Directing The Action
♦ Peaky Blinders season 4 began on 15 November and it has been a pretty eventful series so far. Here’s a chat with one of its directors David Caffrey from the BBC themselves…
The show is known for its high production values and attention to detail. Is that what drew you to the series?
If you look at the production design on this series from the very start, I think the team made some seriously bold decisions with what they wanted to do with the resources available to them. The series designers managed to be very clever in how they worked with the sets, exteriors, streets, set-dressing and props to create this very realistic world for the characters to inhabit. It’s been a main stay that’s happened from series to series. They’ve punched above their weight and this series is no exception.
What technically has been the most challenging to shoot?
One of the more challenging set pieces we have in this series took us five days to shoot. This scripted moment, a large-scale street shoot-out, had a lot of resources which went into this sequence. It was storyboarded to within an inch of its life. I went to the location with Stephen Daly (production designer) and we literally worked it out shot by shot between us. The storyboards that were created and which we relied on were very specific and were in no means conceptual, they were very specific. It was the only way to do it so we could funnel our resources into what we were going to shoot and cut together to make the sequence. I hope the finished sequence will be like nothing the audience has seen before in a Peaky story.
How did you come about choosing the set for the boxing match?
I’ve worked with Stephen Daly before and he’s very clever at being resourceful with what he has at his disposal. Stephen was on a recce and he’d seen the Olympia in Liverpool and he was just smitten with it. When I visited the location there were a few reservations about the vast size of the space and if it was too big for what was scripted. Would we need all that space for what we wanted to achieve? In the end the feeling was, ‘this is Peaky Blinders so we’ve got to think big and be brave’. I just think the design was so clever and the way that Cathal Watters (director of photography) shot the space was unique. In that respect, I hope it comes across as well as it felt on the day we were filming it.
There are a number of new characters in the series. Had you worked with any of the cast before?
I had worked with Aidan Gillen (who plays Aberama Gold) and Charlie Murphy (who plays Jessie Eden) quite a few times before. It was a real pleasure to get the opportunity to work with Adrien Brody and Jack Rowan was also a real revelation. He is a wonderful young actor. In these situations, like a football manager, you need to get players in your team who can really pull it out of the bag when you need it and they’ve certainly done that.
Why do you think Peaky Blinders has such a global appeal?
I think the success of any series is all down the writing teamed with strong characters and performances. Combine that with the bold choices made by the creative team behind the original design and concept I can see why Peaky Blinders has been so universally accepted. I think, in effect, all of those elements coming together have made the show what it is today.