characters are so complex - we barely got any back story on them really. A shame - a 3-parter would have done it far more justice. But, an enjoyable bit of drama for a Tuesday night nonetheless.

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    Comment number 4.

    Fantastic mr Boddison, and all the actors....such an intens took me back to about my grandfather and parents told me about the war...and as an art historian, so many contemporary artists I wrote about....GREAT MOVIE....


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