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Exec Producers Jane Kelly and Philip McGovern discuss making Daniel sa Bhaile
05 Jun 2020 : News Desk
IFTN caught up with Daniel sa Bhaile Executvie Producers Jane Kelly and Philip McGovern of Big Mountain Productions ahead of the shows first episode this Sunday, 7th June at 6.40pm on TG4.

Daniel sa Bhaile brings the nation into the Donegal home of one of our national treasures, Daniel O’Donnell. The International singing star and nations favourite, Daniel, will be catching up with fans and friends online as he hosts his new chat & entertainment show. Each week Daniel will be joined online by a variety of guests as he chats to them about everything; from how they are coping in lockdown, to the new activities & hobbies they have taken up over the last few weeks.

In episode one Daniel will chat with Moya Brennan as they discuss Clannad’s farewell tour and their cancelled plans. Majella will be popping in to the show each week and for the first episode she will join Daniel as they get their hips moving in an online Hula Hooping class. Daniel will also talk to an Irish couple who have had to postpone their wedding and he will meet up virtually with his old friend Gloria Hunniford.

For episode two Daniel will chat with Derek Ryan and Philomena Begley as they discuss their new single “It Won’t Rain Forever”. Majella joins Daniel as they decide to take part in an online Zumba workout. Daniel will also be learning mindfulness through chocolate and he will be joined online by a special guest.

Daniel sa Bhaile airs each Sunday evening on TG4 as Daniel presents his brand-new show full of chat & craic from his home during lockdown. Sundays at 6.40pm from 7thJune on TG4. The show is produced by Big Mountain Productions for TG4 with funding from the Northern Ireland Screen's Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF).

IFTN Journalist Nathan Griffin caught up with Jane and Philip to find out more about filming a series on lockdown.

IFTN: How did the idea for the project come about, and how have you found adapting your approach to production during the ongoing pandemic?

Jane: “When the pandemic hit in late February, Co-Founder of Big Mountain and entertainment loving producer, Philip McGovern had the idea of a weekly live entertainment show with one of our best loved national treasures, Daniel O’Donnell at the helm. Myself and Philip were determined to find innovative ways through the crisis for their company and their brilliant team of producers and editors who work with them. They were already delivering a Covid19-proof pilot to ITV as lockdown started and already felt they had a head start on working within new guidelines.

Big Mountain has been making entertainment series with Daniel for Tg4 for 10 seasons leading the whole resurgence in Country Music in Ireland. Daniel was keen to help entertain the nation in what were dark times as we all headed into March.

Early on in the crisis, Alan Esslemont, Controller of TG4 alongside Mary Ellen Ní Chulain showed amazing leadership by making themselves available to the Independent sector to find ways to keep companies afloat. They were an important support at a time when the production sector in Ireland really needed it. Together with the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and Northern Ireland Screen, they launched a funding initiative.

Philip and his team at Big Mountain worked on the idea and he and Denise Fogarty, PM brought in technical expertise in Riverside who were already delivering Covid19 compliant productions. Safety of Daniel, Majella and the team were paramount. The show was commissioned and the production got underway under experienced entertainment hands of SP, David Kilpatrick and Music Producer, Sally Ní Dhuibhir.”

Philip: “I am delighted how we’ve all managed to work together apart on this very special entertainment production with Country icon, Daniel O’Donnell  from his stunning home in Donegal and joined by his wife Majella.”

IFTN: Can you give me a bit of insight into the day to day of a production adhering to social distancing and online platforms?

Jane: “In order to be able to make this series safely our production manger Denise Fogarty consulted health & safety experts from the start and drew up Covid 19 production protocols that are in place. We are using Riverside Television to run our OB; they have a great team and have found new creative ways to allow us to film. There are no crew in Daniel & Majella’s home as we record; everything is controlled via the truck.  Daniel & Majella can mic themselves too so there really is no crew interaction. The OB unit has also gotten a Covid makeover and all sections have been fitted out with Perspex to separate and create individual working spaces for our small crew in the OB. It’s been a completely new way of working but our crew adjusted quickly to this new way of creating TV, Of course we also have our crew kitted out in PPE Gear and we have hand sanitising stations throughout.

All of our contributors are on online too, it’s been great having the technology to bring people in Daniel & Majella’s home virtually and to hear about their lockdown experience, chat with Daniel and show both of them new things such as how to Hula Hoop.

It’s taken a team effort bit with the right health & safety, Covid protocols and clear communication it has been made possible to make a great series.”

IFTN: What are the pros and cons of making productions in this format?

Jane: The pros are that we do have better and clearer communications in place across the company and we’re finding we have to be quick and adaptable to changing situations, especially as lockdown eases.”

IFTN: Having an experienced entertainer such as Daniel must have been a major asset to a production working under restrictions?

Philip:“We love working with Daniel and it’s getting on for 10 years now and Majella took part in our Daniel and Friends New Year’s show we did some years ago for RTE so we know both of them well.

Daniel is the consummate professional and he trusts us. He’s a genuine ambassador for the language. It’s also important to him that TG4 has a global audience with its player and he can reach people as gaeilge at home and abroad.”

IFTN: What techniques did you do to enhance video and sound quality while recording remotely using digital communications technology?

Philip: “Big Mountain worked closely with Riverside to provide the highest broadcast quality of sound and vision for the series.  We have a designated SKYPE operator who also helps insure we can get the best framing, lighting and mic positioning whether it be headset, airbuds or simply the built in laptop mic. There’s music, chat and activity and the show features people at home and in the outdoors – the first programme shows downtown Las Vegas as you’ve never seen it before!”

IFTN: The show is supported by the Irish Language Broadcast Fund. How beneficial is this fund to supporting the creation of high quality content as Gaeilge?

Jane:“Northern Ireland Screen and The Irish Language Broadcast Fund have been key drivers in maintaining and sustaining the independent production sector in NI in English and Irish especially in the last few months. They have reacted to the situation so speedily and been so supportive through funding opportunities, advice and regular updates and calls.

We have a situation where audiences are coming to TV in record numbers at a time when it is difficult to make content so it feels like a small triumph that we can make a quality entertainment show with a National Treasure that will cheer up audiences and help keep the sector sustained.”

Daniel San Abhaile airs on TG4this Sunday, 7th June, 6.40pm.

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