Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Emmerdale Studio Experience at their old studios on Burley Road in Leeds. Although I don’t really watch soaps much these days, I used to watch Emmerdale consistently until a few years ago. Also, my Mum is a huge fan, so I wanted to take her along! I was invited along free of charge, for review purposes. All opinions are honest and entirely my own. Also, this will contain spoilers as of course I’m talking about the tour – I’ve tried to leave plenty to be experienced first hand, but just to make you aware.
The first thing that struck me was how kind and helpful all the staff are. As I can’t walk far due to my ME, they arranged a parking space right in front of the door for me. They also really kindly put a chair in each room of the tour, so that I could spend most of it sitting down. They made everything so easy, and didn’t make me feel awkward. The tour itself is also pretty accessible, which is great.
The Emmerdale Studio Experience in Leeds!
The Emmerdale Studio Experience was lead by Mark and Oliver – two lovely guys who were very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions thrown their way. Mark had a huge repertoire of terrible puns and jokes, which were right up my street! 🙂 We began the tour in the first room by watching a montage of dramatic Emmerdale clips. The soap has been running since 1972, on our screens for 44 years! If you’re old enough, you may just remember it being Emmerdale Farm until 1989!
Next we were taken into the room where all the dramatic storylines begin. As Emmerdale is now on five times a week, they need a team of around 28 writers working on the storylines at a time. First the ideas/storylines are written down, then drawn into storyboards. After that, they are actually properly drawn up by an illustrator. This bit surprised me, as I thought a script would be written, handed to the actors to learn and then recorded straight away. I never imagined they would draw everything out first! The walls are covered with schedules, showing when storylines will happen and who will be involved. Sadly no spoilers available, as these ones are old!
Next up was one of the most fun rooms – the costume department! Obviously this isn’t currently used, but it does hold a lot of the costumes that have been used on the show. We were allowed to look and touch at a lot of the costumes, but a few of the more special ones were cordoned off/behind glass. They even had Annie Sugden’s original pinny! The tablets you can see below showed us how they ensure consistency in appearance/outfits, when scenes are filmed on different days.
I won’t tell you too much, as I don’t want to spoil the tour for anyone, but we learnt some really interesting stuff. They do things such as drive cars over coats to make them look aged and worn in!
Next up was my favourite place – the makeup studio! We got to see how they create certain special effects, like wounds and blood. Apparently some of the male cast spend longer in the makeup chairs than the women 🙂 I noticed that they used Real Techniques brushes, which I use too! I couldn’t resist having a photo in the makeup chair!
After the makeup, we had a good nosy around some of the props. There was everything from street/court signs to fake food from David’s Shop. There were also loads of framed photos, which they use in the house scenes etc on set. We even got to hold the brick that Cameron used to bash Carl on the head and kill him. Spoiler alert: it was made of polystyrene and was very light!
After all that, it was onto the really exciting part – seeing the sets! Although most of the filming is now done in their studios down the road, they have exactly recreated some of the sets for the studio experience.
Bernice’s beauty parlour was really cool – they have lots of actual real cosmetics on the set. The guides also told us that every time someone stomps off upstairs on Emmerdale (which is a lot!) they actually have to just stand at the top of the stairs until filming ends. Obviously the stairs don’t really go anywhere, so they have to just crouch there quietly! It seems obvious, but isn’t something you’d think about. It makes watching soaps now quite amusing!
The tablets you can see above controlled the lighting for the set. We were allowed to have a play around with the lighting and were set a test to get it perfect. We all got it spot on! Obviously they have to make it look like light is naturally coming in from the (fake) windows.
If you have ever watched Emmerdale, you’ll know where the above photo is – we saw the perfectly replicated set of the Dingles’ living room and kitchen! They are not used to film, but the Emmerdale Studio Experience has exact replicas of the original sets. It was really interesting to hear how they make furniture and rooms look old, and add dust and dirt.
We also had an insight into how things are filmed from different angles, to capture expressions and reactions from the actors.
There was the chance to have our photo taken in the ‘house above the vets’. We were also all offered the chance to record a video message, but we were all too shy!
After that, we were on to the editing suite. We heard about how the footage is edited, to make sure that you are always seeing the most important part of the footage. Whether that’s the person delivering an important line, or someone’s reaction – the editors have to get it just right. They film much more footage than actually makes it into the show. The producer has the final say on what gets used.
Next up was the bit where we got to see all the super-cute miniature replicas of all the buildings. It’s funny as on some of the photos, the buildings look normal sized! But they were all about knee-height and amazing to look at, with all the realistic details!
After that we visited a room where we watched a video about how important weather is to the show. They use it to create atmosphere and drama. They also film six weeks ahead, so have to battle against the actual elements to make it look right! That’s something you don’t really think about, but actually soaps use weather a lot to add to scenes (like a dramatic murder scene or something, where it’s dark, gloomy and pouring with rain)!
Whilst we were watching the video, dry ice/smoke started sneaking along the floor and filling up the room. Right at the end, two giant fans went on and we had to hold onto our hair during our own Emmerdale weather experience!
Last up before the end of the Emmerdale Studio Experience was the room where we learnt about some of their biggest dramatic scenes. We found out how the huge helicopter crash scene from last year was done – it was one of their biggest ever special effects scenes.
After all that, we were ready for a sit down and a drink – and that’s what we got… in The Woolpack, of course! We were served drinks and lovely nibbles. There were mini bangers and mash, houmous blinis and little cones of fish and chips. When I was offered the fish and chips a few times and refused, my mum mentioned that I’m vegetarian. They quickly arranged for me to have a cone of just chips made up, which was really kind of them. That sums up the staff there – they can’t do enough for you! You also have a chance to have your photo taken behind the bar in The Woolpack, which you can take home.
Of course, you exit via the gift shop – none other than David’s Shop! They have some lovely little souvenirs, foodie gifts and postcards.
They also have a cafe onsite. Although it was shut as our tour was in the evening, I got to see the cafe and the menu. It’s very big, and the menu looked great! Lots of nice sandwiches, jackets and breakfasts, plus plenty of amazing cakes. Everything they sell is as local as possible – the fish from Whitby, the cakes from just up the road. Even the coffee is bought from Wetherby! I really like that. It shows how proud they are that they can source everything from Emmerdale’s home – Yorkshire!
If all this has got you feeling like taking the Emmerdale Studio Experience yourself, you can find out more and book here. I would really recommend it. As I mentioned, I hadn’t really watched the soap for a few years and I genuinely thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t just about Emmerdale, but an insight into how TV is written, filmed and edited. As a big TV watcher, it was really interesting to me!
A big thank you to Emmerdale Studio Experience for inviting me along, and keep up the good work! 😀
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