On Friday, I watched the filming of the popular ITV comedy-drama, Doc Martin, in Port Isaac, a show which stars Martin Clunes as the titular character, Caroline Catz as his love interest, Louisa Glasson, and Dame Eileen Atkins as his aunt, Dr. Ruth Ellingham.
I can’t tell you how interesting, enlightening and enjoyable the day was.
The cast and crew, filming for the upcoming sixth series, began work at 7am and finished at 7pm, changing locations throughout the day, from by Martin’s house to Dolphin Street, from outside the old school to by the harbour front. Port Isaac doubles as the fictional Portwenn and has seen a massive increase in tourism for the fishing village located in Cornwall since the TV show first hit screens in 2004.
The only two main cast members that I didn’t see either filming or rediscovering the fishing village were Ian McNeice (Bert Large) and Caroline Catz – and I even saw current-Miss Marple, Julia McKenzie, who, I presume, guest stars in an episode or two (though this hasn’t been confirmed, and she could even join the cast as a regular!). Fans need not panic, however, as both are confirmed to return, McNeice apparently having spent the Thursday evening chatting with locals in the pub!
I advise any writer to see filming take place – whatever the show. You really do learn a lot. I think writers can get bogged down with narrative, dialogue and various other plot mechanics; seeing things being filmed gives you a completely different perspective on things. You learn what’s achievable, you learn about dynamics, you learn about sets and camera shots and dealing with an interested general public. You learn a lot more besides, of course – some things that maybe can’t be defined, but nonetheless should be present in your mind when scripting – and it all makes you a more competent, thoughtful writer, one who people actually want to work with.
Writers aren’t generally around on set. But I wish they were.
Writers just starting up can learn so much about how roles are defined; about how much effort and attention goes into even the smallest of scenes; about how sitting at your desk isn’t the end. It’s something incredibly simple to say, something everyone realises, but it has to be experienced to be really understood.
It also inspires. Some may find it boring or monotonous – but it gets to you. It makes you want to work in the TV and film industry… that is, if you truly want to. It’s perhaps the fork in the road, the decider.
If you want to work in that mad, scary and brilliantly ecstatic industry, this is when you’ll really know; when you’re right in the middle of it all, going behind the lens.