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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Village Day – The Green Dome Shoot

“Come and join me for breakfast, Number Two the Green Dome.”
                                                  {But first it had to be built!}

The Prisoner – Village Day’ the 20th anniversary
    The biggest film shoot for ‘Village Day’ in 1999 was that of the interior of the Green Dome, not simply because of the planned three day shoot. But also because the set had to be designed, materials purchased, painted, then transported to a sound stage at a nearby school in Liverpool {which we booked for three days during the Easter Holiday} and constructed. And there was no-one better suited and accomplished on the production than Pam Buckle, because of how she had recreated the interior of No.6’s cottage in the attic of her home. Pam eventually came up with both a plan, a model of the set, how to construct all the pieces of the set, and find a location where we could put the set of the Dome’s
interior together. Max Hora took both his Penny Farthing bicycle and globe chair to Pam’s home. There were a couple of problems with the chair. First there were the scratches and dents, which Pam was concerned about, and there was the question of the chair being orange. I instructed Pam to paint the chair black, she was concerned about Max Hora’s reaction to this, and thought we should ask him first. But that was easier said than done. I said to paint it, and that I would take full responsibility. Max didn’t mind our painting his chair, in fact he loved it, so much so that we had difficulty getting him out of it when we were not filming him as No.2. Not only did he feel at home in the chair, he looked the part!
    About 10 days before filming was to commence Pam telephoned saying she had to go into hospital for a major operation! We did ask her if she wanted to postpone the filming. But no, Pam didn’t want this, in fact she discharged herself early from hospital, as she wanted things to go to schedule. She got friends, who under her supervision finished the construction of all the pieces which would go to make up the set of the Green Dome.
   And so the great day arrived, March 29th, and members of cast and production crew from different parts of the country all arrived at Pam’s home in Liverpool by midday. There was a minor panic, as Chris, who was bringing a large screen and projector had not arrived by night time! We were unable to contact him on the telephone, and as a consequence started to put a plan ‘B’ together in case something had occurred, and he couldn’t actually make the shoot. However, he did eventually arrive late that night. On the day of arrival the cast and crew {minus Pam who was unfit} went to the school to construct the set. The purple wall went up first, but at least we only had about a third of the chamber wall to construct which was difficult enough. This was because once each section had been attached together the wall itself had to be free standing. Large pieces of card to be used for ‘skirting’ along the floor and base of the wall, had been pre-cut to a specific design. However when the time came to fit them, they didn’t fit together properly in a semi-circle, gaps had to be left in parts in order to make them go round. Long thin rods were to form the cage-like framework along the dome wall, however after securing the rods together when we tried to secure the completed frame against the wall it was too flimsy a structure to hold together and remain in place. So unfortunately this had to be discarded. Because of Pam’s unexpected hospitalization, things were behind schedule, and during this time props were still being made. The large red curved over-sized telephone was made the night before, while the ‘L’ shaped intercoms were made and painted on the morning filming began on the second day, the paint being dried using a hairdryer! The electronic doors were quite a challenge. They looked very big and impressive, but had to look realistic. When the doors were stood up and put into position, it took 6 of us {3 for each door} to operate them, an operation which was practiced over, over, and over again in order to get them sliding open and shut simultaneously. One problem was that they kept falling forward and wobbling about when moved. However in the end they worked superbly. As one cast member remarked “You should see them from the other side, they look dead good.”
    As it was only half a dome, care had to be taken with angles of filming, and not to end up with wires, chairs, and odds and ends scattered about in view. This was particularly difficult filming No.6’s first view of the interior. 
    The Monday was all about construction and preparation, the next two days would be all about filming and destruction. Firstly one cast member had to be collected from Liverpool station as she could only get one day off work. Then cast and crew arrived at the school on the Tuesday morning, with the question in my mind, would the set still be standing? Happily it was, much to my relief. Certainly Max Hora was preparing himself for his role as the first No.2. He took himself off into a corner and could be heard over and over again practising his lines interspersed with another voice he was using for the conversation. By the time he came to film his scene he was word perfect, unlike the scene in the Ice Cream parlour during the Portmeirion shoot.
    Morag as the New No.2 in her uniform giving her the impression of being a South American dictator, strutted about her office, giving instructions in a voice of authority. The 6 operators slid the doors open and closed perfectly every time, so much so that when compared to the doors of No.2’s office in ‘the Prisoner,’ the doors in ‘Village Day’ operate far better {I wonder how many crew were used to work those?}.
   Once all the scenes in No.2’s office had been filmed, it was a question of dismantling the set, the only piece to remain in place was the wall screen, and the setting up of the laboratory scene, and the black sound stage was perfect for this, as I wanted the laboratory to be completely black. This was to give the effect that the room was boundless in the darkness.
As No.6 I finally came face to face with the former No.6 whom I had been attempting to find, but firstly on the wall screen. The body lying on the operating table was Nigel Kitcher, but of course as I whipped back the sheet, it was me who lay there with a Penny coin on one eye, and a Farthing coin on the other. This was a particularly difficult scene to shoot, because the coins on my closed eyes kept falling off sideways. When I sat up they were supposed to fall forward from my eyes in a certain way. It took several takes to get it right. There was one further scene to shoot, that of the resignation office. For this we improvised using a closed-in corner of the soundstage, and a pair of double doors of the room.
   There was one final scene filmed over the three days, but for this Pam,

always ingenious, turned her dining room into a hospital room. And there I lay, in operating gown, and bandaged head, with facial bruising. Sue Everett with the help of Morag, was make-up artist, and what a magnificent job Sue did on the bruising. I recall how everyone was in stitches at the time, laughing incessantly, using the scene as a parody on the NHS. Because the scene in that hospital room looked cheap and nasty. It was particularly funny, and apt because the Government of the day had the slogan “The NHS is safe in our hands.”
    Certainly over the three day shoot everyone worked as a team when it came to constructing the three sets. The Interior of the Green Dome was ambitious, and if it were not for Pam Buckle’s skills working behind the scene, creating sets and scenery for the local Theatre Company, I doubt very much if it would have been possible to create No.2’s inner sanctum.

Be seeing you

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