TV/Film

Witness Films Ltd ~ Projects in Development with sophie@sophieneville.co.uk

Truelife stories for television:~

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PG Wodehouse ~ The Unknown Years   It was my great aunt Reinhild von Bodenhausen who had PG Wodehouse, his wife Ethel and The Wonderdog to stay at their family home in the Hartz Mountains after he was released from civilian internment  after his 60th birthday.  It was only once there that her mother, Baroness von Bodenhausen, pointed out that making humorous radio broadcasts to America could have been a serious mistake. Reinhild, who has just moved to UK, has published her memoirs about Uncle Plummie and his letters to her.  It is a delightful book, but the great thing is that Aunt Reinhild comes across very well on the screen.

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Baroness Reinhild von Bodenhausen was born in Germany but speaks fluent English, French, Swahili and understands a number of other languages. She is a great raconteur with exciting stories about surviving World War II as a young civilian.

Miss Mary Allen, Pioneer Policewoman  ~ The true life story of a “very feminine, very delicate” suffragette imprisoned in Holloway provides the basis for a gritty period police drama addressing social issues. “In 1914 Mary Allen was invited to join a needlework guild, a prospect which filled her with horror: she wanted action. While in this state of limbo, she overheard two people on a bus discussing the risible idea of women police. Mary was enchanted by the notion and immediately investigated and volunteered.” By 1920 she had become Commandant of the Women’s Police Service, dressed in jodhpurs, long black boots and riding a motorbike.  The life of our Great Aunt Mary is tailor-made for a period Police drama series.

Makorongo’s War, the documentary ~ While my Aunt Reinhild, who speaks about 5 languages fluently, is still going strong the story of Makorongo’s war could always be made into a drama documentary. There seems to be an ever popular thirst for unusual stories coming through from WWII.

Makorongo’s War ~ the true story of a man who had to buy his wife. Set in Tanzania and the jungles of Burma this wartime romance tells of the forgotten servicemen of the Commonwealth. It is told from the perspective of Makorongo, a good friend of my uncle, who became a POW to the Japanese in WWII.  It’s an amazing story. Makorongo was on death’s door when he was miraculously extradited by a high-ranking German Officer who was visiting his prison camp.  They had grown up together when Tanzania had been a German colony prior to 1919.

Solomon’s Song ~ an adaptation of Sarah de Carvalho’s romantic novel about the street children of Brazil, set in the mountains of Montana, the South American countryside and the vibrant streets of Rio.

Apple Blossom Time ~ An ingenious thriller that links WWII with WWI. This strong story set in North Africa, Wiltshire and Bletchley Park, is based on a gripping novel by Katherine Haig.

Molly ~ The true story of a musical young English lady who emigrates to S.Africa only to find herself living deep behind the Afrikaans lines in the Boer War.  From piecing together diaries and letters I discovered she was courted relentlessly by the Vesty’s cattle manager before falling for a young British Officer who picked up her hat from his galloping horse.

Africa, my love ~ A romantic comedy set in South Africa of the 1950s. The true story of a gawky young farmer from the bushveld who falls for in love with the daughter of a Surgeon General. Wild animals, horses, the Indian Ocean, Rock and Roll, wonderful African characters and immortal truths.

Not Funny Enough ~ A comedy thriller set in Gloucestershire in 1991. The true, funny bits are about four sisters aged 18-30, their eccentric mother, three parrots and two tame otters. The terrifying bit was that a serial killer was at large, asking their father when he’d like him to lay down concrete for the car port.  “There were no known murders in the years between 1988-1992 but during questioning after being arrested, Fred West had confessed to killing up to 30 women.” I was assured by a BBC producer that the bodies of another 29 girls lie under the patios of Gloucestershire.

True-Life stories written and produced for television by Sophie Neville ~

The Way People Talk ~ a drama-documentary, filmed on location at a tough school in West London, telling the story of a boy called Edward who was terribly bullied for ‘talking posh’. This included violent locker-room sequences but ended well with a very emotive confession from the ring-leader, who admitted that things had not been going well for him at home.

Girls about Boys; Boys about Girls ~ a very amusing drama-documentary made with eleven-year-old boys and girls who discuss the pros and cons of co-education and platonic friendship, whilst disclosing their ideals for future relationships.

This pair of programmes was True-life at its best, so good that they were cut down and repeated as ‘shorts’ on BBC Two everyday at 9.30am so teachers could use them before morning class to encourage right relationships.

Just Mum, my Sister and Me ~ a touching drama documentary about a girl called Dona who tells of her life after her parents slit up.  Shot on location in the Eastend of London it includes the dramatisation of a time when she had an accident but was saved by her little sister calling the emergency services. The children loved re-creating the scenes shot in the back of an ambulance.

Crazes ~ a documentary about the enthusiasm  of a young herpetologist filmed on location in Dorset with a variety of reptiles.

Inset ~ a verity documentary series following infant teachers implementing the National Curriculum in a range of circumstances so tough that even the camera crew were taken a-back.

Other True-life stories ~

Out of Europe into Africa ~ a verity documentary about a group of 32 young Europeans who tried to make a difference by driving down through Africa to work on various aid programmes in Kenya, directed by Sophie Neville for Channel 4.

My Family and Other Animals ~ the childhood auto-biography of naturalist Gerald Durrell, shot on location on Corfu and researched by Sophie Neville who later worked as Second Assistant Director on the 8 part series.

‘Gerry had sold the rights to his best-selling book some years before. He had no official editorial control but we were keen to be accurate and for the Durrell to be happy with the drama of their lives. In the end it was the kindness of the actors that deeply touched Gerald Durrell who said he fell in love with Hannah Gordon who was playing his mother and burst into tears when he met the young people playing is siblings. He told me later that some sequences were so exactly like his boyhood that he sobbed through out the pre-view at BAFTA, but was very pleased with the result. His sister Margo looked so exactly like Sarah-Jane Holme, who played her in the drama, that when they met each other they burst out laughing.

The Silkworms and the Chemical Company ~ was the story of a thirteen-year-old boy living in South Africa who, very like Gerald Durrell, was keen on lepidopterology – the study of butterflies and moths of the Eastern Transvaal.  When he found that none of the silkworms in Nelspruit were spinning he conducted a research project and ended up taking a well known Swiss chemical company to Public Inquiry. they had been illegally spraying the local orange orchards with untested insecticide.  The story was researched and profiled for Blue Peter in South Africa ~

Bluebell ~ the life story of Margaret Kelly. What do you do when you are researching a drama of someone’s life story and discover documents that would radically alter life as they knew it – such as their actual date of birth?  Luckily for us Miss Bluebell had spent so much of her life in the theatre that she gave us a free rein to be creative. I just had to remind the scriptwriter of historical facts that could not be altered, such as the dates when Liverpool was bombed and Paris was liberated.

One by One ~  a was drama about the life of zoo vet David Taylor who was still so busy that we only saw him when recording at the BBC Studios in Manchester, when he was normally present in his professional rather than editorial capacity. I remember one story was about an old lady who kept a Capuchin monkey on a billiard table. While David was examining the monkey the maggots it fed on became active under the warm lights and started escaping into the studio. ‘Eeh, by gum,’ said one of the prop men. ‘These buggers don’t ‘alf move fast.’ I was sweeping them up, terrified they would hide somewhere, hatch into fruit flies and cause havoc in the studio for years to come.

The drama series ran to 32 Episodes. I was impacted by the fact that True-life has popular appeal, especially when animals are involved.

Full television credits~


Inset x 3 episodes Writer-Producer BBC TV
Thinkabout Science x 5 episodes Director BBC TV
The way people talk Writer- Producer BBC TV
Boys about Girls: Girls about Boys Writer- Producer BBC TV
Crazes Writer – Producer BBC TV
Just Mum, my sister and me Writer – Producer BBC TV
Out of Europe into Africa Director Channel 4
Through the Dragon’s Eye x 10 episodes Director of FX + animation BBC TV
Rockliffe’s Babies x 4 episodes Location Manager BBC TV
Global Sunrise – Live Watch Researcher BBC TV – NHU
Dawn to Dusk on Safari x 3 episodes Researcher BBC TV – NHU
Blue Peter in South Africa Researcher BBC TV
Russell Harty Christmas Party Researcher BBC
Russell Harty x 9 episodes Researcher BBC TV
The Book Show Researcher BBC TV
Swallows and Amazons Forever! Coot Club x 4 episodes Researcher BBC TV
Swallows and Amazons Forever! The Big Six x 4 episodes Researcher BBC TV
My Family and Other Animals x 8 episodes AFM BBC TV
Bluebell x 8 episodes Researcher/AFM BBC TV
Rockliffe’s Babies x 4 episodes AFM BBC TV
Doctor Who? x 2 episodes AFM BBC TV
Charters and Caldicott x 6 episodes AFM BBC TV
Titus Andronicus AFM BBC TV
One by One x 8 episodes AFM BBC TV
Eastenders x 12 episodes AFM BBC TV
The Diary of Anne Frank AFM BBC TV
Cold Warrior AFM BBC TV
Out There Cameraman SABC
Big Screen Britain Herself BBC TV
Country File  ~ re-realsed in 2012 as ‘Country Tracks’ Herself BBC TV
The Great British Village Show Herself BBC TV
Trisha Herself Anglia TV
Songs of Praise Herself BBC TV
Animal Magic Herself BBC TV
Who’s Sorry Now? Herself Intermedia
Sunday Night Thriller: Dark Secret Actress LWT
The Two Ronnies: Charley Farley and Piggy Malone x 2 episodes Actress BBC TV
Crossroads Actress ATV
Cider with Rosie Actress BBC TV

Wheetabix commercial ~ Actress  – Claude Whatham

Safe Sun ~ medical information video  Herself - MCC Communications
‘The Discovery of Sodium Cromoglycate’ made by Fisons
‘The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome’
‘Nationwide’
‘Points West’
‘Screen Test’
‘Film 74′
‘Film Night’
‘The Big Read’
ITV News 12/9/13
BBC North West Tonight  6/11/13
BBC Breakfast 7/1/13
and other programmes ~ in film-clips used on UK television
Sophie appeared on a prime-time documentary titled ‘Obsessive-Compulsive’ on Channel 4 in 2013, on the panel of ‘The Wright Stuff’ in August 2014 and was interviewed on France 3 Television. She is due to appear on the new CBBC show Cinemania in February 2015.

Early Films ~

A brand new 40th Anniversary Restoration of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS, starring Virginia McKenna will be released on a Special Edition DVD and first ever Blu-ray release on 4th August! Order your copy here: amzn.to/1pmF7fe. Special anniversary screenings can be requested by cinemas.


Swallows and Amazons, 1974 playing Titty ~ Last broadcast ITV3 September 2013 EMI
The ‘Copter Kids, 1976 playing Liz Peters CFTF

From the archives ~ 

Clips from the feature film of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ have been used in a number of interesting documentaries:

Through the Dragon’s Eye ~ The BBCTV Look and Read series
starring Nicola Stewart, Marlaine Gordon, Simon Fenton and Timothy Lynn
Arthur of the Britains ~ HTV’s Television drama series
starring Oliver Tobias, Michael Gothard, Jack Watson and Brian Blessed
Bluebell ~ Carolyn Pickles, starring as Miss Bluebell in the 8-part BBC drama series
 Titus Andronicus ~ The BBC Shakespeare Collection
starring Edward Hardwicke, Hugh Quarshie, Trevor Peacock and Eileen Atkins
One by One ~ The BBC dramatisation of the life of the zoo vet David Taylor
starring James Ellis, Rob Heyland, Liz Smith and Sonia Graham
Rockliffe’s Babies ~ The BBC Police Detective Series
starring Ian Hogg with Brett Fancy, Joe McGann, Bill Champion, John Blakely, Martyn Ellis, Susanna Shelling, Alphonsia Emmanuel and Brian Croucher

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