Can you believe it? We were really there.
This was, by far, the biggest assignment of mine to date – and it’s been THE event that everybody has wanted to ask me about since. Now that the dust has settled, we see the results of our hard work in black and white: 1.3 million video views on site and 6.6 million across social, smashing all previous records. It was no small feat, but a huge team effort.
Here’s how it unfolded:
One month into my role at HELLO! magazine, Harry pops the question to Meghan Markle and sets the news agenda for the foreseeable future. Information comes in small doses, but slowly we uncover the exact details or when, where and how this historic day will unfold.
Months before the big day
Three of us from the team do a recce in Windsor – it’s the first time I can remember visiting, and it’s beautiful, not unlike my home city of Bath.
We meet the local tourism office and receive a few pointers about how the city is preparing – plus a tip off about civilian couples due to marry in Windsor the same weekend as Harry and Meghan, which will go on to become a HELLO! exclusive sponsored by Dr Oetker.
I take myself and my camera off to Windsor Castle and shoot a couple of timelapse videos from inside the grounds, and outside St George’s chapel. Although I’m not allowed to film inside, it was wonderful visiting it (so pretty, so peaceful) and picturing the guests – as well as, of course, the couple – who would be standing in the same spot come 19 May.
I watch and learn as my boss is impressively canny and manages to secure us an exclusive spot with a perfect view of the procession route, free of charge. For context, some competitors were rumoured to be paying £10,000 a night for their hotel rooms nearby, and one network went to the trouble of taking over an entire rooftop where they built a custom-made stage, presumably for a hefty price.
We shoot the making of our regular couple’s – Tom and Annie – wedding cake, made by celebrity baker Juliet Sear and Dr Oetker, and organise the logistics of its arrival. We also knock heads about how exactly we plan to cover two weddings in one weekend…
We also set up interviews for the wedding weekend with some confirmed guests (one of which was a tip off from my own mum through the local WI – it really is a small world), who are among a select number of charity workers invited inside the grounds of the castle for the big day.
We divide HELLO! Online into two teams, one to be based in Windsor and the other at HQ in London. For video, this is about who (and what equipment) you have and what you plan to do in each location, and brings with it the possibility of hiring extra kit or pairs of hands; you have to get the balance right between shooting your own content and editing/promoting incoming content from external providers. For us, one doesn’t exist without the other – we need to be constantly editing and uploading content from our media partners whilst also shooting our own exclusives – so this decision took a long time to finalise.
We establish our three key shooting/editing/live stream locations and our minimum content plan for the two days that we will be in Windsor, leaving lots of room for improvising and jumping on any exclusives.
Friday 18 May, 2018
8.30am: I meet Sophie, our Online Editor, we drive down to Windsor to a friend of hers who lives a short walk from the city center. We pile up the equipment and walk it through streets lined with bunting; the sun is shining, the souvenirs are in every window, and the keen campers have been here for days.
11am: We set up the kit and get ourselves sorted in our three locations: at the Queen Charlotte Pub, Hamptons Estate Agents overlooking the procession route, and at Facebook’s pop up studio overlooking the castle.
11.30am: Our first live stream with the members of the Diana Award charity, who will be inside the castle tomorrow.
Noon: We meet our bride, Annie, moments away from getting married herself and film her walk over to the Guildhall where Tom is waiting. It is a surreal moment in the madness of the weekend, when Sophie and I are among just a handful of people, watching the couple tie the knot, in a really beautiful ceremony.
4pm: We reunite with Annie and Tom to interview them and present them with their stunning cake from Dr Oetker (it was lemon and elderflower, with rustic icing, just like Prince Harry and Meghan’s). I sneakily get the opportunity to go up to the rooftop of the hotel (the one that other media owner had taken over) to take the a couple of snaps – love must have been in the air, because for everyone else that place was on lockdown!5.30pm: We get the tip off that Prince Harry and Prince William will be doing a ‘walkabout’ to greet the waiting crowds. We get penned in among the crowds for about an hour as everybody hopes to catch a glimpse of the pair. We see them briefly, and their surprise appearance really cheers the crowd.7-9pm: We edit and release the video of Tom and Annie’s day, along with the write up and photos. I meet up with my former right-hand-video-gal, Alice, on hand to help tomorrow, and we head back to a beautiful house outside of Windsor, setting the alarms for 4.30am.
Saturday 19 May, 2018
4.30am: Go time. We get into Windsor within an hour and meet the team. My clothes and my GHDs have been locked away in the office we were using as base yesterday, which isn’t the best start as everybody else is dressed for the occasion! I finally get to do a quick change around 9!
8.00am: Our first live stream of the day, from outside the Queen Charlotte (with a view of the castle in the background) with our Royal Correspondent, who’ll be inside the grounds when the ceremony happens. We’re all very excited and a little nervous about the scale of what we’re about to cover.
09.30am: We then go live from the Facebook studio, which is an amazing location. Aihnoa and Alex do a brilliant job presenting and provide us several updates throughout the day, racking up serious views.
All day, from London: Footage from our media partners (like the Press Association) is being edited and released with every minute of the developing story. This is particularly helpful when we can’t be in two places at once – for example, being nowhere near Clivedon house to see Meghan departing for the chapel, but still receiving and editing that footage in order to keep viewers up to date. It’s absolutely vital in the views we accumulate over the weekend.
11am: We get a tip off about an amazing lady in the crowd attending her 8th royal wedding, so I get to do my first on camera interview of the day.
Noon: Meghan’s arriving. Sophie and I go live to discuss the celebrity guests we’ve seen so far and provide commentary on Meghan’s dress.
1pm: So. Much. Pressure. I’ve practiced the procession shot from our spot in Hamptons several times earlier today, but even I am surprised by how quickly the royal couple appear and disappear – it’s a matter of seconds, but we get it, with Meghan turning our way at just the right moment too. I can breathe again.3pm: I get a boost (just when I was starting to flag) by a surprise visit from my best friend. We may have filmed a short interview that you may or may not ever see…
4pm: I track down the other charity guest we planned to interview all those weeks ago and she and I chat about her once-in-a-lifetime experience.
5pm: We wrap at Facebook with a final update from our Royal Correspondent. Alice and I spot our favourite former-guest, Dermot O’Leary, reporting nearby, and watch the day draw to a close.
7pm: The HELLO! team, still running on adrenaline and in great spirits, celebrate with dinner in Windsor – we were working hours after many of the others media outlets had left the city, and in fact the writers stayed that evening to mingle with guests and celebrities in the hotspots across town.
11pm: Arrive back in London after two unforgettable days – only slightly shell-shocked and really proud of our efforts.