The Garden’s Magnus Temple talks fixed-rig factual and formats

25 February, 2016 by Harry Windsor

24 Hours in A&E.


Factual powerhouse Magnus Temple is looking forward to the Australian International Documentary Conference, kicking off in Melbourne this Sunday.

"I'm interested in the Catfish session, but I'm not sure I'm going to get there in time", Temple told IF on the line from London.

"I met up with those guys [Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier] in Denmark at the Copenhagen TV Festival in the summer, so it's good to see them on the program. And I'm looking forward to seeing Sherpa, which is co-produced by my friend John Smithson".

Temple will be in town to conduct a masterclass – "the story of some of the keys things I've been involved in".

They include the BAFTA-nominated The Family, the BAFTA-winning One Born Every Minute, 24 Hours in A&E and Keeping Britain Alive: One Day in the NHS.

Temple will talk about "how the shows came about, and whether there's a thread that runs through them all". 

The producer has run two companies with business partner Nick Curwin. The first, Firefly (later renamed Dragonfly), was founded in 2004. 

"We did a series called The Family, which was the first in what is now known as a 'rig show' that has become quite common certainly in the UK industry". 

"Rather than a single camera with a cameraman, you have a set of cameras. In the case of 24 Hours in A&E, we have up to one-hundred fixed cameras, remotely operated, that can zoom, pan and tilt, controlled from a gallery which is wired up to the side". 

"We wire these cameras into the emergency department, and we monitor them from the gallery – a bit like if you were covering a large-scale sporting event".

"That's the principle of it. We were inspired by the technology of things like Big Brother. Obviously that's an entertainment show, but we wondered whether we could use some of the technology they used to observe a real world situation. Our starting point was looking at a normal family in a family home [in The Family]". 

The pair took a similar approach when they moved on to One Born Every Minute, set in a maternity unit, as well as on 24 Hours in A&E and its sister show 24 Hours in Police Custody

Since setting up their second company, The Garden, Temple and Curwin have been prolific.

"All the shows use different variations of that multi-cam rig situation. In the case of Police Custody, we use a combination of that with more traditional single camera shooting". 

Temple will also participate in AIDC's panel on creating and selling formats. Keeping Britain Alive is currently being remade for Australia by the ABC.

"It's always very gratifying to see something you've done being replicated in other places. I've had a couple of conversations with the Australian production team, but to be honest I've probably been more involved in some of the other versions".

"I'm not actually on the ground producing but I have been advising from the wings, and we've got quite a substantial format bible which takes any production team through the process. What's interesting to me is why it's been picked up as a format, because when we did it the first time around we weren't neccessarily thinking that it was something that could be replicated in lots of different places".

"I'm really interested to see the Australian version. It's fascinating to see the ways in which aspects of the format – whether it's the pre-title sequence or the transitions, or the type of stories they decide to tell – can be replicated but tweaked".