demise of my beloved little, but ancient
car, I had to put my other hat on and do some real
work. In between our film courses, I work for visiting film producers
and crews to France. As I was booked for a week on location with an
American Producer and Director accompanied by a British film crew,
I first of all had to hire a van from a local supplier.
This was duly done the day before I had to set off. Thinking myself
very lucky to have got a sensible sized vehicle, as I was due to carry
the equipment about and it was brand new. Great, I thought, I shall
have some comfort and a radio to listen to on my drive down to the
South of France the next morning. The next morning, I loaded up my,
copious notes, I was acting as the French production manager and had
spent several days setting up interviews and locations for them. I
also threw in my goody bag. This consists of all the minor
little things that can and will be useful on a film shoot, drawing
pins, paper clips, several pens that work, soldering iron and all
that sort of thing. The sort of things that you cant get when
you are miles from anywhere on location.
Manager at work
Setting off at 7 am, I had arranged to meet the UK production co-ordinator
in our hotel at 11 am some 300 kms down south. The weather was not
very inspiring for the drive and I discovered that the seating in
the van was for delivery drivers. I had become a white van man!
The seating was anything but comfortable after about 100 kms and I
ended up having a numb bum. Still at least I had the radio for company.
Arriving at the right time we had lunch and then went out to check
some locations and camera angles for the crew who were arriving the
next day. The part of France that we were in is a place that I had
visited some years before in The Aude. This is a very hilly
and beautiful part of the world on the edge of The Pyrenees, so I
was quite familiar with the area. The actual location was an old hilltop
village called Rennes le Chateau where a parish priest came at the
turn of the century and found something that made him very wealthy.
The theories abound in the area including buried treasure, the bones
of Christ, KnightsTemplars involvement and even UFOs. Take your
pick of the theory that suits!
After doing some more location scouting in the morning and talking
to people that were to be interviewed in the next few days, we set
of for Toulouse airport to pick up the director and the producer who
were flying in from Egypt.
Hopefully the crew and equipment would arrive shortly afterwards from
London. The weather was glorious and very hot. After parking in the
short stay park at the airport we discovered that the crew would not
arrive till about 10.30 pm where they were supposed to pick up a hired
It was only 2 pm and we couldnt wait. I put the ticket in the
parking machine only for it to be eaten. This involved me going back
into the terminal to the info desk. A man came out with a bunch of
keys and opened the machine. No sign of the ticket. Back to info desk
where he checked something, then back to ticket machine. Told to wait
ten minutes while he got back to his desk then I was to go to the
barrier and press a button and speak to him through the microphone.
It was at this point that I realised that the van had only 2 passenger
seats and that the producer was certainly going to take up both of
them! He was a somewhat corpulent American. Nothing for it. Our director
and co-ordinator would have to be in the back of the van with the
crew coming later with the film kit. As I said, it was a very hot
day and they managed for 150 kms, just about, till the last few miles
up the very windy and hilly road. Not a very good impression for my
temporary employers from the States.
Arriving at the hotel we had long technical discussions about the
next few days shoot followed by a very pleasant dinner. This is one
of the perks of working with US directors/producers. You get to stay
in decent hotels and eat good food, especially in France, without
having to put your hand in ones pocket.
I then had to wait up, after everyone else had gone to bed, for the
arrival of the film crew. They arrived safely at 3 am having missed
flight connections. This is not one of the perks of being a production
Next morning after breakfast, the crew and I went out to transfer
all the kit from the people carrier to the van. When I went to open
the van I realised that the radio had been stolen. In the people carrier
there was £20000.00 worth of kit in open view. Not touched.
This is in a village of 200 people. I then noticed that a hat that
had been given to me by an American journalist had been taken as well.
Now that is serious as I am going bald and the sun was very hot. So
if you are ever in the South of France and see someone with a brand
new New York Yankees baseball cap and a radio clamped to their ear
let me know!
However after a phone call to the Gendarmes, some 30 kms away, with
a promise to call at the Gendarmerie later, for insurance report and
all that... We continued work during the day and all seemed to be
working out OK. This makes a change when working in this business!
The Gendarmes had informed me that they were closed for lunch until
3 pm so I went along at 5.30 pm to report said theft and get some
paperwork for the hire company.
Within about 5 minutes the police computer had crashed and instead
of using pen and paper to complete a ten minute report another computer
had to brought into action in a different office. Then the printer
went down, so another office was found. After printing out an entire
history of something and a lot of rubber stamping going on, I left
the Gendarmarie with 3 copies of everything. By this time I was choking
for a beer. I had, after all, been with the Gendarmes for an hour
and a half by this time, so I returned to the hotel to find everyone
sitting there with beer in hand. I had expected them still to be on
Over the next few days everything went well with the shoot. The only
exception being at the dinner table when the producer and director
started arguing furiously with each other. This in itself would have
been no problem (in fact it is fairly normal) had it not been for
the fact that I was seated between them. In the end I just got up
and told them to swap seats and I went and sat with the crew who could
hear it all. However, I did my job well and delivered them all back
to the airport at Toulouse and said my farewells.
Returning home to deliver the van back, I discovered that the hire
company took away my deposit of £500 for the theft of the radio!
Even much remonstration had no effect, I had to walk away much lighter
in the pocket! Thank you, Mr. Budget Rentals. Always check the small
The name of the company making the film? The
Rural France? I love it.
© Barry Paton.
You can study Film in France with Barry at the Salignac Foundation
for further details or write to
Barry Paton BSc Video Training Courses
The Salignac Foundation
rue Fenelon Salignac Eyvigues 24590 FRANCE +33 (0)5 53 29 94 06
see Part Two and Part
Three and Part Four
of the Salignac Adventure
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