Top TV director inspires Perse creative arts students
9 May 2019
Television director David O’Neill provided an illuminating insight into his work as part of the Perse Creative Mentors programme.
Mr O’Neill, who has directed Call the Midwife, Grantchester and Death in Paradise among others, met with Perse students who are keen to enter the world of performing and creative arts and outlined his role in ensuring such hit shows come together.
Having started out directing documentaries, including working with Bear Grylls on several series, and briefly working in reality TV, he moved into drama just over a decade ago.
Mr O’Neill explained how there are usually 25 12-hour days allocated to shoot two hour-long episodes (around 200 scenes) and it was important for filming not to run over time each day.
He said: “With the last scene of the day you might only have half an hour to do it, so it can be very stressful. For new actors coming in, it’s hard because it’s such a fast turnover.”
Mr O’Neill outlined that while he is responsible for the smooth running of the whole operation, his key task is ensuring the best possible performance from the actors.
He said: “It can be quite intimidating, even for experienced actors, when there are a lot of people on set. My job is thinking about what’s going on inside the actors’ heads. They’ve got to feel safe in my hands and they’ve got to believe my direction is right.”
However, Mr O’Neill added that the importance of a well-written script could not be understated no matter how good the actors. He said: “Writers are the creative kick-off. It is their imagination that you’re producing and it’s my job as a director to interpret what has been written as do it justice.”
Mr O’Neill rounded off his visit by advising students to learn from short films, as they provide a good format for putting ideas together on screen and honing their craft. He also recommended turning the sound off when looking at TV or film and just watching the pictures to gain inspiration.