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.
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