6th August 2014

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Filming Down Under - a glimpse behind the scenes

How long did Phil: Secret Agent Down Under take to film?
The Producer/Directors spent three weeks in each location working on their episode. They had two weeks to prepare for filming which involved meeting the British family/couples who had arrived in Australia, making contact with all the estate agents in the search area and viewing all the properties selected in the search area. For every episode we filmed over four consecutive days, however, the PD's also did some additional filming days during their two-week prep time. It was a very busy time for the teams.

Does it take longer when filming abroad?
It doesn’t take longer when filming abroad apart from the travel time to get to your location but you do have the added pressure of knowing you can’t come back to get anything you’ve forgotten on the day! 

What are the differences between filming in the UK and Oz?
The main difference is the weather! It was nice to know that the majority of your shoots would be in the sunshine and not to have to worry about a wet weather alternative location! Other differences I’ve found when working on property shows in Australia is that the architecture can be very different compared to that of UK homes. We had to become experts on all things Australian when it came to the different styles of property. For example in Queensland they have a style of house called a Queenslander.  These buildings are primarily of timber construction and are typically raised off the ground on vertical stumps that allow the building to ‘float’ above the ground.  This under-floor area is used to cool the house through ventilation and also for protection from termite attack and other pests. Talking of pests…another big difference between the UK and Oz is the creepy crawlies! We don’t have to worry about anything poisonous when we’re filming in the UK.  Our risk assessment for Australia made for interesting reading…poisonous spiders, crocodiles and deadly jellyfish!  Don’t worry though all the team came back safely and only a few of us actually did see scary spiders! 

What were the main challenges?
The main challenge was working in extreme temperatures – our cameraman and the Producer/Directors were all filming in very high heat, which is something they’re not used to doing in the UK. The time difference when dealing with the office back in the UK was also a bit tricky to deal with.  We had a brilliant team in Glasgow who were all working extremely unsociable hours so that when we were working during the day in Australia they were able to help us and set things up for filming. It must have been very difficult for them to be working through the night in Glasgow during winter but I never heard them moan once! My Production Manager, Kathryn Burnett and my Executive Producer, Andrew Walmsley, were often taking calls in the early hours so that we could discuss the shoots and how each episode was going.  They were a great support.

What are the perks?
Working in amazing locations, the great weather and getting a tan!

What advice would you give to teams heading to film abroad?
No matter where you are filming you should always get as much research and prep done before you leave the UK. You need to hit the ground running as soon as you arrive in your location and you want to have things set up and ready to go so that you are maximizing your time.  Also be prepared to be really tired. If you’ve done a long haul flight it’s going to take you a while to adjust. Try not to burn out in the first week! 

How did you motivate team to keep working long hrs and in the heat etc?
The team filming in Australia and the team working in the UK were dedicated and passionate about what they were doing. They all wanted their episodes to be and look fantastic - the only way for that to happen is to put the work in. The team had spoken to and met with the families/couples that they were trying to find homes for and I know that every single one of them had invested mentally, emotionally and physically in finding them the best properties on the market in their chosen search areas. They wanted to help them settle in Australia and knew that finding the right home was the start of that process.  My job was to be available to listen and help the team through any tough times. Sometimes the smallest of things can seem like the end of the world when you’re on location and away from normality but just having someone to moan to and let off steam can really help.  We were a strong team and kept each other going!

Phil: Secert Agent Down Under transmitted on C4 in Aug 2013. Watch on 4oD