This week we’re delighted to announce that one of the films developed through our Pat Llewellyn Bursary Scheme is premiering on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 25 August at 21:00.
Filmmaker Laura Martin-Robinson applied for the scheme in 2019 and was awarded a bursary of £10,000 to develop her idea for the 60 minute documentary Mothers, Missiles & the American President which tells the extraordinary untold story of the Rhondda Valley women who dedicated their lives to anti–nuclear protests at Greenham Common, risking it all to change the world.
Filmmaker Laura Martin-Robinson tells us about her developing her idea for the film, the application process for the bursary and completing the film.
I was 9 when I first learned about protest. I’m from Hong Kong and over the border Tiananmen Square was full of demonstrators. A friend from Beijing living with us spent hours every night on the phone in the run-up to the massacre on June 4th desperate for news of her son, camped out in the square.
Since then – I’ve found stories of people coming together for a cause, David and Goliath-style, awe-inspiring and fascinating. So when I heard the Greenham Common peace movement was the biggest female-led protest since women’s suffrage and it had started in Wales (where I now live) I wanted to make a doc about it. I was working at Cardiff indie ie ie productions (pronounced yeah yeah) and Catryn Ramasut, the managing director was as intrigued as I was about this little known Welsh story.
The WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary email came to our inboxes at the right time. I was shortlisted and wrote up a treatment and cut a taster with help from brilliant researcher Alice McKee. I practiced my pitch until it was committed to memory. I was nervous about the interview, Martha Kearney was on the panel and I was terrified about a Today style grilling. But Martha, Ben (Pat’s husband) and Liz Tucker were very encouraging.
A few days later we got the brilliant news about the bursary. Liz called about next steps. Then Covid struck. But Liz ploughed on and lined up Liesel Evans as mentor. I’ve been a fan of Liesel’s work for a long time - so I was delighted. After a few meetings discussing my research Liesel homed in on the Welsh Valley’s housewives and said this was the story that excited her the most.
Over lockdown I juggled home-schooling and development. Finally we had a taster and treatment and contacted various broadcasters. Commissioning over Covid was difficult and months went by. I got offered a C4 directing job on a series that sounded amazing and I snapped it up. Catryn carried on with other developments. And then Sian Harris at BBC Wales came back to us and commissioned the film.
I knew we’d need a brilliant exec who was passionate about the subject and able steer this unconventional route through to a finished film. Helen Littleboy’s name came up, we found out she was a Greenham woman and were delighted when she said yes.
I’d never done an interview-led film before so I was anxious about the balance of story vs emotional heart – and only having one shot at it. The budget was tight and there was no room for pickups, but Helen helped to focus the plan and was the perfect balance of encouraging and direct.
We had a 10 day shoot. DOP Emily Almond Barr, DOP Lou MacNamara and camera assistant Ren Faulkner came on board. The shoot was going to plan and then days from the end - I got a call that one of the sisters (who wasn’t in the film) had suffered a massive stroke. They were all in shock and we paused the film.
Meanwhile my next contract start date was looming and with the delays in our schedule it became clear I couldn’t do the edit. Co-director Hannah Horan came on board – a Bristol based PD with an impressive track record. She was also really excited by the idea of the film. Working with archive producers Krissi Lopas, Joanna Tayor and Steve Bergson - Hannah and our editor Nathan Carr started cutting.
With dense archive there was a huge job of work to balance the narrative and give the film the right energy. Music from the 80s and 90s was woven in and cultural interstitials used to denote years. Helen and commissioner Sian were a big support during the edit and helped guide and shape the film – all remotely. A date was set for transmission on 25 August – one day before the Welsh women left for Greenham Common 4 decades before - and lots of press interest was generated.
All films come with their challenges – but this one had more than most. The upfront bursary from WFTV was invaluable as was the support from ie ie productions, BBC Wales and the brilliant team who put their all into it. We are proud and honoured to have been able to tell this story about these fearless Welsh women and their Greenham sisters who risked it all for a better world.
The WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary was started in memory of the award-winning Producer Pat Lewellyn. It is supported by the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, All3Media and the Welsh Government.