Markham (2020) shooting the Yorkshire Coast

Pretty soon my feature film directing debut Markham (2020) will be available to buy and to stream. We’re still putting the final touches to the film and next week we’ll be shooting even more material, which will mean another trip to the Yorkshire coast next week from our Leeds base.

Shooting at the coast brings up lots of challenges.  Most of Markham was shot in winter time, and that meant battling very cold temperatures. I remember shooting one day at Staithes in January (on what turned out to be the coldest day of 2019). It was a day when we needed to shoot a few sequences in the North Sea – and it was so cold that I began to lose feeling in my fingers, which meant starting and stopping the various cameras we were using became a big problem.

Other challenges included the howling wind rolling in off the North Sea making much of the dialogue tracks we shot in some sequences unusable. In some scenes, shot next to the sea, I used a small lapel mike on actors when I could, this worked well, but it couldn’t be utilised all the time. Anything using a boom, even with various types of wind covers really struggled with the persistent winter gale. Sometimes the sound of mad seagulls, especially the seagulls at Staithes, who make some fittingly odd song, became an issue too – lots of wild track needed to be recorded for continuity.

Of course, all shooting days on the coast needed to be organised around the tides, especially when shooting sequences on the beach.  Sequence to sequence the tides need to match what was shot before. This can become a bit of a logistical nightmare day –to-day, and it was my responsibility as director to look at the tide tables and decide what was suitable to shoot and when.  

I’ll admit that on occasion I did get it wrong, and on one day scheduled for shooting in Staithes we had to give up when I got the tides mixed up. On that day we managed to move up the coast to Skinningrove, a small village further up north, and luckily we could shoot some pick up shots and other material that meant the day wasn’t a total right off (we couldn’t wait at Staithes for the tides, because the correct level wouldn’t have arrived until late at night).

Other challenges included general health and safety. The beach at Staithes is surrounded by some cliffs that have regular rock falls (which can, and have killed people, tragically).  Shooting any sort of action sequence with people running on wet rock, near water is always a worry. On top of all this, the aforementioned tides, which can change quickly, are always a danger, you don’t want to get your crew cut off and stranded from safety as the North Sea rolls in.

Luckily, the shoot went well from a safety point of view, but the challenges of shooting on the Yorkshire coast in winter are very real.  Markham was shot for a tiny budget with a tiny crew; clearer thinking in pre-production would have considered some of the issues we faced more seriously. On a positive note, the beach scenes shot at Staithes add massive production value and startling imagery to the film; much of where we shot is not normally used by film and TV crews, probably due to the issues I’ve mentioned.  That means, Markham was shot where no other crews dared to go – at times it looks like the moon, but was a tiny bit easier to get to.

As well as being a freelance film director for hire, Matthew has also enjoyed a long career as a script writer for hire he’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer.

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.

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