30 January 2024

Life as a Production Assistant on Sunken Warships: Secrets from the Deep

Production Assistant Victoria Chadwick provides a tantalising glimpse behind the scenes, showcasing her work on Squeaky Pedal’s latest TV project!

When I first heard the news that we had been commissioned to make Sunken Warships: Secrets from the Deep for 5 Select, I was excited, and terribly nervous as this would be my first TV credit. It was a big challenge, and for me, I was diving into the unknown. Meetings were held, deadlines and production schedules were created, and it was time for the production of Sunken Warships to begin.

During the pre-production stage, my tasks were set on finding contributors that would be able to bring their wealth of knowledge to our series. From maritime experts such as Kate Jamieson, Dr. Alex Clarke and Andrew Choong, to world history experts like Dr. Tessa Dunlop and Alex Churchill, and published authors like Angus Konstam. Their insight and deep understanding of these powerful and sometimes infamous warships would be invaluable in bringing our show together. 

Filming with one of our contributors, Dr. Alex Clarke.

Alongside this, we also booked the fascinating Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, conveniently located just up the road from us in Nantwich, for our filming location. What was once a government-owned nuclear bunker, had now become a private museum showcasing the bunker’s engaging and interesting past alongside a huge collection of Cold War artefacts. There was no doubt that Hack Green would make an amazing setting for our documentary series. 

Filming with one of our contributors, Carlos Zaforteza.

With dates confirmed, hotels paid for and train tickets booked, everything was ready to go. For the next stage, I would travel up to the secret nuclear bunker for a day or two to help out with filming. A typical day would consist of bringing all the equipment down into the bunker (my step count was insane for the days I was there!). We would then set up each room, set dress  (using many of the objects and artefacts around the museum to help with this) to create the right ambience. As soon as we got the set right, we welcomed our contributors, making sure they had everything they needed. Filming then commenced, and it was truly amazing to see these people discuss their passion for warships, and expertly explain the stories and events behind each vessel. 

With all of the contributors filmed, we now had to put each episode together. With editing episodes of Sunken Warships, a lot of the footage you see on screen is period archive film, and it was part of my job to find it. Along with the script, I scoured all relevant archival houses such as the Imperial War Museum (IWM), the US National Archives, and Critical Past. We also had the opportunity to use overseas archives such as Germany’s Bundesarchiv, and DiFilm in Argentina. Managing costs, and checking for copyright was a new challenge for me, but getting to learn about how an archival house works, and the process in obtaining the footage was something that I really enjoyed doing. 

During the editing process, I joined meetings with our graphics designer Dan Lusby, and composer Henry Bird, both who are amazingly talented in their field. To see from what was once just concepts and ideas on paper come to life as hard-hitting title sequences, along with dark, emotional scores, really brought a new depth to the series. 

The episodes were finally finished, however this was not the end of the work. With a premier date set, it was time to let everyone know that we had a documentary series coming out! From here, it was my job to create and schedule social media posts. Working with the social media team at Content Kings, we devised a social media plan to make sure that word got out there. Creating hashtags and making sure we regularly posted about each ship allowed for a community of warships fans to grow. 

Watching the very first episode of Sunken Warships on TV was quite an experience in itself. After spending the whole year creating this show that was now condensed into 8 x 1 hour episodes, and to then see my name in the credits was a very proud moment. To make that night even better, seeing such a positive reaction on social media made the blood, sweat and tears extremely worth it, and to know that we did a good job in creating a show that told a meaningful story about the history of these mighty warships made an experience I won’t forget.

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