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“The Menopause Isn’t a Regular Source of Comedy, But This Isn’t a Regular Show”



Great Guns’ Robin Sheppard on creating and filming the unique online TV series ‘Dun Breedin’ during lockdown

“The Menopause Isn’t a Regular Source of Comedy, But This Isn’t a Regular Show”

Life in 2020 is not quite what we thought it would be. Among the countless challenges posed by Covid-19 has been the difficulties of working during lockdown, and perhaps no industry has faced those challenges quite like the production industry.

For Great Guns director Robin Sheppard, the inability to be on-set posed a significant problem. A new comedy drama looking at the lives of menopausal women, entitled Dun Breedin, was all set to begin filming when Covid-19 turned everyday lives upside down. 

However, the show’s cast and creators were undaunted by the restrictions. Sheppard and her team resolved to work around lockdown restrictions in order to create something uniquely remarkable: the first drama made during lockdown to be broadcast.

To go behind the (socially distant) scenes of Dun Breedin, and find out exactly how the series was created during lockdown, LBB’s Adam Bennett spoke to Robin Sheppard. 

Above: The first episode of Dun Breedin. The episode was filmed at the height of the UK’s lockdown restrictions, however the restrictions don’t feature in the narrative.

Q > Congratulations on the launch of the show! First things first, how exactly did you go about filming a series like this in spite of lockdown? 

Robin > Thank you very much! Well, I wouldn’t have thought it possible myself but somehow we did it. The logistics were a big challenge, but fortunately we’re a group that loves a creative problem-solving challenge. Each actor’s household was given some very basic kit - an iPhone 7 with a plug-in Shure mic, a Gorilla pod and a Manfrotto tripod, a ring light and a floor standing LED light with day and night settings. 

Each actor had a mini-crew (which had to be members of their own families in order to abide by the law!) and we worked out who could best do the lighting and camera, and which family members were up for pitching in or even acting the other parts. It meant there were seven or eight ‘mini units’ filming for each episode. Of course, I was always available for FaceTime calls to help check camera positions and details - avoiding bright windows etc - so the actors and their ‘crews’ were confident with shooting.

Q > And do you think you’ll take anything from this experience into your work post-lockdown (if we can imagine such a world)?!

Robin > Oh, I think it might be too soon to say right now - I absolutely miss being on-set with my whole heart. It’s because this whole process has involved working in a way I’ve never worked before and flying in the face of long-standing structures that frankly have evolved over the past 100 years of filmmaking! 

I think, all things considered, I could maybe do parts of the whole remote thing again. But ultimately filmmaking is a collaborative endeavour, and the sorts of creative conversations you have all the time with your team are more often than not the most fun aspect of it all. Of course you can do that on Zoom, but you’re missing the shared experience of scouting a location with your production team and all that stuff. I missed that. 

I also have to say, I think the success of what we’ve done with Dun Breedin can largely be put down to having such a wonderful cast. That really has been key - Julie and I talked about who we’d like to be in it and we went for people that we’d worked with and knew would be able to do something like this. Actors who’d be able to open their minds to working in a totally different way. 

Q > And do you think the challenge of this project was something that appealed to these actors?

Robin > Yes, I think also that they’re all hardworking, grafting actors who just love to work. The kind of people for whom the thought of not being able to work is pretty grim. So we were all unified by this spirit that we wanted to keep working, keep creating, keep doing what we do even in an unusual situation. So the desire to keep on keeping on was very strong. 

Q > As time went on while you were filming, did the loosening of lockdown restrictions open up new possibilities for you, or did they present new challenges within themselves? 

Robin > Well, in a way we kind of ended up bouncing our ideas off of the restrictions as they changed. For example, I won’t spoil anything but in one episode we have a kind of wild-west standoff scene between two characters from different households. And that was possible because of the easing of restrictions. In fact, I felt that was a fun way of making a virtue of the rules - so we were able to do that whole scene without those actors ever coming within two metres of each other! 

What we were always really hoping for was that by the time the later episodes came around the restrictions would have been lifted to the point where characters would have been able to actually meet up. But unfortunately it’s just not possible with the rules how they are at the moment. We always thought it was really important not to try and break the rules, or to try and fake anything. Because then it’s just not cool, it’s not the heart of the show. And also, you naturally shouldn’t be breaking rules in a pandemic situation! 

Q > Although the show was totally shot in lockdown, it isn’t about lockdown. Did that cause any problems as you went along?

Robin > Oh there’s no question the whole thing would have been much easier if we had made it about lockdown! But you know, I think paradoxically the fact it isn’t about lockdown has made it more relevant to people watching. Because life needs to carry on despite all of this, you know, and this has kind of been showing that. We always wanted it to serve as a piece of escapism, something that would cheer people up. I mean, the menopause isn’t typically a regular topic for comedy, but then this isn’t a regular show. 

Q > There has been such a groundswell of positivity in the responses - the show is clearly a hit with audiences. So is there any chance of a Dun Breedin out of lockdown?

Robin > We would all love to do that, absolutely definitely yes. Julie Graham has been brilliantly inventive in the way she’s re-imagined this inside lockdown, but of course she originally invented it before we really knew what a ‘lockdown’ was. So it would be lovely to make it in the way it was originally intended, which is with these women literally in and out of each others’ lives. 

I think as well, through the process of making the show we’ve all bonded brilliantly as a group and we’re all now absolutely committed to it. So yes, we would love it to have a new lease of life out of lockdown in the real world. 

For us, and I hope for the audience that’s been following the show, that would be such a cathartic experience. It would be a real moment of liberation after what we’ve been going through over the past few months. I think that’s something everyone deserves, and I know this team and these actors would adore being a part of that. 

You can view all episodes of Dun Breedin on YouTube here.

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Categories: TV and Radio, Media and Entertainment

Great Guns London, Fri, 12 Jun 2020 13:10:17 GMT