Behind The Scenes With Pobol y Cwm At Cardiff's Roath Lock Studios
yIn Entertainment South Wales continuing series celebrating the recent fifth anniversary of the BBC's Roath Lock studios, Andy Howells turns the spotlight on to Welsh language drama series Pobol y Cwm...
Long running Welsh language drama series Pobol y Cwm has been produced by the BBC since October 1974, but whereas 30 episodes a year were produced in the 1970s and 1980s, 250 episodes are now filmed every year.
Like Casualty and Doctor Who, Pobol y Cwm has been filmed for the last five years at the BBC’s Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff. Having two studios comprising 15 sets in all ensures a swift turn around in recording each episode. Approximately 16 to 18 scenes are filmed each day, resulting in 20 minutes of action which is equivalent to 80 pages of script.
The programme production process from initial storyline discussions to writing the final scripts ready for filming takes between seven to nine months, but even the best laid plans for a TV series can occasionally run into unforeseen circumstances.
The day I visit the set at Roath Lock studios, a downward turn in weather conditions means the production team must rethink their recording schedule which involves several outdoor scenes on the shows backlot, (familiar to viewers as the Welsh town of Cwmderi) been relocated to an indoor set. Along with several other journalists, we assemble around a monitor in the back kitchen of the hairdressers to watch a scene been recorded in the shop next door.
Series Producer Llyr Morus explains “We haven’t the option for waiting for a dry day, so we’ve had to rewrite those scenes here this morning. Having the facility, we have here now has meant the schedule has just carried on as we just relocated the scenes to be inside.”
A permanent studio set is a therefore a big benefit to the series as Llyr adds “It has massively benefited the production process. it is far more flexible and gives us far more opportunities. “
Actor Jonathan Nefydd, who has played the part of Colin Evans for over a decade, has also seen many benefits to Pobol y Cwm having a permanent home at the BBC’s Roath Lock Studios. “I think our greatest asset is our backlot,” says Jonathan, “My character works in a shop and it’s a live set on the lot, its tremendous, you can do a scene and through the window you can see a slice of West Wales rural life happening in Cardiff Bay. It’s incredible, we’re so lucky to be here.”
Jonathan feels that having a permanent set for Pobol y Cwm has benefited not only the production team and the cast, but also the programmes audience. He adds “I think it enriches the audience immensely (through) the stories, the narrative and the creativity we can do.”
Prior to its base at Roath Lock, Pobol y Cwm was filmed at the BBC’s Llandaff studios, but there were limitations as Jonathan remembers, “When we were in the old base, we had a C1 studio which had about 9 sets maximum and they were up on the Sunday and you were stuck with those sets for the whole week. If the shop set wasn’t up, you couldn’t go to the shop. Here, we have two massive studios with all the character’s homes and dwellings constantly. So, you can have one episode when you are in a different location and a different set in each scene. As an actor, you can personalise your little sets, if (we) get the permission from our Designer John Thompson. You can get John to put something which is a little bit more of a character trait into the set, not necessarily part of the story but something which is part of his or her journey.”
Certainly, in terms of ongoing production and continuity, Roath Lock has proven to be a strong asset in assisting Pobol y Cwm’s production team and cast in efficiently producing top class drama across Wales every week.
- Andy Howells is a freelance entertainment writer who regularly contributes to the South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide. Follow Andy on Twitter @EntsSouthWales and on Instagram @retrospaceandy
- Pobol y Cwm is broadcast on weeknights at 8pm on S4C. For more details visit the shows official website.
- Read about Doctor Who production at Roath Lock Studios
- Read about Roath Lock Studios fifth anniversary