Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Wuthering Heights

Today was a testing day to say the least. The weather wasn’t exactly kind. It spitted with rain and the wind was strong. I guess on the bright side, there were no mudslides and no 'cellists floating away in freak flash floods, but there was a fair amount of hard-feeling and one or two little arguments bubbled up.

The morning started well, with one of my favourite performers, the harpist Fiona Katie Roberts, who I’ve said on many occasions feels like the heart and soul of this project. She appeared looking radiant in a big blue dress, with heather in her hair. We filmed her in her stomping ground, namely the bleak moors above Haworth, and for the occasion I wore amber flowers behind my ear and made myself a dandelion chain. I don’t really know why, but it felt somehow appropriate for the Wuthering Heights. It was a bit overcast, and some of the shots were looking slightly drab but it was here that I'd decided to film the symphony's final shot, so it became vital that we pulled out all the stops and found something remarkable. We used steady-cam and then set up a jib which enabled us to have the camera pull further and further away from Fiona until she was just little speck on a rugged hillside. It felt like an appropriately moving way to end the film; the sounds of the wind howling through her harp strings still echoing in our ears.

We transferred, rather late, to Howarth, where we filmed all sorts of seemingly random musicians, on the steep and picturesque high street in the middle of the town. We sat down in a pub for lunch but I detected that Alison was getting a bit anxious about time. As we walked back to the car park she pointed out that we absolutely HAD to keep on time so that we weren’t late for the Yorkshire Wind Ensemble, who’d suffered so much from our poor time-keeping in the recording studio process.

Unfortunately, when we reached the car park, we realised to our horror that we’d been clamped; both of our vehicles. We were about ten minutes late and the bastards had moved in like vultures. The car park in Haworth is famous for it. The BBC have even done pieces about it. The residents don’t like it. There are two red-faced men who sit in a little hut and they don’t care what anyone thinks about them. According to the people in the pub, they’ve even clamped the local district nurse! They know they’re skating on very thin ice and this makes them defensive and abusive, and when I tried to argue with them, I found myself subjected to a torrent of hideous homophobic remarks, the like of which I’ve not heard since the 1980s. Bizarrely, I think they were saying these things precisely because they thought I wasn't gay, which somehow made it even worse. They soon started to back down when I got right into one of their nasty red-faces and said; "are you being homophobic to a homosexual? Are you? Are you?" "No mate" he replied "I know lots of gays"... The use of gay as a noun implied this was probably not the case...

The shoot ended on Ovenden Moor, underneath the huge wind turbines. The Yorkshire Wind Ensemble were wonderfully well prepared, which made what could have been an awful end to the day, a great deal more bearable. The light was disappearing at a fast rate of knots, and I had to scrap just about every one of the shots I’d so carefully planned. We were thinking off the tops of our heads and creating shots based entirely on limited set-up times. Fortunately Keith the cameraman was on great form so we ended up with a few corkers; a stunning silhouette of the entire ensemble and a brilliant shot of the bassoonist against a bruised-looking sky. We were literally running from shot to shot, however and I'm sure every single member of the team is knackered tonight.

Pepys was also making music on this date 350 years ago. At the end of a busy day, he sat with William Howe in Montagu’s residence and the two of them extemporised songs in darkness; which feels very reminiscent of what Keith and I were doing tonight! And there was another striking similarity between my day and our hero's. Pepys went for a drink in the Half Moon pub, and the place was so rammed he couldn’t get served for half an hour. I spent a similar amount of time waiting to be served in a pub in Haworth. I’d like to say it was because the place was full, but sadly, for quite the opposite reason, the bargirl had gone outside for a fag... and probably done the weekly shop at the same time!

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