Thursday, 23 February 2012

The terrifying grade

Things all went incredibly smoothly until about 4pm today. We worked our way through the film making sure we were happy with all the shots, the lip-synching and the sound levels, and then turned our attention to grading the film. The grade is the final process in film making. It’s the equivalent of photo-shopping a photograph. A good grade makes the images kind of zing. It means you can colour-correct shots which have been turned orange by halogen lamps, or bring light to a gloomy shot. Anyway, because the BBC up here is very much geared towards news packages, grading is something which doesn’t happen very often; frankly, there’s no time when you’re working towards a fast deadline, and the computer systems up here aren’t set up to deal with more filmic projects like ours. So, in short, we’re slightly struggling – and really up against it in terms of time. We are showing the film to all the big wigs up here tomorrow at 4pm, so if it’s not ready by then, we’re going to feel a little silly.

The start time tomorrow is therefore 7.30am, so matchsticks at the ready. By tomorrow evening, I’ll no doubt be buzzing on a combination of caffeine and adrenaline, and just as I thought we’d entered the home straight.
This seems to be a regular feature of my films. It was as we were grading A Symphony for Yorkshire that a rather large problem emerged, so I suppose I'm always a little sensitive at this time.
I woke up in the night to find my phone lighting up the room. It was a text message from Sacsha, Brother Edward’s partner, who said; “you may see in the press that our flight to Jo'burg had to turn back to Heathrow after one of the engines failed on takeoff. We’re fine, albeit pissed off and tired. Just so you know we’re okay.” The news immediately made me shudder. A similar thing happened to me when I was 18 and returning from an orchestra tour to Canada. I can still remember the thud, and the pilot’s voice saying “some of you may have heard the explosion, but we no longer have the use of one of our engines...” and then the terrible silence as all the passengers tried to comprehend the nature of what was happening. I remember the plane landing on foam, and a flotilla of fire engines whizzing down the runway behind us. I also remember feeling rather annoyed that we didn't get to take our stilettos off and have a razz on one of those inflatable chutes.  I lay awake for an hour or so, wondering how Edward and Sascha must have been feeling.

Fortunately, I managed to speak to Edward this morning. The engine on his plane also blew up – and there were flames, which I don't remember from our experience. Edward wasn’t  sitting on the side of the plane where the problem was, but describes a tidal wave of people pressing the buttons for the stewardesses as they saw the flames coming from the engine. Bing bing bing... He said it was like some kind of crazy sound sculpture. He was unimpressed by the way that the plane staff dealt with the problem. There were all sorts of announcements like; “we’re just trying to assess our options...” I don’t think they were helped by the fact that there was a 2 hour wait on the tarmac before the plane took off whilst a set of engineering issues were being dealt with. So, the frightening thing is that it seems airline staff knew there was a problem with the plane before it took off. Thank God, for the airline’s sake that something more awful didn’t happen. I’m just relieved that Edward and Sascha and all on board landed safely.
Sunday 23rd February, 1662, was Pepys’ 29th birthday. I tend to think of Pepys as being about my age but he was considerably younger. I think many more would think of him as quite an old man. Birthdays weren’t big occasions in those days. Pepys had a nasty cold, so skipped church, and stayed inside admiring his dining room “graced with pictures” and reading books. Apart from the cold, Pepys felt in good health, concluding; “if I have a heart to be contented, I think I may reckon myself as happy a man as any is in the world...” Oddly, I know how he feels...

Hands up if you think Tom Daley the diver is turning into a rather stroppy, arrogant young man?

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