Report – The Making of ‘Gudrun: The Viking Princess’
The session opened with a showreel from Children’s Media Network Scotland followed by a conversation between Alix Wiseman from 9 Story Media Group and the programme’s writer and producer at Maramedia, Simon Parsons.
Simon explained how the commission came about after a casual conversation with Kay Benbow, CBeebies Controller at the time. Natural History producers Maramedia were making a series for PBS about the Vikings. They were able to piggyback a pilot shoot for Gudrun during some PBS filming scheduled with a Viking boat and the show was commissioned from the pilot.
Kay explained that she “liked the idea of a strong female lead who was a princess but not the princess you might expect”. It was a docu-drama idea combining history, drama and stunning wildlife footage and a clever way of using skills and resources cost effectively. “Public service at its best”.
The second series of Gudrun is in production. It was Maramedia’s first chidren’s programme but they have a distribution deal with Boatrocker and are in conversation with CICC in China to do a series about a Tang dynasty princess from 500 years ago.
Simon explained the concept behind Gudrun was to explore adventure in the world of Viking culture with a girl on her own learning journey. In each narrative she meets a challenge.
He screened a clip where she comes face-to-face with a wolf in the forest while waiting for her father to return home from his travels. David Tennant narrates the advice she was given by her father should she find herself in that situation. Each episode has no dialogue, in keeping with natural history programme-making style. It also works for the Viking point of view. Simon referenced Oliver Postgate’s narration style in children’s classic, Noggin The Nog.
Alix asked if the show was relatable to a kids audience now. Simon explained he was curious about play patterns. Gudrun gets outside and has adventures, sometimes bends the rules and pushes herself outside her comfort zone. Like Katie Morag, Gudrun’s story world gives permission for her to explore her environment on her own but there is usually an adult character around when she is doing something that could be considered to be dangerous, like encountering a wolf or sitting on the edge of a waterfall.
Simon finally answered the age old question, who is easier to work with children or animals? “The three children in the series were great, the seals were no problem, squirrels will do anything for nuts but never work with a goat”.
9 Story Media Group
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Sioned Wyn Roberts
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