|A Film Star?
Fancy that, I was asked by Lightwind Productions of Haywards Heath, if I would like to take part in a short film about Beachy Head, in East Sussex. This was not to be about the suicides that these high white cliffs so tragically attract, but to show other sides to this strikingly beautiful headland. They were seeking data about the lives of prehistoric man who farmed there when the Downs were forested, the fascination of the many local ghosts, the important part Beachy Head’s location played during World War Two and the Cold War of the 1950’s, plus the area’s growing popularity with film companies.
Having written a definitive work on Beachy Head’s Belle Tout lighthouse, (the building that was moved back from the crumbling cliff edge to save it from toppling onto the beach), I was in a position to be able to supply Creative Director, Matthew Steel, Cameraman Luke De La Nougerede and Sound Man Sam Masters with plenty of useful data.
A questionnaire arrived and I spent an enjoyable week sorting out all the information that they might need, recommending experts they could interview, and mentioning useful books they could read. In between, I worked on my contribution, swotting up on all the fascinating information I was going to talk about when the camera was rolling.
The crew turned up at midday on the nominated Sunday, and my little front room was filled with technical equipment. Neighbours were probably having a gossip on seeing 3 young men entering my house and the curtains being pulled over shortly afterwards. Bright lights were bounced off both the ceiling and a circular white linen cloth; Sam, the sound man, brought out his boom, a long pole with something that looked like a dead rabbit wrapped around the working end. Not content with one avenue of sound, he cautiously approached me with a tiny clip microphone, and tucked it into my cleavage.
Matthew, temporarily standing in for me, sat on the settee whilst Luke got the right lens fixed on the camera. My grandchildren’s large furry, teddy bear was moved when, looking at the set up through the camera’s eyes, it appeared it had taken root in Matthew’s head, plus a couple of stacked doll’s plastic baths, that seemed to be growing from his right ear.
Seizing the opportunity to ‘dress up’ I’d donned a posh frock, and slapped on plenty of makeup, including a generous dollop of pink lippie, in the vague hope that I could add ‘Film Star’ to my writing CV.
For the camera, I had to introduce myself, mention that I was a writer and say a bit about my book. After I’d answered each question, there would be a break before we went onto the next one. Sounds easy enough. Faced with the pressure and practicalities of the situation, I found that I had got the verbal version of Writer’s Block. I can usually ‘talk for England,’ but my mind went totally blank. I couldn’t remember names and dates as nerves got the better of me, I shook so much, that the prompt notes I was holding in my hand rustled loudly and interfered with the sound system.
We staggered on for an hour; I developed a deep respect for actors who can learn pages of script and faultlessly utter their lines. I just died. I did eventually begin to feel more confident, but, by that time the filming had come to an end. Although I was assured that they’d got enough on film for their needs, I feel that much of my contribution is probably going to be erased, the digital version of ‘ending up on the cutting room floor.’
The film, working title, ‘Two White Flashes Every Twenty Seconds,’ will run for about 15 minutes, and is destined for a cinematic competition. A free copy will come my way, probably more in the way of appreciation for the thick file of research data that I provided, than my pathetic efforts before the camera.
The crew carefully packed everything away, I signed a consent form, wished them luck and watched as they stacked all the bulky equipment into a small car, squeezed in themselves and drove away.
With them went my dreams of stardom, of treading the red carpet at film premiers wearing designer gowns, waving to cheering crowds and seeing my picture splashed across the pages of popular newspapers.
I decided that I would carry on with what I do best. Writing.
Me, a film star, not a chance.
- Elizabeth Wright