Capturing the ‘can do’ place

October 1, 2019

Matt McGough, managing director at Ithica Films, tells North East Times how the team reflected the spirit of Middlesbrough for one special big weekend

There’s something quite special about being asked to capture your hometown on film, and it’s something we’ve done at Ithica Films in various forms since we set up. For one such project, we were tasked with capturing Middlesbrough for the big screens at the BBC Big Weekend.

This was a massive deal for our team as we had a very tight turnaround in which to pull an entire place into 90 seconds. Importantly, we were given the trust to get as creative as we could in telling that story. One of the key things we’ve been able to build is the trust in our ability to deliver, and rather than looking at something dull and easy, or overblown and unachievable, we’ve always tried to push the creative as far as we can and still hit the deadlines. Deadlines are getting shorter and shorter but that’s the game we’re in – and it seems to be something that is affecting every industry at the moment.

So, Boro. A recent placebrand by Hemingway Design had set the idea of a ‘Can Do People’ in a ‘Can Do Place’. Giving meaning to this, from a visual point of view, could take forms.

Our team is a real mixture of those born-andbred on Teesside and people who’ve moved into the area. This gave us a unique way of focussing on the essential elements and how to portray them from a familiar and an outsider perspective. There has been a massive resurgence and divergence across the Tees Valley in the past few years, so we were able to shoot everything from a completely genuine point of view without trying to make something more than it was. This is a vital part of creative filmmaking, as the best results come when you hold up a mirror to reflect how something is, rather than setting out to make a version of your subject. With the Orange Pip Market, the stunning surrounding landscape of city, country and coast, plenty of eating, drinking and events – we had a rich palette from which to play.

Production was intense with the deadline looming, with key input from Enjoy Tees Valley and Middlesbrough Council’s communications teams getting the locations lined up and approvals over the line while we went heavy on the production graft – at Ithica, we know how important collaboration is and this was particularly true in this project.

The big day came. Alongside the reception to the film on the triple screens at the event (accompanied, naturally by a chorus of “TeeTee-Teessiders”), we had a social media eruption. Shares, comments and 250k views online, the sort of social fire that everyone hopes to light. The beauty of this was that it was so organic, as it spread among an audience so varied the main feeling was that we’d given something that mattered to them.

We played our part in putting Boro in people’s minds the way they see it. The North East is being fired up in more ways than we can ever imagine. Things are looking very hopeful. A

Ithica Films

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