Director Julian Jarrold on revisiting the 1970s for the first in C4's Red Riding trilogy.
Producer Revolution Films for Channel 4
TX From Thursday 5 March at 9pm on Channel 4
Executive producer C4 head of drama Liza Marshall
Producer Andrew Eaton
Writer Tony Grisoni
Directors Julian Jarrold, James March, Anand Tucker
Summary An ambitious, dark, and thrilling trilogy of interlinking films set in Yorkshire in the 1970s and 1980s, adapted from David Peace's cult noir novels

The years 1974, 1980 and 1983 make up the Red Riding trilogy - three films based on novels by David Peace and produced by Revolution films for Channel 4 and co-funded by Screen Yorkshire.

Early on, Andrew Eaton and Liza Marshall decided they wanted three directors to bring their interpretation and vision to these interlinked stories. The brief was for something ambitious and bold that stretched the TV thriller/crime genre. It seemed an exciting but risky venture.

I was sent the scripts, written by Tony Grisoni, in April 2008 and was blown away by the dark, compulsive stories of flawed characters who try to stand up for the truth.

I immediately went back to the novels by David Peace and was hooked. It all seemed like a great antidote to my over-saturation in period dramas.

The Red Riding films are still period dramas of course, but they didn't read like them. I felt I must avoid the clichés of the period pop song, the fetishisation of period detail - fashion and bad wigs. It was important to catch the spirit of the times but not let it bury or soften the impact of the stories.

The first script, 1974, appealed to me - the story of the libidinous cocky Eddie Dunford - a journalist out to make his name and find the truth behind a series of child disappearances, but who gets drawn into the heart of darkness. A good thing, as 1980, which had been snapped up James Marsh, and the tricky last part (1983) - where some of the loose ends are drawn together - seemed daunting. Anand Tucker rose to the challenge there.

Shooting in Leeds was a given. The novels are set there and depend on the texture and atmosphere of the city for their power. One of the fascinations with 1974 was its sense of place and mood, which seemed to affect the characters, their behaviour and even their dreams.

It was all about finding the right location. As Eddie had to traverse the ridings of Yorkshire, there had to be endless car shots - day and night on period motorways and, as per David Peace's directions, all in the rain. One scene involved Sean Bean charming then threatening Andrew Garfield, while driving him to Bradford. Unfortunately, I put them in a soft-top sports car - the roof leaked and the de-mister didn't work. Horse and carriages, I decided, were much easier than 1970s cars.

With three directors sharing actors, overlapping schedules and a limited budget, the casting process seemed daunting. Fortunately, based on the quality of the scripts, we were able to secure our first-choice actors. The desire was to create a company of equals and to put the money on screen - so there were no trailers or dressing rooms.

The green room was a pub or social club, where the local background artist would rub shoulders with stars and drink the same luke-warm coffee - which made for a great working atmosphere.

Julian Jarrold
My tricks of the trade

  • Avoid 1970s cars.

  • Access to good coffee (and I don't mean Starbucks - a coffee machine on the back of the camera truck is best)

  • Avoid six-day weeks if you can.

  • Get a good crew (and I do)

  • Shoot on location - outside London