Why Leeds company's Channel 4 lockdown documentary could 'go down in history'

A Yorkshire documentary company director hopes that its televised account of lockdown life will "go down in history as a marker as just what the British public were feeling" in the future.

A Day in the Life of Coronavirus Britain - a nod to Ridley Scott's 2011 Life in a Day film - aired on Channel 4 on Monday and is still available to stream online through the All 4 platform.

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Working with user-generated content - clips filmed and sent in by participants themselves - it charts April 3, 2020 in a Britain subjected to near-quarantine because of Covid-19.

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Anna Hall, of Candour Productions.Anna Hall, of Candour Productions.
Anna Hall, of Candour Productions. | other

Anna Hall, creative director of Candour Productions, which is based in Farsley, said: "The Great British public really rose to this challenge - we were crying in the studio, there was such funny stuff."

However, it also chronicles the grief of life under coronavirus, and Ms Hall believes the film could go down as an important representation of the crisis to future generations.

"In terms of Channel 4's response, they definitely think this is a really important social issue documentary," she said.

"I hope it does go down in history as a marker as just what the British public were feeling."

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Producer Sarah Haye watching the final cut through Zoom.Producer Sarah Haye watching the final cut through Zoom.
Producer Sarah Haye watching the final cut through Zoom. | ugc

It also takes viewers to see farmers in Settle, North Yorkshire and to Cornwall, Llandudno, Wansford and more.

It features Costcutter shopkeeper Neil Hanby in Boston Spa, who reveals that he keeps toilet paper hidden in the back for those most in need.

The film also hears from funeral director Skye Knight at the Pearson Funeral Service in Marsden, West Yorkshire.

Mrs Knight tells viewers: "We've had to increase the amount of coffins we'd normally order. We'd normally have 12, maybe 15, in stock we're now at about 40, 45, and we know they're going to be used.

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"This is the sad thing, is they're going to be used, we think, very quickly."

She also speaks about how loved ones are taken to the crematorium - an event sometimes populated by hundreds of mourners - "by just us".

"We've never had to do this before, and these are going to be very lonely journeys now, for all of us," she said.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post today, Mrs Knight said the stock levels of coffins remained is their forties at this time.

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Projects planned for the months ahead have been scrapped and the screen sector's base of mostly self-employed workers have found themselves out of work.

So when Channel 4 was looking for producers to turn material around quickly, Candour Productions stepped up, and sifted through more than 3,000 clips from the public after sending out an appeal for contributions.

But while Ridley Scott's A Day in the Life features "thousands and thousands of clips sent in from all over the world" and the power of a star director, the Candour project was made in two weeks.

Ms Hall said they approached the work as if they had "a blank piece of paper and six months to make it.

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"In the end we had a blank piece of paper and two weeks to make it."

She said: "If we weren't all in lockdown, we would have hired a massive production office where we would have been all running around like lunatics figuring out what to do."

Staff had to watch rushes remotely through Zoom conversations during the editing process, she said.

"It's absolutely massive, this film, for us. I think it's really massive for the country to be quite honest."

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She said it is "beautifully edited" with "amazing moments" of humour and of grief.

Speaking about making the film, she added "For us at a time like this in our industry it's really important.

"It was such a great pleasure for everybody.

"Everybody said, 'We've just been let off, we're so grateful we've got this work'."

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