tv drama

Over the last decade his work has received EMMY, Grierson, RTS and BAFTA nominations and awards. Broadcasters of his films include BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, Channel 5, National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, NBC and Netflix.

Eruption at Mount St Helen
'Fire Mountain'

BBC 1 / DISCOVERY - 2005 - Director/Writer

I interviewed a lot of the scientists and people caught up in the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. To me it's fundamental that the drama is based on eye witness accounts, and as much as possible dialogue from those transcripts. To really get the authenticity of the human story of the people caught up in the eruption I cast background and smaller speaking parts with some of the actual scientists from the USGS monitoring team that worked on the mountain. I was very reluctant to use CGI to recreate the magnitude of the 24-megaton blast that demolished 230-square-miles. As a feature film cameraman I had some experience shooting on model sets. I managed to persuade the 'I, Robot' SFX team to build a 2 story snow-capped model of the mountain, dusted in 2 ton of baking soda! Shooting on ultra hi-speed cameras we blew the model apart with hydrogen canons - slowing the drama into the minutiae of trees snapping and rock being liquidised.

Days That Shook The World

BBC - 2004 - Director/Writer

I shot a couple of films in this award winning series, but it was this sequence that launched my drama career; A footnote in a history book gave me the idea how to shoot the grand 'July Plot' assassination attempt on Hitler on such a low budget. The coup to overthrow the Fuhrer all depended on blowing up Hitler with a suitcase bomb. The main assassin was high ranking officer Stauffenberg, and I was intrigued to find out that he used a fuse stolen from British military. We didn't have the budget to recreate or blow up Hitler's HQ in its entirety, so focused the drama in and around what happened (or didn't happen) with the fuse in the case. I insisted we shoot the film in Berlin with German actors and work-shopped the dialogue with a military specialist. Stauffenberg only had one eye, one arm and with only a finger and thumb and insisted he had to be the one to detonate the fuse. So I took the story into that intense moment of detail - a one-eyed, one-armed man - breaking a glass vial to set off the fuse to kill Hitler - and failing.

© Matthew Wortman
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