Behind the Scenes Production Diary
by Diederick Santer, producer
Diederick Santer previously produced the first three series of the BBC's Cutting It, and two contemporary versions of Shakespeare dramas, including the BAFTA-nominated Much Ado About Nothing. After Jane Eyre, he became executive producer of EastEnders, the popular BBC television soap.
After several months of script development, and ten weeks of prep, our production of Jane Eyre is about to start filming.
Over the next four days, myself, Susanna White (director), Helga Dowie (line producer), Rad Neville (1st assistant director) and all the various crew heads will travel together in a small bus to the locations we plan to shoot. At each stop a group of about twenty get out of the van. Susanna tells us her plans for each scene, and each member of the crew considers the practical problems of the location: How will we light it? Is it too noisy? How do we get the trucks in? Is it dangerous? What extra equipment will we need?
This is a particularly busy time for Helga Dowie, as all the various requests for equipment come to her: Can we have a crane on this day? We're going to need to build a 100' long scaffold rig outside here. The only way in to this location is by tractor. Where will the extras sit? Are we there yet?
It's late February, and everywhere in beautiful Derbyshire where we've chosen to shoot is freezing. We wake to find snow is falling, and we can't get to all our locations. We'll try again the next day.
This is the week is when everything suddenly happens. On each show I've produced, most of my energy is not spent working with the director and line producer on making the locations work; they manage that on their own — but rather on lengthy phone calls to our casting director and artists' booker working on deals to secure actors for the show. Why does this always happen when I'm sitting on a bus trying to keep my voice down? Why can't it happen when I'm in an office, with all the figures and dates in front of me? It's because only when the schedule is firmed up, and not until that time, can we book the actors.
We're hoping that the brilliant Pam Ferris will play Grace Poole. It's a great character part, but is in a limited number of scenes. She's keen to play the role, but is in huge demand. We will only get her if we can make her dates compact.
Achieving this depends on certain locations working out. While climbing from the bus to the top of Stanage Edge [the moors where we find Jane midway through Episode 2], I get a call from Thalia Reynolds, artists' contracts. Pam is on board.
Outside the crypt of Bolsover Castle [the location for an interior of Lowood School in Episode 1], Thalia and I discuss accommodation and billing, and to my delight Francesca Annis is confirmed as Lady Ingram.
Stuck to the only spot in the grounds of Ilam Hall [an early 19th-century hall now owned by the National Trust and used as a Youth Hostel, serving as the exterior of Lowood School], where I can get a phone signal, I learn that we've got Georgie Henley — star of the recent Narnia movie — for young Jane Eyre. Hooray!
We're putting together a wonderful cast. And Derbyshire and the Peak District are providing some great locations.
Can't wait to get started.
The read-through is in London, upstairs at the Bloomsbury Baptist Church on Shaftesbury Avenue. I always try to have read-throughs here as the room is big, light and airy, has good acoustics, and everyone can fit around the table.
It's also quite near my house, and perhaps for this reason I am a bit late, arriving after most of the actors. This doesn't go unnoticed by my eagle-eyed executive producer Phillippa Giles.
Phillippa is a hugely experienced producer and executive producer, having worked on such great titles over the years as A Fatal Inversion, Gallowglass, Our Mutual Friend and North and South. I'm a classic drama virgin, and many times over the last few months I've relied on Phillippa's vast experience in the genre to bail me out of trouble. She's perceptive and incisive on scripts, has great taste on casting, knows all the classic drama pitfalls, and has the irritating knack of asking difficult but absolutely crucial questions. Today: Why are you late? You only live round the corner!
I'm very nervous about the read-through.
It's not the script. I have immense confidence in Sandy Welch's adaptation. Sandy — who adapted North and South and Our Mutual Friend, as well as creating loads of great original work — has worked incredibly hard over the last year to create her own, brand-new take on Charlotte Brontë's novel. Her script is magnificent. It brings to life an incredibly engaging love story, it's full of rich colorful imagery, it's funny, it's clever, it's passionate. I think it's a truly original and absorbing take on the novel, but I also believe it will be hugely enjoyed by people who don't know the book at all. So I'm sure it will read like a dream.
It's not the actors either. I think they are fab. I know that Ruth Wilson, who we've cast as Jane is going to be a massive, massive star. I'm thrilled that we've attracted Toby Stephens to the part of Mr. Rochester. Francesca Annis, Pam Ferris, Georgie Henley will not let us down. We've got other brilliant people too — rising stars Andrew Buchan, Christina Cole, Aidan McArdle, as well as audience favorites like Lorraine Ashbourne and Tara Fitzgerald. And a host of great new and less well known faces too.
The reason I'm nervous about the read-through is that I have to 'say a few words' at the beginning. I want to set the correct tone — professional and relaxed, dynamic but easy-going. I want to establish that we are a team, working together on one big exciting project, combining our skills, experience, talent and vision. And I want to make sure that I don't give the impression that the production is an unhelmed wreck heading for disaster.
I do my best and it's fine.
Oh, and the script reads much better than I could ever imagine.
A full cooked English breakfast at 7am — that's how the filming day begins. We're in the car park of Haddon Hall, the amazing medieval castle in Derbyshire which is the home of Lord Edward Manners. In our drama it's Thornfield, home to Lord Edward Rochester. It's a beautiful place, and we soon overrun it.
After months of planning, it's exciting to be here and finally get going. Ruth Wilson, the fantastic newcomer who will be playing Jane, and the talented and charming Toby Stephens (Rochester) are on set, and we're starting with one of their big scenes from Episode 1.
Scheduling is a complex art. Taking all the scenes that make up four hours of period drama and arranging them into a shooting order that takes into consideration cast and location availability, daylight hours, story order and all the various costs is an enormous task. In addition to planning the shoot with Susanna, 1st Assistant Director Rad Neville has spent the last few weeks putting together a hugely detailed schedule featuring every one of the nearly 400 scenes in the drama, each of the 50+ characters, and running over 71 shooting days, through into early June.
Conventional wisdom dictates that it's best to begin a shoot with some minor scenes that come halfway through the story. This way, if the scenes turn out to be not so good, they will be surrounded by stronger scenes and the early mistakes won't be exposed.
On this shoot, however, Susanna and Rad have scheduled the first three days with three massive scenes from the first episode which show Rochester and Jane's first encounters. It's a risky strategy — if the scenes are weak and tentative, then the first episode could be compromised. But the actors love it — it means they can act their way into their characters; they can find out who they are through their first scenes together.
On the third day of the shoot we are filming in a valley along the river Dove (called Dovedale). It's a beautiful spot near Ashbourne, very popular with walkers and sightseers. It's been raining for days and the entire valley has turned into a mudbath. With the rain still pouring down, we pump the valley full of fog and set up for Jane and Rochester's first ever meeting.
Mud, cold, horses, fog, dogs, and rain beating down on us all day. Ruth, Toby and crew do brilliantly. Despite the conditions, the scene looks brilliant. Dramatic, romantic, exciting.
There's more special effects work the next day when we are at Ilam Hall shooting young Jane's arrival at Lowood School. The special effects team spray a massive area with white foam. It looks like snow — cold and forbidding, the perfect frosty welcome to the awful school. It costs a fortune! The audience will see snow, I just see foamed money.
It's the first day for young Georgie Henley, fresh from her success in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At ten years old, her talent, concentration and temperament are astonishing. And what's more, she looks just like a young Ruth Wilson. She's perfect.
We settle in for a five week stint at Haddon Hall. Later in the shoot we will be, as we were last week, in different locations every few days. Moving locations involves transporting lots of gear and trucks around. This requires extra early starts and late finishes for many of the crew. To be in one place for a good length of time is great for us all.
Haddon is a magical place. We're made extremely welcome by Lord Edward and his staff. The hall does not open to the public until well into April, so we have the run of the place. The rooms are rugged and beautiful, and are made all the more so by the brilliant decoration and propping of designer Grenville Horner and his team. Our base is close by, and it's an extremely comfortable location in which to work.
Except that it is FREEZING.
I wear more layers than ever before — three on my LEGS! And a coat that's more like a duvet. And I'm still FROZEN! Heaters are no use. We line up about a dozen in the long gallery (which serves as the drawing room of Thornfield Hall) and our breath is still condensing. It's as though the stone of Haddon contains all the cold of seven centuries, and there's nothing we can do about it. At times through the day, I feel myself losing focus, getting light-headed, unable to perform simple tasks. I feel like I'm lost in the ice...
It's worse for the actors, of course, as they have to appear on camera without layers of fleece. The gorgeous and talented Francesca Annis is with us as Lady Ingram. She arrives on set in a puffy jacket and moonboots. There are not many people who can look glamorous in a puffy jacket and moonboots, but Francesca manages it. As we begin filming these are removed to reveal the most wonderful outfits which Andrea Galer (costume designer) has created. When the scene is complete, back on go the jacket and boots.
Hair and make-up designer Anne 'Nosh' Oldham and her team are working some long hours this week while we shoot all the house party scenes. Period drama women can take a couple of hours to do — it's all that hair. In order to have a full cast ready to shoot at a reasonable time, they are starting as early as 6am. When you consider that we finish at 7pm, that's quite a long day.
We've got great drivers on this job. As well as the very likeable Exeter-born Graham Huxtable, we've got local boys Honest John and Mick Stanton. These two are veterans of East Midlands film and TV production. Mick was a miner and has been buried alive twice. He now collects vintage buses. Honest John has been a professional racing driver, and now enjoys nothing more than ice skating with his daughter. These two are proper gents of the old school, and I cherish my journeys with them.
When will this cold end? It's unbearable. We're doing a few exteriors this week with the house party cast, and it's actually warmer outside than it is inside Haddon Hall.
I've got a few visitors this week — Caroline Skinner (script editor) and Phillippa Giles (executive producer). Phillippa is thrilled with the rushes and is keen to make sure that we keep up the quality, but not at the expense of... er, expense. She, Caroline and I have numerous conversations about which horse-and-carriage scenes are important and which are not. Any more we can cut? Any fire or rain we don't need? Tedious questions, but for TV drama the question is always what do we need? In big budget movies the question is what do we want?, but we don't have that luxury. It's a constant struggle to stay on budget, and to make sure the vision is complete and as fantastic as possible, but also achievable with the money.
One quiet afternoon while all is well on set, I retire to the office and have a little surf online. We haven't yet published a press release, but there's plenty of talk of our Jane Eyre on the web. Bits of information have been found from agents' Web sites, newspaper gossip columns, and bits of insider info. There's lots of excitement and speculation about our adaptation and I'm struck by how much this novel means to some people. I wish we had published our press release, because it would stop some of the confusion in some of the messages. But I don't yet have a photo I'm happy with, so no press release yet.
At one Web site, a correspondent despairs at the idiocy of the people making the program who've cast a 48-year-old actress as Jane. Don't they know that Jane is supposed to be in her late teens? Mmm, yes, we do. It's just that IMDb has mixed up two Ruth Wilsons. An actress born in 1958 is being credited with playing Jane in our show.
Another site reports that the production has been ordering a good deal of timber. The supplier, using quotes supposedly from me, has said it's being used to create a 'late-Victorian look.' Lots of discussion then ensues about how we are getting it wrong, setting our adaptation so late, when it's really pre-Victorian. There is a simpler explanation — the timber supplier has no idea what the wood is for or when the production is set, and has made up all the quotes attributed to me.
Much speculation is reserved for the question of who should play Mr. Rochester and whether it's a good or bad thing that Toby Stephens has been cast. I'm really struck by the literal and pedantic obsession many of the bloggers have with the physical traits of Rochester and Jane as described in the book. Too red-haired, Eyebrows are too thin are some comments regarding Toby.
Elsewhere I read that Ruth's lips are wrong and that the production is therefore bound to be a disaster. It's quite strange. Physical appearance is undoubtedly significant, but in the end what our actors are trying to do is inhabit the spirit of the characters, not just do impressions of what's described in the book.
We're staging a wedding. Filming weddings is always fun, but quite weird. There always seems to be a lot to get through, more cast than usual, and big work for costume and makeup. And there's no reception afterwards. After twelve hours, everyone goes home and comes back again tomorrow. Filming is life in slow motion, as someone clever once said.
We need to save some money. Helga Dowie (line producer), Caroline Skinner (script editor) and I go through the horse-and-carriage schedule once again looking for more savings. There's lots of travel in Jane Eyre's journey, and this travel is inevitably by carriage. But it costs a fortune. When we put the schedule together we tried to put as many carriage scenes as possible into a limited number of days. That way we could make fewer carriage bookings.
But of course, different characters and different scenes call for different horses and carriages. So it doesn't always work. Jane can't travel in exactly the same carriage from the Reed House, through Lowood, Thornfield, the Rivers' cottage and Ferndean. That would be daft.
Even though we are busy doing a wedding this week, things are much calmer now the house party characters and scenes are done. No longer do we have complex driver/pick-up schedules, absurdly early make-up calls, or endless scenes in the freezing long gallery. It's all much simpler. But it's a bit sad too. The house feels empty.
The first signs of spring are showing. There's still sometimes snow on the ground, but the daffodils are poking through. We can't wait for spring to arrive.
Una Maguire, our wonderful publicist, organizes a press call for the local papers and TV. Director Susanna, Ruth Wilson and I hold a little press conference in the café at Haddon Hall, then lead a team of about 15 journalists and photographers around our Thornfield.
Ruth has never done any interviews like this before, but she's a natural. Charming, funny and interesting, she has them eating out of her hand. In contrast, I speak in clichés, forget to thank and acknowledge the right people, and let myself get photographed in the daftest puffy jacket you ever saw. I look like the Michelin Man.
But I do manage to make an appearance on that night's East Midlands Today. And that's something I can always be proud of.
Time for a haircut, though.
It's a week of night shoots! The day begins at 1pm and ends at midnight. I love it! I spend the morning lying in, going for a long walk or run, and then head to work at lunchtime. We need night for a big sequence at the end.
I don't want to give too much away (although you can of course go and read the book if you really want to know) but at one stage the story calls for Thornfield to be on fire. Ed Smith and his team from SFX GB spend days rigging Haddon Hall with fire effects. It looks incredible! The fire department, who we had warned in advance, tell us the next day that over a hundred people called in to report that Haddon Hall was on fire! That shows the effects were pretty good, I'd say.
Some amazing stunt work also gets done this week. A fearless stuntwoman called Lucy Allen does the most incredible thing. You'll see it at the end of Episode 2. I admire her all the more because she does nothing to hide her nerves. She's really tense about the whole thing, and I find it completely endearing. Why pretend you're not terrified when you are? When she's done her stunt and it's all passed safely and beautifully, her feeling of euphoria is huge.
Pam Ferris, from Darling Buds of May and Rosemary and Thyme is here. I worked with Pam years ago, on my first ever job in TV. I was the trainee script editor and Pam was always lovely to me. She took great interest in the writing, and was always ready to congratulate the script team when we delivered a good episode. She was a real professional too, working really hard with the director and other actors to make the show as good as possible. She's such a positive person and takes a huge interest in those around her.
I was thrilled when she agreed to play Grace Poole. It's such an important and enigmatic role, I knew we needed someone of real skill and stature. Pam is electrifying to watch. As she walks across the Thornfield kitchen, and fills her cup with drink, my spine tingles. I don't know why she's so interesting. She just is. I can't take my eyes off her.
Willow the owl joins us for a couple of nights. He's a barn owl, and he comes with two lovely, very quiet handlers. You'll see Willow when Jane first arrives at Thornfield, and in an incredible shot during the fire sequence. Mike Eley, our talented director of photography, has been planning his owl shot for weeks. I even joke that he has left a space on his demo reel for it.
The shot involves the owl flying about thirty meters from a burning castle, then towards and over the camera. The first night we try about eight times to get it right, but it's too windy and poor Willow keeps getting blown off course. He ends up on the ramparts at the other side of the castle. The next night we try again. It's less windy, but Willow's still not quite flying in the line we want him too.
Take five, take six and it's not working. On take seven he flies off course. Towards me! I bend down so he doesn't fly into me. But to my surprise and horror, I feel some little scratches on my head. He's identified a perfect perch to land on and it's me! I let out a strange help me sound. I have a flashback to me, aged 4, on a day trip to London when a bird-feeding episode went wrong and a load of pigeons sat on my head in St. James's Park and I cried.
Willow's gentle handlers come to untangle him from my hair. I try and act cool, but fool no one. Happily, we get the shot on the next take and Willow is taken away.
We need a break.
But instead, after a six-day week involving night shoots, Susanna (director), Helga (line producer), myself and many of the department heads spend Sunday doing a mini-location scout. Brilliant. A great way to spend a day off.
We're looking at some locations which we either didn't have time to or couldn't get to on the original scout, or which we hadn't yet found.
To be fair, Giles Edelston (location manager) has organized things very well, and we're done by mid-afternoon. Then we all head to the art department cottages for Sunday dinner. The various members of the art department (too many to list) have taken as their accommodation for the shoot a whole holiday complex of four cottages with swimming pool.
Patrick Rolfe, their delightful and very talented art director, is also an extremely accomplished chef. He's found local organic lamb, and serves it with the best roast potatoes I've ever had, plus a range of fantastic vegetables including purple sprouting broccoli and braised fennel. This lovely meal in the company of many of my colleagues is my weekend, and I enjoy it hugely. It takes some of the pain away, for a few hours, anyway.
Then, another week begins. Only a five-dayer, but we will have to work on Good Friday.
Now that it's April, Haddon Hall is open to the public on weekends and Mondays. It's really strange having tourists around while we're filming. For five weeks, Haddon has felt like our own private place. We feel like we are the ones being invaded. But it's time to leave Haddon, for now, anyway. We'll return at the end of the shoot once spring has sprung for some (hopefully) delightful summer exteriors. So, on the road we go.
It's strange being away from our home, but exciting too. Different locations, different characters.
On Good Friday we are at Wingfield Manor, South Wingfield. It's a ruined castle which we're using as Thornfield for certain shots.
Dick Manton is our three-time BAFTA-winning sound recordist. He's an incredibly experienced and talented sound man who, despite having worked in the industry for three decades, seems to approach each day with an almost child-like joy, optimism and sense of excitement. He loves sound!
I think of Dick as the father and the conscience of the crew. He's also expert on lots of stuff. For weeks he has been — rightly — irritated that our otherwise excellent caterers have been serving hot cross buns for elevenses. Hot cross buns are for Good Friday only, Dick has been pointing out. Today it is finally Good Friday, and what are they serving? Croissants with jam on. Dick is enraged, and I'm with him a hundred percent.
I dispatch Okey, our production runner, to buy one hundred Easter eggs. Cheap ones, mind, in multipacks. I write a label on each egg then spend lunchtime on Good Friday handing them out, one for each crew member.
It's a small gesture, but I hope that come Easter Sunday people will enjoy these eggs and take them as a sign of appreciation for their hard, dedicated and skilled work so far.
After three days off, we're in the crypt at Wingfield Manor doing the Lowood School dormitory scenes. The day doesn't go too well. We get lovely stuff in the can, but drop a whole scene and half of another one. We'll have to find a way to shoot them later in the schedule.
Hester Odgers is with us today. She is going to be Helen Burns for us, young Jane Eyre's school friend. We had a really difficult time casting this part, as the script called for Helen's hair to be bright copper red.
We met loads and loads of girls with the right look, but none of them had the ability to pull off the performance of the wise, other-worldly Helen.
So then we met girls with any color hair, with a view to coloring or wigging the right kid. By this stage we'd already started shooting, so Di Carling had to meet them and put them on tape for Susanna and me to look at. So none of us have actually met her. She's great, though, and seems to settle in straight away.
We've got some really far-flung locations this week. We go the Goyt valley to shoot St. John Rivers' church, Moreton Parish Church, and lots of horse and carriage stuff.
Another middle-of-nowhere location is the spot beneath Snake Pass (a high road leading out of the peaks towards Manchester) where we shoot Jane's little school in the second episode.
Giles, the location manager, has found a pair of 19th-century stone barns, National Trust protected, which sit in the bottom of a beautiful, empty, rugged valley at the point where two rivers meet. It's a wonderful spot, and it doesn't take much imagination to visualize the barns working brilliantly as Jane's school.
But with no toilets, no drinking water, no bridges, no car park for four miles, and only a steep footpath for access, this location seems impossible. How can we send eighty-plus people to film there everyday?
Giles and his team make it work. First, rigger Dave Price and his team go in and construct a temporary track down the hill, and scaffold bridges to provide foot access and a cable run in for power. Then guys from Anglo American vehicles turn up and set up little buggies which look a bit like tanks (called 'Argocats') to transport gear and people up and down.
Craig Gray, construction manager, and his team go in, clean things up, lay down solid floors, and turn one barn into a schoolroom, the other into a prop and camera store, make-up and costume room and extras holding area.
Then Alan Grayley (best boy) and a team of electricians go in and set up the electrics and the lights. Finally, a week-and-a-half after all this activity began, the crew go in and film the scenes. After we go, the whole thing happens again in reverse.
Since we're all either climbing into the valley or going in and out in buggies, there's no sensible way to get back to unit base for lunch (without losing lots of valuable filming time). So we elect to stay at the location for barbeque lunches. Great when it's sunny, not so good in pouring rain. The extras playing the school kids seem happy with their burgers and jacket spuds, though, and I am too.
Although the production is based in Derbyshire, there are some locations we just can't find nearby. Mrs. Reed's house is one. Actually, we do have an exterior lined up near Haddon Hall, but for the grand colorful rooms we need we have to go to Belton House just outside Grantham.
Belton is a lovely place, a National Trust property full of amazing decorations and furniture, carefully looked after by the house staff.
As we're staying in hotels just a few miles from the house, everyone's journey times to work are very short. And there are bars in the hotels, so everyone socializes in the evenings.
Mike Hogan joins us for a day this week. Mike is our stills photographer. We don't have time to schedule photo shoots — if we did, we'd have to stop filming. So Mike is very adept at grabbing the actors between takes and shots, and quickly firing off his camera. This way, he gets very spontaneous shots and he doesn't delay the filming. He has a great, very easy and relaxed manner on set, and even though he's only with us every fortnight or so, he makes sure he knows the whole cast and crew. He takes great pictures, too.
Grantham's a nice town. Birthplace of Isaac Newton and Margaret Thatcher. Very quick train to London. Great market on a Saturday. Friday night a bit scary, though.
Georgie Henley continues to do sterling work as the young Jane Eyre. She's with us for most of the week with her charming mother Helen. I like to talk to them about their experiences on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Georgie has great stories about acting with a dot on the end of a stick which was supposed to represent Aslan.
Young Jane has a number of very physical scenes at the Reed House which require Georgie to throw and receive punches, get chucked into a chair, and be carried screaming up the stairs. We have a lovely, gentle, very experienced stunt coordinator called Nick Wilkinson who takes Georgie through every step of the action, making sure she feels safe and is safe, and making sure she's happy with the action.
Georgie also has to act with the terrifying Mrs. Reed, played with characteristic gusto and skill by the brilliant Tara Fitzgerald. Tara's fantastic, but I'm thrilled to see that Georgie more than holds her own.
It's May Bank Holiday, the sun is out, leaves are appearing on the trees, and we're back at Ilam Hall to finish off the Lowood School exteriors. In contrast to the icy shots we were after when we shot here in March, we now hope for a greener, happier environment for the later Lowood scenes. You can see the difference in how the area looked — and in the weather — in the transition from young to old Jane. I think it works really well, and I'm pleased we scheduled it like this.
On Wednesday I head to London for a meeting. It's always hard leaving the set — I do like to be around at the beginning and the end of each day to provide support to the crew and to the director, to keep an eye on things, and to be on hand if there are any tough decisions to be made. Sometimes I might not say anything on set for hours on end — there's often nothing to be said — but other times I stay all day and get quite involved. We're shooting the 'red room' scene from the first episode today. It's a scene I'd really like to be around for — a hard style and story trick to pull off. But off I go.
Back in Derbyshire, the week ends with a lift back to London (again) care of Nigel Anthony, our rushes courier. Every night, Nigel drives the day's shot footage down to Todd-AO (a video post-production company) in Camden, London to be processed and transferred. He sleeps in a local B&B before driving back north again in the early hours, delivering rushes to our editor before 10am most days. It's fun to spend a trip with Nigel, and to see the care and professionalism with which he handles the rushes and does his job. Todd-AO is only a mile or so from my house, so that's handy.
On Sunday night I head for London's glittering West End to attend the BAFTA Television Awards.
Much Ado About Nothing, which I produced last year, has been nominated in the 'best single drama' category. And Rufus Sewell, star of The Taming of the Shrew which I also made, is nominated for best actor. Susanna White is here too — for Bleak House, nominated for 'best drama serial.'
I'm over the moon when Bleak House wins — Susanna and co made a great, ground-breaking drama. It also shows I have great taste, picking a BAFTA-winner-to-be as my Jane Eyre director.
At midnight, Cinderella-style, Susanna and I leave. A driver takes us up the M1 straight to our flats in Matlock, Derbyshire where we arrive at 3:15am ready for pick-up in the morning.
Luckily it's a slightly late start, as we plan to shoot through to 8:30pm to get some sunset scenes. My pick-up is still 8am, and I arrive on set feeling rough. Susanna has the advantage of her win — it's giving her extra adrenalin to get through the day.
But what a location! We're on Stanage Edge, outside Hathersage, to the north of the peaks, towards Sheffield. This is where we're doing Jane's wanderings in the second episode, plus the Rivers sisters' house. We feel like we're on top of the world, and apart from the odd car and the even odder hiker, we have the place to ourselves. The sun shines and we can see for miles in every direction.
With us on Wednesday is Georgia King. This beautiful young actress is making her professional debut as Rosamond Oliver. This is the second of her two scenes to be shot, and it will be her first appearance on screen — walking on the moors, greeting the Rivers, Carlo the dog and Jane.
But it nearly didn't happen. A week before to the day, Georgia felt stomach pains, then had her appendix rupture. We were shocked, as I imagine she was too, and were told by her agent that she was unlikely to recover from surgery to remove it for at least ten days. With us about to lose locations and other actors, we had no option but to make an insurance claim, cast another actress in the part, and reshoot the original scene. But then Georgia made the most incredible recovery, got the letters from her doctor to prove it to us and our insurers, and returned triumphant to the set. What a trooper!
The week ends at Bolsover Castle where we have created Lowood School hall in the riding house building. Once again, production designer Grenville Horner has done an incredible job, turning a pleasant bright space into a bleak gothic horror, resplendent with a vast image of God pointing down from heaven.
Tom Rye, our enthusiastic and resourceful second assistant director, has been extremely busy and arranged for us to have 75 child extras at any one time, changing them around at lunchtimes in order to work within licensing laws. The kids do brilliantly, and Lowood School comes to grim life.
Haddon Hall has given us so much, but there are three elements of Thornfield we just can't get there. There isn't a long stretch of corridor which will work for the various night time wanderings, or a room that will give us the flexibility and space to work as Jane's bedroom, or a place where we can set a four-poster bed on fire. Our insurance just won't cover it and Lord Edward wouldn't allow it.
So Grenville Horner, our production designer, and his construction team have been busy building. We've hired a warehouse on an industrial estate just outside Chesterfield. Outside it looks like any other commercial unit, but inside one is immediately thrown back into the world of Thornfield. Grenville and his team have brilliantly recreated the architecture, the finishing and the entire feel of Haddon Hall, and given us the flexibility to shoot all our tricky scenes here.
It's not an ideal environment for filming, though. The roof is corrugated steel, so when it rains all you can hear is a drumming sound. Noise also carries very far within the warehouse, so we have to try and keep incredibly quiet in order to give Dick Manton and his team a chance to record some decent sound. Some departments manage this better than others, and tempers occasionally fray.
Wonderful though the set is, working in a warehouse makes us feel a bit like we're just doing a normal TV show. We really miss the moors, the big houses, the landscape. We're trapped in darkness all day. We just prefer to be out on location.
It's a very tough week for Ruth Wilson. There are two whole days when she's the only actor on set, doing endless fiddly scenes of looking out of windows, waking up, having a bad dream, etc.
She hasn't got much dialogue, but every shot is of her, every note is for her, every scene can't shoot until she's had the right costume and make-up changes. She maintains great concentration throughout, but is thrilled when Toby Stephens is back on set for some big dialogue scenes.
Keeping on schedule is not always easy. On paper, these look like simple days, but they are complex and we're getting a bit behind. We send a unit back to Bolsover Castle to finish the final scene of Helen Burns' death, and on another day run a second unit on our build to pick up moments that the main crew haven't had time to shoot.
Andrea Galer, our costume designer, wins a BAFTA Craft Award for her work on Bleak House, as does Rob Lane, our composer, for his work on Elizabeth I. Well done them. We've managed to attract a top crew to this show, and these awards prove it.
Rain pours down on our industrial unit. It's dreadful for sound, but I console myself that at least we're not shooting exteriors — not yet, anyway. By the time we break free of the warehouse on Thursday, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining.
We're back on the road again — first going to a beautiful private house in the village of Calver (near Eyam in the Peak District) which will be our exterior Reed House. It's so lovely to be out of the shed. The crew blink at the sunlight. It all goes a bit dreamy, actually. There's stacks to do on the Reed exterior, and not much time to do it all. The time trickles away and we lose a scene we really wanted.
It's the last scene for Rebekah Staton who does a great job as Bessie. And it's the last of Georgie Henley (young Jane), for the UK at least. We love having Georgie around. She's funny, sweet, hard-working, and very talented. We give them each a round of applause as they leave.
The most exciting aspect to the week is that we are going back to Haddon Hall. As we arrive back there on the Friday, I realize that it is in so many ways the home of the production. We're made so welcome there by Lord Edward and his staff, it's lovely to see them all again. And Haddon in early summer is something really special. We were really pleased to get a bleak, tough look in the winter, but always scheduled a return leg here so that we could get some scenes with leaves on trees.
Just as we began the shoot with lots of scenes from the early part of Rochester and Jane's relationship, as we head towards the end, we're doing more and more scenes from later in the story. Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson just get better and better.
We do a magazine cover shoot with Ruth and Toby on Thursday night, which ends with Ruth not feeling too well. And when we arrive to shoot on Friday morning, she's not good at all. She's exhausted after twelve weeks of intense filming, plus a bug's going round. She's been sick all night. It's a real worry for us that she's ill — she's in every scene, and if she's out of action, the production will just stop. Luckily for us she's a real trooper, and after a session in makeup and costume she's ready to go.
The schedule is kind — we're just shooting some very simple scenes in which she's required to sit and not say very much. She's also working with Lorraine Ashbourne (Mrs. Fairfax) today, an actress whose energy and spirit could make anyone feel better. Ruth holds it together, and by the afternoon is feeling a lot better.
When I jokingly offer her a glass of champagne (we reached the 1000th shot today!) she takes it! I try to take it back and offer her some weak tea instead, but she's having none of it. At the end of the day her mother appears — she'd been visiting anyway — and drives Ruth back home for the weekend.
Cosima Littlewood is back with us as Adele. This is her first screen role and she's done incredibly well. I was always terrified about the casting of Adele — how could we find a girl who could act, sing, dance, be French, and be funny. A real tall order. But then the highly intelligent and talented Cosima walked in, and all our problems are solved.
Coco (as we call her) and her very smart and interesting mother Hortense have been with us since the very first day, and it's lovely to see them again.
It's the last week of the shoot, and I'm in a reflective mood. I'm asking myself general questions like: Did we do the novel justice? Did we do Sandy's vision justice? Have we spent the money in the right places? Will the audience fall in love with Jane and Rochester?
But I'm also thinking about specifics: Are there any moments or scenes we need to reshoot? Are there any more scenes we can cut from overlong episodes? How badly will my career be affected if we go over budget? Where will we have the wrap party?
It's lovely to be in Derbyshire in early summer. It's so green and fresh and beautiful. We have a few more days in Haddon, then a day doing Caribbean interiors (flashbacks for the second episode).
The penultimate day we spend on the beautiful Chatsworth Estate. In the most glorious weather, we rehearse the proposal scene. It ends with a thunderstorm but we'll fix that later. It's a key scene from the book which Sandy has scripted brilliantly. Ruth and Toby do a viewing rehearsal for the crew, and I am completely floored by it. The range, detail and emotion of the scene and performance knock me out, and by the end I am a snotty wreck.
As the rehearsal ends we burst into a spontaneous round of applause. We've seen some great scenes over the last three months, but this one tops them all. Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens see my messy face and laugh at how soft I am. I'm so tired this week. I seem to have an evening engagement every night. This, on top of all those early starts and late finishes is taking its toll. One night Susanna and I take Ruth and Toby out for a thank you dinner. They've done so well, and been such great team players for us, Susanna and I are very grateful.
The next evening Lord Edward Manners (owner of Haddon Hall) invites Susanna, our location manager Giles and myself to his hotel/restaurant for a thank you and goodbye meal. It's a great testament to Giles and his team that after three months, Lord Edward is not only still talking to us, but is taking us to dinner! Lord Edward is fantastic company — a great host, knowledgeable, funny, interesting, interested. It's a lovely end to our Haddon experience.
Our last shooting day takes us to a house just outside Bakewell which will be our Ferndean, the house where Jane finds Rochester near the end. It's fitting that we should end our shoot with some key final scenes with our two lead actors.
It's beautifully sunny, everyone is very relaxed, but this is by no means an easy day. Often, one tries to schedule a light final day, but we've not been able to. Ruth Wilson's thank you to the crew is to hire an ice cream van to visit at lunch time. It's a kind touch from an actress the entire crew have come to love and hugely respect.
The afternoon finishes with an incredibly moving scene between Toby and Ruth. Susanna confides in me that she thinks this is Toby's best scene yet. It's a mark of his professionalism and talent that even on this last day he's still striving for perfection.
We wrap with ten minutes to spare, then we all head to the Pav, a nightclub in Matlock for our party. Everyone is there — from the guys that drive the coaches and horses, the receptionists from the hotel, the caterers, the staff from Haddon, plus all our crew and many of our cast. It's all very jolly.
What's this? I thought we'd wrapped!
Well, it's just a little postscript really, to tell of how we got our desert shots for the very opening of episode one.
On Monday morning, Susanna, Georgie Henley, her mum Helen, and a tiny crew (eight of us) meet at Luton airport to fly to Gran Canaria (the third largest island of the Canary Islands, northwest of the coast of Africa). After a four hour flight, we meet our Canarian location manager and check into an enormous holiday hotel near Playa del Ingles full of sunburnt British, Dutch and Germans.
The next morning we're up at 5.30am and head into the Maspalomas dunes. But as the sun comes up at 7 we realize we're in the wrong place — in the darkness we've wandered into a different part of the dunes to where we'd planned. We shoot for a couple of hours anyway.
The next morning we try again. It's perfect! We're in the right spot, the nighttime wind has blown away all the annoying footprints in the sand, and the dawn is cloudless. Georgie sits in the sand in her red and gold scarf (another Andrea Galer costume treat) bathed in the soft red dawn light. Triumphant, we shoot a stack of shots incredibly quickly. We wrap after an hour, head back to the hotel for breakfast, and jet back to London at lunchtime. We've got our desert shots very cheaply indeed, went nowhere near the Sahara, and have got ourselves a stylish, interesting and very original opening for our Jane Eyre.
I wonder how our show will go down. Certainly, those who know the book well will — if they want to — have an easy time spotting what we have left out, what we have rearranged, what we have created.
I hope that they get beyond that though, and try to look at the story with new eyes. Making an adaptation like this isn't merely about representing the book, though that is of course important. It's really about coming at the material with a fresh approach and entertaining in as many ways as possible as broad an audience as possible. I hope that people new to the story will enjoy it. I hope that people familiar with the story will enjoy it too, and come to relish the approach our drama takes to the material. It's been great fun to make, I hope it's good to watch too.
I've got a summer of post-production ahead now. The episodes will be picture-edited for four or six weeks, then music, sound, special effects, color grading will all be added. This will take us to the end of September.
Then I'll take on some new challenges...