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It has a Bafta, five years on screen and a legion of fans under its belt - yet it remains a mystery how Made In Chelsea is actually, well, made. Susan Griffin meets the core cast and crew to delve a little deeper ...

Published 30/07/2016

The cast of Made in Chelsea
The cast of Made in Chelsea

The beginning: Executive producer Sarah Dillistone pitched the idea of a reality show following the lives of the glamorous Chelsea set, with a taster tape starring Amber Atherton, Rosie Fortescue and Francis Boulle.

"They grilled me and kept saying, 'are you going to make us look like The Only Way Is Essex?'" Dillistone explains of the show's origins. "Then it was basically us going, 'please can you introduce us to everyone you know?' You get a casting team involved and send them down the King's Road, to every club and restaurant. It becomes quite clear who's popular, because it's quite small."

The art of persuasion

Dillistone and her team spent weeks trying to meet potential cast members to chat about the show. "And then it gets real when you go, 'can you sign this contract?' and everyone freaks out a bit," she reveals.

Two weeks before they were supposed to start filming, they still didn't have Spencer Matthews, Caggie Dunlop, Hugo Taylor or Millie Mackintosh.

"Spencer and Caggie's storyline was the backbone of series one, and two, really. It was the love story that drove the series," Dillistone notes.

What's in a name?

The cast finally on board, they shared one stipulation - that it wouldn't be called Chelsea Girls, the working title at the time.

She stayed up all night, determined to think up another title. "I looked at a jacket of mine and it had 'Made In China' on it. I thought, 'there's something there, oh my God, it's Made In Chelsea!' It just felt right."

Life on film

While the taster tape used single shots, it was down to director of photography Nick Martin and his team to open up the glamorous MIC world.

"We had to look into the types of cameras the channel would allow and how to shoot multi-camera," he explains. "We wanted it to look warm, glossy and aspirational. Our reference point was the US series Gossip Girl."

Finding the beat

Edit producer and music supervisor Andrea Madden came on board for series two.

"It's the dream to place music on a show like this, because it's got such a strong visual identity - you've got so much to play with," she says. "People laugh now that we have mini pop videos between each scene."

The Raffles low point

The show might be known for its glamorous soirees, but it wasn't always so. The first party scene in nightclub Raffles was "awful".

"There were a hell of a lot of low moments," admits Dillistone. "The venue was too small, there were lights falling off the wall, too many camera crews, the sound men couldn't hear properly. It was absolute chaos."

A well-oiled machine

"The Raffles party scene was the first time we'd all worked together, and you get faster as you go along," says Martin.

Now, the cast call times are staggered, so people don't all arrive at once. The venues are much bigger, with a minimum of three rooms, and somewhere the cast can go while they wait for their scenes.

No place to hide

Ollie Locke reveals cast members are in "constant communication with all the producers, so they know what's happening". Not that there's much chance of keeping anything secret.

"They always find out," says Binky Felstead. "I'm sure they've got spies." In fact, Dillistone reveals she's received calls from people to say they've spotted a cast member kissing someone in a club - "so it all gets back to us, and there's Twitter".

Genune emotion

Locke believes the success of the show lies in the real emotion. "There are these amazing scenes where you're telling someone their boyfriend's had an orgy, but however horrendous it is, it's the genuine reaction which makes the show," he says. "People can see the pain." As Felstead puts it: "We're not actors."

Binky's break-up

One of Felstead's most poignant moments was a scene with her serial-cheating ex, Alex Mytton, in her bedroom. "You completely forget about the cameras," she says. "You're heartbroken and have this idiot in front of you. It's all natural, all real."

She regards the crew as "family".

"They all asked if I was okay, and made sure I had people around my house so I wasn't on my own until my mum came up."

Ready to go

Describing the preamble to that scene, Martin says: "We realised Binky and Alex were going to meet up, so we're very reactionary. We're a team in a van and go where we need to be, like a news team. Then it's a conversation with the director of where to shoot it. The only elements of control are where we're going to position people so we can light them."

Outing Ollie

Quite early on in the series, Locke came out as bisexual. "I felt it was the right thing to do," says Locke. "When you get involved in the show, you put your entire life on camera." The original scene was between Locke and his mother Sarah, however, not Gabriella Ellis, his then-girlfriend.

"For a lot of personal reasons in the family, Sarah phoned and was terribly upset and said, 'I don't want this to go on television'," remembers Dillistone. "It was just too much, actually, for what is essentially a reality entertainment show. For me, there's got to be a line. We basically re-cut the show."

Fine-tuning the format

The editing team has about five weeks to create the show, two weeks of which are spent looking through all the scenes.

"It's a different way of cutting a reality show. I was used to working in the fast turnaround," says Madden. "But Sarah said, 'think more [like a] drama'. It's not always about the person talking, but someone's reaction. Of an hour's conversation, of course we're going to pick what's best to tell that story, but it's about trust and keeping true to what happened."

Viewing en masse

On a Monday night, the cast and crew will gather together to view the episode.

"We've done that from the beginning, so we, as producers, are transparent as to what we're doing," Dillistone reveals. "We've never had a moment where someone's said, 'I never said that'."

Made In Chelsea: South of France, E4, Monday, 9pm

Belfast Telegraph

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