When Minnow Films commissioned a documentary series about the SAS selection process, they were determined to use “fixed-rig technology for minimal interference and maximum authenticity” for all of the observational stages of the program. The Complete Camera Company were lucky enough to be chosen by award winning production company Minnow Films, to achieve the most authentic representation of this process as possible. The MoD have made it clear that they will never allow cameras into their selection process, so a team of ex-Special Forces soldiers were drafted in to recreate the process they went through to achieve selection. Using this criteria, they tested 30 civilian men, and The CCC were responsible for capturing every drop of blood, sweat and tears.
SAS: Who Dares Wins was filmed in a remote location on the coast of South-West Wales, specifically chosen for its isolated nature and surrounding terrain. The location was a disused ammunition store that had been active as recently as the Falklands war. Since then all of the buildings had been kept in good working order by the on site maintenance team, but as far as The CCC and Minnow were concerned it was a blank canvas for the teams to create the spaces they needed.
The location took 8 crew members 5 days to rig, using 32 cameras and 40 camera positions. Filming took place over 7 interior rooms, the Recruits Dorm, Recruits Mess, DS Dorm, Prayer Room, Mirror Room and 2 extra interrogation spaces. There was also a ‘Beasting’ Area that had light coverage for interior physical work. Outside there were 3 cameras, 2 of which were positioned outside the dorms to capture the movements of the recruits. This area had limited daylight lighting but at night it came alive in Infra Red. The third camera was heavily camouflaged hidden in the tree line to cover the continuing OP (Observation Post). All three of these cameras had the outdoor housings on that enable filming in all weather conditions. Usually, cameras and cabling would be rigged to an already fixed structure that could be planned around, but In order to make the old unused buildings work for the program, everything inside it had to be built from scratch. So each set was hand crafted, and as it was developed The CCC had to work under pressure alongside the set builders to rig as they went along. The area to be covered was huge so the team had to work hard to make the rig work well in this environment.
It became clear early on that the ex-soldiers were focused entirely on the recruits and their experiences, not on the cameras or making a documentary, so it was important that the filming had no impact on their work whatsoever. The CCC embraced this challenge and worked carefully to rig the various locations discretely and efficiently, so that shooting was barely noticeable. Cameras were camouflaged in the various parts of the barracks, and contact with the recruits was limited to the absolutely necessary.
On the first day, 35 radio mics were used to track all of the recruits and the staff simultaneously. Although this was reduced over the filming period as recruits removed themselves from the course, it is the most The Complete Camera Company have known ever to be used in a fixed-rig documentary. Following and recording the best footage was an overwhelming task, but one that was achieved brilliantly by the skilled team put together for the project.
The result was a grueling, painful look at one of the most secretive processes in existence, known as the toughest military entry test in the world. Through sleep deprivation, interrogation and relentless circuits, SAS: Who Dares Wins uncovered the truth about what is really required – and to the surprise of the audience, physical fitness came secondary to psychological resilience. Audiences relished the opportunity to watch the punishing trials, see candidates reach their breaking point, and celebrate some surprise successes in equal measure.
Facts & Figures
Filmed: May/June 2015
Aired: Autumn 2015
Channel: Channel 4
Location: West Wales
Viewers: 2.51 Million
The best show on television.
A thoroughly addictive series.
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The watermark for challenging reality shows has reached a new high.
The tone of (this) series is 'tough', from the background music to the narrator and contestants…who discover they aren't as tough as they think.