Well it's been a long break, but I'm delighted to be posting a further instalment of one of this blogs most popular features - tales from behind the camera with our ex-Southend friend in the know, Stephen Pickard.
FROM SOUTHEND TO DISNEY pt.5
Eager to be an assistant editor in the cutting rooms, I hit yet another brick wall. Although the editing, sound and photographic departments etc are all covered by the ACTT union they are not easily interchangeable. I discovered while I was working in Theater Five, unless I did something drastic, my career wouldn't be going anywhere. So, in early 1974, I accepted a position as a trainee with De Lane Lea in central London. De Lane Lea was a fully comprehensive post production facility. They dealt with voice recording, sound effects, music and final mixing. The department I worked in was run by Roy Taylor, the brother of Peter, the editor of "Bridge On the River Kwai". This department dealt with the cutting and fitting of English dialogue of foreign language films. This brings to mind the many badly dubbed sword and sandal and martial arts films over the years that had given this type of work a bad reputation. However, the crew that I worked under took a great pride in their work and tried their hardest to give the illusion that the foreign-speaking actors were speaking good well-spoken English!
I stayed with De Lane Lea for the remainder of 1974 and in September, 1975 I finally got my break as a free-lance second assistant editor. The film was called "Trial by Combat" (aka "Choice of Weapons"/"Dirty Knight's Work")
It starred John Mills, Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing in a guest starring role. Our cutting rooms were in a house in Cricklewood not far from Samuelson's Film Services.
This was an unusual situation, where the crew is located miles apart instead of being based together as in a studio. The editor was Willy Kemplen (son of editor Ralph) and when we had completed dailies I traveled on the back of Willy's motorcycle to the filming location. This was a castle estate and they had a projection room set up there. On one of the days I recall, it was Donald Pleasence's birthday and I went up and wished him a happy birthday. He just quietly smiled in return.
At the end of production Willy left the production. I remained and we moved into some cutting rooms in Dean Street. Kevin Connor, the director and an ex-editor himself, stayed to edit the picture and hired editor Barry Peters to work with him.
During this time I heard that John Mills was in London recording dialogue. During a lunch break I walked over to the recording room which was in the basement of De Lane Lea's main building. As I arrived, there was John Mills with his wife Mary Hayley-Bell. He greeted me with a warm smile and we spoke a few words then they left.
At the end of November, 1975 I managed to find employment at Twickenham Film Studios on a 16mm documentary about the musical group Deep Purple. Unfortunately, it was not a good experience as I found that I hadn't enough experience to handle the duties plus I was working on my own. The person who hired me, Tony Klinger, son of producer Michael, found a suitable replacement for me.
It was at this time that I discovered one of my film music heroes, composer Bernard Herrmann, was promoting a new recording of his score to "Psycho" at a record store on Dean Street in London, Henry Stave and Co. Wishing to meet him, I ventured in to the store. The store was a long narrow shaped building. Immediately on my left was Herrmann's wife Norma. Further on, sitting behind the counter was Mr. Herrmann himself accompanied by the store manager. There was nobody talking to him, so I took a deep breath and introduced myself. I stated a complaint that a lot of the soundtrack releases available were uninteresting and most of Mr. Herrmann's music was ignored and unreleased, mentioning "Jason and the Argonauts" as an example. Herrmann seemed speechless. The manager responded with the suggestion that I should write a letter.
Shortly after I moved aside to allow other customers through and I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to Norma. At the end of the meeting Herrmann walked up to Norma and myself. He gave me a complement that I should become a director someday and I was speechless in return. The last I saw of them was Herrmann walking solwly down Dean Street holding on to Norma's arm. Norma gave me their phone number and I called a few weeks later and asked if I could visit them. Herrmann answered the phone and told me that he would be in the US over Xmas (recording the score to "Taxi Driver") and would return around the second week of January and we could then arrange to meet then. Unfortunately, this was not to be as I read in the trade magazine Screen International that he had passed away.
Around the same time I met a gentleman who was working as a projectionist at Twickenham Studios, Steven Archer. We discovered that we had a lot in common and became firm friends. Among our common interests was Ray Harryhausen. I had known Ray on and off since the release of "Valley of Gwangi" in 1969. I attended every lecture that he gave and eventually was invited to his home. Ray is one of the rare people who is famous but is totally unaffected by the business. A rather reserved and very accommodating person, he and his wife Diana always made me feel welcome.
At the beginning of 1976 I received a call from assistant editor Roy Helmrich to assist him on "Space 1999" series two. This meant returning to Pinewood Studios, but as a 'free-lance'. The cutting rooms were located in the old film library situated at the back of the studio close to L and M Stages. My room was at one end, with an iron staircase to the street below.
My job was synchronizing the 'Dailies' or 'Rushes'. I would pick up the sound from the Pinewood Sound department in the morning and mark and identify all the takes. I then awaited the picture from the laboratory. Once the picture and sound were sychronized, a regular time was booked each day for their viewing. This procedure went on for the entire year.
One morning while walking to the Pinewood coach from Uxbridge tube station I fell and scraped my hands. I had them bandaged for several days. On one occasion when I was walking through the studio to work, I heard a voice behind me say "How's your hands?". I turned around and there was actress Jodie Foster! She was there making a Disney film "Candleshoe". I had seen several of her films and was in awe of her talent. We became acquainted throughout the year, I used to see and wave to her every morning when her chauffeur would drop her off at the dressing rooms. On one occasion I was lucky enough to have lunch with her in the Pinewood executive restaurant. Jodie was a really unspoilt sweet person and she never complained about all the times I asked her to sign photos. On another occasion I took Jodie and the child cast over to J and K stages where they were shooting "The New Avengers".
On occasions when I wasn't busy, I would be able to invite my parents to the studio. We had lunch in the Pinewood restaurant and Jodie came to our table and I introduced her. She was unable to join us but it was great of her to come over and say hello.
My parents had quite a few interesting experiences while visiting the studio. We were walking toward the administration building and we bumped into stuntman Bob Simmons, who I had previously met, and introduced him. With him was 'Jaws' actor Richard Kiel. My father, who was rather a small man shook hands with him and his hand literally disappeared into his, which were huge.
"The Spy Who Loved Me" was in production at the time. This is not the first time my parents were visiting at the time of a Bond in production. A few years earlier, I was able to get them a visit to the set of "Diamonds are Forever". That particular day Sean Connery was filming part of the pre-credit sequence when one of the guards got his hand caught in a trap while trying to disarm Bond. At the back of the set were venetian blind doors or windows. My parents were standing behind them observing the action. Then, the camera operator made a remark that he could see them in shot in the background through the blinds, so I had to quickly re-locate them. Fortunately no-one was upset and it turned out amusing to everyone!
Following my year-long stint on "Space 1999"at the end of 1976, I was reunited with Kevin Connor on "People that Time Forgot" This was again filmed at Pinewood. My cutting room was closer to the front of the studio. I was in one of the rooms in the original two-floored editing block which was part of the studio that opened in 1936. If only the walls could speak, they could tell stories of all the great Rank productions that were brought to life there.
On "The People that Time Forgot" my duties were the same as before. For several weeks at the beginning, before we received dailies, I would go through soundtrack reels used by the production on previous projects and reclaim the leader which filled the gaps between pieces of soundtrack and then join them in to 1000' rolls. Unfortunately, I didn't pay careful enough attention to my supervisor and I had to go through hundreds of rolls of leader, which I had made incorrectly, re-doing the splices. Fortunately, mistakes of this scale didn't happen too often to me. However, it was a long time, if ever, for my supervisor to forgive me.
Before my next project at the beginning of May, 1977, I received a call from assistant editor Jack Gardner. He had been promoted to editor after having assisted editor Alfred Roome on countless 'Carry On' films at Pinewood. The project was to be a compilation film using clips from past Carry On films and then creatively cut them together.
My memories of working with Jack, and also frequent visitor director Gerald Thomas, were warm ones. It made it all the more difficult for me as I had to leave them prematurely to join the next project. To this day, when I think about it I still feel guilty about it. In the free-lance field regretful decisions are often made. Taking on a small project for several weeks and then suddenly weeks later get an offer for a six-month or more project for more money. I try to avoid this as it can backfire on one's career.
In June I received a call from Roy Helmrich to join his crew on "Return of the Saint". This series starred Ian Ogilvy in the Roger Moore part. The series was to be shot at the EMI Elstree Studios in Borehamwood and would last through to Xmas. I didn't own a car and Roy was kind enough to pick me up and drop me off at Rayner's Lane every day.
At the start of production, the 'Saint' crew spent several weeks abroad shooting exteriors for several episodes. This meant several thousand feet of film would hit the cutting crew all at once. Right at this crucial time, I came down with the flu. This was a real inconvenience to the production, I had signed a contract but had not worked a day and this is when I was needed most. After I recovered, I resumed my job but the really busy period was over.
By then the unit had returned to the studio and we started getting dailies every day which kept me busy throughout the schedule. I did meet Ian Ogilvy briefly, but had a more clear memory of meeting Ian Hendry, who was in one of the episodes, at the end of picture party*. I recall questioning him about a film I admired called "The Hill" that he made with Sean Connery in 1965. I asked if he had to do any preliminary training in his role as a staff sergeant and replied no.
My Xmas 1977 break was a fairly long one. At the end February, 1978 I received a call from editor Alan Paley to join him at EMI Elstree Studios on a project called "Hanover Street" starring Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer. The Director was an American, Peter Hyams. Due to ACTT rules, if an American director wants to bring in his own editor, plus assistant, from the US to work with him in the UK, the union insist on a British crew being hired. American editor Jim Mitchell and his assistant Nancy Sales were brought over to the UK for the duration and that's why Alan and I were brought in.
Soon after production started we were all invited one Sunday morning to a screening at the Odeon, Marble Arch to view a 70mm print of his previous film, "Capricorn One".
We were all very impressed with the film and expected the same qualities from "Hanover Street".
On the back-lot at Elstree a large exterior set of a WWII London Street with tube station and London bus. It was to be mostly destroyed for a big air raid scene to be shot at night involving the actors Harrison Ford and Lesley Anne-Down.
Often I would be left in the cutting room on my own while Alan had lunch. He left strict instruction that no film was to be touched. In those days there were no beepers or cellphones. I wish there had been. One day without warning Peter Hyams came into the room towing Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer in German uniform behind him, requesting to see some footage that he had to show his actors. With all nine eyes trained on me I had to refuse his request. He left and I shared my experience on Alan's arrival back from lunch. I thought from that day I'd been blacklisted by the director! To my surprise Peter Hyams was really nice to me.
While working on "Hanover Street", the American editors had two female visitors. One of them was Avis Girdler, the recently widowed wife of director William Girdler, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash.
When they finally returned to the US they told me if I ever visited I could stay with them for a short time. Around the same time, I heard that the aircraft supplier John (Jeff) Hawke was planning to fly some of the B25's, used in the film, back to the US. I managed to get in touch with him and boldly asked him if I could be a passenger! He agreed and said he would let me know. Weeks went by and I heard nothing.
On 26th May, 1978 I received my termination notice.
During this break I received a call from Ray Lovejoy with regard to working on "The Shining". I told him that I was on stand by to fly to the US at any time and had to turn him down. He told me to call him when I returned. I was indeed nervous at the prospect of working for Stanley Kubrick.I also had a visit in the cutting room of editor Terry Rawlings. He offered me the opportunity to be a second assistant on a production called "Alien"! Reluctantly I had to turn him down for the same reasons.
I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to hold off work in the hope of a flight coming up so I looked for some temporary work. I accepted an offer on 3rd July to join the "Superman" production, which had been in production already for quite some time.
The cutting crew were the largest I had ever encountered on a film. It had two editors, Stuart Baird and Ernie Walter plus their assistants. Plus there were visual effects editors for the various 2nd unit crews. I was an 'assistant plate editor' for the 'flying unit'. I had to take rolls of 35mm film of background scenes (specially shot by a unit for the sole purpose of superimposition behind Christopher Reeve in flight) down to the shooting stage and load them on to a viewing machine called a steenbeck. Famous American director Andre De Toth ("House of Wax") would sit with me and select which takes he liked best. From my notes, specially graded prints were made at the laboratory. They would be projected via front projection behind Christopher Reeve in costume supported by a special pole-arm that protruded from the screen which was hidden by his body from the view of the camera.
During my time on "Superman" I managed to see some shooting. It was a massive miniature of the city of the planet Krypton. They were photographing it with, what was then, a revolutionary camera boom arm. It was like a microphone boom except it had a camera which could swivel and tilt. It was called the Louma Crane. This was an extension in technology of the giant camera cranes supported by trucks, such as 'Sam the Mighty' used in major motion pictures. Today, similar rigs adopting the Louma Crane design now shoot high definition video and in use at concerts etc.
Stuart Baird, the editor, gave me the opportunity to go over to Theater Seven to view roughly cut scenes. At one screening that I was present at, Christopher Reeve was there and after showing him film they ran the main theme by John Williams. Afterwards, Reeves commented it sounded like Star Wars!
I owned a book which had just been released about the previous actors that had played Superman. By chance I was able to show it to both Reeve and Margot Kidder. They were both immediately interested and they asked me if I would purchase copies for them, which I was able to do on one of my regular visits to London shops.
On 22nd September, I received my termination notice from Dovemead, the Superman production name.
Weeks went by and there was no call from Jeff Hawke. Eventually, he told me that the aircraft were having customs issues which could drag on for months. I finally gave up the idea and booked a flight to the US which departed in November.
I spent four months in the US. I visited the various Hollywood Studios. I also had the opportunity to visit visual effects expert Douglas Trumbull, who worked on "2001", and I remember expressing to him my nervousness at the prospect of working with Kubrick and was still undecided what to do.
I was re-united with Harrison Ford and Margot Kidder. Ford was making a film called "THE FRISCO KID". They filming on the old Columbia ranch in Burbank on the western street where "HIGH NOON" was shot. He recognized me immediately after completing a scene and asked me if I thought he was funny, as it was supposed to be a comedy. On a visit to MGM Studios in Culver City I visited the set of "THE AMITYVILLE HORROR". Kidder was working that day and she immediately recognized me and said hello.
At the end of February, 1979 I returned to the UK. By this time I had made a decision and called Ray Lovejoy. Unfortunately, they already had hired an assistant to do dailies.
In the mean time I found employment with editor Peter Pitt, who I had worked with on "Return of the Saint". All I can remember about the project was that the director was John Elston Taylor. He was married to Barbara Mullen who was well known for her role in 'Dr. Finlay's Casebook'. While working with him, she sadly passed away.
We were based at the old giant Denham Studios. There was no filming on its huge stages. Just mainly post production. Anvil Films were based there. Anvil had a big music stage and I would occasionally watch Eric Tomlinson, the music mixer, at work. I recall one day, which went in to the evening, waiting for Eric and John Williams to return from dinner. By the time I arrived I had to leave as I had to catch a train home. They were working on some mixing on "Dracula" which had already been recorded.
Earlier, I had mentioned my friendship with Steve Archer and our common admiration for visual effects expert Ray Harryhausen. I had the opportunity to take Steve to meet Ray Harryhausen at his house.
In 1979 Harryhausen was preparing his next project "Clash of the Titans". With the amount of stop-motion animation needed in the time allowed it was obvious to him that for the first time he would require help from outside. Jim Danforth was hired and to our surprise he contacted Steve and set up an interview. Steve took along some of his animated films and Ray was impressed enough to hire him. Several months would pass before he would actually start on the film as late as 1980.
During this time Harryhausen set up shop at Pinewood and I had the unique opportunity to watch him do an animation test. This is something that every fan would have liked to experience! The camera which would turn over one exposed frame at a time was operated via a foot pedal. His procedure was to move the model slightly that was on a table several yards away. He would then walk back toward me where I was standing behind the camera. He would then lean over and look down the eyeline of the camera looking at the model. Once he was satisfied he stepped on the pedal and exposed a frame. This same procedure went on for some time. Then finally I had to leave.
Finally the day arrived. In early June I received a call to go down to Elstree Studios to meet with Ray and Stanley.
Some seventeen years ago I wrote an account of working on "The Shining":
"My very first meeting with Stanley actually goes back to 1971 at Pinewood Studios. At the time I was working on Staff in the Sound department working in Theater#5 which specialised in dialogue and effects recording. We would be dealing with one of the many aspects of Post Production on most of the films shooting there at the time, and there was a steady flow of work to keep us busy. At that time Pinewood was a pleasure to work for. I was surrounded by a lot of staff members that had worked on a lot of the famous Rank Productions that I had long admired.
Sometime in early '71 news came through that Stanley Kubrick would be bringing his production of "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" into the studio for a few days to utilise the studios' Process Projection department, headed by Charles Staffell. The scene was Alex and his droogs drivingrecklessly through the London streets. The sequence was shot on 'Stage D'. I was a big admirer of Stanley's and really wanted to talk to him, but based on what I had read about him and his personality particularly during the crucial stages of shooting, made no attempt to try. Oddlyenough there was little or no effort to getting onto the set to watch. I knew the Process Projection Staff well and made me feel at ease. Watching and hearing Stanley work was really something. The impact of this experience was exaggerated by the fact that he has never granted a video or filmed interview. That same day or the following, that miracle opportunity came my way. I was walking down the hall and there was Stanley sitting on his own making notes. As I walked passed him I just said 'Good afternoon, Sir'. He greeted me with a very warm and confident 'Hi!' I respected his privacy and just walked on.
On my return from my holiday in California in February, 1979, I called Ray but there was nothing available. He told me to keep in touch with him. and in the meantime I found employment elsewhere. Finally in June Ray told me to come in and see him. Main Unit shooting had wrapped and they had already started cutting, starting at Reel 1 continuing in continuity. The editing team were housed in the old cutting room block at EMI Studios. As I had no transport, I wanted to be assured that we wouldn't eventually be moving to Stanley's house, as had been the case on some of his previous films. St. Albans was tough to get to without a car. I was assured this wouldn't happen. So I was finally notified by Douglas Twiddy, Production Manager on 29th June that my hiring date was 2nd July. The day I went down to the studio to see Ray was when he took me down to the stage to meet Stanley. At the time of visiting he was shooting the hedge maze insert with a VistaVision plate.
The first day I started I found they were already well into editing Reel 3. My main chore was to go through each reel, after it had been assembled. I had to create a log, a record of every cut in the picture and track, including updates to reels. This would become the 'protection bible'. This idea came about as a result of a devastating fire which destroyed parts of Stanley's sets. If a fire destroyed the cutting copy (editor's work print), the film could be reconstructed identically as before. The original camera negative (shot full-frame, but composed for 1.85:1) is stored at the laboratory. Right behind me where I was working was the equivalent in positive stock. Not one foot of film was left unprinted, which was a very unusual situation. Most films only print up a few selected circled takes which in itself is quite an amount.There was as much as a million feet of film sitting there. Stanley wanted the option of being able to access any take immediately without having to go through the lengthy procedure of ordering it from the lab. The British system of identifying scenes on the film was not by its scene number. On the first day's shooting the slate will read #1 take #1 and they might be shooting scene #34. The number will increase on each set-up. For example a feature shot partly in England and then concludes its post production in the U.S. the production would understandably request the American system to avoid confusion. As far as I can recall "THE SHINING" and "Hanover Street" was done retaining the british system.
Traditionally, the picture and sound of each take are separated from their respective daily rolls, after viewing, and are wound into one another and held together by a rubber band. Instead, they were retained on 1000' rolls. The slate system starting at #1 and makes it easy to find also the script has a record of the slate number, and what part of the scene belongs to it, which is marked in the script by the editor or assistant. The reason for keeping the film in 1000' rolls is because of Stanley's cutting procedure. Usually a film is cut on a machine called a moviola but in this situation editing was achieved my using two steenbecks or flat-beds as they are also known. Briefly, they are a tool for viewing picture with or without sound, as a alternative to having to take it to a theater.
At the seating position the left, or first steenbeck would be threaded with the required daily roll, then when the take has been selected, Stanley would mark the 'in' point with a chinagraph pencil. Then Ray or an assistant would step in and cut the film, remove the roll from the first steenbeck, move it to the second steenbeck and splice it to the picture and sound, which is an accumalation of cuts already made. Stanley will then go over to that steenbeck and carefully select the 'out' point. When that has been decided, the daily roll is then removed and taken back to the first steenbeck where the two halves of the daily roll are spliced back together with a 'slug' in the picture and sound roll. A 'slug' is a short piece of clear film to indicate that either film has been removed or is to be added. This same procedure is repeated over and over, keeping in mind this is just the first assembly, there will be many visits back to these reels for refinement etc.
The script as far as I could recollect had no ending and was still was not decided when I left the picture in december and the first assembly still had yet to be completed.
One scene that was in the film that got cut is the 'SCRAPBOOK' scene. It lasts maybe two minutes. Jack and Shelley are seated on a couch in front of a table in the lobby area. On the table is a huge thick scrapbook detailing the Hotel's history. Jack is reading some of eerie contents to Shelley in a playful attempt to frighten her.
For a time the huge kitchen set in the film became the main editing area. I was one side with the film. The editing area itself was in the center, opposite was a huge old-fashioned industrial elevator, and in the far corner was Stanley's office. Stanley normally came in around 11am, sometimes with his dogs. My startime was around 8:30am. My additional chores was to keep Stanley happy. I would supply him with refreshments, he enjoyed tea and was conversent with the english teamaking traditions. He made an effort to ensure that I would get it to the point of perfection! I would also get his lunch. Brisket of Beef sandwich was one of favorites I remember. I would run the occasional roll of silent dailies for him. We had our own 35mm projector installation. Stanley was very particular about outsiders seeing dailies and cut scenes etc. This is how I came to know Stanley well and in a short time and he revealed to me his sense of humour, something I thought I would never get to see. Aerial footage of the lodge and the roads leading up to it would ocassionally show up. Then one day the decision was made to move us from the studio to his new estate in St. Albans.
I mentioned that we moved into what was the kitchen set in the film as our editing base. The kitchen set was not built on a regular shooting stage but in a brick building which stood toward the rear of the Studio lot. I cannot recall what it was regularly used for, but soon after the completion of shooting we moved from the main cutting building, for the purpose of extra security that Stanley required if we were to remain on the lot. The main reason behind the move to Stanley's new property in St. Albans was because the main part of Stanley's house was going through major rennovation, which Stanley was actively involved. It was clashing with the editing schedule, so Stanley decided it would be more convenient to have Ray and his assistants right on his property where he could have 100% control.
We were moved into the stables, minus horses(!), and had plenty of room. There was a long walkway or hall, one end which was Stanley's office, next to that was the main editing room. Other rooms were utilised for Ray and assistants.
Due to the large volume of film it was decided to retain it at the studio. Every few days a truck would take a couple of us to the studio to pick up the film that was needed for the next two or three scenes. In the mornings, we wouldn't see Stanley until around noon. He would be busy supervising the renovating of his house which was a huge undertaking. It was a beautiful old house and almost everything had been torn out from top to bottom. Stanley had been living in Elstree at a house called Abbot's Mead. I know that the editing crews on "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" and possibly "BARRY LYNDON" were based there. If the name of the house sounds familiar it is because Stanley's youngest daughter Vivien, took the name, changed it to Abigail and used it for her career as a composer on "FULL METAL JACKET". Vivien frequently came in to watch her father work. I didn't get to knowher very well. That, originally was soon to change. Vivien had shot a lot of 16mm footage of her father at work during shooting, for an intended documentary. The plan eventually was for me to assist her, but that was short-lived as they were aware that I was going to the US at some point.
As time went on I was able to watch more of the editing. It is very hard to recall the kind of conversations that took place between Ray and Stanley, always a very pleasant and professional atmosphere. It was all very much a team effort. Stanley ofcourse had the final say.
On one occasion, they asked my opinion of a scene. I recall it was a scene involving a series of close-ups with Jack Nicholson. The only comment I made was the lack of continuity of his hands from shot to shot. I was told I was being too particular as his hands were below the boundary line of the 1.85 mask, Stanley pointed to the screen on the steenbeck showing me the lower marks drawn on the screen for 1.85. In editing in general, continuity is in the foreground of their minds but often it has to be sacrificed because the rhythmn of the scene dictates otherwise, if the continuity isn't perfect but the cut is dramatically or emotionally correct, no one will notice. One has to remember, in theory, a film is made for an audience to see once only.
On frequent visits back to the studio, we had a few editing rooms in the old cutting buildings, new motion pictures were moving in and ot of the studio. One production in particular was Warren Beatty's production "REDS". Our editing rooms were up on the 2nd or 3rd floor and right below us were two huge trailers, one for Warren and the other for Jack Nicholson. I took the courage to knock on the door of Jack's trailer. He came to the door, I introduced myself and he invited me in. He was excited to know how the film was progressing as Stanley had not allowed him to view anything. The meeting lasted about two to three minutes.
I do not remember exactly the amount of takes of any given scene but I recall close-ups of Jack at the bar got up to the mid 30's, keep in mind that Stanley would often adopt the multiple take within take method. This means normally the camera rolls on take one, the camera cuts and proceeds to roll on take two. In this case the camera rolls on take one, the actor goes through the dialogue, but instead of the camera stopping, it continues through the scene several times. This system is rather hard on editors as there is no identification in the film itself to say what take it is, except maybe on the audio. It's ultimately up to the continuity girl to make a careful note of what is approved by the director and accurate records have to be kept by the editing staff to ensure it can be found quickly many monthslater.
The highest take count that I can recall was with Scatman Crothers. One scene soared to the mid-seventies! That at least was proper separate takes. A matter of weeks before I left for the US, discussions were going on about who to hire as a composer, one or two names were brought up, Jean Michel Jarre was one. Stanley would have samples of his albums to listen to, but didn't seem to be satisfied.
One saturday when I was walking around the West-End of London looking around the record and book shops as I often did, I walked into a record shop and there was some interesting music playing. Images of "THE SHINING" came to mind and I immediately asked what was playing. It turned out to be an album called "CHINA" by composer Vangelis. I went into work on the monday and told Stanley. When he heard the track that I had described to him he was sold on it immediately. He had the music transferred to magnetic film and syncronized it to the opening scene in the picture. Stanley was extremely happy. As a result he ordered up the rest of Vangelis' albums.
Between the time that I left and the film's release, something didn't work out and his music wasn't used. Regardless of this, Vangelis achieved a successful film career with "CHARIOTS OF FIRE" and "BLADE RUNNER"
By good fortune a teaser trailer, which had been designed by famous 007 title designer Maurice Binder, had to be shipped to MGM Labs in California. Stanley arranged for his company Hawk Films to provide me with a free ticket to Los Angeles to hand carry the film elements to MGM Labs.
On my last day I bid farewell to Stanley and Ray. Stanley thanked me for a great job and an offer of any help should I need it. He signed the novel with a thank you for introducing him to Vangelis' music. It was the end of a very
stimulating six months".
Also in production in 1979 at EMI Elstree was the second of the 'Star Wars' films "Empire Strikes Back". By chance I struck up a friendship with Mark Hamill. Every chance I had, I would go on the shooting stage to watch filming. He would always have the time to say hello to me using my name.
My parents, sister and my nephews paid another visit to the studio and I managed to anchor Mark in the executive restaurant for lunch. He would be jumping from table to table talking to other people.
To make their day complete, I had previously telephoned ATV Studios(which was formerly the old National Film Studios)and managed to speak to one of the Muppets crew, who were in production at the time. To my surprise, they were happy to allow us to visit the studio plus go to the basement where all the rows of 'Muppets' were stored.
In December, 1979, I finally made my move to the US. A new life, new challenges.
*(The 'end-of-picture party' is a tradition in the film industry. A party where actors and crew have a final gathering before they part ways and can be quite emotional. Often people work together continually from film to film, others may not work together for years).
Huge thanks to Stephen for sharing his fascinating story with us. What an incredible life!
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