Pat Cummins Interview
In Doc Martin, you may have noticed many beautiful camera pans over the stunning vistas and wide-sweeping landscape of Cornwall. In the past, getting this kind of footage relied heavily on a film crew, expensive equipment and the use of a crane or helicopter. In today’s filmmaking practice however, it has become much more popular to make use of a small aircraft and strap a go pro or DSLR camera to it. This takes a lot of patience, and a lot of practice to get it right!
Series 7 of Doc Martin was the first series to make use of footage captured by drones.
DMO spoke with Patrick Cummins. Pat is a director at Apex Aerial Imagine, the company responsible for providing the drone footage for Doc Martin.
DMO: Can you please explain who you are and what is Apex Aerial Imaging?
PC: Apex Aerial Imaging Ltd is a small company based in North Cornwall, setup in 2014. We specialise in aerial photography and filming using remotely piloted aircraft, more commonly known as drones. ‘Apex’ means the highest point or peak of something which seemed quite appropriate.
DMO: How did you get involved with Doc Martin?
PC: Being based in North Cornwall we are quite local to most of the Doc Martin locations and we were asked to do a trial day filming to see how drone footage could be integrated into the show. We carried out a successful day of filming with Ben Gregor and from there we were asked to come back for a few more days, mainly to get establishing shots.
DMO: What work did you have to do on Doc Martin?
PC: We worked mostly with Ben mainly on establishing type shots but also some vehicle tracking shots. The set up at each location takes around 20 mins and this includes thorough pre-flight checks and risk assessments. In addition to this, prior to going on site, pre-deployment surveys will have been carried out to check if there are any particular hazards or restrictions in the at locations on the day when we need to work. If we are flying in controlled airspace we need to liaise with the relevant air traffic control service to check that we can fly safely.
DMO: What was your proudest moment while working on Doc Martin?
PC: We did a lot of great shots for Doc Martin but I think the highlight was a long shot we did flying in over the harbour and up to the surgery to arrive at the same time as Martin walking up the hill. It was great to see that this shot was used at the start of, I think, episode 7.
DMO: What were the challenges of the shoot?
PC: Yes there were many challenges, particularly shooting in and around Port Isaac. On one particular occasion we did upset the seagulls that were nesting with young chicks and became quite aggressive!
DMO: Were you happy with how it came out? Or would you have done something differently if you could?
PC: We were pretty pleased with the way it turned out and were very happy that so much of our footage was used in the final edits. I think you can always look back and identify things that could have been done differently and you never stop learning from your experiences.
DMO: What is something that people might not know about Aerial photography or what you do?
PC: Aerial imaging in the UK is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). To be able to operate commercially our pilots have to be trained by a National Qualified Entity (NQE) and we then, as a company, have to apply to the CAA for Permission for Aerial Work. Without this permission we are unable to work and unable to obtain our operator’s insurance.
DMO: Is Port Isaac a pleasure to shoot in?
PC: Port Isaac is obviously a beautiful location but it can get very busy in summer and this can make filming quite difficult. We shot at other great locations such as on Bodmin Moor where there was a lot more space and consequently less hazards.
DMO: Why do you think Doc Martin is so popular?
PC: I think Doc Martin is popular for a number if reasons not least of which is the simple lifestyle that is portrayed which a lot of people may aspire to, when compared to their hectic city lives. The beautiful locations that the series is shot in play a large part in its success and many people may recognise places they have visited on holiday, or it might inspire them to visit. The show is incredibly popular overseas and this again is probably due to the quaint Cornish lifestyle it portrays and the great scenery.