As part of Directors UK Inspire, our year-round mentoring programme, Directors UK member Miranda Howard-Williams spent some time shadowing her fellow member Euros Lyn on the set of Dream Horse. Find out what Miranda and Euros thought of the scheme below.
I have long admired the career and work of Euros Lyn – I so was thrilled when I was able to be part of a roundtable discussion with him during my time in BAFTA Crew last year. I was also brave, or bolshy, enough afterwards to get in touch to ask if I might be able to shadow him on a future project. Like me, Euros began in continuing drama and has since directed some of the very best in British TV Drama – Happy Valley, Sherlock and my favourite Doctor Who episodes. So, his is a career I dream of emulating! Euros was very supportive and happily agreed for me to shadow him at various points throughout this last year on his feature film Dream Horse.
Firstly, I was able to attend a full day of tech recces to many of the shooting locations. On Doctors, where I am a regular director, a tech recce involves three people in a car – this was a full coach load of people! It was brilliant to see Euros explaining his vision of each location and the scenes to be shot there. I was able to put what I had learned and observed into action on my latest job, directing a block of the BBC detective drama Shakespeare and Hathaway, where I had my very own coach load of people on a tech recce for the first time! It was so helpful and reassuring to have shadowed Euros, as I now knew what was expected of the director on a tech recce.
Over the Dream Horse shoot I was able to attend three different shoot days. I specifically wanted to attend more complex and technical sequences as this is a skillset I am looking to develop in my own directing. As the film is about horse racing, I was able to attend two days at racecourses. One filming just the horses who were recreating a specific race, which was an amazing technical feat. Euros and the DoP had very specific plans for camera positions, and specific sections of the track and race to shoot each pass. It was so interesting to see such a different kind of directing at work here – where Euros had to be able to really see the edit in his mind and know that the race was going to hold together out of all these tiny fragments. The second day of shooting was with the main cast who were watching the race we had previously filmed with the horses. Here totally different directing skills were required from Euros as he was working to create atmosphere and tension – when of course they were watching an empty racetrack! The final day of shooting was interiors with the main cast and so it was brilliant to be able to contrast these smaller, character driven scenes with the larger scale of the racing scenes.
My final couple of days shadowing Euros were many months later in the sound mix for the film. I was able to watch the whole film and it was brilliant to see how all the locations I had seen at the tech recce had come to life on screen with production design. It was also exciting to see how the horse elements, crowd elements and key cast sections had all come together in post to create really exciting and tense race sequences. The level of detailed notes Euros gave in the sound mix was interesting to hear, especially as, at my stage of TV directing, I don't even get to attend my sound mixes! It was powerful to see how much you can bring out story elements and beats through the sound mix.
Overall, I learned a huge amount during my time shadowing Euros. He was always generous with his time and with answering my questions. It was inspiring to see a director so liked and respected by all his team – Euros has a really calm manner on set, something I aim to have too! After my time shadowing on the shoot I got my first directing job on a returning series so it was a step up for me and I was able to put some of what I had learned into action. As well as knowing what to expect from a full tech recce there were also practical changes that I implemented – I went digital inspired by Euros’ use of his iPad on set. I did all my shot plans on my iPad and got the app that Euros had recommended for scripts and notes. This worked really well both in my prep and on set and it was good for me to have seen it in use so successfully on Dream Horse to inspire me to ditch the paper! Plus helping save the world one tree at a time!
I would highly recommend the Inspire Scheme and shadowing. Specifically, it was important to me to shadow across a project so I could get a through line. I have spent time shadowing directors on set before but the worlds of prep and post can often be very mysterious so I really valued being welcomed into these sessions with Euros. It was also very satisfying to be able to put things I had learned to the test immediately in my work. I would like to thank Euros and the whole Dream Horse team for making me so welcome and supported! Many thanks also to Directors UK, without the financial support of the Inspire Scheme this experience would not have been possible for me especially with so many trips from London to Wales and with a young toddler in childcare. Thank you Directors UK!
I got chatting to Miranda during a BAFTA Q&A I was contributing to. Her enthusiasm and passion for directing was clear and when she asked me if I’d considering her shadowing me on my next project, I was delighted to say yes. A director’s creativity and passion comes from within but our skillset can be acquired.
Storytelling skills, a knowledge of production processes and everyone else’s craft (from development through to distribution), people skills, time-management skills, how to read a weather forecast, how to coax a performance out of an actor/child/animal... are all things we can learn and get better at. I’m delighted that Directors UK have a mentoring scheme so that aspiring Directors like Miranda who is making a name for herself in the industry can observe how established directors practice their craft.