February: Valentine's Day
Secrets, lies and betrayal... A romantic meal for two turns to terror when a British agent's cover is blown.
The second Year of Spies is a much grander romantic affair to tie into the theme of Valentine's Day, but the writing team didn't want to make the usual clichéd love story.
We really wanted this episode to be all about the secrets couples keep from each other. On the surface, Marie and Julian seem happy and content living the life of luxury. However, underneath everything is a lie.
Marie's a secret agent sent to get close to Julian and gather information, but Julian knows this and is covertly co-operating with an assassin to have Marie executed. It's a cat and mouse game played out against the backdrop of a grand manor house at night.
For this mission, Chris decided to storyboard the whole script in detail. This was because we were very limited on the amount of time we had to shoot in locations and with our actors so everything had to be planned to the nth degree.
Storyboarding helps immensely with keeping track of all of the characters and camera positions and reduces time taken to 'block' out action on shoot days. They also act as a shot list, so we know exactly where we're up to in time sensitive locations.
We were helped out on this episode by a great cast. Manchester based actors Gerard Rea and Nina Gilhooly were quickly cast for the roles of Julian and Volchitsa respectively.
We had a lot of actresses submit self tapes for the role of Marie and it was a difficult job to decide between them as everyone was so good! We cast Sian Hill as Marie Glass, as we felt she could play both the vulnerability and strength of the character.
February's episode was a great to work on. It was a fast paced shoot, but everything was so well organised that it wasn't rushed, just efficient and effective.
It was a great to challenge for myself as an actor as I had never done this style of film before, but it certainly got me in the mood to do more.
Chris and Steph were easy to work with as were the rest of the cast, there were so many laughs on this shoot!
Behind the Scenes
The sauce on the steak in the opening scene was actually fake blood.
The name of the female assassin Volchitsa means She Wolf in Russian.
The wine bottle labels name them as Chateau Barnette, in honour of our production assistant Mark Barnett.
Julian throws a real (but inoperable) iPhone out of the car at the end and despite multiple takes, it suffered no cosmetic damage. A miracle!
As always, massive thanks to everyone involved in the production of this episode. Thank you to the actors for all of your time and hard work. Thank you to our amazing production assistant Mark Barnett for all of your help. Thank you to Robin MacDonald and Chris W. Stone for generously letting us use your locations. Thank you to Michael Costigan for the use of his Porsche and thank you to Richard Costigan for driving it. Thank you to Amanda and Tim Bosson for the use of your garden. Thank you to Gervais Roe and Julie Morrisroe for lending us much needed props.
If you'd like to get involved in Year of Spies in any role, from acting to assisting with production, from providing access to an interesting location to lending props and costumes, from sponsoring an episode to helping spread the word on social media, please get in touch with us, we need your help.