True Heroes

2 x 30 mins - Discovery Channel (Darlow Smithson)

Producer / Director / Writer

I wrote, produced and directed two episodes of these true-life rescue stories for Discovery. The brief for the series held that the rescuers could not be professionals - no fireman, police officers etc allowed. Instead we were to tell the stories of ordinary members of the public in extraordinary situations who had had to act quickly and decisively to save life. The series style was to not only recreate the incident itself but also to dramatise possible outcomes should the rescuers had chosen the wrong course of action at crucial moments.

 The first programme, Flashover, tells the story of 21 year old Terra Engler who wakes up to find her house on fire and has to perform a remarkable series of rescues to save her mother, brother and infirm step-father.

 The real events took place in a suburb of Chicago but for this I let the special effects team loose on a soon to be demolished property in Oxford!

 The second episode, Terror Lake, was a little more difficult to recreate. It tells the story of two young men whose canoe is capsized on a Canadian lake by a freak summer storm. After many hours in the water they are eventually rescued by a partially sighted man, and his friends, who chance upon them during the storm.

 The problem was finding a location in the UK in winter that would not only double for a Canadian lake in summer but could also provide the elements of a storm on cue. I settled on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, for the pre-storm sequences and kept the action as wide as possible to simulate the pre-rescue calm. We then shot all the “storm” sequences just down the road in the RNLI training pool, complete with wave generator and plenty of special effects. Keeping the camera tight and frenetic allowed us to create a real sense of urgency and drama - and of course to avoid destroying the illusion by showing the pool edge!