Due to enforced circumstances I should have written about the set filming for ‘Village Day’ over a three day period March 29th to
March 31st 1999. However I do so now. We arrived on the Monday afternoon, those already there gathered at a friends house who had constructed the sets in pre-fabricated form, and who was storing them ready for construction and filming. After a short break for a drink, the scenery, props and effects were loaded up in the van and transported to a sound stage at a nearby local school. Everyone pitched in, no grumbling, we just got on, first with the construction of the full-size set of No.2's office. Even to the point with a pair of steel-like doors which were operated by no fewer than eight people, four per door. And when operated correctly, the doors worked perfectly. As a matter of fact we got the pair of steel doors to operate better than those in the actual series of ‘the Prisoner.’
There was one problem with the components which go to make up the sloped circle at the bottom of the circular chamber wall was not circular, too few components had been manufactured. A slight adjustment was required. also we had to forgo the steel squared frame seen in the original office of No.2 in the series, as we could not secure it safely. The sections which had up the circular chamber wall had to be secured strongly together, and from behind, as they were free-standing. Otherwise the whole structure would collapse, and when we got there on-set tomorrow we would not know whether the structure would still be standing. And with the non-arrival of the large wall screen, space in the chamber wall had to be left for the addition of the said screen.
However there was one growing problem, as there was still no sign of Chris. Chris who had arranged to bring a video projector and large wall screen for the set of No.2's office. If the both the video projector and screen did not arrive, I as executive producer would be well and truly in it up to my neck!
A phone call to Chris's house received no reply. And we began to make contingency plans, should he not turn up. However about Chris finally arrived, with video projector and screen, much to my relief.
The day dawned in a hive of activity. Various props were still outstanding, and a set of 3 cordless telephones were in the process of being constructed. One particular actor, No.2, who at the Portmeirion shoot didn't know his lines, was busy learning his lines whilst the remainder got into costume and make-up.
The large wall screen was constructed and put into place, and the video projector set up so as to project images onto the screen, a reverse back screen projection if you like. and by the way, the set of the Green Domes interior had not collapsed over night.
Some little time was needed to practice the opening and closing of the pair of steel doors in unison, but this was perfected to a greater degree than was achieved in the actual series of the Prisoner.
The actual filming of the scenes inside the interior of the Green Dome went off perfectly, including effects projected onto the wall screen, and everyone knew their lines. It was a very busy day, and yours truly kept a hand on everything, I even swept the floor! We had a full size penny farthing bicycle "free standing" as in No.2's office in the series, and an original globe chair, painted black especially for the scene's in No.2's office.
All that remained was the filming in the black room, where a body was being kept alive on life support, and the double doors of the resignation office. also there is the hospital scene, where a National Health bed was reconstructed for the scene.
Justly to add, that there have been several armature films based on the Prisoner over the years. But this is the very first time that an actual "life-size" interior of the Green Dome has been constructed since the Prisoner series itself, over 45 years ago.
This is the last day of the three day shoot, and another which saw a hive of activity, commencing with the demolishing of the interior set of No.2's office, and the construction of the Black Room's interior, consisting of operating table, large wall screen upon which was film of a Prisoner episode projected. A life-support machine, and other medical instruments, oh yes, and a body lying under sheet on the operating table. One difficulty we had was with a penny placed on one eye, and a farthing on the other, this was to indicate that the patient could be simply kept alive by the life support machine and nothing else. The penny and farthing so that the ferryman could be paid on the other side. the body had to suddenly rise up, and in the process both the penny and farthing had to fall from the eyes in a certain way, which was difficult to achieve, as they kept sliding sideways off the face, not the desired effect at all.
Filming the last few scenes as fairly straightforward, the double doors which the prisoner opened to find the resignation office in the original series - empty and abandoned. The small set for a hospital room was prepared, with the reconstruction of a 1960's hospital bed, and the Prisoner in gown and head bandage, with clever make-up for the bruising around the eye. I myself played the role of the Prisoner, having had a car accident, the reason for my having been taken to hospital. But at times filming became a problem with this scene, as I could not stop laughing and cracking jokes about the state of the National Health Service. This in regard to the state of our hospital room and the bed itself, so poorly did the set look to begin with.
When filming was finally finished and in the can, all remained was to clear the sound stage, and load everything back up in the large van, a couple of times over.
One other scene we tried to film was the Prisoner being suffocated by the village guardian. First we tried a piece of a metrological weather balloon as in the original series, but could not stretch it enough, the rubber material was far too thick. And an ordinary white balloon didn't work either. Then we tried with a white polythene bag, but the effect was all wrong, and decided in the end not to use the scene, because nothing worked, or looked right.
Be seeing you