These were the givens: a chance to work with some of the best young talent in the UK, in the form of The National Youth Theatre; a new play commissioned by the NYT that had yet to be written; and the opportunity to create a half-hour film for Sky Arts that had the NYT at its heart and the creation of the new play as our starting point.
The play was to explore the age of consent, set against a background of sexting and the sexualisation of young people. For us, the opportunity to explore the landscape of the play with the active participation of young performers who had ownership of that subject matter was creatively exciting.
Our commissioning editor at Sky Arts, Jo McClellan, encouraged us to be innovative in form and process. What a gift!
As creatives, your own life and interests always informs your work - even when that work is not autobiographical. In recent months we'd been exploring ways in which we could take the sort of subject matter that interested us as documentary filmmakers, and explore it in a different medium - in particular ones that involved live performance. We'd been inspired by a number of plays and performance pieces we'd seen, above all ones that used the tools of verbatim theatre, film, and the opportunities offered by site-specific performances. As we thought about this Sky Arts project we saw how discoveries from our explorations could point the way to a textured, multi-layered film that combined documentary with scripted material created in response to issues that arose from the early-days workshops for the play. Something that would feel light on its feet with a loose, improvisatory style, yet that would also deliver in terms of narrative.
So we began with three threads that would draw us through our film: documentary filming of the NYT in workshops as they explored the landscape of the play; interviews and audition selfies from the performers; and finally we would discover and cast a handful of the company as characters for whom we would create scripted material that would be written, performed and filmed on location in immediate response to matters arising from the workshops.
In short - we'd be making it up as we went along.
For our process to work, as filmmakers we had to be well prepared yet alert to where the story might lead us - core documentary skills. It also required the creative support of Sky Arts, the NYT, our amazing crew and production team, and - above all - the courage and generosity of the NYT's young performers to welcome us in to their process and lay their talent on the line.
You can see how it all came together in July on Sky Arts - we'll let you know the transmission date very soon.