Monday, May 10, 2010

New British TV show focusing on deaf woman moves into primetime slot

From the Irish Film & Television Network:

The broadcast date for Dearbhla Walsh’s latest television drama, ‘The Silence’, which filmed on location in Dublin, has been moved to a prestigious “Event TV” primetime broadcast slot following a preview viewing of the first episode by BBC Scheduling head, Jay Hunt.

The latest drama from the Emmy award winning Irish director was scheduled to start its broadcast on Monday, May 10th on BBC1 but the head of BBC Scheduling, Jay Hunt watched the first episode of the series last week and was so impressed that he wants to broadcast the four parts on consecutive nights as ‘Event TV’ - similar to Stephen Butchard’s ‘Five Daughters’ which received the same style of broadcast in late April.

Dearbhla Walsh voiced her delight at the move, telling IFTN: “It’s brilliant in that it’ll go out on four consecutive nights,” before adding, “but it’s a pain that we don’t know when because it was too late in the day to make that decision and all the broadcasting slots were full for next week. It could be mid-summer, it could be September – the only guarantees we’ve got is that it won’t be during the World Cup and it won’t be during Wimbledon. We’ve no idea.”

‘The Silence’ sees deaf actress Genevieve Barr (pictured) play the role of Amelia Edwards who has recently been fitted with a cochlear implant, enabling her to hear. Breaking free from her over-protective parents, played by Gina McKee (In The Loop) and Hugh Bonneville (Lost In Austen), she goes to stay with her party-loving cousins, homicide detective uncle Jim, played by Douglas Henshall (Collision) and aunt Maggie played by IFTA winning actress Dervla Kirwan (Ondine). Amelia witnesses the audacious murder of a policewoman, and is reluctantly propelled further into a loud and frightening world.

Dearbhla describes the shoot for the series was one of her more frantic experiences: “It was supposed to be shot in Bristol, where it’s set but we managed to get it shot in Dublin with an all-Irish crew. However, with the change in the sterling/euro we lost a week’s shooting so everything has been very high pressure, high octane.”

‘The Silence’ marks the TV acting debut actress Genevieve Barr, who gave up her career as a teacher to take on the role. Walsh had to tailor her directing approach somewhat for her lead actress’ hearing disability. “It meant having to be incredibly clear, there was no shorthand,” she explains. “Normally on a set you can shout things across the floor in half sentences, but there was none of that. It meant that she and I spent a lot of time beforehand in one-on-one rehearsals. I would go through each of the scenes with her and then, during cast rehearsals, I would get her to interact with the rest of the cast to break any presumed boundaries. So it just involved working harder really – being more prepared and more clear.”

And the production faced other, more unexpected challenges along the way also: “Genevieve doesn’t sign,” Dearbhla tells us, “so she had to learn sign for certain scenes when she was working with deaf actors who do sign. And the sign teacher had to come from Britain because British sign is different to Irish sign. And I couldn’t understand the sign teacher so Genevieve had to be my translator, which she found hilarious.”

One of the most intriguing features that ‘The Silence’ boasts is its sound effects which look to copy the sound environment that people with cochlear implants experience. This production aspect proved intricate and challenging and called for several pre-production sessions at Screen Scene and Ardmore Sound and saw Peter Blayney and Michelle Fingleton locked up in an editing suite for days in Screen Scene to perfect the sound. Wash describes the effect she was looking for: “It’s about converting sound frequencies. There are many levels of hearing but with a cochlear implant there are only six levels. People with cochlear implants can’t hear certain sounds – and if a sound is particularly high it sounds like nails on a blackboard. The most shocking and awful sound for someone with a cochlear implant is the sound of a toilet flushing because they don’t know where the sound is coming from or what it is - because it’s a sound they can’t pin down, it’s like white noise. And this is all central to ‘The Silence’.”

‘The Silence’ is a co-production between Company Pictures and Element pictures. It is written by Fiona Seres (Love My Way, The Surgeon) and produced by Eleanor Greene (Party Animals). Executive producers are Charles Pattinson (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) and George Faber (Persuasion) for Company Pictures and Polly Hill (Inspector George Hill) for BBC One.