The sky is so clear tonight over London that I can see the almost full moon and some stars in between the street lamps and buildings in our little lane in Soho. It was somehow a comforting sight and a lovely one to experience at the end of a rather crazy day.
I’m able to personally blog about this mad UK/Ireland/Austrian filming trip for the first time tonight after a week of highs and lows – what a week it’s been!
After a long, but relatively comfortable flight from Melbourne to London via Emirates (who I can’t praise enough – all their staff, from the team in their Melbourne office to their staff at Tullamarine to their cabin crews on the flights, were so lovely and efficient and helpful – if you’re going to fly long haul, you should fly with Emirates), we landed at Heathrow almost a week ago – but it seems somehow much longer! The flat here in Soho (just off Tottenham Court Road) feels like home now – I’ll be sad to leave it on Saturday. Roberto from London Life Apartments has been fantastic – going out of his way to make our stay comfortable and stress-free and I truly thank him for everything he has done for us during our time in London.
It doesn’t seem real that we only have a day left in London before heading off to Vienna for the last leg of this trip – but we will be, so it seems a good time to take a quick look back at what has happened so far …
Where to begin? Firstly, I must say a HUGE public thank you to Daniel Salter – our dedicated, unflappable, highly capable Production Coordinator (UK). Daniel has worked for us tirelessly over the past week – from collecting us from the airport on our arrival to driving us back and forth to Oxford for two days, as well as to Gatwick today – and then in Dublin – which alone should win him a gold medal for stamina and good humour! But he has also been a brilliant addition to the team, working as a third crew member assisting Tim and Saraj on set, carrying gear back and forth, as well as being our behind-the-scenes videographer and stills photographer while we are in the UK and Ireland.
THANK YOU DANIEL! I couldn’t have managed this leg of the filming without your invaluable help and expertise and I will be forever grateful for all you’ve done for us while we’ve been here! If anyone needs a reliable, talented and genuinely lovely Production person with a healthy sense of humour (who has also been a locations manager for a couple of other gigs), get in touch with me and I’ll put you in touch with Daniel. I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Sunday saw me sorting out equipment collection and confirming our following two filming days as well as catching up with my old BBC boss and friend Roly Keating for a quick cup of tea (thank you again Roly for your advice and support!). Other people I have to thank for Sunday are Sarah and Lee from KitHire.com who got all our lighting to us that evening, as well as Sound Operator, Steve Goldsmith for providing us with the sound equipment. Steve and his fabulous wife came into Soho to meet us and we all went out for dinner that night at a local Thai place around the corner from the flat. It was a lovely way to start our stay in London and I thank them both for making us feel so welcome. If anyone is looking for a Sound Operator in London – get in touch and I’ll put you in touch with Steve, he’s a brilliant addition to any crew. Video Europe had already given Daniel the grip equipment for us on the Friday before we arrived – and by the time Sunday night arrived we could hardly move in the lounge room of the flat for all the film gear! I’m still not sure how Daniel packed all of it, plus us, into the medium sized people carrier he had procured, but somehow he did!
Above: this is just what we brought with us on the plane … as hand luggage …
Our first day of filming was in Oxford with Sir Roger Bannister. I have already mentioned the staff from Oxford University Sport Department, published in the previous blog – Shaun and Matt were a joy to work with and took such great care of us – affording us every bit of help they could, including letting us move furniture around and borrow pictures of Sir Roger from their front reception to hang on the walls of a meeting room as set dressing, to sourcing umbrellas and extra power cables – they were just brilliant and I am very grateful.
Above: Sally McLean, Sir Roger Bannister and Sir Christopher Chataway at Oxford
Sir Roger was lovely – eloquent and entertaining, funny and genuine. It was a pleasure to meet and interview him and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do both. Sir Christopher Chataway on the Tuesday was delightful – making the effort to come down from London to Oxford to talk to us and was polished and professional as well as passionate in recounting his memories of his time working with Roger and Franz as an athlete. I loved being able to finally meet him and his charming wife after months of email and phone calls and again was truly thrilled to spend time with him and hear his stories. It was a fantastic way to spend two days in Oxford and I am so pleased that we could bring two old friends together again and capture it all on camera.
Wednesday was a rest day which saw me catching up with some old friends, as well as preparing for the following day’s filming in Dublin. That night I saw Alistair Barrie (one of my best mates) comedy panel show “No Pressure To Be Funny” at the Leicester Square Theatre. If you want a night of topical discussion that can at times be sidesplittingly funny due to a panel of four comedians and host James O’Brien (LBC Radio) – then I highly recommend you go see it. There’s only one more show for this season (featuring Rich Hall!) – next Wednesday night, but they are also doing a Christmas special in December. More information on their Facebook group page, or you can listen to the edited podcast of last night’s show here.
Then today dawned. Well, more accurately, today dawned as we were making our way to Gatwick Airport – as we were up well before the dawn! We were out of London by 6.30am and off to Dublin for the day to interview Ulick O’Connor – one of Ireland’s great writers and biographers. Also a playwright and poet and one of Franz’s original Irish athletes, I was very much looking forward to meeting him.
First stop was a local pub for lunch, then onto CameraKit in Dublin to collect all the gear we had booked for Ulick’s interview. And here I must stop for another thank you. Jim and the team at Camerakit are brilliant. Truly. Not only excellent at what they do and their knowledge of film gear, they are also masters of the craic. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much during a film equipment hire pick up in my life! A massive thank you to Jim, David and the boys over there – if you need to hire any equipment in Dublin, then I highly recommend them: http://www.camerakit.ie/ (and I even got a hug when we returned the equipment at the end of the day – as well as a group farewell in the carpark – thanks guys! I told you that I’d let the world know how great you all are!).
Once all the equipment was – again miraculously – packed into the car by Daniel, Tim and Saraj while I worked out the paper work in the office – we were off to interview Ulick.
What can I say about Ulick? Erudite, sharp, funny, opinionated, eloquent, a beautiful writer and a true gentleman. Also a poet and playwright, I found myself (while waiting for Tim, Saraj and Daniel to set up in another room), sitting in Ulick’s office while he read for me his poem “Requiem for a Nanny” – a beautiful work he had written about one of the major influencers of his life. It was a truly surreal moment for me – sitting in a room piled high with books and papers, listening to the man who had written the plays “A Trinity of Two” (about Oscar Wilde) and “Brendan” (about Brendan Behan), amongst many others, read to me one of his evocative and absolutely sublime poems. It was a moment to treasure and I know I will remember it for a very long time to come.
Ulick’s Assistant, Anna, was also there – and looked after us very well. It was such a joy to interview Ulick and I know we were all delighted to spend those few hours with him – I wish we could have stayed longer, but sadly it was not to be this time. After cups of tea and sherry in Ulick’s front room (and a present from him to me of two of his books – signed at my request, of course!), it was back to CameraKit to return the gear and then off to find a true Irish pub so that I could at least give my small, but hardy crew a chance to down a real Guinness.
I must stop here again for another thank you – Tim Egan and Saraj Alkemade, my dedicated and hardworking crew … THANK YOU! You have got some beautifully lit and framed shots and clear, crisp audio, and it has been a joy to discover that we already have a short hand operating between us when conducting these interviews and that I do not need to do anything more than raise an eyebrow in question or give a look to have you understand what I’m thinking and showing me that you’re already doing it – no words required. You have made this process so much easier with your expertise and experience and I am so grateful to have you on this journey with me.
Above: Tim Egan, Sarah Alkemade and Daniel Salter drink their Guinness fast before racing to the airport in Dublin
Three Guinness’ (one each for the crew) and a Coke (for me) later and we were racing our way back to Dublin Airport, and in turn back to Gatwick, then home to London.
It was a crazy, mad day, but just brilliant and now, at 2am, I am winding down and just about ready for bed. Tomorrow brings a few more quick catch ups with friends here and final checks for the next leg of travel and then it’s off to Vienna for the last stage of filming.
Forgive my lack of wittiness in this update – to be honest I am feeling very tired, but also feeling very privileged to have had the chance to spend time with such interesting and eminent individuals and interview them on camera. It has been a brilliant way to begin filming for this project and I’m looking forward to the adventure of Vienna to come.
Until the next update … thanks for reading.