Known for churning out television show classics including The Young Ones, Black Adder, Keeping Up Appearances, Mr. Bean and legions of others, the BBC is no stranger to when it comes to developing entertaining content ranging from late night TV and car review shows to nature specials and various documentaries. More recently, the British Broadcasting Company has turned their attention to a subject that seems to be gaining popularity by the week now: the process of creating objects by hand.
In their new series Handmade, which is a part of their BBC Four network’s special series of “Unhurried Programmes”, director Ian Denyer presents three craftsman who create physical objects with three different types of materials: Glass, Metal and Wood.
What’s most interesting about Denyer’s approach for the three-part show is that it throws out all of the previous methods of documenting a Made-by-Hand process in favor of a more meditative approach that features long, single-shot interludes that are void of any talking, music, movement or fast-paced graphics that we’ve become accustomed to.
“On the first recess I investigated the possibilities of single shots lasting five minutes,” says Denyer. “Having grown up being constantly asked to move the camera more and cut faster, this was a joy. All the action would come to the frame. This was a chance to celebrate craft on both sides of the camera.”
In addition to the focus on long and meditative visuals, the atmospheric soundscapes were also of paramount importance.
For this, Denyer called upon the talents of film sound recordist David Harcombe to record atmospheric sounds on-location. In some cases, the sound itself was the starting point for many of the shots. One example of their extreme dedication towards capturing the sound environment included Bladesmith Owen Bush (featured in the Metal program below) surrounded by an array of microphones while simultaneously wearing radio mics taped inside of his shirt as well as his coveralls to capture the sound of his boots crunching through the various steel debris on the shop floor.
“My hope for the series is that viewers will quickly overcome the desire for things to move on, that the absence of so much of what modern TV attention-grabbing – fast cuts, supportive music and voice-over – will be a relief,” added Denyer. “Just observing, hearing without actively listening, understanding by watching are passive activities we all enjoy in real life.”
While the three-part series has already quietly aired on BBC Four, you can find out more over at the BBC.