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Chatting with Simon in the "Cafe RagTime"
Yesterday I met up and had a chat with Simon Bird, Line Producer of the ITV hit comedy series "Benidorm" in the Pink House - the ground floor is the set for the reception of the Solana resort, but upstairs are the production offices. Simon has been heading up the production team since series 3 - when it changed to the hour long episodes.
I wanted to know exactly what a "Line Producer" does and have come to this conclusion... after the writer and creator Derren Litten - without whom there wouldn´t actually be a programme, Simon is the next most important person - he is "The Money Man"!

In a nutshell, Tiger Aspect - the Production Company and ITV have, shall we say "negotiations" over the budget and eventually they agree on a figure - Simon is then told by Tiger Aspect you have X amount... GO! That is obviously a very simplistic way to look at it, for as you can imagine it takes months of talks and haggling, but eventually they reach an agreement. Now I am not at liberty to tell you the budget but lets just say that it will keep you comfortably in Benidorm beer money for some considerable time!

Empty Solana Bar area - set in the Pink House
Simon is in charge of the entire budget and production schedule and works closely with Pere, the Spanish production manager. His key objective is to deliver the best programme possible, on time and ensuring that the expected standards are maintained and adhered to.... simples as the meerkat would say - or not... after all, this is true life and nothing ever runs to schedule!

He has a team of about 20 that he works very closely with on a daily basis - without whom his job would be impossible. In fact, whilst we were talking he dealt with several queries and a call from one of the actors agents in the UK who was panicking as to what would happen if they missed the flight back as they had another commitment - this is all part of a normal day for Simon.  He has to deal with all the logistical problems - but having now worked on the programme for the last 3 series he has a fairly good visualisation of what can go wrong and solutions to most issues that arise. But as Simon said, you can deal and predict almost everything except weather and health.... which has certainly been challenging in this last month.

Equipment that needs to get here from UK
Although Simon is not actually involved in the script, he does get to decide whether something is feasible. When Derren wrote into a previous series that he wanted a helicopter for a getaway scene (kidnapping of Madge and Janice) it was basically up to Simon to decide whether the budget allowed it - and as you will probably remember, it was a yes on that occasion. But his work starts well before the crew arrive in Benidorm - the prep period begins as soon as the contract with ITV has been signed. Contracts have to be drawn up and cast/crew salaries negotiated, kit deals have to be done for cameras, editing equipment, lighting which all come over in four container trucks (together with any excess baggage which the cast need and cannot get on their flights without being charged the earth!), flights booked for all the cast dependant on their filming schedules and other commitments, filming schedules drawn up with contingency plans - and this is all before the first day of filming even begins!

Once shooting begins Simon is on call throughout the day - he typically works a 16 hour day, ready to trouble shoot. He pops down to the set regularly to check that everything is running smoothly and if not then finds a solution... he really is Mr Fix It! The film is edited here but then sent back to London for the final cut, when it is graded and music added. The last day of filming is on 27th June but Simon will stay on for a couple more weeks to organise getting everything back to the UK and ensuring everything is signed off here with the Spanish companies that had been contracted.

Simon has been in the industry for many years working for both the BBC and ITV covering roles spanning from Assistant Director to Location Manager. As well as the Benidorm series some of his other notable productions include drama´s such as "Lightfields" and "A Mother´s Son", "EastEnders", "Holby City", "Silent Witness", "Pride & Prejudice"... the list is endless. I asked him what has been his most memorable project and without a doubt he replied it was meeting and interviewing the British physicist Stephen Hawking for the BAFTA nominated BBC drama he was on, "Hawking" in 2003.

Behind reception at the Solana!
We wrapped up our chat, which was in the "Cafe RagTime"(new set for series 5) as Simon was being beckoned back to the office to deal with another issue that had arisen - fortunately he has the weekend off to try and relax, and much deserved too in my opinion. He is such a lovely gentleman who despite being interrupted and manically busy spent the best part of an hour with me - thank you Simon!

Comments  

0 #4 Bryan 2018-04-18 20:13
Always loved benidorm but been getting dafter and more surreal.
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+1 #3 Mandy 2017-04-26 22:01
:-? Seriously need to get rid of Mr woo. He's pathetic
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-1 #2 Andrew 2016-05-29 16:41
Love the show have watched some of the filming take place at sol pelicanos for the last two years
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0 #1 Gary Edwards 2016-02-08 21:35
First of all I love Benidorm and have been a few times.
Loved the show! I am sorry it's gone down hill and scraping the barrel for laughs.
The two young lads on holiday, what a mismatch and so stupid I cannot think what the writers are thinking.
I send this email with deep regret as I have always loved the show.
Please see the light for the shows own good as I think the show will struggle for viewers.

Regards

Gary
I think
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