3 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Thaddeus O’Sullivan talks to IFTN – director of ‘Silent Witness’ two-parter commencing tonight
01 Feb 2016 : Seán Brosnan
‘Silent Witness’ two-parter commences tonight on BBC One at 9pm
If you are a fan of BBC crime drama series, chances a lot of what you will be watching this week was helmed by Irish director Thaddeus O’Sullivan.

First up is the latest ‘Silent Witness’ two-parter entitled ‘On Rivers Edge’ which will air tonight and tomorrow on BBC One at 9pm. The episodes will see the team investigate the systematic shooting of a family picnicking beside a river with the case stirring up memories of the death of a young woman beside that same river 10 years earlier.

Next up is BBC’s Scottish crime procedural drama ‘Shetland’ – with the third season following DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Hensall) as he continues to investigate the grisly death of a young man discovered in a shipping container. This third episode will air on BBC One on Friday, February 5th at 9pm with O’Sullivan also helming the opening two episodes.

Speaking about his third time working on ‘Silent Witness’, O’Sullivan, who was nominated for an Emmy in 2009 for directing political mini-series ‘Into The Storm, told IFTN: “There is a lot of freedom in ‘Silent Witness’ which I think a lot of directors enjoy. There is no house style as such so there are very few restrictions to what you can do.”

In what is O’Sullivan’s third outing helming ‘Silent Witness’ specials, the filmmaker states that another element of directing ‘Silent Witness’ that he enjoys is the high ratings, with the drama a perennial winner in its’ slot on BBC.

“It can be extremely gratifying to have 6-10 million people watching something you have worked on. They have no clue who you are [laughs] but it is still extremely satisfying to reach so many people.”

Another ratings winner for BBC One is ‘Shetland’ with 4.8m people in the UK tuning into the first episode of the third season last month; the episode was directed by O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan tells IFTN that the stunning backdrop of the Shetland Isles in the series provides its’ own problems.

“I didn’t feel restricted in any way filming ‘Shetland’ – it was very similar to ‘Silent Witness’ in that I was given a lot of freedom. However, with a series like ‘Shetland’, the challenge is that everyone is eager to see the landscape so you have to make the landscape make sense in terms of the story. People spot when the show becomes too picturesque and too much like a post-card so it can be difficult to find the balance.”

In a very pressurized turnaround for O’Sullivan, ‘Silent Witness: On River’s Edge’ was shot in Autumn/Winter 2015 with post-production only finishing last week. Before that, he was working on ‘Shetland’ which was shot in early 2015 with O’Sullivan laughing that it “was indeed a busy year”

And will 2016 be just as busy?

“I haven’t decided yet. There are a couple of projects I am looking at. One is possibly going to be in Ireland while the other will shoot in South Africa.”

With a lot of O’Sullivan’s recent work hitting the small screen – ‘Call The Midwife’, ‘Vera’, ‘The Crimson Field’ in the UK and RTÉ’s critical darling ‘Amber’ – will the current projects on ‘O’Sullivan’s slate herald his return to film?

“They are both in television. I haven’t got the time to wait for feature film money to come in anymore”, said O’Sullivan, whose last film was the 2011 IFTA-nominated drama ‘Stella Days’, starring Martin Sheen. “There is no regular income in feature films – particularly not in the type of films I like to make. I like to keep working all the time – I really enjoy the quick turn-around in television even though the schedules can be difficult. You can also draw in a fantastic cast and crew for television nowadays which is very attractive to me.”

‘The first part of ‘Silent Witness: On River’s Edge’ airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One with the second episode airing tomorrow night at 9pm. The latest episode of ‘Shetland’ will air on Friday, February 5th at 9pm.

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