Deadwater Fell: Interview with Writer and Creator, Daisy Coulam

What is Deadwater Fell about?
Deadwater Fell is about a tragedy that occurs in a remote Scottish village. It’s seen through the eyes of two families, the Kendricks and the Campbells. As we unpeel the layers of the what’s gone on we learn things we don’t expect about those families. It’s about what happens behind closed doors, how we look at people’s lives and think they’re perfect when they’re anything but and the fact we never really know our friends or the dangers behind closed doors.

What made you write the series?
I think firstly it was a love of true crime. I found that I was drawn to true crime documentaries and stories, but I found as I watched them you get more of a sense of the perpetrators than the victims. I wanted to understand why some of these crimes happen and to address the importance of the victim as the real person they are.

Is it based on any real crimes in particular?
We had a forensic criminal psychologist to advise us on the story and she pulled together a number of examples for us and explained the behaviours and character traits of people that commit such crimes. So, it draws on true themes and a lot of research, but we’ve totally created our own story.

You are the creator of Grantchester, a hugely popular crime drama, but a period piece set in the 1950’s. Did you have to think differently when approaching a modern-day crime series?
Interestingly I think Grantchester and Deadwater Fell, although they’re completely different shows, cover similar themes, beyond the crimes and solving them. I’m interested in crime not just as a shocking act but as a psychological study. So, in Grantchester and in Deadwater Fell we’re looking behind the tragedies to the truth, what causes these events, the real people involved and the impact upon them. That’s kind of my aim with both the shows.

What research did you do when creating the drama?
We spoke to a criminal psychologist, we spoke to a police adviser and other professionals. Though we wanted the series to be realistic, it is a fictional drama and we wanted to do something that was original and touched on the themes you see in a slightly different way. We weren’t just following tropes, I suppose. We wanted to be thought provoking and to shine a new light on some of the issues that viewers see throughout the series.

You have such an incredible cast at the centre of the series. Was it written with them in mind?
No, it wasn’t actually. The moment we got David Tennant it was clear it was always David Tennant’s role, in a way, he brings so much to it. But like with most dramas I wrote it a year before it got the greenlight, and in a way it was just an exercise in writing something with themes I was quite passionate about, so no one was attached. We’ve ended up with one of the most talented and incredible casts anyone could ask for.

Deadwater Fell has a hugely female production team behind it, with a female producer, two female exec producers, a commissioning editor, director and of course yourself. What was that like to be part of?
It was great. I’ve worked with Emma Kingsman-Lloyd and Kudos lot, on Grantchester. Some of these women were my friends already and it was great to work with them again, but it was pretty inspiring to work with a female director and a female DOP as well. It felt quite special, I suppose, to work with that number of women at the top, as it’s not something that has been hugely common before. Although in all honesty I don’t think it’s any different from working with men. It’s about relationships and communication.

The series is set in Scotland and filmed purely on location there. What was the reasoning behind that?
Well, the village itself sort of becomes its own character. Kirkdarroch is a very isolated and remote place surrounded by forest and it’s stunning but there’s something symbolic about it that represents our story really: the idyllic look of it hides something more sinister. A lot of our characters are isolated with secrets, or isolated from loved ones, or can’t tell people their secrets. The village itself and its outer beauty represents that.

What are the main themes of the series?
There are many that come out throughout the series quite clearly, I don’t want to spoil it too much, it’s so hard to elaborate without giving things away. One of the main themes that underpins it all is the relentless perfectionism about all our lives. Many of us believe we have to live this Instagram-ready life. The reality is that nobody’s life is that perfect. It’s a look at that world, how we look at other people and think they’ve got it all, but do they really have it all? It’s sort of about the notion of evil. I’m quite interested in crimes that get called evil because all these crimes are committed by humans. It’s humans who commit these acts. Therefore why are we so afraid to say that? Why are we afraid to study that and try and unpick what makes people conduct these terrible acts?

December 31, 2019 6:01am ET by Channel 4  


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