Interview with Matthew Hall
Un Bore Mercher
By DJ Forrest
Helo Matthew, thank you so much for following us. I'm loving the series, I hadn't realised that the initial launch of the drama was in Welsh, and that it was called One Wednesday Morning. I'd been waiting for Keeping Faith to appear on my screen for some time, so was at first, a little confused.
The new series for BBC 1 Wales comes out next year I believe, how will that play out? Will the series be dubbed in English, or will the same scenes be played out in English?
Matthew: The English version comes out from mid Feb. Initially on BBC Wales, but we hope it will be shown on BBC 2 soon after and are currently talking to the BBC about that.
There were five co-producers involved, including the S4C, BBC Wales, Pinewood Studios, a US distributor and a distributor for the rest of the world. We are intending for the show to travel far and wide!
The English episodes will be 10 minutes longer at 60 minutes each. Each scene was shot in both English and in Welsh, so you will see literally nothing of the Welsh version in the English one. The Amy Wadge songs are also different. It will be a substantially different experience and for my money will hang together a bit better. Quite a few difficult cutting decisions have been made in order to get the show down to 50 minutes.
When you said it took 5 years from outline to screen - why was the reason for that?
I wrote the first treatment for Keeping Faith / Un Bore Mercher in late 2012 and shared it with Pip Broughton, the show’s co-producer and director. She showed it to a number of broadcasters and in 2013 it was S4C who responded. They commissioned all 8 scripts for series one. Then the fun began. I wrote the scripts between writing my novels and other scripts. There was a lot of editorial to and fro and a long process of getting the broadcaster to move to production. S4C is a small broadcaster with only a few slots and productions are scheduled years in advance.
Pip finally pitched the show at a European Convention of TV producers and financiers in Paris in May 2016. The idea for Keeping Faith attracted a lot of attention. Out of this we attracted French distribution company which wanted to invest in the series. Pip and her co-producer Adrian Bate then built confidence in the show by attracting more investment and critically by tempting Eve Myles to accept the part. We finally got the go ahead in early 2017. The production is not high budget, but it has a lot of participants – S4C, BBC Wales, French distributors, About Premium Content and US distributors, Acorn.
They say to write about what you know, and you certainly know about being a barrister - did that help in some way in creating the drama series?
I was a barrister for about five years before I became a writer and I have written a lot of legal drama over the years. I guess I am interested in the law because it always takes you to fraught, dramatic and morally difficult situations. I never wanted Keeping Faith to be a legal show, though. It’s all about a woman discovering and using inner strength she never knew she had. Her role as a solicitor in a small community is dramatically helpful because it links her to all sorts of people and also means that she might know their secrets!
The series is in Welsh primarily - are you fluent Welsh, or was the dialogue translated into Welsh for you?
My family is Welsh, I live in Wales, but the everyday use of the language stopped with my grandparents. I am now learning and am determined – inspired by Eve Myles – to be conversationally proficient by the end of 2018. It has been a long term project of mine and I am under way. Welsh is a beautiful, lyrical language and I think we should do our best to preserve and promote it. I wrote the scripts in English and they are translated by Anwen Hughes, who is a prolific screenwriter in the Welsh language.
Was it your decision for Eve and Bradley to play husband and wife in the series, or did you not have much say in who was cast? Or had you an idea who you wanted in the drama series? I know sometimes it is based on who is available at that time from what I’ve come to learn in the past.
Bradley’s casting was a happy accident. Any successful production needs their fair share of them! Bradley originally read for the part of Steve Baldini, but the director, Pip, suggested he try the part of Evan. She liked what she saw and heard. Bradley had to change his image, cut his hair and shave off a beard, apparently, to give him the clean cut unassuming look we needed for Evan. He has pulled it off magnificently. The fact that he and Eve are real life husband and wife adds a whole new dimension – they are so natural with each other in a way it would be hard for two actors who didn’t know each other so well to emulate. This is one of the many blessings we have had in the production.
You write about a character called Jenny Cooper, is she a similar character to Faith?
I have written seven novels featuring coroner, Jenny Cooper. She’s a tough independent woman who is determined to get to the truth, and does, but emotionally she is rather different from Faith. Jenny is recently divorced and her 13 year old son, Ross, has chosen to stay with his dad when we meet her in the first novel, The Coroner. While she is brilliant in her work she is quite lonely and has mixed fortunes finding a relationship. She is a compassionate and determined woman, though, and like Faith, uncompromising.
I don’t set out to write female characters but have found that they are often the most interesting. Women have to fulfil so many different roles and expectations and never feel they have performed any of them as well as they would like. They often feel they can’t win, which makes perfect material for story telling.
You have a passion for trees and preservation - where did this stem (no pun intended) from or have you always been a strong believer in protecting the woodlands?
I love the countryside, the wilder the better. Until I was 10 my parents lived in London and Manchester for work and I was desperate to get to my grandparents’ in Wales at every holiday. From age 11 we moved close to them and my love of the countryside grew deeper. From my early 20s to mid-30s I lived in London with my wife and kids and was never happy living in the city. When I came back to live in Wales in 2003 I knew it was home for good. I live surrounded by trees and adore them. They live for hundreds of years which makes them far older (and probably wiser) than us. They provide oxygen, habitat and food for wildlife and if you build something out of timber like oak it can last more than 1000 years. We now understand that trees aren’t individuals but connected by a fantastic underground network of fungi through which they transfer nutrients to one another. A woodland is a whole living organism. Without trees there would be no human beings, so I think we should all love them a little more!
Is this a one off series or will it be a regular series? I'm totally enjoying Un Bore Mercher, the setting, the characters, I'd love it if it were a regular, but obviously, not knowing the outcome of the story, and perhaps given it took 5 years to come together - perhaps you're not wishing for another 5 years of your life going into a second series. Maybe?
I have started work on writing a series 2 which we hope to be filming from August 2018 for broadcast Spring 2019. And then we hope for a series 3. I am really looking forward in going deeper and deeper into the lives of our central characters in the next series with lots more unexpected revelations.
What lies ahead after Keeping Faith? Will you bring out more dramas like these or are you working on already developed series' such as John Deed style or other?
While the series has been filming I have written a new stand-alone novel called, The Black Art of Killing, which will be published in 2018. In 2018 I will be writing series 2 of Keeping Faith and working on developing several new TV projects. I am also hoping that a Canadian TV adaptation of my Jenny Cooper novels will get underway. With a bit of luck, I will be very busy.
Thank you for an awesome interview, Matthew.
You can find out more about Matthew and his work by copying and pasting or clicking on the link to his website. There you will find out more about his novels, and how and where to buy them.