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Producer's Diary - March


This year we are going behind the scenes of New Zealand's longest running TV show with an exclusive blog from producer Julian O'Brien.

Here is his first entry into the Producer's Diary.

March

We're well under way with shooting the 2008 Country Calendar series.  This year we're making more episodes - 26 in all, an increase of four on last year.  Of those, 14 have already been shot, with several others partly shot.

As always, our crews have been pretty much everywhere. Down south, we've ranged from the Catlins in South Otago to the extreme northern end of the West Coast, just below Farewell Spit. And up north, we've been in Wairarapa, on Great Barrier Island and a great number of places in between.

As always, there's an amazing range of activities to be found, most of them in scenic parts of the country. The stories we've shot at the four locations mentioned above illustrate the variety we're finding.

Our episode shot in the Catlins shows how agriculture in New Zealand is constantly evolving. It's about a conventional sheep and beef farmer who's converted to organics. And nearby, just up the Clutha River, we're shooting another story about a long-time sheep farmer  as he goes through the process of converting to dairying.

Our story near Farewell Spit is set on a rough coastal block that used to be stocked with cattle.  The present owner has switched to sheep because he can use the rivers on the property as natural fences - the sheep won't cross them unless forced to.  And he's taken advantage of the humid micro-climate to produce high-priced early lambs for the UK pre-Christmas market.  But getting the sheep out is quite a feat, involving tricky river crossings and using the beach at low tide - all of which has made for some spectacular footage.

Our Wairarapa episode is about apple-growers who've struggled with low prices and are now converting their entire operation to growing cider apples and producing cider.  (Will the director and crew sample the product?  Certainly - once they've finished their day's filming.  Will they bring any back to the office for the producer and production manager?  Going on past performance, they'll plan to do so, but somehow it won't quite happen..)

Our story on Great Barrier Island is about the joys and hassles of farming sheep and beef cattle in a remote location.  Sending cattle to the sale yards involves transporting them by barge across the Hauraki Gulf, and getting machinery parts can involve a lot of waiting and frustration.  But the beauty of living on the Barrier makes up for it all.

Last year's series was a big ratings success, for both rural and urban viewers.  We're working hard to find more good stories and we hope this year's series is just as successful.

Julian O'Brien, Producer


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