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When Benidorm and The Bletchley Circle star Julie Graham went into lockdown, she didn’t think she would end up writing, producing and starring in her very own YouTube drama.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, Julie said she has been super busy since Dun Breedin’ had begun shooting.
“I'm busier than I've ever been,” she told podcast host Kate Thornton. “I'm writing it as well, at the same time that I’m filming it. I’m going through props and production meetings and all that stuff.”
Dun Breedin’ follows the lives of a group of women, who are all going through the menopause, and how this affects their everyday lives. The 10-minute episodes, which also star Tamzin Outhwaite, Denise Welch and Angela Griffin, has shown that a drama filmed apart and on iPhones can be just as captivating as those productions with higher quality production values.
Here’s how Graham and her group of mates successfully filmed their own series:
Use your family
When you’ve got limited resources, you have to use what’s to hand, which means the Dun Breedin’ stars have enlisted their family to star alongside them and help out behind the scenes. Both Julie and Angela Griffin are starring alongside their daughters, while Julie has got new husband Davy Crocket behind the camera – but it’s not without its dramas.
“This is a whole new world for Davy,” explained Julie. “I mean Davy is a skydiver, which actually has come in quite handy because he's got no fear, but he's become this kind of accomplished cameraman.”
She continued: “He's got no patience though. I mean we do two takes and he'll go, 'We've got that. Why do we have to do that again?' You know, it can be quite tense!”
And don’t forget the dog!
When you have no film crew, you have to use everyone – and every pet – that’s available to you. Denise Welch, who plays Doll in the show, said that one co-star had even enlisted the help of her dog.
She said: “Tracy-Ann Oberman, at one point, because she's as technically inept as me, her dog was sitting still, and she put a camera around its neck to get a particular shot, so even the animals are involved in the photography!”
It’s not the only pooch to be recruited. Outhwaite said that her dog features heavily because she humps everything!
“I mean every single time she goes to the cushion and starts humping, we just get the camera out!” laughed the actress.
Get remote direction over Zoom
Just how does a director, who is also in lockdown, direct a drama like Dun Breedin’? Award-winning director Robin Sheppard says it’s all thanks to some very detailed planning.
Graham explained that as well as a read-through and a rehearsal over Zoom, Sheppard then provides very detailed shot lists that the girls try to follow.
“Robin gets the floor plan of wherever we're filming, like a bedroom and a bathroom or our living room, and then she does a really detailed shot list of where we should put the camera, what shot she wants,” said Graham.
“Then she also does a kind of fabulous ‘red pen, green pen’ floor plan about what directions the cameras should be put in. I mean it's, it's amazing and she does it for every single scene and then she sends it to us and then we, we try to follow it!”
While the show is meant to look as real as possible, which includes messy rooms, Julie said that for one particular shot, she just had to indulge in a spot of DIY before she could start filming.
“I shot a whole episode where I'm in a toilet and it's meant to be an NHS loo,” she told Kate. “I had to kind of empty my whole bathroom, making it look as sparse as possible, and then I, I was so ashamed of it that I painted it before we shot in there.
“I got up at seven o'clock and I cleared out the bathroom. Luckily I had some white paint left over and I just painted the whole thing!”
Remember you’re filming a drama
For all the actresses involved in Dun Breedin’, it’s somewhat of a novelty to be using their own homes as film sets. While this has worked out really well in providing an authentic background, it can also cause some problems – as Denise Welch found out.
Welsh said that Graham has cleverly incorporated bits of all the actors’ real-life personalities into the series, but that has meant it can be difficult to know what’s real-life and what’s acting.
“Julie knew about Lincoln [Denise’s husband] and my obsession with real life crime,” she said. “There's a scene with Lincoln and I on our sofa, in our slankets, with loads of chocolate biscuits.
“The other night, we actually had to have television on to get the effects of a flicker in the background, but not to see what was on. We had a 90 Day Fiancé playing, so I got carried away because I was just sat there in my slanket watching. Lincoln kept going 'Action!’ and I was just too engrossed in the lives of Ed and Rose on 90 Day Fiancé.”
Don’t forget to feed your kids!
Outhwaite, who plays Indie in the online drama, said that while she’s happy that the show has kept her occupied during lockdown, it does mean she sometimes neglects her mum-duties.
She told Thornton: “Sometimes we’re filming and I forget the time and I just hear, 'Mum, I'm really hungry. Can I come into the kitchen and get some food? It's five o'clock and I haven't had anything since breakfast.’”
Graham laughed, saying real-life unfortunately does conflict with filming sometimes.
“You've got the postmen ringing on the door,” she said. “The dog barking, and then somebody's mobile goes off. Then, you know, my girls are upstairs having a massive row.”
You can watch Dun Breedin’ on YouTube – a new episode is released each week.