Making a royal documentary: 5 behind-the-scenes secrets

In partnership with True Royalty TV

Carla Challis

We'll admit it – we're as obsessed with hearing the behind-the-scenes secrets of our favourite TV shows as we are the programmes themselves. From the drama off-screen to the evolution of storylines, it's fascinating when you get a glimpse into the making of your latest TV addiction.

And one genre we are beyond intrigued to go behind-the-scenes of is royal documentaries. Just how are they made and what do the royals really think of them? Someone who knows better than most is Nick Bullen, the award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of royal streaming service True Royalty TV - and the man behind some of the most watched documentaries about the royals, ever.

Nick, who is dubbed 'the king of royal TV' let HELLO! in on how he puts together documentaries on Prince Charles, the Queen and the rest of the royals – and even shares some of his personal regal anecdotes.


TV shows don't always work out as planned

The True Royalty TV team were busy working on a new documentary about Prince William when coronavirus struck – and it changed the course of the streaming service's latest documentary, Monarch In The Making, entirely. "We had been talking to people who are close to him who had said to us that it would be interesting to look at his diplomatic role on the world stage, and how he was really stepping up that particular side of his royal life, so it was called The Diplomat Prince," explained Nick.

"But then coronavirus struck and William and Kate became the faces of the monarchy. With all of his work combined, we thought, this is actually more than his work as the diplomat prince, this is the story of what sort of monarch Prince William will be, and all of the things that have happened across his life that have turned him into the man that he is and turn him into the king that he will be."

Inspiration can strike in unlikely places

Just when you think you know everything there is to know about a historic royal, there's always a curveball, says Nick. With access to the royal archives, Nick and his team often discover untold stories or unseen photographs which are then turned into the fascinating documentaries you see on True Royalty TV. "These chance findings allow us to create whole episodes and change the course of our documentaries."


The crew filming True Royalty TV's Prince Wiliam: Monarch In The Making

There are plenty of anecdotes that don't make the final cut

Nick has been fortunate enough to go on a number of royal tours, and it's often the stuff that happens after the cameras have stopped rolling that become the most unforgettable moments.

While on the 2010 royal tour of Botswana with Princes William and Harry, Nick recalls: "We were in the middle of the bush and there was a massive spider in the Princes' tent. And even though they had police officers with them, the Botswana security forces and an army surrounding them, everybody was terrified of going in and getting this spider out of the tent. It was a great leveller. That moment is one I really remember." 

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The team still get awe-struck

"You know you're in the presence of history when you’re around the royals," says Nick. He recounts filming BAFTA-winning The Queen's 90 Birthday Celebrations at Windsor Castle as one of the most majestic moments of his career.

"As the Queen arrived in her carriage into the area, the whole place stood up. We didn't know they were going to do it, we didn't ask anybody to do it, and it was all televised, and you got this sense of thousands of people just having the utmost respect for her. I remember all of the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I thought, wow, that is a moment that in 30 years of making television, I'd never seen anything like it."

The stories still to tell are fascinating

With the royals, news is ever-evolving and True Royalty TV has plenty of exciting shows planned to keep you in the know – from royal tours to princess fashion stories and much more. But the royal that Nick would love to make more films on? Prince Charles. "I think he's a really clever man, totally charming, incredibly well briefed, will always remember your name and what you’re doing. I think he will be a sensational king."

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