Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Operation South Downs - Part 1

Due to a recent communication from someone calling themselves ‘pilchardsforbreakfast’ and the nature of their ‘persuasive’ reasoning; I have decided to do something I may yet regret.
I DO KNOW who you are Mr Pilchard, though I have decided that I will NOT reveal your identity on this blog, unless you choose to do the same in relation to mine. We both have a great deal to lose, so it is in neither of our interest to cause hurt and pain to the other by so doing.

In relation to your recent emails I have been ‘persuaded’ to talk about a particular period of my life in some detail. In conclusion, it is my intention to reveal certain events, during the course of the next few weeks. I hope that I do not live to regret this.
Here is the first part.

You may or may not remember what was then to be a major cinematic release in the summer of 2002. It was to be Britain’s answer to the American disaster movie “blockbuster” in the shape of a film based on actual events that had occurred at the latter part of year 2000 in the UK.
It may all seem like a long time ago, but the experiences surrounding both the actual events and the dramatising of those events on film, still bear heavily on my psyche.

What I am about to impart is actually a record of events in the shape of my own personal diaries recording the making of the film in which I was writer and director.
It was my first major film project after 15 years in the business and until ‘Quigley Cuts Down’ (see previous blog entries), it was my only major film project.

The whole thing began with the great floods that decimated the countryside around the area of Lewes in the southern part of England in year 2000. This was a major event in many peoples’ lives and achieved much media attention across the whole of the UK. There was even a book of photographs published, just after the events, full of dramatic images recording those events.

To cut a long story short, I had the idea for a UK based film project, dramatising the events of the floods – a film to rival anything Hollywood could throw at us. After all, we had the technology, the people and the real events as a basis for a screenplay.

I’m being brief here and cutting out a lot of facts, as I want to get to the main body of the text which are my own personal diaries recording the making of the film. A film which has not yet seen the light of day, either as a cinematic release or on video/DVD.

Anyway, I ended up co-scripting the film, based on my original idea. I was also the assistant director on the project. Incidentally, the director was very ill during the weeks and months of location shoots, which gave me the opportunity to take the reigns and make my mark.

We finished filming in February 2002 – ready for a summer release that year. Unfortunately, as I have stated, the film never made the cinema screens or even made it to video/DVD! I have to add that this has nothing to do with the standard or quality of the final product.
At the very worst, the special effects were truly amazing and in my own personal opinion the film had “success” written all over it. The reason for its never having yet seen the light of day is purely down to a few individuals (who will remain nameless here) exercising specific clauses in their contracts.
For it ever to be seen by the British public will require certain individuals to “pass away” or lighten up in their response to certain occurrences they were directly involved in but don’t want ever to be exposed for fear of ridicule.

It was always intended that I would publish a film diary, including many of my own photographs. It was my own little pet project, but was seen by the backers as purely a marketing ploy to increase public interest in the film. I didn’t mind this aspect, as I was given a pretty free reign as to its content. The only trouble, as it turned out, was that the diaries were contractually to be launched precisely two weeks after the American release of the film. As the film was never released in America or anywhere else for that matter, my diaries were shelved and even now, four years later, I am still not permitted to seek publication.
I am not even allowed to mention, anywhere in writing, the title of the film.

I will call it here “Operation South Downs.” After all this was my original name for the film but was changed at the behest of one of the American backers.
I will, however, mention the log-line that was to be used in all the film posters, marketing and media advertising.
It came to me, straight off the cuff, at an early meeting :–
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was used as the log-line in a subsequent film. Not that I received any credit for its inception.

Not long after the film was completed and during the protracted and stressful dealings with lawyers etc, I suffered a breakdown. At this point in my life I felt ashamed and a complete and utter failure! This was the lowest point of my life experience to date. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been able to face up to it all and actually talk about that period in my life. What helps immensely, is that I am very happy with the progress of my latest venture ‘Quigley Cuts Down’ which is currently in production and due for release in summer 2007. (Of course this title is my own concoction. The real title I cannot reveal for fear of revealing my true identity)

One good thing – I have checked with my legal council and due to the nature of this website and the fact that submitting material here does not constitute “publication” in the legal and contractual sense of the word, I am able to let you read some excerpts from my diaries.
I hope, one day, to actually publish them in book form, complete with photographs, but until then, this will have to suffice.

Looking at my writing with hindsight, I realise that some of it is too deliberate and contrived. I was possibly too aware of it being written for publication and have probably tried too hard to be interesting or funny. I have been tempted to re-write it armed with the knowledge and experience of the last couple of painful years of my life. But being a bit of a purest, I have decided to leave alone.
Some of the names have been deleted/changed for legal reasons, otherwise most are of actual persons involved. I certainly hope you enjoy. Please do feel free to leave your comments or questions.

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