Thursday, September 18, 2014

More Memories of Television 'Walk-On.'

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I did a lot of work for Anglia Television through an agency called Jaclyn. Those were the days when Anglia was a single company within the 'federated' I.T.V. network and not a very small part of what is now one single company. A great same in my opinion, as I.T.V. seems to have lost a lot of it's originality when it becomes a sort of conglomerate.

I did quite a bit of work on a series called 'Inside Story.' I did watch it when it aired, but I don't remember a great deal about it. It centred around a newspaper and I think the same actor who played Adam Dalgleish played the central character. He was played by Roy Marsden. I did a few 'bits and pieces' in the Anglia adaptations of the P.D. James books, 'Devices and Desires' and 'A Taste of Death.' I think I was a waiter in an episode which was filmed somewhere on the Norfolk Broads and I was supposed to wait on table for Simon Ward and Fiona Fullerton. On another occasion I was sent to the location somewhere in darkest Norfolk, I think it was near the coast but I'm not sure. The agency told me to go to a pub, called probably something like the 'Dog and Duck.' I got to the village where it was supposed to be, and kept going past the only pub in the area which was called, according to the sign, 'The Nelson Arms' or similar. It turned out to be the pub I was looking for, but the production company had changed it for the purposes of the production and so I was looking for a different pub name! Then, when I was used on the set, I was sat next to the bar and when they started filming this particular scene, I was very prominent as the scene began. Usually you get to be in the background, and well out of the way so you can't be seen, which is a shame, but I suppose, on second thoughts, you are there to be in the background and not too prominent. In some ways it can be a good idea to NOT be too prominent because you are unlikely to be used again if your face is too recognisable. You might get a further day or two's work, and, as in the case of my waiter performance on 'Inside Story,' even come back to work for a further day.

This happened again on something that I did for the B.B.C. called, I believe, 'For The Greater Good.' and shot just up the road in Slough near the Mars factory. We started the day as protesters outside a factory (don't ask me why or what for.) We were supposed to stand near the fence and bang the wire and then as cars went in and out of the gate, chant and wave our fists. Then, at lunch time we had to have a change of costume, into police riot gear. The full uniform including riot shields, helmets with visors etc etc. For one scene we were put in the back of a furniture lorry and when it drove up, the back was thrown up, on one of those sliding arrangements. As soon as the back was opened we had to charge out, jump down off the back of the lorry and up a fairly steep incline towards the fence which was actually at the other side of this incline. We were in heavy boots and what with the riot shields and helmets with visors it was quite an effort to run up that incline. You had the added danger that the sliding door of the lorry wasn't going to remain open and slide back down as you got out of the lorry as well as actually being able to see where you were going. After around half-a-dozen takes we began to get extremely tired and on the way home driving was hard work because the muscles of my legs began to get very tired and the pain was considerable. I believe this programme was directed by Danny Boyle, who has gone on to make some very successful films including 'The Beach,' and the Oscar-winning 'Slumdog Millionaire.'

Back on that series 'Inside Story,' I did some work on that during a very cold December/January and we had been taken to the location by minibus from the Anglia studios in Norwich. Quite a long drive in snow and ice and we ended up at Holkham Hall, right on the Norfolk coast. It was early morning and we stood about in freezing conditions and eating breakfast (always worth going on location, just to get a free meal! I bet a lot of out-of-work actors and Equity members do or did walk-on work because they knew they'd always get a very good hot meal. Breakfast, lunch, lots of sandwiches and bits to eat, cakes and hot running tea and coffee all day! Can't be bad!) I was a waiter again on this show (I always seemed to be either an army officer, soldier of some sort, or a waiter, can't think why, thinking about it now.) Anyway, on this particular day Holkham Hall was standing in for a sort of gentleman's club in London, and there was a restaurant scene in which I was to be a waiter. I had one scene where I'm supposed to come in carrying a tray with bread rolls on it and Robert Lange, which is  playing one of the central characters comes in and runs into me and the rolls get knocked all over the floor!

At the end of the day's shooting they decided that they needed me for a further day's shooting and that I would then be a gentleman sitting and eating at one of the restaurant tables. So, I would be in the same scene TWICE, as a waiter at the beginning and then later on as a customer! I've heard of saving money, but that seems ridiculous! They must have shot it so you couldn't see my face. Well, I do hope so.

It was either on 'Inside Story' or another Anglia drama series called 'The Chief' that myself and a lot of other Walk-On's' were supposed to be police, so we were put in costume and driven quite a way up to the Norfolk coast, somewhere near Sheringham or Wells-Next-The-Sea. They spent a lot of time getting us looking authentic, including giving us Doc Marten's to wear. As a result I found them to be incredibly comfortable and would have liked to have been able to keep them. I even went out a purchased a pair for myself after doing this day's work and have always found them to be the most comfortable shoes you can wear because of the special soles. Anyway, we were supposed to be going in to remove protestors outside a piece of land which was earmarked to be built on for a theme park or something, being part of the plot of this series. They had set the scene up with other Walk-Ons who were instructed to be as difficult as possible, to sit down and not move, so when the 'action' was called and the cameras ran, we were supposed to go in and remove them, but we didn't know which ones were going to be uncooperative. They used hand-held cameras, to give a more authentic feel, rather like an actual protest and it would look like footage from a genuine television news item. We had to do several takes and after around three or four takes, very similar to the day I had on the show mentioned at the beginning of this post, it became very exhausting, what with running about and having to attempt to lift the protestors, or at least try and get them to move!


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