Modern-day witchcraft drama, Domino Day, created and written by the BAFTA-nominated Lauren Sequeira and developed and produced by Fremantle’s Dancing Ledge Productions goes out on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer on January 31st.
Set and filmed in Manchester, it stars the BAFTA-nominated Siena Kelly (Adult Material, Hit & Run) as Domino Day, a young woman on all the dating apps. But Domino isn’t swiping to find her soulmate – she’s swiping to hunt.
Lauren Sequeira explains the creative process behind the show, her first original drama and her first time running the writers’ room.
DOMINO DAY has been the most exciting, energising AND exhausting project in my writing career so far. My first original series. And a supernatural one at that. We don’t do genre much here in the UK, so to write something for my first original – where you have to create the rules of the world from the ground up – was both fun and challenging.
The seed of the idea came to me in 2017, when I was a writer-in-residence in a scheme set up by Laurence Bowen at Dancing Ledge Productions – the producers on the show. It went into a long development process for a couple of years, which eventually led to a green light during the height of the pandemic. This slowed everything down and as a result I was able to really spend some time building the show. The first challenge was getting the balance right – yes, this was a supernatural genre show about witches – but it was also about real-world relationships, dating (and how transient that can be on the apps; something that my main character used to her advantage in order to hunt for victims whose energy she needed to feed off of). But it was also about friendship, connection, finding your identity, learning to love the dark sides in yourself. It was a tough balance to get right.
One of the early discussions was where to set it. London had been done to death in TV drama and it was important to the BBC to represent other parts of the UK. I had also always seen my main character as being a Londoner like me, running away from her past, but also running to answers. I knew I needed another city – setting this in a sleepy village where you might find the same ten people on a dating app wouldn’t work for Domino’s M/O – and Manchester just leaped out at me. It’s such a cool city with modern and new, red-brick warehouses and cobble-stoned alleyways juxtaposed with a thriving nightlife. It naturally lent to a dark and mysterious witch show.
I was given the choice by the BBC of writing the entire series myself or inviting writers to write individual episodes. I chose the latter as I think it’s so invaluable to have other voices and perspectives interrogating your show. We were a ‘coven of writers’ and it was important to me to bake the themes of the show into how we made it. That included bringing in female writers as frankly the stats on how many women write primetime drama is shocking. It was the first time running my own room too – having been in other writers’ rooms, I learnt what worked and didn’t work for me. It was a rewarding experience. And we kept going back into the room when we needed to; whether that was rethinking some key story beats or grappling with channel notes.
By 2022 we were gearing up for pre-production. It was important for me to find directors that really got the show. And again, it was a balance of inviting their ideas into the mix but keeping my voice clear. Lead director Eva Sigurdardottir was amazing in that regard; super respectful of my vision and embraced the genre elements of the show that she maybe wasn’t used to.
Being an exec producer on the show was also important to me; this show came from me, so I wanted to be across casting, costume, music etc. It was amazing to go through those casting tapes, and start having those discussions with the art department about how the show should look. Finding Siena Kelly as my lead early on in the process was the biggest win. Getting someone who could perfectly show the grey in my main character was crucial.
The shoot itself was intense. I wanted to be available to my directors as much as needed. Notes were constant and things were changing constantly to meet production schedules. This was the biggest challenge of making a genre show. The uniqueness of the show meant a unique production process. We had VFX and SFX teams on set most days, to capture those moments of magick. And we used local crew as much as possible. The shoot lasted just over three months and the edit process was another new experience for me; it didn’t stop when the director said, “that’s a wrap!” Post-production was a different creature I was understanding; seeing how it all comes together and maybe tweaking the structure from the original script was eye-opening. And the music! Working closely with composers Lindsay Wright and Tawiah was such a fruitful experience. The music really elevates this series.
With all that said, making Domino Day was a relentless roller-coaster. I had an amazing editorial team around me – massive love to script editor Beth Warin at Dancing Ledge and story producer Simon Judd. Those roles tend to not get much recognition, but for any show getting made (particularly when it’s a first show for a writer who’s still building their confidence) they are so important. They’re the writer’s oxygen. Now coming out of the other end, I’ve begun to reflect on the whole process. This’ll sound so cheesy, but in many ways, my journey as a first-time writer echoed Domino Day ‘s character – learning to own my magick and power.
The six-part drama is available in full on BBC iPlayer from 6am on Wednesday, January 31.
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