The second film in ITV’s doc strand, Fresh Cuts, for rising Black filmmakers, is Jordan Thomas’ film, For Crown and Country.
For Crown and Country is a documentary highlighting and uncovering the historical contribution of black servicemen and women in the British Armed Forces. We follow Ben McBean, a former royal Marines commando, as he learns about four exceptional black veterans from different points in history, and reflects on his own experience in the Marines and the sacrifices he made in service of this country.
Jordan Thomas explains how the film came together.
The idea for ‘For Crown & Country’ was originally developed by the Multistory development team as ‘Black Poppy: Marking the contribution of black servicemen and women’
I was given this topline and told to find my own story within that. After extensive research and several iterations and ideas, I discovered a gentleman called Ben McBean who was a former Royal Marine commando and advocate for veterans. He and many other black veterans I met have a very particular view of the military which was surprising to me and very different to my perception of the institution. So, I had to reframe my documentary around their experiences, and find a way to inject the real- world context.
It was a very short development process, which included pitching ideas to the two commissioners. But once I found my presenter Ben, and discovered that he had no knowledge of black history or military history, we knew that we could use him as a vehicle to discover these people in a genuine and sincere way.
So, it then became a process of me learning about the history and finding different and interesting ways for Ben and the audience to discover it on camera.
I found my presenter after seeing an interview Prince Harry did about the idea of a hero. He spoke about flying home from Afghanistan on a plane with two injured and comatose soldiers, and that he believed they were the “real heroes.” One of those heroes was Ben McBean.
I wanted to educate and celebrate. Black history is British history, so I wanted to show that black and brown people have been involved and supported Britain throughout history, and have contributed to making Britain what it is today.
But I also wanted to make sure that I told the wider context surrounding these moments of celebration and achievements – and that context is usually that in order for these people to support this country, they had to overcome extreme prejudice, restrictions, and bigoted ideology. Which made their experience a lot more difficult than their white counterparts, and has resulted in them being left out of conversations, history books and the curriculum when we look back at our military history.
The editing process was amazing. I was lucky enough to be teamed up with one of the best editors in television, Alex Pascall. Alex is also a film maker, so as well as teaching me the process of an offline edit, from scripting, sync pulling, archive and structuring. His creative input as a producer reframed the entire doc, and he helped me make the film I wanted from the rushes I was able to get. And because I didn’t do my master interviews until the second week of the edit, we were able to identify exactly what was missing and what we needed from them. So, I was able to be very specific with my MIV questions.
His experience was also extremely useful in the viewing stage as he could articulate to the execs and commissioners what was possible with the material we had and why we made certain choices. He is also so quick on Avid, it’s insane. And that speed is so useful on a schedule like we had.
The final stage of the process was presenting the doc to my commissioner Satmohan Panesar. Sat quickly became passionate about this doc and we stopped the first viewing so many times with exciting ideas and feedback. After the first viewing the main take away was that ITV have a particular formula for how they present things to their audience, and my next job was to edit, chop, move and delete things to fit into that. Which was a great learning experience and forced me to set aside some of my ego, and understand that ultimately the film belongs to the channel.
I think we came to a great compromise where everyone is happy and proud with what we ended up with.
For Crown and Country TXs on ITV October 22 and is available on ITVX now
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