Where did the idea come from?
"It was an idea pitched by Richard Burke, one of our writers, at my first long-term story conference back in February. What's great about it is that it's a really great storyline, but with the way he pitched - in making it non-linear – it was even better. It's just like if something happened to one of your mates and you try and put the pieces of the puzzle together as to what happened, you don't find all the people who tell you what happened in chronological order. You get bits here and there and piece it together. It's exactly the sort of thing Hollyoaks should be doing, challenging its audience.
"From my point of view, we have to credit the audience that they can put things together for themselves and they don't have to be spoon-fed everything. That's what made this non-linear week such an exciting proposition to tell the story in this way."
A lot of people have been asking what a non-linear week is…
"I guess the easiest way to explain it is that time doesn't follow chronologically. For example, the Wednesday of that week is actually the Thursday from the previous week. So the timeline is non-literal. By the Friday episode, you're back in Friday - you're at the end of the week as you would be. You start at the end of the week, though! The Monday picks up at the end of the week, but as you work through and put the pieces together, the time falls back into chronology."
"We actually got someone to come into the rough cuts who wasn't as aware of the episodes in the way that we were for exactly that reason. We wanted someone to come in, watch the episodes and question, 'When's that?' or 'What time is that?' There was only one instance in which they were confused and we rectified that, so I have no doubt that the audience will be able to follow it through. Having watched it four times, though, I'm now satisfied that everything's in the right place!"
Aside from the non-linear aspect, what's different about the week? What were your aims?
"Quite a lot of it was shot on location and there were a lot of night shoots involved, too. It does have a more cinematic feel but then I think, in general, the show's going that way anyway. Obviously the most important thing for us was to ensure that it was a really compelling week. Visually, it's quite a challenging week in the way it's shown and I think Nicky Higgens has done a really great job for us.
"It was really about looking at different ways of telling stories. I'm sure I've been quoted hundreds of times saying this, but if something works on this show, then I think we should try something different. I think we're one of the only shows where you could do something like this - certainly in terms of soap - where you can rip apart traditional structure and form and throw it all up in the air and see where it lands. I don't think any of the other soaps would be able to do this in the same way. Hollyoaks is a show that takes chances and does things in a different and more unexpected way. If we just followed a standard structure all the time, how quickly would we lose our audience? It seemed that this was the perfect place to try something different like this and see how it works."
"No, we storylined it slightly differently. Richard Burke, who came up with the idea, and Steven Fay are the only two writers for that week. We thought the easiest way to construct it was to have two writers the whole way through. They had a massive input at storyline stage as to how those stories were constructed, what went into which episode and where. The whole week was written in a non-linear fashion from the very start. In the story office, though, there was a chart that detailed when everything happened, so as to ensure all the timelines followed. Some of the material from the non-linear week feeds from the previous week's episodes! For Leila, Elliot and Archie, it's a bittersweet story that sees them realise that there can sometimes be too much damage and sometimes, you can't go back. But that doesn't mean you stop caring about people."
How did you set about filming the episodes? Were they filmed out of sync, too?
"We shoot five days a week and we're shooting up to 30 episodes at any one time, so the chances of filming chronologically is pretty minimal at the best of times! It only takes one actor to be ill or for it to throw it down with rain when we're meant to be filming a picnic for it all to go out the window. So actually, in terms of the shoot, it actually followed a normal schedule! If there are sequences, though, we do try to film those in order so that the emotional highs and lows for the actors are in the right place."
"Obviously we have the challenges of Later and other online shows at the moment, so we already have enough to work with! Certainly, though, I'd be very interested to see how our audience responds to this week. Internally, we've all been very excited about it and if it's a success, then absolutely, I'd like to do other projects like it. Not necessarily in a similar vain, though - I think one thing you can't do with something like this is say that in six months, we'll do another non-linear week because that would be predictable. Our writers are actively encouraged to come up with things that are a little more off-the-wall, though."
> Click here to read more from Lucy Allan about the storylines during Hollyoaks' non-linear week in Soap Scoop