In January I meet Kenneth Branagh, with exec producers Andy Harries and Francis Hopkinson from Left Bank Pictures, to discuss Wallander, a new series for BBC1. It's based on books by Henning Mankell and the central character, a Swedish detective called Kurt Wallander, will be played by Ken.
As we talk, Ken emerges as a secret crime fiction buff. We agree that Mankell's best-selling books are terrific but, like Raymond Chandler's, are strong on character, atmosphere and ideas: slippery things to get on the screen.
The plan for the series is to cast in London then take everyone to Sweden and film over there. We'll do the whole thing in English - no funny accents.
I fly to Ystad (pop. 15,000), the small port on the southern tip of Sweden where the stories are set. The light is extraordinary. Mist rolls in off the Baltic.
In February, scripts begin to arrive from writer Rick Cottan. They are very strong: spare, clean, emotional. He's managed to weave a crime-solving story around a powerful personal journey for Ken's character - somehow it feels very Swedish too.
By March, DoP Anthony Dod Mantle (who is filming in India) and I are in intense email exchange about the look and feel of it all. We're also keen to try out a new camera system called Red.
A production team is put together, combining UK heads of department with Swedish. Mixing different ways of working and experience feels exciting - there are people on the Swedish team who have worked with Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman.
By the end of April, we have a cast, most of the locations we need, and a shooting schedule. We all fly to Sweden for rehearsals. I think it would help the actors playing police to fire real weapons, so we fit in a live-ammo session on the firing range. “Shoot the bad man!” shouts the local police instructor, as human-sized targets flip up in front of the actors. Everyone seems to leave the firing range with a new swagger.
And then one day, we're shooting. It's very fast, very ambitious, but thrilling. Ken is in almost every scene, has a phenomenal workload - and is very inspiring to all. The cast gel wonderfully.
Directing the first and last episodes of the series back to back, I'm working simultaneously with two great editors - Tony Cranstoun and Kristina Hetherington. In the evenings and weekends, I tiptoe into the cutting rooms, peering through fog at the beginnings of the films.
By June, the shoot is over for me, and another director, Niall MacCormick, arrives to direct his own episode. Back in post in London, the Red camera works without a hitch. The pictures are graded wonderfully by Aidan Farrell at The Farm. Composer Martin Phipps creates a beautiful score. Paul Hamblin and sound studios Boom build a rich and atmospheric sound-world around it all and, suddenly, it's done.
Production company Left Bank Pictures/Yellow Bird AB/TKBC for the BBC co-produced with Degeto, WGBH Boston and Film i Skåne
Directors Philip Martin (episodes 1&3); Niall MacCormick (episode 2)
Broadcast from Sunday 30 November at 9pm on BBC1
Project synopsis Kurt Wallander is a disillusioned everyman struggling against a rising tide of violence
Philip Martin: My tricks of the trade
When filming abroad, everything strange and different soon seems very normal so I always keep a detailed picture diary of my first impressions.
Technology changes fast, so get to grips with it yourself in order to benefit early. By making ourselves experts in Red, we were able to use a system that others weren't ready for and plough the savings back into the project.
I like to get on set very early.
I always carry a Leica D-lux 3: It has a 16:9 screen and for me is the best way to visualise shots.