Sunday, 24 April 2016


Yesterday morning, Mary Lou, who runs ReelshowInt, and I went for a long walk . From the small village in Northern Italy where we presently live, we made our way through some vineyards and began to climb up the hill through a large olive grove.We watched some hunters with dogs shooting hares and looking for truffles amongst the olive trees.
Eventually we arrived at the top of the steep hill and began our descent, down a different path. It was very gravelly and walking was a little tricky. I slid a couple of times on the loose gravel and Lou suggested I buy a new pair of boots as the grip on my old ones was not doing its job. The grip is was just a little tricky underfoot and getting rid of these boots would be like putting my granny in the waste is why..
In the Summer of 1968 I was sharing a holiday chalet, my former wife and young daughter, with another young couple and child.
The position was idyllic, perched on a steep cherry tree filled hillside in Switzerland overlooking Lake Lausanne.
We had been in the place for about ten days and were preparing for the drive back to the UK when we got a phone call, at least the other man did, he was a freelance cameraman as was I.
The call was from a Producer with a well known TV company in England ,and he asked us to go to Grindlewald in Switzerland to meet up with a group of climbers who were going to attempt a summer ascent of the North Face of the Eiger.
The climbers were driving out from England and had a van full of camera equipment, they needed to know how to use it.
We both said we would meet them and off we went…families as was going to be a paid for extension of our holiday.
After meeting the climbers and going over the equipment with them we were then asked to film the ascent from the edges of the massive granite face (5-6,000 ft) of the most feared and awesome mountain in Europe.
I had gone on a holiday in a I needed some boots that would do the job.
Needless to say that there are lots of boots to choose from in Grindlewald and after mulling over styles, fit, colour, grip, comfort I eventually settled on a pair.
SCARPA Asolo (TV)… ..That is the name stamped on the side of the boots.
They have since travelled the world with me. Apart from trudging over/through peat bogs, marshes, some canny rock climbs in my native Cumbrian fells. The Peak District and crags in Scotland and Wales they are still going strong, after 43 years.
They were packed for every trip I have ever made over-seas and have been in swamps, jungles, deserts, beaches, war zones and one or two posh hotels.
They have never worn, are still comfortable and have the original laces.
Not a bad buy for about six pounds.
Recently I was filming a drama on some sea cliffs down in Cornwall. As I dangled over the sea on a rope, one of the climbing rope wranglers noticed the boots. He was amazed. He had been in the Scarpa Boot company in Switzerland as a boy and helped to design this very same model.
Small world… and as I said to Lou, these boots go in the bin when I do and by the look of them that might be some reasonable time in the future..I hope..

feeding a film crew

A quick zip around the globe and it brings us to Hong Kong.
I love Chinese food.
And HK is the MECCA.
I was there filming a TV movie in the “Cracker” series for UK TV.
The crew was a mixture of locals and some that were flown in from the UK.
The entire grip crew were Chinese and they were brilliant..every one of them.
At the end of the shoot the grip crew invited the Camera crew out for a meal..their choice of venue.. and menu..
The camera crew consisted of myself, the operator Mike Miller, the follow focus..Richard Brierley, the camera assistant /Loader..Mandy..she has since married and I don’t know her married name.
Mandy is a Lancastrian and lives in a beautifully restored barn on the heights overlooking Manchester. She likes to eat….anything..
Richard is from Manchester, lives in London and thinks eating is something to do with the mouth between pouring ale down it..
Mike is built like a bean pole..eats like a horse but always looks as though  he has just spent ten years in solitary in the meat on this fella at all.
The arrangement was that we should all meet up at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon and the grip team would take us from there..
Kowloon is an old city and is full of dark and mysterious alleyways..places where most folk would not venture on their own..but here we were..diving deeper and deeper into smaller, darker, narrower alleys, getting some strange looks from the locals.
Eventually we stopped at the venue.
It looked OK..full of locals..which is always a good sign’
We were welcomed, seated and the booze began to flow..we ordered from the extensive menu..taking tips from our hosts.
The food was delicious.
And it kept on coming..and coming..Chinese can eat their weight in food it seems.
And all of it was demolished.
One feature if the presentation was that at the end of each large platter of food, the head of the main meat or fish component in the dish was displayed on a small flattened part of the plate..a little off putting at see the head of the chicken, fish, animal, peering at you as you consumed its body, but that seems to be the human way..we quickly got used to it…until..
One dish arrived ..and as it was placed on the table the Chinese crew started muttering among themselves..there was no head..What was it?.
The centre piece was completely unrecognizable to any one at the table, even the waiter had no idea what the creature was..
It sat in the middle of the isolated splendour..It was the size of a small was entirely dark grey in colour and had some short stubby tentacles sticking was seriously off putting and no one made a move to eat it.
Except Mike..
After waiting for what he obviously deemed to be a respectful period of waiting..for our hosts to begin..about one nanosecond..he stabbed the beast/alien with his fork and began chewing at it.
He ate it all…it took about twenty minutes..we all watched with open mouths as this creature was slowly one said anything until Mike had finished.
He picked up his napkin..wiped his mouth..noticed we were all watching him and said “Nice..what was it?”
To this day none of us know..or even want to
One other feature of that shoot was the lunch time catering…great food..lots of it..but nowhere to sit..after six weeks shooting we all became experts at standing up with a plate in one hand and a fork in the other..takes a little time to get used to it but you soon learn what to put on your plate that allows one hand eating..
And now with the flick of the magic wand we are miraculously transported to the desert town of Wittenoom in Western Australia..
Dateline 1970..
We had been filming in the area , making a documentary on the man who found a mountain of Iron Ore..and a vast fortune..Lang Hancock.
Wittenoom was a desert town and had been built around a huge deposit of asbestos..There was at that time a massive demand for this material..until it was discovered that nearly all of the work force were suffering from some form of chest disease through inhaling the fibres.
Asbestosis reared its ugly head and Wittenoom died. .it is rumoured that quite a number of the inhabitants died too..
Anyway here it is..a deserted ghost town..lots of empty properties, proper paved roads, traffic lights, boarded up shops. Not the sort of place one would choose to have a country estate..But Lang was an old time prospector and he was used to being out there in the wilderness, he invited us to join him one weekend, for a barbecue..
Australians enjoy one of the best diets in the world, like Americans, they serve up huge portions and so it was at Lang’s place..
No burgers at this barby..we had a full grown animal on a massive spit roast.
And lots to drink.
We all arranged ourselves around the rather sparse garden and watched the meat being slowly smelt great and we were hungry..
We were not the only ones attracted by the meal..
We all became aware of a noise coming from the unlit bush..lots of unlit bush..several thousand square miles of it..It was a sort of booming noise..we heard it every half minute or so and it was getting closer.
Some of Lang’s staff had rifles and they kept them close, casting wary eyes on the darkness.
Turns out it was a massive Python. Often seen in the area of the farm where it had taken some livestock on previous occasions…attracted by the sounds and smell it had decided to pop in for a snack..anything for a could have been one of us…
A few rounds of buckshot seemed to scare it away but nobody used the toilet facilities which were down a path away from the light
We huddled closer together and moved nearer to the large roasting pit.Then I noticed we were roasting something more than just a lamb or a calf.
Out of the dark night there were hundreds of winged critters screaming through the air to crash land on the slowly turning meat..they must have been hungry because they were instantly incinerated by the flames..and they stayed there..
The spit roast was slowly becoming encased in nighttime critters which were forming a crust. And some of them were about six inches long..
I lost my appetite rather quickly but it was no barrier to the farmhands/estate workers ..they sliced off huge slivers of the animal and wolfed them down..along with the newly arrived casing.
A word of warning..If you are ever in the vicinity of my operator,Mike, from the first tale..dont get too close..he might be hungry..

Feeding the Royal Family

You may wonder why I have raised this point in an article on a Film Makers site.
I have filmed the British Royal Family on many occasions.. one never gets really close, mainly for security reasons.
I have filmed various members of the family at functions and have been allowed to follow them into state banquets and other dining functions, but I have never been allowed to film them eating.
The Security , Special Branch Officers , always give you the order of the boot, as in “Get Out”
Do members of the most elite family in the UK have eating disorders.
Were they not taught basic table manners?
Were they never taught how to handle cutlery?
Do they eat with their fingers, or push their faces into the food and slurp it up?
Have you ever seen any member of this family eating, on newsreels or any other media outlet.
They must be the most photographed family group in the world and yet no-one has ever seen food pass into their mouths.
There may be some old Hollywood version of someone like Henry VIII chomping on a chicken leg or a leg of lamb, before throwing the remnants over his shoulder for the peasants or hounds to leap upon, but none of the modern royals ever do that.
In the “Kings Speech” I cannot recall one eating scene.
No wonder the newest arrival is bone thin…they never eat.
Are they aliens, as some prominent conspiracy theorists would have you believe or are they just a little sloppy at the table.
We may never know.
A fortune in royalties (Pardon the pun) awaits the first news man/woman to grab a few seconds of the royal chomp…keep your eyes open out there.

Racism in the movie industry

That is not a title often seen with regard to the movie business
Having worked in all branches of the industry for over forty years I have not experienced any overt racism at all in the one International industry that is as culturally diverse as the Film and TV industry.
No idea..
Maybe it is similar in the music business.
Different races and ethnic groups seem to work in almost perfect harmony in both of these entertainment businesses.
I have experienced racism in a number of countries, from a dislike of my race, English, to a total rejection of my White Anglo Saxon appearance..but it was never really associated with  the job I was doing.
What is it about our industry that surpasses the common prejudices.
Maybe it is the involvement in the creative process.
“Slumdog Millionaire” was shot in Mumbai,India by an Englishman from the North of England.. using inexperienced young Indian actors in some of the worst social conditions in the world . It won an Oscar….An amazing achievement.
I have noticed that when I attend social events at the BAFTA headquarters in  Piccadilly, London that all social and racial groups intermingle and seem very happy to do so, maybe because the main topic of conversation is the making, writing, producing, financing, casting ,and shooting of films.
Is the creative process of making movies about to create something else, an Esperanto of the creative world.

Best car chases in the movies

Today I am going to upload 58 posts..some of them you will already have seen...they are dated so some may be new to you..please enjoy.

I cannot lay claim to having seen every car chase in the movies worldwide but a couple of nights ago I was lucky to catch a screening of “Ronin”, dir: John Schlesinger …Starring Robert Di Nero.
The main sequences were shot in the very narrow streets of Nice and then a fantastic sequence which seemed to go on for ever along the main thoroughfares of Paris..
Most of the action was against the flow of traffic with crashes, narrow escapes, multiple crashes, smashes in tunnels, all done at high speed and covered amazingly well.
If you have ever driven in Paris and driven with the flow of the traffic you will realize how insane it must have been to drive at top speed against the flow.
I could only find credits for six drivers at the end of the film.
Well done to all of them.
If any one has seen a better example of high speed chases then please let me know