Initially the 'brief' was, well, 'brief'. 'Falling and deep drifting snow to mirror the script - all set in the winter of 1962' please!
Snow Business have worked with Call the Midwife from its inception, but the two Christmas Special episodes looked to require 'film quality' winter set dressing, so the production team involved us from the first draft, onwards.
The script demanded a visualisation of the set changing from light falling snow, through heavier snow fall, to deep snow drifts and frozen objects.
Shooting TV shows is of a much faster pace than 'film'; with up to 20 shots a day demanding precision and flexibility from its set dressers.
As some of the shots encompassed large areas of snow, we used a combination of deep (paper-based) snow and bulking structures for snow drifts, fine snow for areas in close proximity to the camera, and our Powder Frost to white out large areas with minimal product use.
What we did
Six months prior to shooting, Snow Business were invited to attend a series of production meetings. At the first of these, we were presented with a wall of images from the actual winter of - 62 and the first draft of a script. Part of Call the Midwife's success is its accurate historical recall, so our first move was to research the actual snowfall of the period to be filmed. Three months prior to filming we received the first script and had a day to analyse it. We visited the studios and location to produce a breakdown of product requirements, which enabled us to produce the first quote - a worst case scenario with the detail available at the time.
Later, we were able to analyse the script further and to specify dressing requirements more accurately - resulting in a significant product and cost saving.
"The scene is set - and we dress the set and location to reflect the script from 'icicles verging on the spectacular' appearing on the guttering, to Valerie 'peering out onto a whitened world from her bedroom window'."
This was a smooth operation because the production team involved Snow Business from early on and worked the schedule of shoots around the snow. This provided cost savings, for e.g. We were able to reuse large amounts of snow because they shot the 'virgin snow' scenes before the thawing scenes - that could use 'dirty' snow from the previous shoot sequence.
Call the Midwife creator, Heidi Thomas, was clearly delighted with the outcome and commented "it was a case of marking the time until we could tell this story historically, but I don't think there was any fake snow left in England. It's beautiful stuff, very effective."