Published on 11 June 2024 in Career

Lost Boys and Fairies: an interview with Peter Darney

Last year, we were able to offer a Directors UK member based in Wales the chance to gain production experience on the set of new BBC drama Lost Boys and Fairies

Peter Darney joined the cast and crew during the prep stage and throughout production and post, stepping up to direct second unit.

With the show now airing we caught up with Peter to hear about his experience directing second unit, what it was like choreographing a slow-mo fight scene for screen, and the importance of keeping regional productions local.  

Rydym yn gobeithio y byddwch yn mwynhau’r sgwrs! // We hope you enjoy the conversation!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as a director?  

Sure, I come from Wales and was born in Neath. I’m the only person in my family to go into this kind of industry and was the first Darney to get a degree. I really wanted to direct film and TV, but as someone from a working-class background film school wasn’t something that I could possibly afford. So, I trained first as an actor at “RWCMD” and later decided to do the next best thing and re-train as a theatre director.

Ultimately, the lure of film just kept pulling me in and so I started writing scripts and got in contact with Ffilm Cymru who were amazing. They helped me get some finance to look at my writing, improve my skills and then to shoot, direct, write and direct my first short film (G Flat, available on BBC iPlayer).

How did you first hear about the placement and what excited you about it?  

A friend of mine saw it. I’d been really looking for an opportunity exactly like this. The placement covered everything that I wanted to know more about. From my first short I realised that there are some things I’m really confident with that translate well from theatre. I’m very confident talking to actors about character, performance, motivations, actions, because that’s your bread and butter as a theatre director. I’m also really confident talking to production designers and with music and sound, because I’ve also done a lot of radio drama.  

What I was less confident about was the technical side of things: the relationship between your “DoP”, how to technically put scenes together, the equipment involved, those sorts of things.  I was really excited about the opportunity to watch somebody as incredible as James Kent, who really is a wonderful, generous, intelligent, creative director, and see how he pulls together his world of the film and works collaboratively with all those different departments.  

Before I interviewed, I read Daf James’s script and I just knew that this was something incredibly special. It spoke to me so much and to be able to work on something that you genuinely love, believe in, and would fight tooth and nail for is such a privilege.

It’s important to see non-London centric dramas on TV. Was that feeling shared by the wider crew on set?  

Something really wonderful about this production was that pretty much everybody was Wales-based. 

I just shot a TV pilot a couple of weeks ago and people that I met through Lost Boys and Fairies came onto it. It was really joyous to be able to work together, to build those connections myself and get to know people in those networks and who were living nearby, who can jump on projects with me was really lovely and really fun.  

My first AD on the pilot was the third AD on Lost Boys and often stepped up to first on second unit, and I also had the same script supervisor. It was really lovely to be able to feel like you've got that nice supportive network that it created, that you can take on into your own work.  

What was your first day directing second unit on Lost Boys and Fairies like?  

I actually started with something really massive and ended on one of the smaller things. It was quite scary to be honest with you.

I was shooting a scene with a boy being rescued from an abusive family in a council estate. We had loads of safeguarding things that I’d had to factor in, so we had to do a split screen which was put together later. It was a complicated thing to do. Not complicated if you’re experienced, but when you’re less experienced working with split screen and having someone from “VFX” there — all of that stuff was a step on from anything I’d ever had access to before.  

Working with a four year-old, about 30 extras, three or four locations within this council estate, knowing that things had to be shot and put together in Post later, and making sure that all of that worked. It was a baptism of fire, and I loved it!  

Are there any other skills, or experience that you gained from the placement that you think you’ll take forward in your career? 

There are three main new skills. Number one was working with children, I hadn’t expected necessarily to be doing that.  I hadn’t really worked on getting a performance out of a child actor before. I ended up doing lots of work with the children and realised that that was something that I was really good at. 

I’ve taught a little bit in special needs schools over the years, and I did have some children with learning difficulties to work with, and it was cool how all that previous training kicks back in and you’re able to bring that to a screen situation. Another thing that I hadn't expected to do but ended up doing a huge amount of was working with the “VFX” supervisor. One of the things I shot was Satan climbing through a wall and dragging a teenage boy to hell. Having the opportunity to work on something of that kind of budget was really exciting.  

The other thing that I really enjoyed was a fight scene. Jamie Harding, the second unit “DoP”, and I were able to go off for a day with the stunt artists and do a pre-vis. I created the fight with them and worked out with Jamie how we might shoot it. We took that back to the main unit and showed everybody, and they loved it and told us to crack on. 

We ended up shooting this super slo-mo fight scene on a Phantom camera with probably about 50 extras, eight actors, eight stunt artists. It was a massive piece of choreography in the end, and it had this added pressure because the Phantom camera takes 20 minutes to upload what you shoot, and you can't shoot while it's uploading. So, we had to be really careful about what was committed to camera.

Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you’d like to share with us?  

I went on from doing second unit on this to doing second unit on a vampire feature film called The Radleys for Euros Lyn. It was really nice to be able to go and do the same role with another director and see the different ways that they work.

I’m currently trying to raise the money to shoot a proof of concept for my first feature film Clapham Trashbag, which is based on my play, 5 Guys Chillin’. The play ran for quite a few years, and ended up going off Broadway, Sydney, Toronto. It’s just finished a three year run in Paris, and I’m working on a feature film based on it, which is about chem-sex in the men who have sex with men community. It’s something that I really care about. I’ve lost several friends to that world, to overdoses and addiction, and it’s something that still takes the lives of many gay men in the UK every week. So, I’m working towards making my first feature based on the true stories that were shared with me for the play, and to raise awareness and take that conversation even further.  

‘Lost Boys and Fairies’ is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer

Photos: Peter Darney

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