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Barry Paton of the Salignac Foundation where you can learn to be a filmmaker

Following the 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 can’t get when you are miles from anywhere on location.

Production 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 UFO’s. 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 people carrier.

It was only 2 pm and we couldn’t 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 one’s 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 manager.

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 location.

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 print!

The name of the company making the film? The Learning Channel.

Rural France? I love it.

© Barry Paton. 2001
You can study Film in France with Barry at the Salignac Foundation this summer! 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

For more about current French Cinema

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