BBC script editor Sarah Barton talks to our communications team about her work on this week’s exciting TV drama Five Days. Five Days is a thriller series which tracks five 24-hour periods in a police investigation and is airing between 1 and 5 March 2010.
What does your job as a script editor involve?
My job involves supporting the writers I work with to develop storylines and scripts, and then as we get close to production, liaising with the producer and crew to make sure that what’s in the scripts is achievable on screen.
How did an Afghan character come to be included in the storyline for Five Days?
It’s hard to remember now! Gwyneth Hughes our writer wanted to write about the world we all live in. I think she felt that the character’s story fitted with our themes of community, family and dislocation.
Did you know much about refugee issues before you started research for the storyline?
I have a couple of friends who work with refugee charities, one of whom was a refugee himself. But other than that probably just what I have gathered from reading the papers and watching the news.
What kind of information did you need to gather to inform the development of the script?
It’s helpful for us to gather a mixture of research. We needed to be aware of the facts and figures – in terms of statistics and information about the systems in place for refugees in this country. But most important for the writer is to get a feel for the human experience, because drama is all about empathy, and bringing the audience as close as possible, emotionally, to the experiences of the characters who they are watching.
How did you go about your research?
The research into the refugee character was only one part of the research we undertook for the programme as a whole. Some of the research was paper or web research. But I also contacted refugee charities, governmental organisations, and spoke to people who they recommended.
How did Refugee Action and our media spokesperson Ahmad help with the development of Five Days?
I think the most useful and impactful part of the research was meeting Ahmad, a volunteer at Refugee Action. Gaining an insight into his experiences before and after coming to this country started to help us understand quite what it feels like to arrive here alone, live far from your family, and try and make sense of an unfamiliar new country.
How did the actor respond to meeting Ahmad and having his input?
It was great to get Ahmad together with the actor and they worked with our director during the edit on the character’s dialogue and accent.
What role do you think TV drama can play in reinforcing or challenging negative stereotypes of refugees and migrants?
I think the most important role TV drama can play from this point of view is to help the audience empathise with what someone might go through in this sort of a situation and therefore bring them closer to the experience and further from the stereotypes.
What advice would you give refugees who want to work in film and TV?
A passion for TV and film is really important, but that goes without saying. Obviously watch a lot of television, film and theatre and get any experience you can of writing or production.
Posted by Esme Peach