Hinterland Offset Talk

 ‌‌Photograph taken by Wendy Shaw 2016

Arriving for the preview night in Old College for the Hinterland Offset talk with the two Eds – Talfan and Thomas, and Exhibition, was magical for the Support Artist (SA) on the evening of Friday the 18th November 2016. On walking towards the building on the seafront, a sense of excitement began to swell. The image of Mathias welcoming the visitor on a banner on a wire fence, was most fitting. The blue light once inside the quad, with police tape, set the crime scene perfectly. A fizz of anticipation of a great evening, alongside the music of John Hardy (who has created all of the backing tracks for the complete Series) with all things Hinterland related was about to begin. I arrived with fellow support artists, whom I had spent many an hour with in the green room and on set. To share the experience together was an appropriate end to our time together with the Series. We all chose to be involved as it was on our doorstep, and we all remain friends as a close bond was formed over the period of filming.

The journey had been long and winding with Hinterland to this date. I was first involved from the autumn of 2012 in Series 1. Little did I know that four years later, an exhibition and talk would be made available for public interest and as a “thankyou” for the support from Ceredigion by Fiction Factory for locals.

My friend Anwen and myself,were both asked if we would relay some thoughts about our experiences as support artistes, just before the evening began. Anwen, who played CID, portrayed her responses in the Welsh language, and for myself, in English as a WPC. This was fitting, since the whole programme was bilingual. Both of us were happy to oblige, and felt that this contribution demonstrated how we viewed our input into Y Gwyll/Hinterland.

Nibbles and drinks were consumed in the quad. An ideal choice to allow invited guests to mingle and absorb the sensory experience. Many familiar faces were visible in the crowd, such as the Art Department from the production company who have had such an important role to play in making the set look realistic, and place the characters into context.

Whilst in the Old Hall, the simplistic “stage” for the was a powerful tool in the evening. A drop down screen was a blaze of blue to depict the police, and three chairs were neatly arranged looking out towards the audience. SA’s took their place amongst the throng of people. This evening was a chance for Kate from the TFTS Department, to ask how and where and why it all began and what made it succssful.

As soon as Kate introduced the creators of the Bafta Cymru Award winning Series, the room went quiet and was subdued by the blue hues. S4C were in evidence filming the event for streaming. All eyes were firmly fixed on the front stage. It was hard not to become engrossed in the warmth and genuine responses from the two Ed’s. Kate had interviewed them previously at the initial opening of Series 1 in the same place. A sense of ease came across between the threesome. There were no barriers, it was a relaxed and informative banter in simultaneous translation.

During the talk, I learnt a lot more about the creators. You could tell that they had fallen “in love” with the County, and had gone from wondering how the public would respond to their programme, to elation at gaining funding and finding that across 30 countries, how much Scandi-Noir was in demand. Hinterland really does showcase Ceredigion. The landscape is the character.

What was interesting about the whole talk, was the way that the two Ed’s did not have a script; instead, preferring to let their passion for the crime detective drama shine through in their informal speech. The creators complimented one another, and were genuine in their time and responses to the questions from the stage and from the floor. I aked the Ed’s if they had a preferred episode from the complete Series, however in true Hinterland style, they were both modest and woud not be drawn to single out just one. Y Gwyll had surpassed expectations, when only one Series was commissioned.

For the invited guests, a real insight into the journey from script to mass distribution worldwide, where Hinterland had gained critical acclaim, and been left at the end of the third Series where another could be created, or a one off special if preferable due to work commitments of actors. Ed Thomas admitted that Richard Harrington was Mathias. Without him, it would be a different programme. It was interesting to hear that the props and sets were still intact in storage locally. Only time will tell if they are required for another crime scene for Ceredigion! For the interim period, these items will remain secure and gather dust until a decision is made for the future.

Post the talk, guests were invited to interact with the exhibition. The police tape was cut to open the event. The actual Exhibition, which was separate from the Old Hall, in a side room, had two police cones directly outside the door. Signage indicated the nature of the exhibition, but nothing prepared me for the emotions felt upon stepping over the threshold of the room.

All credit to the Art Department who had produced a well thought out scene within such a relatively small space. What struck me, was how trusting the production company had been in allowing the public the chance to actually touch the real props! There was no rope, no silence, no tocuhing notices. The installation had CCTV cameras installed for safety protection, and a representative observing the visitor in the background by the seated window area. Two staff were on hand on the preview night to keep an eye on proceedings.

The room contained an array of media to meet every learning style. For the SA, it was a trip back down a memory lane. To see the office environment where Mathias and Rhys often spoke on set, and we often traversed, but now transported into another environment, was special. This wasn’t immediately visible, as files and metal shelving that were used in another sub room on set, were stuffed full of photographic materials, evidence bags, files, paperwork, paraphenalia.

On your left was a recreation of a murder scene. The body tucked half hidden and half on show, made you stop and stare. Fake blood was smeared upon the wall. The backdrop was white.

Being able to track all the locations used within the series was a highlight on one wall. A huge map depicted Ceredigion and key locations. Once again the visuals played a large part in shocking, and rewarding the visitor with actual shots used in the incident room and out on location. Who can forget the girl in the red dress in the marram grass in Borth? This place was a well liked area with crewe and creators, and was used as a location several times throughout the filming.

The senses were stimulated many times during the exhibition by the atmosphere and sense of occaision in a building (Old College) that could tell a few stories of it’s own. Visitors stopped, starred, commented, touched, listened, chattered, were challenged through linear text, stroked the jackets of the lead actors, sat at the desks, pawed over the glass cabinet with police ID and children’s photos and posed for mugshots as if in a police station for an identification parade and laid down on the green couch used in the reception area of the police station.

The Hinterland Offset exhibition has marked a suitable ending to a glorious bilingual production. It was emotive leaving Old College with the SA’s who had attended the evening. For all of the other years, there has always been the possibility of another Series. For the SA, this invite gave us closure. We could withdraw to civilian street, whilst at the same time letting go of our own roles as an SA on the programme in a controlled setting.

Diolch yn fawr for choosing to place Ceredigion and Mid-Wales on the map! A little piece of Y Gwyll in front of you, making history for the film industry and us alike. Bravo Fiction Factory and Aberystwyth University for collaborating and enabling the whole community access to the otherside of the camera.

Wendy Shaw
Support Artist
February 2017