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Sunday 10 December 2017

Prismatic Reflection

   Village Day, it was 20 years ago this year that the film went into pre-production. It was on January 19th 1997 at a work-in for Six of One The Prisoner Appreciation Society, that I and Dave Barrie {Founder of the society} made the announcement that a film based on ‘the Prisoner’ was going to be produced. And that we would be looking for people to work behind the camera and act in front of it. An advertisement was placed in an issue of In The Village the society magazine. As Executive Producer, with the aid of Morag, we decided the film would be produced under the name SCREEN SIX. A good deal of time was taken up with writing letters to those who came forward wanting to help produce the film. There was also the task of acquiring a script, and so people were asked to submit either a brief synopsis or indeed a full script. These ranged from a full script based on ‘Danger Man,’ in fact it had once been submitted to Patrick McGoohan for consideration. But I rejected the script on the grounds that it would be impossible to stage the first scene, which incorporated a multi car crash! One synopsis dealt with the green question, The Village having become grid-locked with traffic, while another had a team of Navy Seals going to The Village in order to extract Number 6. Another was based on the symbolic birth of the Prisoner. Several synopses eventually arrived at the SCREEN SIX office, but none of them were really suitable.
   Dave Barrie had the idea of producing the film through a committee. However I could see that wasn’t going to work, if every decision to be made had to be discussed in committee first! The first pre-production meeting was held on April 26th, attended by 23 people, in a small cottage, but everyone found somewhere to sit. It was a good and productive meeting, everyone enthusiastic about working on the film. Plus there were people who had previous experience of working on other film productions, while others had skills that would be invaluable. A small committee was formed in order to deal with the selection of a script, these included some of those who had submitted a script or synopsis which included one written by myself under the pseudonym of Tony Elliot entitled ‘Village Day.’ The idea was for me to send all the synopses to the first person  on the list. They would read them, make their selection, and post them on to the next person on the list. I had planned to hold a SCREEN SIX meeting at the Prisoner
Convention in August 97, which would give the committee nearly four months for the synopses to be circulated and read by everyone on the committee. The meeting was duly held on the Sunday evening of the Convention, I asked those in attendance if they had all read the synopses and chosen the one they preferred. All but one person looked completely blank! It transpired that the first person to receive them claimed not to have realized that they were supposed to pass
them on! So all this time had elapsed and we were not one iota further forward! After the meeting, Dave Barrie asked Morag and I to come with him for a drink at the hotel with Roger Parkes and his wife. The weather was hot, we had taken part in 15 re-enactments over the weekend, we were exhausted and dishevelled, but he was so insistent that we went. He was discussing the production of the film with Roger Parkes,  and just as we arrived we heard Roger Parkes say “Surely you’re not producing it by committee, you’ll get nothing done!” From that moment Dave Barrie went right off the idea of a committee! 
    It wasn’t until a meeting held at the January work-in in Birmingham that the script was eventually chosen, with Village Day being the runaway favourite. One person who had submitted a full script could not believe that it had not been chosen, and demanded to see the voting forms.
   A second pre-production meeting was held at our home, in March 1998. We wondered if whether anyone would actually attend it as the entire country was snowed under. However Six of One members are hardy souls, and about a dozen people turned up, one coming nearly 200 miles!    All seemed to be going well, and auditions were set up for the end of April 1998.
   After the script had been chosen in January I dissolved the committee completely, and by popular demand was made the Executive Producer, as I was already doing the job anyway. Then came the April work-in. The same person who had objected so violently to their script not being chosen firstly demanded why the committee had been dissolved, and secondly why they had not been chosen to direct the film. Tempers got very heated, and resulted in a blazing row in front of everyone at the work-in. the result being that this person did all within their power to disrupt the filming when it eventually went into production in Portmeirion.
    So we had a synopsis which was turned into a script by the project’s first choice director, although he didn’t run the course, and neither did the assistant director for that matter. PolyGram {copyright holders of the Prisoner at the time} had given me permission to produce a film, just as long as I stuck to four simple stipulations. 1} the film must keep to the idea of the original series, 2} that it must not make fun of the Prisoner. 3} the film must be kept within Six of One The Prisoner Appreciation Society, and not go outside it. 4} the film must be produced by members of the society, no outside professional actors or film crews could be used. I gave Polygram my word that I would keep to those stipulations. However Roger Langley, co-ordinator of Six of One, took it upon himself to send me a four A4 page letter in which he laid down the law to me as what I could and could not do with producing a film, I chose to ignore Roger Langley and his law making. After all it was Polygram who were the copyright holders not a jumped up Six of One co-ordinator who thought he owned the Prisoner!
    In October 1997, I was contacted by musician Bruce Stringer, a Six of One member in
Australia who said he would like to produce all the music for the film. An email was despatched on my behalf, and in mid November a letter and tape containing a selection of Bruce Stringer’s music. It was quite obvious that Bruce had the musical talent needed and was made the film’s music director. It wasn’t until a few years after that Bruce actually paid Morag and I a visit at our home. Apart from the delight of meeting him, it also afforded the opportunity to thank him properly for all his hard work in producing the Village Day theme music, and all the incidental music.
   Several problems cropped up during this period of pre-production, one of them being the question of funding the film. Having to keep the film within Six of One, meant I couldn’t look outside the society for funding. I did initially approach co-ordinator Roger Langley, but he told me that there were no society funds available for such a project. Okay, so an appeal was made to the membership of Six of One, asking for individual sponsorship, and boy how the members did respond! Not only from all parts of the Britain, but from society members all around the globe.
   The film had a title, a script, and funds, but not a director. The initial director and assistant director were fine, they both had experience in film production, they were ideal. However the director could never get to any pre-production meetings, what’s more he said he couldn’t get to the 1998 Prisoner Convention when the filming at Portmeirion was due to take place. He eventually sacked himself from the production, and said on the telephone that he understood he had upset the Executive Producer. So the assistant director was appointed director, and I was happy with that.

    Auditions for parts in the film were held and the {then} assistant director was there, he was pleased with the people who auditioned, saying they could all act and the script was good. But then when he was made full director it was as though he had suffered a sudden brainstorm! He told me that none of those who auditioned for parts could act, the script was awful and he would re-write no matter what I thought about that, and he would circulate it to members of the cast, and he would use professional actors and production crew. As for filming at Portmeirion during the 98 Prisoner Convention, he said he would bring the cameras but could only be there on the Saturday and Sunday morning, and on the Sunday afternoon would leave and take the cameras with him! I pointed out that to film all the necessary scenes would take the best part of a week, he said it could all be shot in a day and a half! He was wrong, and I was proved right, as not only was it extremely difficult to find “windows” during the convention, but it poured with rain all day Sunday. So a few things had to be pointed out to the director, as to what was possible and what wasn’t. He gave me an ultimatum, saying I either agreed to what he wanted, as he said the film could not possibly succeed without him, or he would resign. I wrote to him accepting his resignation, and in order to save myself from any further grief, I made myself the director!

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