There was a certain restlessness about the panel at this particular talk, which is rather fitting given the title of the work they were discussing. Restless, a two-part BBC spy drama adapted from the novel by William Boyd, was produced by Hilary Bevon-Jones, also the benefactor of the Watersprite festival itself. She was joined by development producer Tom Nash and editor Jamie Pearson to give a rather pragmatic perspective on a period drama with all the thrills of 1940s espionage.

            The premise: Cambridge graduate student Ruth discovers her mother is actually of Russian heritage and worked for the British Secret Service during WWII. It was the moment at which a domestic scene between mother and daughter was ripped apart by this revelation that drew Hilary to the original narrative, and this has been translated effectively onto the silver screen. When Charlotte Rumpling delivers the line: “I am Eva Delectorskaya,” it’s an electrifying moment, and one I enjoyed watching for a second time in the clips reel. Other notables cast include Hayley Atwell of Captain America fame and Michelle Dockery, who we all know as Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey. The process of casting was touched upon, with Hilary describing it as a “delicate” procedure which required reeling in some big names whilst still finding the actors most fitted for the roles. It is for this reason that Hayley Atwell and Charlotte Rumpling were cast as the young and old versions of Eva respectively, despite the fact they have different coloured eyes.

            William Boyd’s globe-trotting tome required a plethora of locations and a very talented design team. A huge revelation for me was discovering that most of the filming was done in South Africa. The versatile local topography and skilled crews available meant that London, Paris and even New York could be re-created on a completely different continent. Jamie’s discussion of using a HD camera to create a first person perspective for one of Eva’s running scenes was equally enlightening.

            After the panel had finished, I was able to have a short discussion with Hilary about her experiences. Luckily I found myself less intimidated than I expected as a result of her warm demeanour. Hilary Bevon-Jones didn’t plan to become a producer, rather she worked her “way up the ladder,” starting off as a runner for the BBC. In terms of her more recent work, I was particularly interested in how Restless compared to films she had worked on, such as The Boat That Rocked. “Every project is different. This is a period piece, The Boat That Rocked was a period piece, but the editing of comedy is very different.” Hilary is certainly a versatile producer. She’s involved with a new BBC drama The Escape Artist, which she describes as “edge of the seat stuff.” Including David Tennant as a silver-tongued lawyer, I’m not surprised!

            My final question to Hilary: is it easier to adapt from a book or an original script? Hilary is all too aware of the pressures associated with working from a pre-existing novel. “People might be in love with what there was already and you don’t want to trample on that, but you have to make some harsh decisions sometimes.”  This passionate but pragmatic approach, in essence, is the hallmark of a seasoned producer.