You are here

BAFTA TV Sessions 2021: The Visual World of Small Axe

26 May 2021

Akua Gyamfi: Hello and good evening, I'm Akua Gyamfi and welcome to the BAFTA Television sessions: The Visual World of Small Axe supported by TCL Mobile who are for the second year supporting the TV Sessions. We are so grateful for their continued support. This Virtual Series celebrates the nominees from this year’s Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards and the British Academy Craft Awards. So before we get into it, here's some housekeeping before we start. 

Please join the conversation on socials using @BAFTA. If you have a question, please use the Q&A function if you're if you're joining us on Zoom. If you are joining us on Facebook or YouTube please put your questions in the chat. Closed captioning is available now, which you can turn on at the bottom of your screen via the CC button and before we get into it let's remind us of the wonderful world of Small Axe

[Clip plays] 

Amazing, that's brilliant. So first of all I have to apologize. Unfortunately, Steve McQueen is unable to join us this evening, however, it's still going to be a wonderful conversation. Joining us tonight we have Chris Dickens, the editor; Jacqueline Durran, costume design; Helen Scott, production design. Welcome everybody. 

Chris Dickens: Hi 

Jacqueline Durran: Hello. 

AG: Hello, hello. First of all, congratulations to you all, Small Axe picked up five wins at last night's BAFTA TV Craft Awards, Helen, directly for production design and Jacqueline for costume design, and also Small Axe is also nominated for groundbreaking 15 nominations at this Sunday’s BAFTA general awards. What's it like being a part of this winning production and as you reflect on how impactful Small Axe has been overall? And I'll go to Helen first. 

Helen Scott: Wow, what was it like? It was an amazing experience, obviously. Fantastic energy behind it with Steve, who is such a--he's such a, you know, incredibly intelligent man and is a great sort of, sort of force, you know. He was--he just kind of really sort of facilitated us all, I think, you know, in a way that was very productive. You know he gave us, he gave us a kind of strong idea of what he was after but then he let you kind of interpret that and bring things to the table yourself so that's how it was, really. You know, it was just exciting, was exciting and it was satisfying. It was rewarding and very gratifying to obviously have had all this kind of attention as well. As a result, you know it was a great. It was great fun to do, hard work, but great. 

AG: Jacqueline. 

JD: Yeah, I think that there were two things. First of all was Steve is amazing and he really did, you know, bring the whole thing to life. But I also felt like really a big responsibility for telling the stories, and it was in most cases, not Lover’s Rock actually, but Alex Wheatle’s story and the other stories were personal stories and there was a great obligation to really honour those stories and like bring kind of your best game to kind of representing them on camera. And Steve was just so, so inspiring and such a great leader in in us all together bringing these stories to the to the screen that he is, yeah, he's amazing. 

AG: Christopher, Chris--I was about to call you Christopher then! 

CD: Yeah, well again, yes, working with Steve was the main thing for me. I'd never worked with Steve before, and he was, you know, it took a while to get to know him obviously and know how he works, but it was a long process for me, I mean, I'm sure it was for the others too, but I was doing this for nearly a year and a half. 

JD: Wasn't that long for me. 

CD: And it was just an extraordinary year. You see, it's sort of coincided with some incredible world events, and I suppose I never realized quite what it would—how meaningful that series would end up being at the beginning, I just loved the material and I sort of was really loved working with Steve and getting to, you know, sort of into the into the stories and it was just sort of like a sort of snowball, really. As last year, sort of carried on, you know, sort of finished, it became bigger, you know. And I think that was the thing. It sort of took me by surprise, in a way. I always loved the stories, that went without saying, but it had more significance as we went on, as we worked on it more. 

AG: I think, I mean, the surprising impact; I don't know, I was surprised about the response, even my own emotional response to the series and I think it's something personal that what I haven't seen and wanted to see for so long being visualized, that took my breath away in my reaction to this wonderful series. But there is a lack of information about the British black experience and this is why it resonated so much. So for you guys to draw--where did you draw from to start your process with this narrative, that hasn't been seen before? I'll start with Jacqueline.

JD: Well I mean I had the two specific episodes, so one was Lover’s Rock and one was Alex Wheatle and the process was slightly different because the films are different. You know one is not somebody's personal story, but the story of one party on one night in a specific place. So there was a sort--there was a lot of research went into that in a specific way, and the Alex Wheatle story was based on his life, really. So the first thing or one of the first things we did was we went and spoke to him and talked to him about, you know, the clothes he wore, the kind of environment he was in, the life he had, and he has an amazing memory. In fact, his memory is so great that I used some of the things he told me in Lover’s Rock because he had the best memory of fashion in those specific years. Lover’s Rock was interesting because, it's a strange thing because that late 70s style has been reused again and again and again and so has lots of style related to sound systems and everything. It's quite familiar, well relatively familiar, and we kept going, we went through and through just tons of photographic reference from sound systems and just general photography of that date and in there we found just very few pictures of women in the specific style of dresses that we ended up using, that we just chose to be the way we were going to represent that party on that date and it isn't that that is the way that everybody dressed at that particular time, but it is one way, and it's a way that hasn't been reinterpreted and reused and regurgitated in fashion quite as much as all the other looks. So it felt fresher and it felt new and it was  

way for us to tell that story in a kind of slightly different way. That was really photographic reference. There's just so much brilliant photography from that period. 

AG: Thank you and Helen with the production design. Actually I've read that you said you grew up during this time, So what—

HS: Well, well yeah I mean—

AG: Was that? 

HS: That's about right, I mean, I do remember those parties, but just something Jacqueline just said, you know, that sort of seeing those people wearing those clothes, it's so refreshing to see that and quite captivating, and very, very unusual to see that on screen. And that whole film, so unusual, you know, to have that kind of time devoted to it on mainstream television, you know, just kind of never seen it before at all, and I think that's what has kind of caught people's imagination, really, or caught, you know, caught the attention of people. It's just that it's very unusual. I'm sorry. What was your question? 

AG: You know what I was trying to think what did I ask? I think jumping off from what Jacqueline said about memory and having Alex’s wonderful memory to aid the visual, if you were drawing from experience of maybe having seen those parties, and what else? What else pulls you into get started?

HS: Yeah, yeah, I mean I did, I did recognize aspects of what I was trying to portray, and there's a load to learn because there was a lot I didn't know at all. And you know, for me, the excitement was working with Steve McQueen and the stories and you know, this kind of opportunity to design for those periods as well. The research side is everything but there is, like Jacqueline says, a lot of research to be found: archives, talking to people, photographs, videos, you know all that. There's lots and in the end you have to kind of filter it really and draw from it the elements that interest you or that you think speak to the stories we're trying to tell and sort of, yeah, gel them together somehow. So it's a sort of hybrid really. What you end up with is a hybrid of all the things you've seen, all the things you've learned, all the things you remember. I suppose. Lover’s Rock I remember more and also actually Education was one I felt quite connected to because I went to school about the time of the story, you know, I was about the same age as that character so I kind of knew what the school was like. So, so yeah, it's kind of drawing on my own memories as well. 

AG: And Chris, you said there was a surprise for the reaction, so does that come from a space of not necessarily knowing this world, but also then you've got to emotionally connect with this and stitch this epic, these epic scenarios together in a way that is authentic and true. 

CD: Yeah. 

AG: That's a big feat for something that you might not necessarily know. So what was your--What was the thing that made it click for you and say this is how I'm going to do it? 

CD: I mean like Helen I lived through, well lived through a lot of it, apart from Mangrove, which was before, I was only just born then. So I remember, I remember the Brixton riots, I remember the Birmingham riots, I remember, you know, parties like Lover's Rock and sound systems, going to Notting Hill Carnival, things like that but from a different point of view, which is the really crucial thing about it, and so this was like another country for me. This is what I saw was like oh is this the same place that I've lived in for the last 40-40 years or 40-50 years or something? And of course, that was the sort of path that I went. So Steve and I had lots of conversations about music. What sort of music I was into, and I was sort of into punk rock and things like that, which actually had quite a lot of, not similarities in in the music but in the attitude with reggae, and reggae and punk had a big kind of like a fusion, it was happening in Notting Hill, and so you know Steve and I talked about that type of thing and what we were into but also what filmmakers from that time, and so that was a sort of journey. You know we apart from exploring the kind of like the music, which I mean going back to the music that was a massive part of the films. I mean, particularly Alex Wheatle, Lover’s Rock and even Mangrove it sort of gave it an identity and we did a lot of work on it like that, it sort of helped to give it life, you know, and so that was a that was a big key for me and particularly in Lover’s Rock rediscovering that music which, I knew some of it, but I didn't know a lot of the rest of it, and so discovering all that again was just like, for me it was something incredible, and of course a party like that I never realized that they had, the DJ's have one deck not two, which is a really crucial thing, because when we go to a club and there's two decks, they mix them and it’s seamless, but these guys don't do that. They stop the record, put sound effects on and then put another one on really quickly and it's really bizarre, but it actually creates some really unique sound and in terms of the edit it gave us a lot more stuff to play, with sound effects and this kind of stuff you know. Slowly we got more and more immersed in that world. And what was I saying? Yeah, about filmmakers and essentially all the stories were different, but they had a sort of truth about them in terms of the the way they were shot, you know 

there was no frills really, essentially in a way that we we did a--I love like Alan Clark who did a lot of movies in the late ‘70s, ‘80s and that with Steve was one of our references, movies, TV, films and things that he made which were made in Britain and things like that you know which were really kind of straightforward storytelling, but like full of life and that was kind of that how this whole thing began. That's what I had in my head and yeah. And then again, I lived through the period so I had a lot of personal references, but just from a different point of view. 

AG: Uhm, thank you. Jacqueline. You said you've got to try and find an angle that's not been seen before, so you know we've seen the 70s visualized in so many different ways—

JD: It's not so much that you don't want to use something that's been seen before in a way, but what happens a lot with 70s clothes is that we reuse them, so we keep making them fashionable again so there's like a ‘90s way of wearing the ‘70s and there's a '00s way and it means that it doesn't—it kind of takes away from something that you feel about the period. So in order to get to the period you want to find things that haven't been overused and also you just want to make sure that people wear the clothes. If you do find like the original piece that's exactly the right thing you then have to be sure that you wear it in the way it was worn then, not the way we would wear it now if we re-appropriate it. So it was about that, it was trying to get back to something that would feel—it wouldn't feel kind of tired or too familiar, but it would feel like something that was definitely part of the period. So it was that really. But anyway, sorry, I interrupted you. 

AG: No, but that's fine. No, that's good 'cause it was, I had kind of been misinterpreted what you were saying, and that's a real clear explanation. And but also then, how do you not let the characters become caricatures of this time and of this moment? Pulling the authenticity, was it a struggle? Was it different to anything you've done before? Was there anything you learned new or had to kind of like, I'm not experienced, I'm starting fresh in this at this point? 

JD: So that was actually my main thing. That was the main thing that when I spoke to Steve and when I realized that I was going to do the job, and I really wanted to do it like to the very best that I could, and what I what I want to do is I really wanted to get something--I wanted to get the sort of an authentic diversity into it in the sense that I didn't want to pick up the same old things that people pick up again and again that they say signify that period or that kind of person and I wanted to look more closely and in greater detail at the reference, and I wanted to really try and get back to something that was more authentic. And so in that sense, that's why that ties into what I just said about not wanting to kind of use things that are a bit tired 'cause they get used over and over again, and I wanted to get back to the source material and kind of sit with it. And then when you're doing that you can kind of find different things about it you can give to different characters. And then it's also about a balance, just like everything else is, so that you want you know, the way you dress your principal characters is slightly different to ways you dress the crowd just because you want them to be more noticeable, but one of the amazing things I think about Lover’s Rock, which speaks to all of us in all the departments and obviously largely to Steve, and Shabier is the fact that Lover’s Rock just didn't really have principle actors. It did have principle actors, obviously it had the protagonist, but the context and the crowd and everybody in the scenes was equally as important, and so there wasn't that sort of difference between the crowd and the principals. It really was a party, and I've never really experienced that before. I mean, you can't quite tell when you're watching it who is an actor and who isn't. I mean Steve gets such amazing performances from the supporting artists, it's unbelievable. So in that sense, what I've just said is only partly true, but it also is about creating that look of our party and there is something that, because it was largely a joyful experience watching the party it was it was really important to try to stylize it a bit without compromising what we wanted to do in terms of authenticity. But just to tweak it so that it became something beautiful and Steve has mentioned before slightly fairy tale and magical, but almost like it was how you wanted to remember parties were.You know there was something really kind of special about it, so in that sense it's slightly heightened, I'd say. 

AG: Definitely I could go on about that, but I feel like I'd hog it. Just to say that it was a moment that from beginning to end I had memories and it was very, you know, very relatable and I think it really worked, and a couple of those dresses I would really like please. Helen, can you talk about how difficult or easy it was to find locations and again bring it into this authenticity? Because I think there's something about something set in London, especially when you're from London and West London. I live in West London so you always looking for those signifiers, like ‘I recognize that spot’, and even if maybe sometimes you can't because the location can't be, you know, you can't get it for whatever reason, was that an issue that you wanted people to really recognize it? Or did you just want to create this essence of the time and the space and was it difficult at all in any way? 

HS: Uh, yeah, it was was difficult. It was complicated because I really had sort of a notion I suppose that we would be able to set each story in a separate parcel in a different part of London in order to give it its own flavor and its own architecture, but it quickly became apparent that was never going to happen because you just can't find everything you're looking for in one area anyway, but then, like with Notting Hill we decided to remove it slightly from Notting Hill, we wanted to kind of shoot it around Kilburn so it sort of had a feel of Notting Hill, but then we needed to find All Saints Road and that was difficult and we also had to come shoot parts of it well all over London really. I mean every location was compromised in one way or another. You know it sort of came to a false or dead end. The location would come to a dead end and you couldn't move any further so you'd have to stitch it together with another location somewhere else in another part of London, and that was that was very frustrating really that you know they couldn't kind of get—

AG: Could I ask what the compromises were and why something would come to a dead end when it comes to location? And this is me coming very like, I don't know what the hell—

HS: Well, for example in the opening sequence to the Mangrove story where we had Frank Crichlow gambling in a gambling den and then he comes up some steps and then he goes. We really wanted the Westway to feel like a kind of a community divide, you know, for it to be symbolic of London being redeveloped. So you know after the war and how that was splitting the community, the Westway was, you know, not helping anybody who lived in that area. Helped the people trying to jump it, you know, but not the people living there. But that whole sequence I can't remember how many locations we used, but it was probably 10 to get him to the Mangrove restaurant. It was stitching together several different components and part of that was not that we wanted to make a literal journey from A to B, but because each, you know, moment of that journey has to tell part of the story, but you know, it would have been fantastic to find it all in a more natural, organic way. But we couldn't do that, we were, you know I can't remember where it was exactly way outside the M25 to the north, Deptford, Kilburn, I can't remember but you know there were a lot of locations and so that's complicated, it's time consuming, there's lots of travel. 

There's lots of kind of frustration because you just want it to be a bit more seamless, so that's the kind of difficulty we were up against us because you just cannot find those sort of locations in their original condition anymore, you know? You have a kind of aspiration that you will, but it just never seems to happen that way. 

AG: Well done for those 10 locations. 

HS: I may have exaggerated, but I don't think I have. 

AG: But then I suppose Chris, are Helen's problems your problems when it comes to stitching it all together and editing it? How does that affect it? 

CD: It wasn't because you did a good job of it so. I mean those locations around, I know them. All Saints Road I go down every day. Somebody the other day said hang on, that's not Notting Hill, that’s around the corner from us, isn't it? And I said Oh yeah, OK, but it doesn't matter and it's the whole point is actually it worked and there was never any problem with that, never. I mean, you know, it's getting that to work, particularly in the Mangrove actually. I knew it and part of that was the way it was shot because it was actually only really one big wide or one or two big wide shots at the beginning of the Westway, which we created as a visual effects thing, and then we went under it and then after that we were like right in there pretty much for the entire film, you know, there weren't really like big wide establishing shots. We were there within the crowd or in the riot or within those kind of places in the courtroom. There wasn't really a wide establish of the courtroom, not a classic or traditional one. We tried it a bit. We tried to even to find a library shot thinking we could stitch that together with something else and it just didn't work with the language of the film, because again, this was another view of this society that we're seeing from the inside. So you know the locations became not that they didn't matter, but you weren't looking at that, you were looking at the people in amongst it. 

AG: I'd love to know about all of your relationships with Steve in his role as writer, director and creator, in parallel with your roles on the project. Chris, Steve was in the editing room as well so what was that like and how did you balance that act and then what's your relationship between Steve and his role and yours as editor? 

CD: Well, I mean, you know it's difficult to say like a classic director, editor, relationship most of the time. How did it work? I mean, whilst we were filming Steve came in every day he could and we worked on--he likes to just get straight in there and get to the finished sequence that works, and a lot of those sequences didn't change that much right from the beginning. But he kind of wants you to think of your own idea, he wants you to lead. He sort of wanted me to lead with it and present something to him rather than him having to say oh, this is what I wanted to do and this was my vision of it and all that, he didn't really talk about that. He wanted to let me just cut it. I started this series late so I started editing Mangrove whilst they were filming Lover’s Rock so I was doing both at the same time and so I sort of did as much as I could of Mangrove and then it was getting a bit heavy, the story, so I just went and jumped to Lover’s Rock as it was as it was filming and so I sort of had an antidote to that, and then of course every time Steve came in, he wanted to see Lover's Rock, he didn't want to see Mangrove, you know Lover’s Rock was his kind of like, what's the word? I think he saw it as the sort of jewel of the series, in a way. Right from earlier kind of slightly experimental, but in terms of our relationship, I mean, you know, it went on for a very long time and then at a certain point we were in different countries because of the whole lockdown and stuff, so I was working in London, he was in Holland and briefly had to come back from Holland. How can I describe it? Steve's very, he's not like any other director I've worked with. He's really unique and the main thing that he sort of had to educate me as to what his kind of language, you know, the way he works. I found I cut things a little tight, little short, particularly on Lover’s Rock there’s a couple of sequences in there that that, you know, I just thought, OK, Silly Games is a three and a half minutes long song so they did a bit of improv, so I made it a little longer and I thought that felt about right and Steve came in to watch it and he says it’s not long enough, so the process was about making it longer. I said well, how much longer, I said I'll have another go, I'll make it longer. So I sort of doubled it in length, and Steve said no, it still doesn't feel right I want to put more in. I said well how much he said, well, everything. Basically we used almost everything that they shot, and in that particular sequence there were three takes, maybe four that they just run the camera and this is like going back to what Jacqueline said about he got great performances out of the supporting artists but also it looked beautiful. I mean in in every way, the costumes, the design, the photography, you name it. It looked beautiful so that allowed us to hold on, 

To hold shots. Particularly with that film. I mean they they all have a different way, a different approach in terms of the editing and we could talk for probably days about that, but like Lover’s Rock is quite specific in that holding, and that wasn't the only sequence. Like the Kunta Kinte dub sequence at the end they did three times and we used every one. They went back and replayed the song, which is just---no one, most people would never do that, except Steve and of course, what you do is you're then starting to build up a reality of it, almost like a home video or something, and in most of Steve's films, he has shots that are held for—like in Hunger, there's one that holds for ten minutes or something and it's like a kind of not so much a signature thing, but something that he just ends up doing. just whatever he gets it gets you to fall behind that sort of vision, you know, and so that was it. Make it longer. Make the whole thing longer, and therefore the whole experience was slightly, I think as a film, it's slightly different. And it felt real, felt like you were there. 

AG: Absolutely. I was actually going to ask you about that scene, you explained it beautifully. 

CD: Sorry. 

AG: No, no it’s fine. It was seamless. It was, yeah, that was a very powerful scene and very emotive and among the crowd, the audience I watched it with, we were there. That's why something about Lover’s Rock in there every step of the way, every set, every moment, and that particular scene it dragged you in it, you couldn't ignore it and you were there, really. 

CD: They went crazy, those guys, they went absolutely mad and there there's hardly any--I mean, Steve just said they just did it. I said I don't believe that. 

JD: It's never happened before so I think it's got something to do with Steve, myself! 

CD: Yeah, and I have heard that that place they shot that is around the corner from me and that's condemned now or something, isn't it, that building? 

HS: Yeah, that's very likely. It was falling down while we were using it, you realized that? There was all part of the house we couldn't go into. 

AG: Oh wow. 

HS: Yeah, there were kind of props holding up the floor in the room next door. 

CD: Miracle. 

HS: Yeah, that was a great location actually because that was the opposite of the Mangrove in the sense that it gave us everything we needed. 

CD: Yeah. 

HS: In one sort of bubble. it was fantastic because we got all the angles that were scripted. The relationship between the stairs, the party, the entrance, the kitchen, it was all just kind of laid out before our eyes, really so the shape of it was there. I just had to make it look right, I know. Very good location.

AG: And then your relationship with Steve in your role as you know, production, design sorry and Steve as director and writer; what were your conversations? What happens between the two of you? 

HS: Well, it's kind of similar really in that I--Steve, really surprised me because every director is different, but he really put his trust in me and I think with all other HoDs and beyond, I think he was very happy to embrace what each person could bring. It took me a while to get used to that, to be honest, I kind of was a bit shy of it. I thought that, well surely-- I'd refer to him quite often. I'd say what do you think? And he’d say, well you tell me, you're the designer. And that was kind of a bit scary until I kind of got to know him a bit better, but also very, very liberating and empowering and just unusual. It kind of leaves you at the end feeling like you really have made a very personal contribution to the project in a way that you don't often get to experience. It was it was really, not just retrospectively, but also at the time it was it was really, really energizing. I enjoyed it.

AG: Jacqueline, your relationship with Steve. What were some of your conversations, were you left to your own devices? 

JD: I don't know, I wouldn't really describe it as being left to my own devices. I would say that it's sort of like you propose something and he counter proposes and then you kind of move on and you kind of feed off of each other’s ideas and you arrive somewhere at something that's gonna be right for the film. But it's very much that he wants contributions from people, and it's not, I don't think it's really because he... You know he has his own vision, but he wants to get, and I think it's part of how you create something that's true, is you get more than one point of view and you work with different points of view and then you end up with something that's richer for that. So I think very much that that's how it works is that you all, everybody, it’s not limited to us three Heads of Department, it's hearing people’s ideas and putting them, kind of filtering them and manipulating them so that you end up with the thing that you want, but that's built out of many points of view. I mean, that's how I viewed it and I think that's how I still view it in a way, is that it's lots of people’s contributions that are honed down by Steve and made into something, so I suppose that's how I view it. 

CD: That's true, we even use some of the research material in the edit. We went back and looked at all the stills that had been used and all that. We didn't look at costumes, but it really helped me because it's like I saw the research that other people have done, photographic references and things like that, it really helps you understand how you're gonna put the thing together.

HS: I think there's also something very fluid about Steve, you know. He's got a very strong vision, but he's also very happy to change--not happy to he will change his mind. You know as well, but he’s not frightened to do that, he's not rigid. Because he does listen to people and he does consider what they're saying he will, you know, quite often shift a bit and that's great. 

CD: Yeah, and let things go, he sort of doesn't fuss with things, particularly in the edit, like there's some-- we did fuss with some areas, but others first cut of it you know, we worked on it and that was it. He likes letting things breathe creatively. 

HS: I was just going to say when we were actually shooting some scenes as well he would just sort of quite radically change how he shot them from what was planned and it made them very succinct as well. He was very, you know, he's very good at kind of cutting through to the point at the scene and sort of getting rid of all the peripheral distractions. 

AG: I was going to say because this is such a personal story and it's an important story and it's and there would have been a, there was a huge expectation for the awaiting audience, especially the British black community that was wanting this narrative. Did you have any--were you nervous about how it would be risking your work? 

JD: Yeah. 

AG: Speak on it Jacqueline. Speak on it. 

JD: Yeah, I was nervous and it comes back to the to the fact that it's not my story but I want to use the skills that I've accumulated over my career to help Steve tell this story. So I want to honour it and I want to do the best that I can. But yes, I was really nervous and I and it really, really meant a lot to me that I would be able to represent people in the way that felt authentic to the people that knew, you know, whose first hand experience it was. So I called on a lot of people to look at things, to tell me their point of view. I asked all the actors to ask their parents, I was conscious all the time of trying to nail it into the community and I was very apprehensive about it. Yeah, that was really one of my main things that I wanted to do, and it was the thing that I was kind of 

not that I wouldn't be pushed any way to keep looking at more and more reference to try and nail the detail to try and avoid the cliché, all these things. But that was also the motivator is that I just wanted to get to a place where we managed to create a look that was more authentic than you often see. Not that you never see it but it's very rare. 

AG: And to expand on the question, then, do  you guys ever feel--because comparing this project to any of your previous projects, because it was a black British story, was that the weight, the pressure? And yeah, I don't know, maybe I'm asking the same thing, but just was that specifically the weight and pressure of it, of getting it right? Or have you felt that pressure before in other projects? Helen?

HS: Well yeah, it is a pressure you feel on all projects, but yes, I think, you know if it isn't your world exactly, you know you might have touched it within some other context or lived in a parallel kind of way, you just have to kind of try to understand it and try to absorb as much true, authentic information as you can and do the research and listen and watch and just do the best you can, understand it the best you can and convey it you know. Yeah, it’s a pressure. 

AG: Chris 

CD: I felt nervous in a way, only that again because you know, yeah, they're not my personal stories, but basically Steve was my kind of test of what was right or wrong essentially. Because a lot of these stories were things he experienced, like education, and he sort of talked, you know, the father in Red, White and Blue Steve would talk about his own father and all that, and like you know you still have, and I could talk about mine, you know, you still have all that in common despite the fact that it's not my story. Essentially my thing is just to concentrate on the story and tell that the best way I possibly can with Steve, you know. And that does it justice essentially, is to get it to work essentially and then you know I did feel nervous but not as we went on because we were getting such good feedback. The actors started seeing it when doing their ADR and stuff and they were loving it. You know you start to have faith in it and it's often like that on a production, you don't know, you never know if it's good or bad right at the beginning. It's just the weight of opinion as you're doing it, and you're having successive screenings with people. By the way, Steve, he has sort of final cut of the piece. So even if there are different opinions, in the end he's the one that makes the decision, you know, and so we had a lot of notes from BBC and people like that who loved it, said they loved it, gave us notes, but we didn't necessarily do their notes. 

We made the film that Steve wanted to make and I think that's important too, because it's quite distinctively Steve McQueen as well, isn't it? And that gets you through it as well. The stories are true stories and they are authentic but it's Steve's version of them. 

AG: We've got a question from the audience, and please guys keep them coming, there's a question for Jacqueline. The person says I'd love to know more about your costume team. Did you bring on specific people for your programs, or was there an existing team for the whole series? I really loved your approach and congratulations on the BAFTA, From Sally, a costume trainee. 

JD: So the series--I was the person that was approached by Steve first to do the whole series, but I wasn't able to do the whole series so I had two co-designers on the series, Lisa Duncan and Sinéad Kidao, and we each did two episodes each and in a nominal way I was overseeing the whole thing but I didn't really do any overseeing because they were perfectly capable of doing their episodes themselves and so that was one way, is that only part of the series is my take on this period and two other people were involved. What was the other part of the question? I think the team--and then obviously each person, so Lisa Duncan had her own specific team which were completely separate to my team and my team and Sinéad’s team were more overlapping so that some people, Mark Lord for instance, did all of the crowd costumes for four episodes. So it was much more mixed in between our four episodes, but otherwise we had, yeah, it's just a team working it. 

AG: I'm guessing that as Sally is a costume trainee, she might be thinking, hey, Jacqueline. How do I get in touch? Is that route to Jacqueline? 

JD: Yeah, there we go. 

AG: A question for Chris, did you feel like you were cutting different films or was there a sense that you were editing a continuous story narrative work? 

CD: No, definitely cutting different things because every one of them even was shot on a different format. One was shot on sixteen millimetre other, you know they all felt like different films and therefore we approached them differently. Like Mangrove for instance was particularly a film in two parts, which actually was written as two episodes of what originally was a TV series, but Steve said—

AG: Everybody is frozen. OK, we were so drastically still, I wasn't sure. But Chris has, hopefully he'll be back soon. I might move on to the next question. There's a question for Helen. Congratulations to all, in particular for Lover’s Rock, which was such a creative triumph. What was the most challenging of the five stories to design? And that’s from Julian Alcantra? Hello Julian. 

HS: Hello Julian. What was the most challenging? It's really hard to single anything out, they all had their challenges and there were kind of similar challenges, really. I suppose, Lover's Rock kind of sat more comfortably because it was, you know, like I said earlier, it was kind of this finite thing, we weren’t all over the place so it wasn't so logistically difficult. I suppose in general the difficulty was finding locations, once we'd found the locations it sort of ran more smoothly. I can't think that one was more difficult than another. We did actually move, we relocated to the West Midlands, for the last two episodes of the of the shoot, not the last two that were transmitted. That kind of gave us a boost of fresh air really because it meant that we could give those episodes a different look, give them a different atmosphere. I think we might have struggled to do those in London, I think we were kind of running out of steam a bit in London and location choices, so it was, you know, it was very helpful to make that move. I can't really think of any other way of answering the question. 

AG: Jacqueline were there any difficulties for you at all? 

JD: Yeah, loads of difficulties, but there was one difficulty that was sort of built in, which was trying to tell Alex Wheatle’s story which covered so many years in such a short amount of time so you didn't want to be in the situation where he was constantly changing costumes, and things seemed to be rushing through, but at the same time you were conscious that you had to show the passage of time and at the same time you had things which everybody knows the dates for, like the uprising and everything else, which gives you a pin point and you know that if he was born then that so much time has passed, so that was quite a difficult thing. It involved making some choices to sort of reduce the number of changes, but it doesn't really work when you actually see how much time has passed. So I had problems like that and just problems of time, you know, because the thing was structured to be a TV series it means that where you would normally roll on half of your characters from one episode to the next, we were doing five different films with different crews so the people don't overlap. The thing you've set up in the last episode doesn't help you in the next, so it was a lot to do, you know. Lover’s Rock, I mean it's such a short amount of time so we shot Lover’s Rock in ten days. So it's tiny and quick and by the time you shot l Lover’s Rock you're already on to the next one. So that was quite a lot. 

AG: I can imagine! There's a question for both of you: I'm interested in the use of pattern in costume and wallpaper design in Lover’s Rock and what was available to a community as opposed to what may have been available to the mainstream. Was it often design? Did you use references from photographic evidence? And this is in reference to Lover’s Rock for both of you. Welcome back, Chris! 

CD: Hi, sorry I don't know what happened there. 

AG: We’ll come back to you in a sec. 

CD: Don’t worry! 

AG: Yeah, Helen or Jacquline go first. 

JD: I don't mind, you want to go Helen? 

HS: No, you can go. 

JD: Yes, there's lots of things in that really. Yes, I did use actual reference, and the main pattern in the costume is the men’s shirts and not all of the men have that particular type of pattern shirt, but it was a thing and we chose to use it on a section of the actors and the supporting artists. So that was one thing, we also used very minimal pattern in the women's dresses. There are only a couple that had any patterns at all, it was mainly blocks of color, which was just about the way that it looked really, and from something I said earlier, it is a stylized view, even though we did take all of the reference, as Helen said you kind of filter the reference to end up with the look that you want so Lover’s Rock was certainly a filtered look and kind of heightened and stylized so all of the looks that were there were correct, but whether that was the exactly how it would have appeared? I mean, it could have there's no reason not, but it I would say it was heightened. But not much pattern. 

AG: Helen was there anything else to add? 

HS: Yeah, well I do enjoy using pattern and you know, in the Mangrove I chose pattern specifically because it was contrasting. You know I wanted--because it's a very sort of graphic story we talked about the written word and the written message and the graffiti and this kind of idea of black and white, you know, ink on paper, kind of theme came up for that film and so that's what I was trying to do with the patterns as well to keep a kind of very controlled color palette but then make the patterns really bold. So that's what I was trying to do there and then in Lover’s Rock again a big pattern wallpaper and that was because I wanted the people to be slightly dwarfed in that house. I wanted the house to be 

big and I wanted them to kind of bounce around inside it as if they were in a speaker box. I wanted the whole house to feel like it could vibrate and the paper kind of helped that to give it sort of a grainy texture. The scale of it was kind of deliberate to make the space feel larger as well. 

AG: Coming back to Chris, you were saying about how, how it felt, that it felt like stitching—or you felt like you were you had they were individual films. 

CD: That's right. 

AG: But I want to ask about the relationship between all of you, when you're editing do you say, Oh my God, that color clashes with that dress, I can't edit this anymore, I’ve got to stop? What's your relationship between the three of you in bringing this piece together? From an editor's perspective, and then the rest of you. 

CD: Uhm, you mean bit us 3? 

AG: Yeah, is there a relationship or a conversation that you guys have? Could you see pattern clashing and say no? 

CD: Oh no. 

JD: It's done by then. 

AG: Chris, come back! 

HS: I would say—

AG: Go on, Helen. 

HS: Yeah, I would say there's definitely a conversation between costume designer and production designer and that's ongoing, we're always talking and you know, collaborating and comparing and checking in with colors and exactly pattern, block color, we talk about that a lot. So if it clashes on the day, it's because we meant it to. 

AG: And it's the ‘70s, things are supposed to clash. There’s a question another question from the audience: When you were building the teams, was it important for the teams you were all working with to be representative of the community portrayed? Aside from Steve himself, was there conscious effort to have black British talent working behind the scenes as well as on screen, which there's been a big conversation about crew and representation behind the screen. How did you adapt to this? Was it pressure to find representative talent from how things worked in the past and how things have changed going forward? Jacqueline first. 

JD: Yes, there was definitely, we put a great effort into getting as diverse a crew as possible and it isn't easy because historically the number of people coming into film from diverse backgrounds has been very low, so the number of people with experience is low still, and that's something that we need to change and Small Axe was a great job in that sense for giving people an opportunity to come and get some experience and to get their first kind of foot into the industry in costume at least and as I said, the crews varied and so we had a sort of movable group of people, but that was definitely 100% what we were aiming to do and I still find it really difficult to recruit people from diverse backgrounds, I haven't found that many. There's a lot of initiatives starting, but still it's taking a long time for people to get through the institutions and get onto the floor in film and TV. So I just welcome every initiative to make that passage simpler and to get more and more people coming to work in the industry. Because in films that I've worked on since it's been very hard to find people. 

AG: Helen, I would imagine the same for production design?

HS: Absolutely the same. Yeah, we were wholeheartedly doing everything we could to recruit from diverse backgrounds, but also I wanted it--you know, for the reasons of good production design as well and to have a direct connection or link with people from that community who could authenticate the things we were doing and who could also you know help with background research as well, you know, direct research which was really, really helpful, and direct experience. 

AG: Yeah, I think there are lots of conversations happening, and I think it's great to know that there are efforts being made and it's also how to continue these efforts and not just be limited to this is a black story, so let's get representative crew in this story. It has to be across the board so that everyone can be exposed to different conversations. I think the richer the diversity behind the scenes brings a richer story, I think, in collaboration and bringing it to life. I think what you guys did was bring your perspective to a story that was authentic to Steve and the other people in the room, but your perspective being there especially, you know, Helen, you said you’d been to a blues, you‘d been to a dance, so bringing that to that story enhances it, I think. I think it's important. I think we're done, I think times up and it's a shame Chris couldn't. 

JD: We couldn’t get him back.  

AG: But I must say, first of all, congratulations to you both on the BAFTA win and thank you for wonderful contributions. A wonderful piece of work. And so I'd like to thank Helen and thank Jacqueline for your time. Thank you to the audience. Thank you to Chris and to Steve who couldn't be with us unfortunately. And many thanks to TCL for their continued support, our sponsors TCL. The next event in this series is an Instagram Live with Ncuti Gatwa and Aimee Lou Wood on Thursday 27th of May, 5:45 PM UK time. My name is Akua Gyamfi, founder of The British Blacklist and it's been wonderful to be with you all tonight. Thank you so much and good night.

HS: Thank you. 

JD: Thank you.