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Five minutes with BBC 2's 'Hospital' Exec Producer and Royal Holloway's Helen Littleboy

Posted on 11/01/2017
Staff at Imperial Hospital

BBC 2's Hospital filmed at Imperial Trust, London

Helen Littleboy, Executive Producer of BBC2's Hospital and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Arts talks about her experience shooting the documentary that the Guardian today named its ‘Best TV’ choice.

Catch the show tonight at 9pm on BBC 2.

What are we going to see in Hospital?

 Hospital is a six part 9pm observatory documentary series for BBC 2, and one I'm incredibly proud of. It's a portrait of the modern NHS drawn in a way I've never seen before on television, telling the real story behind the headlines as frontline staff battle to deliver healthcare in the face of unprecedented pressures. 

How is Hospital different to other documentaries we’ve seen set in A&E?

Filmed over six weeks in Autumn 2016, these fast turnaround films are arriving on screen with astonishing speed and give a picture that feels extraordinarily current and honest as we watch hospital doctors and managers at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

These are the people who have make the hardest decisions and we have captured what it's like to have to call the shots about who gets treatment on any given day. 

What are some of these difficult decisions you captured?

In the first programme the competition for an Intensive Care bed plays out like a drama out as a man waiting for an urgent cancer operation is cancelled at the last moment, trumped by the arrival of an elderly woman who arrives in A&E with a ruptured aneurysm. The access given by the Trust and its staff has been extraordinary, placing huge trust with us as programme makers to fairly reflect just how tough it is to run a hospital.

Filming in a high pressure environment must be very challenging. What was it like?

The biggest challenges of making these programmes were also some of the greatest opportunities.

We were working in an environment where nothing is predictable, filming with patients and their families at their most vulnerable - where life and death situations are the norm.  This is a documentary maker's dream but in a series like this we have a tremendous duty of care towards all the members of the public we filmed with and so the legal issues were constant and complex.

We had a big team with seven producer-director teams filming up to seven days a week potentially 24 hours a day, so as an exec producer, ultimately responsible for every decision that is made, this provides an extraordinary opportunity to film many points of view on a single story, but is a huge machine to manage. 

Who did you work with for this project?

This series was made at Label 1, a new independent television company founded by executives Lorraine Charker Philipps and Simon Dickson, who is an important industry figure, well known for developing and commissioning innovative new documentary forms.  

What is your advice to students who want to pursue a career in documentary?

I always say to students the best way to realise your ambitions in documentary is to find the people whose work you most admire and pursue them until you can find a way to work together.  

Apply for a BA in Film, Television and Digital Production and be taught by professionals who produce today's top TV. 


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