About the 35th Anniversary Video
About the 35th Anniversary Video
Making the Bletchley film has been quite an experience. It took a lot of thought and practice to prepare for the event as there were only two days in which to capture all the necessary footage. The foundation of the final film is the models themselves but amongst the unused footage are such moments like the opening ceremony, which for the benefit of those featured, shall remain in a vault of archive footage.
I am in my final year at the University of Westminster studying Film and Television Production and recently came to the end of a documentary module where I had the role of editor. Model railways could have been a subject for a documentary but not being surprised that none of my fellow students were interested, Bletchley was an experiment in the practice of filmmaking and a personal project.
However, in many respects the film has shown what can be achieved from a film on the subject of model railways and it is my intention to pursue it further. In the forthcoming months I will be working on my graduation film and normally on the course they are fiction films based on screenplays from a screenwriting module. What is the usual story though is that the majority scramble for the position of director, and then the enthusiastic winner leads the team formed from disappointed wannabe directors in a race to the facility houses to try to get hold of the best equipment. The secret in making a good film lies in the thought and consideration that goes into its production and for guidance there are many books on the course reading list. The equipment is only as good as its operators.
The premise behind the making of the Bletchley film had always been the trains and not the people. With obstacles such as crowds and not having any control over the running of the trains, it was to be a case of trying to get whatever I could, while avoiding as far as possible the beer bellies appearing from behind the layouts and the focusing problems of those who have come before me. In addition to having thought about my priorities for filming I had done test shoots at my local area group and discovered how handheld shots with a lightweight camera could work successfully. That made all the difference in filming between the elbows of crowds as tripods aren't very maneuverable in such circumstances.
From the test shooting it was clear what was needed in terms of how to approach the filming and the equipment necessary, of which I could provide from my personal investments made over the past five years. The lighting quality is something which in exhibitions is highly inconsistent. Some modellers have their own lighting for their layouts but conditions rarely suit photography in general. What were definitely out of the question were additional lights that would pose a hazard to people and especially the layouts. An almost certain guarantee if my fellow students were to be in charge of such a project is that they would have turned up with a wide assortment of paraphernalia, possibly with the largest camera they could find, as many lights as people would lend them and a director with an ego as large as the exhibition hall.
Therefore I wish to avoid the standard working practices and health hazards of student films and devote my time and energy to following up on Bletchley by making a documentary about model railways as a graduation film. Currently the best approach would be to follow the recent developments of 'Cunning Plan' (described briefly in Journal 4/02), a layout that in the simplest form possible can be described as 'long' and continental. The premise of the film would be to capture the inspiration and satisfaction that model railways can bring, not on the classic terms of big boys playing trains which just about every (professional) filmmaker I've met delving into model railways has told me that their documentary was about. It is for such a project that a film like Bletchley has been part of the research and development amongst other films.
During the next two months the course will start to focus on the graduation films and it is when I must seek permission from the course tutor for a film about Cunning Plan to be submitted as a graduation film. But as I'm sure you'll agree, especially if you saw last year's graduation films, that such permission should be granted without dispute on the merits of the Bletchley video.
I hope that model railway enthusiasts enjoy the Bletchley film and know that any profit made will go towards funding my graduation film based on model railways.