Directing Grantchester

Lights, camera, action! Meet the directors of Season 5 of Grantchester. Gordon Anderson, Christiana Ebohon-Green and Robert Evans revealed to MASTERPIECE how they approached directing their individual episodes this season, what it was really like to work with the tight-knit cast and crew, and what they enjoy most about working on period dramas and mysteries.


  1. 1.

    Gordon Anderson (Episodes 1 and 2)

    Grantchester, Season 5 Director Gordon Anderson

    Can you describe your approach to storytelling, your directing style?

    I prefer not to be noticeable as a director, I see myself as a story-teller rather than a visual stylist. I want the story to be the thing the audience remember, so I work to make the the characters feel true, their journeys to be compelling and the images to carry and compliment the narrative.

    Everyone says that there’s something very special about the cast and crew of Grantchester, that it’s a genuine happy place. If you found this to be true, can you share an anecdote of when you felt that way?

    Yes, I found that to be true. I think the cast and crew are proud of the show so everyone works for the common good and you get that rare atmosphere where all involved become problem solvers. One day when we were short of time and moving hurriedly between locations I spotted a couple of our leading actors volunteering to help move equipment. You don’t often see that!

    What was your biggest challenge in directing Episodes 1 and 2 of Grantchester?

    Perhaps the biggest challenge is the meticulous attention to period detail. Everything has to be exactly historically accurate or the illusion is shattered. The most challenging moments are when you are trying to create a big exterior street scene (such as the one in Episode 2 where someone gets knocked down by a speeding car). You can’t do a scene like this on a real road so you have to find a very specific location that you have full control of and then orchestrate it with the brilliant art department and costume design to look like an authentic 1950s English village high street — and all of this with not much time!

    What, in your experience directing these episodes, surprised you the most?

    See above! I think I was most surprised by how evocatively the past could be re-created in such a short amount of time. It really is a team effort between all of the departments and about an hour before shoot it can look like you’re never going to get there and convincingly portray the era and then quite quickly a kind of magic happens.

    What do you like about filming period dramas/mysteries?

    I like the sense in which looking at the past can shed light on our own times and our own concerns. That by looking back, in some ways, we can see ourselves more clearly and maybe be better equipped to look forward!

  2. 2.

    Christiana Ebohon-Green (Episodes 3 and 4)

    Grantchester Season 5 Director Christiana Ebohon-Green

    Can you describe your approach to storytelling, your directing style?

    My directing style is to lean heavily on the script. I take my inspiration from the words and tone of the script. It’s my job to bring these words to life, through the actors, locations and shots in as seamless a way as possible. I’m also looking for truthful performances. I believe in encouraging actors and crew — the carrot, rather than stick approach.

    Everyone says that there’s something very special about the cast and crew of Grantchester, that it’s a genuine happy place. If you found this to be true, can you share an anecdote of when you felt that way?

    It’s true, there is something very special about the cast and crew of Grantchester. I had the best time working on the show. We laughed a lot and it’s a genuinely happy place to be. It’s hard to share one thing, but I know that I didn’t want my shoot to end.

    What was your biggest challenge in directing Episodes 3 and 4 of Grantchester?

    The thing that I was most worried about was directing the scenes of the naked running man in Episode 4. Would he be comfortable? Would he be embarrassed? Could we keep prying eyes off him. I needn’t have worried, as wardrobe fitted him with a great, stick on pouch and invisible coverings for his feet. Also, Jack Barton (our actor) was relaxed and completely uninhibited. Luckily it was a warm, sunny day. Just for the record, he was never completely naked. In some shots he wore shorts and trainers, in others, a top and in a couple, he had the pouch.

    What, in your experience directing these episodes, surprised you the most?

    I was surprised at how much fun it was to direct these episodes.

    What do you like about filming period dramas/mysteries?

    I love magic of the costumes, sets, props, make up, locations of period dramas. You step on set and it’s as though you’ve been transported to another world. There’s a charm to this different way of life, that makes us reflect on our own.

     

  3. 3.

    Robert Evans (Episodes 5 and 6)

    Director Robert Evans Grantchester Season 5

    Can you describe your approach to storytelling, your directing style?

    Story is everything and therefore story must dictate the shooting style. To put style before content is a fundamental mistake. We love being told stories and my job as a director is to enrich the audience’s emotional response to that story. As soon as the audience becomes aware of ‘style’, an intrusive visual look, let’s say, there is a danger that their emotional connection to the story might be compromised. I want the audience to believe that what they’re watching is really happening.

    Everyone says that there’s something very special about the cast and crew of Grantchester, that it’s a genuine happy place. If you found this to be true, can you share an anecdote of when you felt that way?

    Not so much an anecdote, more an observation made over the three years that I have been involved in the production. It is undoubtedly one of the most welcoming, kind-spirited shows I have ever known. Cast and crew, alike, share a remarkable vision, determined to make great drama and have a great time making it.

    What was your biggest challenge in directing Episodes 5 and 6 of Grantchester?

    When telling the story of sexual abuse, and in the case of Episode 5, the abuse of young people, we have an enormous responsibility as program makers. Most importantly, we have a responsibility to the victims of abuse. It is crucial that we remain sensitive and respectful. Truth is always at the heart of my storytelling, but never more than in this case.

    What, in your experience directing these episodes, surprised you the most?

    Even at the end of a long, tough shoot, the cast and crew never wavered in their determination to deliver the highest standard of work possible. I have directed 6 episodes of this show, across 3 series, and I can honestly say that no one ever seeks the path of least resistance on Grantchester.

    What do you like about filming period dramas/mysteries?

    That nothing in the human condition ever changes.

     

Watch every episode of Grantchester, Seasons 1-5, now with PBS Passport, an added member benefit.

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