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Barry Paton
beings his monthly diary about the Salignac Film Foundation in France

Salignac Eyvigues in France sounds much more romantic than Glasgow, Scotland
doesn’t it?
This is going to be the continuing story of how I arrived here and how I survive.
It all started a long time ago when I fell in love with France, especially the Dordogne area of Southwest France, when in my twenties. I always had the dream of living in France, to enjoy the lifestyle, the wine and the food. Now some thirty years later, I am living and working here all because of many unforeseen circumstances. My life so far has consisted of circumstances that I could never have predicted. I suppose most peoples lives are like that.

Let me start at the beginning. I have spent most of my life in the film business as a freelance person. The most precarious existence that you can find. Not in big Hollywood jobs but at the bread and butter end. Corporate videos, news work but with the odd sniff at a major production. As a cameraman I have seen many countries in the world and a lot of death and destruction on the way. Some ten years ago I got sick of all that and with a new fiancée to look after I did a re-think. So back to the commercial work and daily grind of bowing and scraping to clients. However, I am good. I managed to pick up a few awards for films that I made and there is not an area of this business that I do not know. I have made tea and coffee for the best, dragged equipment about, shot and edited beautiful film. I know the business.

Then fate kicked in. Some years ago both my fiancée’s parents died, then my mother passed away. We were now both orphans. We both loved France. We both wanted to start a training organisation. Chase the dream? We continued holidaying here and tentatively at first, started looking at properties and prices. Yes it did seem a distinct possibility.

With the bit between the teeth, I came to France in January 2000 to look for a house that would fulfil our ideals. I looked at over forty properties and was on the point of giving up when the second last one that I saw was the one that suited. I returned home with a few photographs and had to convince my beloved that this was it. Now or never. Arranging a meeting in France for a month later to sign the documents and pay the deposit. The point of no return. A whirlwind weekend kicked in. Fiona had not seen the house inside before we paid the deposit and signed a binding agreement to buy. Was I nervous? After a brief look inside that day she was not happy. Another visit the next day did not help much despite my conviction that it was the right place. Returning to Glasgow the next day the reality of what we had done sunk in. Then came the logistics. I had sold my house in Glasgow and entry was the 12th of March, the entry date in France was 5th May. Homeless, at least for a month or so. Fiona had to work in Scotland until the end of June. We have a cat that had to come, we had furniture to store, we had to find somewhere to live, we had to transport furniture and the cat to France. It had all started to become a nightmare.

It was this point our first plan was hatched.

I would travel to France with the furniture, rent a place till the entry date, sort out the house and the furniture. It needed a little redecoration. Fiona would stay with her sister as she continued to work and bring herself and the cat out later. Like all plans this one went slightly astray. A week before I was to leave with the furniture van, I was having my morning coffee when this incredible pain started in my left chest. Heart attack, hospital, intensive care. A few days later after the hospital diagnosed a heart virus, I was let out very shakily. Another plan had to be worked out, much the same as before but fate had played into our hands by this time. The person that was buying my house had problems raising the mortgage and asked for an extension to the entry date by a couple of weeks. Great. We had somewhere to live! Only problem was that everything was packed in boxes. I was still very weak and we only had a bed in the house.

Two weeks later, I set off for France. With a couple of friends driving a hired van for the furniture and myself in my car (which had a broken ignition key the day before we left) I arrived in Calais while the van came through "the Chunnel". 6 am my mobile phone went off. The van had been given the wrong ticket and was not being allowed on to the Shuttle! I had not given my pals had not enough money to cover this event, what could I do? Many phone calls later a new ticket was purchased through my credit card, which was taking a severe hammering by this time, and through they came some hours late and very bleary eyed.

We missed our rendezvous point on the way and they did not know how to dial my mobile inside France so I continued not knowing when, or if, they would arrive at our pre-arranged destination here in the Dordogne. And they did. At 2 am. I have never been so grateful to see people, even at that time in the morning! Thank God that I had some bottles of wine to celebrate my new adventure.

Over the next few months this diary will tell you the story of the cat, the internet, our business, the one-way bus, local characters and general life in France.
© Barry Paton. March 2001

The Salignac Foundation of France Newsletter March  
Following the success of our screenwriting/directing course last month we would like to let you know that we are holding another one on the 16th - 20th April (Easter). This again will be hosted by writer/director Ian Craig (of Craig & Craig Communications) and director- cameraman Barry Paton.  (Fee - Fr.2750 - approx. 275 UKP sterling)

This will consist of 'brainstorming' ideas and transposing them into a short video which we will then shoot and edit during the 5 days of the course. The purpose of this course is to give everyone an idea of taking a raw idea to a finished video with an opportunity for all to try their hand at camera operating, sound, lighting and editing etc.   
On the weekend of 28th/29th April we are holding a 2 day workshop on 'Shooting HDTV Digital for Cinema Release'. This is being hosted by director of photography David Smith. David was the DoP on Paul David's Hollywood film 'Starry Night'  one of the first Hollywood films to be shot digitally and transferred directly to 35mm for cinema release. David also runs a consultancy in Los Angeles advising on all aspects of shooting on digital HDTV. He will discuss and demonstrate the different aspects of shooting digitally. Not to be missed!
(Fee - Fr. 1000 - approx. 100 UKP sterling)

30th April - 4th May sees another one of our popular 5 day Video Production Techniques course. This is a 'hands on' course designed to give an all round idea of video production and an opportunity to make a short video. Participants are encouraged to bring ideas along for a short film. These courses are held at regular intervals (every second week) during the summer months. (Fee - Fr. 2750 - approx. - 275 UKP sterling).
Further workshops are being planned for this summer and will include Producing, Acting for the Camera, Editing and Scriptwriting. Please contact us for details and dates.    We are located in the SW of France in the beautiful Dordogne Region, the gastronomic capital of the world and within easy (and economical) reach of Paris or London.   Please note that the above prices do not include accommodation or travel - though we can advise on these aspects and arrange local accommodation (depending on your budget) at no extra cost to you.

Our Video Production Techniques courses are designed to give everyone a 'hands on' approach to film/video-making. We start off with an idea (inspired by the location, a piece of music, a drama situation or similar) and then construct the scenario to be filmed. This we then go out and film as a group for a few days, like being on location with a real project, and bring the results back to the edit suite for post production. We do not dwell on the technical aspects such as equipment, just the taking of an idea and turning it into a short video.

Every course is different in the end result, but the technical expertise is on hand to advise on camera angles, lighting, sound and post-production etc. We want people to be creative and co-operate together and have the feel of really working on a project that has been commissioned. The last course that we had (in February) produced a nice little drama piece which we gave everyone the opportunity to edit themselves. This produced 4 entirely different videos from the original story line that we started with. (5, if you include my version!) We also want you to enjoy and experience the good food and wine of the local area ( as well as the sunshine ) and make this an instructive and entertaining time in the SW of France.

www.salignacfoundation.com for further details or write to us.  
Barry Paton BSc Video Training Courses
The Salignac Foundation
rue Fenelon
Salignac Eyvigues
24590 FRANCE
+33 (0)5 53 29 94 06
E-mail: salignacfoundation@worldonline.fr

see Part Two and Part Three of the Salignac Adventure

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