What I Learnt During Doc Martin Filming

30 Jun

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.

Doc Martin Filming Harbour 2

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!

Doc Martin Filming 2

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.

Port Isaac 2

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.


Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Television


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4 responses to “What I Learnt During Doc Martin Filming

  1. Janice Mahon

    July 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    I love this show. Martin Clunes sure lost a lot of weight, he looks wonderful!

    • prbates

      July 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Hey Janice,

      It’s such a consistently great show; it was a pleasure to see them filming. And yeah, you’re absolutely right: we remarked on how slim Clunes was looking while there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 😀

  2. Rebecca

    August 5, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Philip, Found your comments regards to writers interesting. I did travel to PI and caught filming for a week. I have done 2 scripts for the show, my first, and wish to submit to Buffalo Pic. Have journalism degree, honors program, and worked in radio for 3 years. From your experience what would best way to get scripts read? Send them in with cover letter okay, or ?? UK different from US protocol, so would appreciate your slant on it. Thanks!

    FYI,regards MC weight loss, heard he had been really ill for 2 wks.

    • prbates

      August 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks for reading.

      Ah, I didn’t know that about Martin Clunes! Thanks.

      I’m afraid to say that I’m not sure what Buffalo are after: generally, UK writers work on a script for their own hypothetical show, send that in to agents as an example of their writing and if the agency takes you on, they then find you work on established programmes like Doc Martin. In some cases, like Doctor Who, the showrunner may see your work on other shows and ask you for a script.

      I don’t think many production companies read unsolicited scripts, for purely liable reasons. Some, however, do, so I guess it’s worth asking!

      If not, though, don’t be discouraged. Any writing is great practise, and who knows, when you get an agent, they might be able to land you a gig on Doc Martin!

      My best advise, then, is to work on a script for your own show and get an agent. It’s a tough industry to break into, but there’s always room for more great writers.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of much use!

      Thanks for commenting, and good luck with your writing endeavours. Let me know what you decide to do. 🙂



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