Katy, one of the producers of “The Specials” tells the story…

Sam, Lewis, Katy, Megan and Lucy discuss things around the kitchen table.

The guys are co-producers of the show. You can see Sam, Lewis, Katy, Megan and Lucy discuss things around the kitchen table.

Lewis and Sam at a BBQ ignoring the camera.

The guys very quickly became real pros when it came to being filmed. Notice how Sam and Lewis expertly ignore the camera!

I met the guys back in 2008 when I was hired to make a pilot about their lives for a television company. Sam, Lucy, Lewis and Hilly were brilliant as were Hilly’s parents who had set up her home (Megan hadn't moved in yet). They welcomed me & my camera and together we made a wonderful 10 minute taster film. We were all so excited at the prospect of developing their story into a TV series and were keeping everything crossed as we waited for a decision from the commissioner… When we heard the series had been turned down we were gutted. Dan, my techno-whiz boyfriend, took me to the pub to drown my sorrows but while there he made a wonderful suggestion — why don’t we make “The Specials” together as a web series, funding the production ourselves? We went down to Brighton to see what the guys and Hilly’s parents Carol & Dafydd thought and everyone was delighted with the idea. With all the key people on board, including the guys’ families, production began…

First step was buying all the equipment: camera, microphones, editing computers and software. Then, while Dan set up our edit suite in the spare bedroom and began to build the website, I went down to Brighton and began filming the guys using a hand-held camera.

We filmed strictly observationally, never directing the guys, instead simply waiting until we had naturally captured something interesting on camera.

The guys were very welcoming and quickly got used to me and the camera popping up all over the place — outside the bathroom, in the kitchen, at college, at work, during their nights out on the town, on holiday. It was made clear to them that they could stop the filming at any point and their support workers were on hand to support them with this. Sometimes, a decision would be made to stop, but most of the time the guys were keen to be filmed and would tell me if they thought I was failing to cover something interesting.

As the website took shape, Dan came down and showed the guys the various designs we had been working on with our graphic designer friend Philip to see which they preferred. We also looked through photos taken of them taking during a session with John, a photograph friend of ours, so they could select their favourite for the site’s banner.

Collage of photographs showing Katy and Dan filming, editing and setting up equipment.
Katy editing.

We filmed enough for the first 3 webisodes and then began editing at the same time as continuing to film. It was such an incredibly exciting time as we began to see “The Specials” come together. Music played a big part in capturing the mood in each webisode and we spent a lot of time listening to music on Jamendo. Over the years we have got to know the musicians we used and they have been hugely supportive.

For each series, once we had the first cut of an episode, we would show it to the housemates and Carol & Dafydd. They would give us feedback and we would then re-edit the episodes until we had a cut we all liked. In the case of some of the tougher, more emotional scenes we would also speak to the guys’ parents.

Once the rough cut was signed off, we were ready to record the voiceover with the guys. Their voiceover gave the series its unique power: making it clear to the viewer that the guys had control over their own story and were sharing their world on their own terms. However, the recording process was not easy!

Finally with the voiceover, colour grading and audio mixing complete, the time had come to share our series with the world. On 2 September 2009, Webisode 1 of Season 1 was uploaded to our new website. It quickly gathered a lot of media attention. Our story was just beginning…

Lewis, Hilly, Lucy, Megan and Sam leaning against a brick wall like in the film Quadrophenia.

Looking moody in our favourite publicity shot for Season 1.