The making of Police 24/7

Series producer

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Our observational documentary team here at BBC Wales has been producing the 24/7 strand for the last five years. We send five small self-shooting teams into an institution to capture a working week in the life of that workplace – both upstairs and downstairs jobs.

It's a 360 degree look at the institution, to see what makes it tick and the stories which unfold on a daily basis.

Hospital 24/7 saw us film the staff and patients at the largest hospital in Wales, University Hospital in Cardiff. We captured the drama of ground-breaking surgery and life-changing emergency medicine as well as the work of the cleaners and maintenance staff who keep the hospital moving behind the scenes.

Tenby 24/7 documented the busiest week of summer in one of Wales' most popular holiday destinations.

And Vets 24/7, filmed at one of the oldest veterinary practices in Wales, featured all creatures great and small, from farm animals to exotic monkeys and the life and death situations that the staff had to manage during their working week.

Filming Police 24/7

The police force, with its diversity of occupational roles, both with the 'bobby on the beat' and behind the scenes non-policing jobs, felt like a rich storytelling area for the 24/7 strand. We felt strongly that we could present a week in the life of South Wales Police. Seven days of action with the cops on the street and the criminals they try to beat!

The first challenge was to gain trust and negotiate genuine access to the institution. This doesn't come straight away; it is an ongoing process of building the relationship and discussing the problems from both sides as we move through the various stages of the production process.

If the leadership of the institution buys into the idea, that then cascades down the chain of command and our teams can research stories and engage with characters on the ground. That is when real access happens. Our teams have to find the characters with the stories and plenty needs to happen during our week of filming – it's a big ask!

When filming on location, we have an Avid with drives and an edit assistant on location as we shoot the whole series tapeless and on HD. We use runners with each team to bring the memory cards back to the Avid where they are loaded and then recycled back for the teams to continue filming for the rest of the shift.

The drives are returned to the BBC at the end of the day. We have three offline cutting rooms to start rough cutting the footage the next day. This way I can keep across what is being shot and plug any gaps in the storytelling during the week.

Once filming is over, we then start dividing up the stories which have worked into each of the episodes. Interestingly, natural themes seem to emerge for different episodes, and of course representation and diversity are at the heart of what we do.

Our story is all about going on a shift with a copper, but this is then cut with non-policing stories such as the in-house tailoress at the headquarters keeping the top brass of the force in uniformed glory, or the property stores officer caring for the 8,000 weird and wonderful items for exhibiting at court - plus the guns and weapons which end up in her store.

It's probably this mix of upstairs downstairs, and how the organisation runs behind the scenes, that sets us apart from other police documentary series. And, of course, for our audience it's all about seeing the Welsh police in action with their own stories on the television screen.

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