On the Marshes

Filming on the marshes is an interesting affair. There are a couple of things right away that make them unique in my experience of producing video. Firstly, they are incredibly flat and secondly, the lighting and weather conditions can change quite rapidly.

Starting with the weather, always some thing you have to keep an eye on when planning a shoot, its very hard to predict what it is going to do on the Romney Marshes. I recently had a walking holiday on Dartmoor. There is another place where the conditions can swivel on sixpence. You set off with your walking boots and t-shirt and a small bag of goodies to munch on route as you clamber over the Tors, only to realize that moments later its much more chilly that you anticipated and slowly rolling towards you is a grim looking low level cloud of mist.

I suppose because of the flatness on a day where there is little wind there is nowhere for the mist to go and so it can often hang in the air for ages. I speak as if I were an expert, but this is how it has appeared to me as I have trudged over the footpaths seeking suitable location to film in.

I quite like the openness of the place. It reminds me naturally of Norfolk or the middle of America where you get the big skies. You might think it is a challenge to shoot anything interesting with scenery like this, but then you will be surprised, because anything out of the ordinary becomes a fascinating feature. So a gate with a plank missing across its length is suddenly full of character, a tuft of reeds taller than the rest draw your eye and have you wondering what is hidden behind them and ruined church wall, abandoned and upright compels you consider how spooky it is.

The other great thing that I hadn’t really given much time of day to until I first popped down to the south of Kent to have a reconnoiter was just how quiet and deserted it really is. The isolation might become overwhelming for many who live in a city or lively town, but to me was most enjoyable. Better, for the film maker in me, it was brilliant. To be left alone to get on with erecting a camera on a tripod, standing about in front of the lens and trying to remember my lines as I deliver some relevant history blurb without the usual stares and jeers of local population, often teenagers is bliss. None of the normal, ‘What are you filming mister?’, ‘Is it for television mister?’ ‘You aint very funny, mister!’ It was fab!

The problem is, the programme doesn’t do the Romney Marshes justice at all. I am taking the slant of it being a villainous place, the haunt of smugglers and deceivers of the realm. Well, of course, it was, but not any more. Honest hardworking decent farmers work the soil and graze their sheep or grow their commercial crops. There is I am sure an incredible story going on with these remotely located people that unfortunately my camera doesn’t pick up on, so maybe I will have to return with the alternative story of this rather usual part of Kent’s famous garden.

Filming on the Seven Sisters

Only a half day today, but I think reasonably successful filming with Mr. Pegram at the seven Sisters as we try to explain the story of Smugglers of the 18th and 19th Century for the next episode of the wondering bald bloke who likes to explore.

Today we were not able to get the car as close to the filming location as we had hoped, but luckily for us, just off the A259, at Cuckmere Haven, close to the Seven Sisters, Sussex’s most impressive white cliffs, (some say better than those at Dover) is a small car park adjacent to a public House. I am sorry to say the name of the hostelry escapes me. However, from there it is a matter of a 20 minute walk to along a very pleasant bridal way down to the coast where the views are stunning, particularly on a bright and sunny day. Alas ours wasn’t. It was fairly atmospheric though with the low level cloud and sea mists rolling in of the English Channel. The chalk cliffs are most definitely worth the stroll. Its a very magical place and even though the weather was a little foreboding there were plenty of people out for some fresh air walking their beloved dogs. Even a school party of red topped infants gingering made their way down to the foot of the enormous chalk face along with their intrepid teachers. I can imagine in the summer months it would be packed!

The camera was soon unpacked and batteries attached. I strutted up and down trying to deliver the lines of the script in the most entertaining fashion possible all the while struggling to grasp my lines. I ought to know them as I have written the script, but that does actually seem to make it worse to bring them to forefront of my mind. Retake after retake and finally the words tripped out in the correct order.

As usual we had a few problems with wind. We perhaps should have been better prepared for this as its isn’t really surprising to find the cliff tops a little gusty, but with out properly protected microphones you can get a rumble effect as the air buffets the sensitive casing of the recording device. That said though we managed pretty well and managed to get most of the shots in the can. I have yet to check them and I will do that shortly.

Lunch on the way was a via a pub, a different one from the first, and again I couldn’t remember the name of the damn place. Food was good and service provided with a smile. I think both Mr. Pegram and I were glad to get the first week over and done with and can now relax over the weekend before starting all over again in a completely different location.

Comedy Smugglers on the South Coast

Filming is under way and this week I have been shooting with my very good actor friend Nigel Cooper. He is playing a role of comedy smuggler which I think the photo portrays nicely. We spend a lovely afternoon on Goring by Sea coast playing about with a rubber dinghy, tea pots and cake.

In fact Nigel plays a night watchman too in this third episode of the Bald Explorer. These little cameos are there to illustrate and lighten parts of the script. The facts just spewed out can be very dull and boring and so to add a bit of fun we have a non-realistic representation of the smuggling trade. I hope you will like this added feature.

Nigel appeared with me in a Children’s ITV production of Snug and Cozi. A comedy series for kids about two crazy spacemen who crash land on the planet Earth, befriend a young girl called Emily and have silly adventures. It went to two series and was quite popular in the mid 1990’s.

Video: Behind the Scene – Cycling Cam!

As we produce the next Bald Explorer documentary we are recording a series of Behind the scenes videos to show it is done and some of these will make their way up on to YouTube as a sneak preview.

Today, I am on the Romney Marshes on a particularly gloomy day and light levels are very poor. However, we need to get some cycling shots and we have attached a GoPro Hero 2 video camera to the car and away we go!