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327. Camera and ‘Action’!

05/10/2017

Theo clearly had a good time at Stow Maries. here’s the rest of his story.

‘On Monday 25th September I arrived at Stow Maries, just in time to miss lunch. Oh well, such is life. When I found Stephen to report in, with him were Tony and Pia Bianchi. Tony is a legend among both aircraft restorers and as a maker of flying scenes for movies. Meeting them was a real pleasure for me and I had several interesting conversation as well as spending two evenings in their company.

‘Having hoped to get started on fitting the camera on the BE2 I could only watch as it was being used for outside filming. The second camera crew were re-enacting a mad dash by the pilot and ground crew to move the plane whilst the airfield was being shelled. I managed to mess up the continuity by suggesting the propeller was in the wrong position for starting after they had already filmed it from one angle. However it seems that the editor can sort these things out. He was on set and it turned out he was the same editor who had created the film about our Scout. So I had some interesting conversations with him as well.

‘While we were doing this scene, behind us the first camera crew was filming a scene of the pilots going into the briefing room. At Stow the set is the genuine room used one hundred years ago.

‘At the end of this the planes were hangared; some of the Stow-based planes had been used as back drop. The BE2 was then rigged in the hangar with blue screen around it, ready for the morning filming. However producer Stephen Saunders, the Bianchis and I adjourned to the Prince of Wales for the evening.

‘Next day I was back at the airfield in time for breakfast. I then wandered back to the car to start work, just in time to meet up with my assistant, Chil. We started work on mounting the camera. Around us the boom camera and lighting crew were setting up and the blue screen team were finishing off. We managed to get the replica camera mounted without any damage to the aircraft.

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IMG_0830.jpg‘I had to use a cable tie in one position, as it was the only fixing which would thread through the fabric lacing. This later appeared in the shot and we had to use make up to disguise it. As we were finished before everyone else, Chil and I wandered off to see what the first crew were up to. They were at the other end of the flight line filming a ‘shot down Eindekker’. However as it was now lunch time we never saw this completed.

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‘After lunch we were back in the hanger ready to shoot the scene where the Eindekker is shot down by the observer in the front seat of the BE. He was using a 0.303″ rifle to do this. I assumed this actually happened as the research for this film has been very good. Judging by the problems the actor was having wielding the rifle this must have been some feat during the war. All this took some time as the boom camera had to be constantly repositioned. I was watching the filming from behind the director, Hamish, as he had a monitor screen showing everything the camera was looking at. After this the camera was used to make it look like the plane was manoeuvring to get the Eindekker.

‘That was it for the day, so Chil and I adjourned to the Prince of Wales where we were joined by the Bianchis and later Stephen to have yet another pleasant evening.

‘Next day, with a different duo of actors playing the aircrew we started off filming more ‘flying footage’. As I was the only pilot with WW1 aircraft flying experience on set, this is where I became the aviation consultant. With a non-pilot in the cockpit, you have to tell them the most obvious things – the most important being where to hold the stick so the elevators are in the right position.

IMG_0881.jpg‘After this we got around to film the camera sequences. So now I had to explain to the actor how to operate the camera. Luckily I had a bright one and he grasped most things first time. After a few shots, Hamish decided that if you did not know how a WW1 camera worked you would wonder what was going on, so we altered how it was done.

‘I must admit that it was a better scene afterwards.

‘We then shot the scene described in the previous blog as not being with the C type camera. In one take the actor totally fumbled the action and both Hamish and I said ‘That’s it!’ By mistake he had got exactly what was required. It was then decided to alter the length of the camera boom to get some overhead cockpit shots. This took some time. Then the lighting for the cockpit was poor so more time was lost trying to sort this out.

IMG_0846.jpg‘When we got back to filming, the poor actor had been in the cockpit for nearly four hours, so make-up had to climb on the plane to sort him out again. A few more ‘flying’ shots were taken with the gofer rocking the wings and nearly banging the upper wing against the ceiling. I pointed out that the moving of the control surfaces that Hamish had asked for were unrealistic. He politely pointed out that they were making a film and editing would sort it out. So I shut up after that. By half past six we had all had enough for the day so the wrap was called. As Chil and I had thought two days would be more than enough to shoot our scene that was the end of filming for us.

IMG_0897.jpg‘As there was another camera scene to shoot outside, I briefed Stow’s Ed as to how to remove the camera. I made my farewells and left for home. All in all it had been a very interesting two days and both Chil and I were glad to have had a part in the process of film making.’

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