If you’ve been tuning into programmes like Victorian Farm or Secrets of World War II on the Yesterday channel recently, you might have caught findmypast.co.uk’s new TV sponsorship ads. This is our very first foray into the world of TV advertising, and as marketing manager for findmypast.co.uk, I was lucky enough to be there at the filming.
This was my first experience of working on a TV campaign and I was surprised by just how many people were involved in bringing our ads to life. As well as the five actors who you see on screen, there were lighting crew, cameraman, runners, sound man, make-up artist, wardrobe mistress, producer, production manager and assistants, props team, assistant director, scriptwriter and creative team – around 30 people in total – who all had to squash into a tiny nursery to film the “But I can’t be your great-grandmother” ad.
Of course there was our brilliant director Alan Grint, of Lark Rise to Candleford, Catherine Cookson mini series and Midsomer Murders fame. He ensured that we had no dramas of our own, with filming running perfectly to schedule (which apparently never happens) and all taking place on one day at Cragside House, a stunning National Trust property in Rothbury. A day later we found out that gunman Raoul Moat had been on the loose in the village all the time we were filming! Fortunately for us the only problems we encountered were the house alarm going off whenever a smoke machine was used to create the atmospheric haze in the ad set in the kitchen and the occasional RAF jet flying low overhead between takes.
Cragside House was the home of Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor, and it is filled with all sorts of his gadgets, such as a forerunner of the soda stream, with a rather dauntingly oversized gas cylinder attached. This was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, so our production team had to disguise some of the electric light fittings to make them look like gaslight and more in keeping with the period. The staff at Cragside House were incredibly patient with us and the whole crew really worked well together – we all had a fantastic day.