Behind-the-scenes in film and television – part two

Love in a Cold Climate
The composer Julian Slade with Daphne Neville – who was playing Lady Kroseig – & Sophie Neville on location at Swinbrook Church, filming of ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ for LWT in 1978.

One way or another, much of my childhood and teenage years were spent hanging around on film sets. When I was fifteen I had the opportunity to work as a film editor’s assistant for Tony Woollard when he was editing Abide With Me, an adaptation of Winifred Foley’s childhood memoir, which was directed for BBC Television by Moira Armstrong.

Sophie Neville aged 19At the age of nineteen I found myself working for a prop buyer on a Saturday Night Thriller called Dark Secret that LWT, London Weekend Television, were making at my parents’ house. I was struck by how nice the technicians were.

Sophie Neville in The Sunday Night Thriller, 'Dark Secret'
Sophie Neville in Make-Up prior to appearing in the Sunday Night Thriller ‘Dark Secret’

Our house was often used as a film location. You can’t hear the noise of traffic there. For some reason this always involved hose pipes (to provide water for the location caterers) and parking a huge number of vehicles. Our house was turned into a restaurant for Dark Secret, and then became known as a love nest, for the BBC costume drama House of Elliot which amused my father.

Our house used for the set of the 'House of Elliot'
‘House of Elliot’ being shot on location at my parent’s house in Gloucestershire. They brought in Edwardian furniture and dressing props.

My mother thought the best way to occupy us children during school holidays was to send us filming. I was forever driving my little sisters to one location or another. Call times could be hideously early.

Children appearing in 'Tenko'
On the set of the BBC drama serial ‘Tenko’ based on the true stories of civilian internees during WWII

My sisters weren’t always so sure about this but they were well paid, which was one thing. Appearing as supporting artists in Tenko, the BBC serial about female internees in the Far East during WWII, gave us an appreciation of what was like to be held captive. Apart from the fact that the location catering was good, it made one feel exactly like a prisoner of war, or rather a female civilian internee.

Tamzin Neville in 'Tenko'
A continuity photograph taken on the set of ‘Tenko’ in about 1981 near Bournemouth in Dorset. Stephanie Beauchamp is in the striped dress.

Dressed in rags with our hair filled with grease, we were unable to move far or even sit down anywhere except in the filthy sand of the prison camp. The only good thing was that we were allowed to sunbathe, albeit in costume. What I did gain was the opportunity to watch a film crew in action day after day. It was all good experience for a girl who was soon to become a film runner herself.

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

12 thoughts on “Behind-the-scenes in film and television – part two”

  1. All meat and drink to us, Sophie! Re behind-the-scenes in series, some fan websites etc have a few background shots of the filming, and there’s the occasional interview on DVDs, but it’s very rare that someone involved sits down and writes clearly about what it was like. Thank you!

  2. What wonderful memories and experiences you have had! Thank you for sharing them. I saw you and your Mum on that series about clearing clutter. The older we get the more things there are to be attached to. I hope your Mum got through it with not too much stress!Pam Moore

    1. Please write in to Betty TV and ask if you can see more! The only took away one white van full of clutter, which hardly made an impression at all. You saw Mum, she was taking things out of the man’s arms as he was walking away.

  3. Much of what one hears about life behind the scenes for younger actors has to do with schooling on set. Did you have tutors all the time or only if you were shooting during the school year? And were you able to keep up with your fellow pupils at “regular” school?

    1. We had a tutor on set during the filming of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ – who oversaw our school work in a red London double decker bus. She gave us a great deal of dictation, which stood me in good stead later in life. Much of this was about the geography and history of the Lake District with our daily diaries making up some of the work. From a broad perspective, I learnt far more than I would have during one summer term at school. My Maths may have fallen behind but if anything I overtook my fellow pupils.

      ‘The Copter Kids’ was a movie shot over five weeks in the summer holidays, and I didn’t miss out on school to audition or work on any other production for more than a day or so. It was a big consideration. My sister had her education totally disrupted by working as an actress.

      Would you be interested on a blog post on this subject?

      1. Yes, we would! (personally speaking). What sort of people were the tutors? Was it a problem studying with children of different ages and abilities?
        (And have you managed yet to read Noel Streatfeild’s very relevant The Painted Garden?)

        1. I read all the Noel Streatfield books avidly as a child. I found a copy of ‘Ballet Shoes’ recently and loved re-reading it, so will have to get ‘The Painted Garden’ next.

          1. Aha – Sophie, you ABSOLUTELY need to! It’s about cross grumpy young Jane whose rather impecunious family move to California for a while, and she’s spotted being grumpy by a film director casting The Secret Garden and is given the part of cross young Mary; so much of the film is about a very assorted trio of children dealing with the whole backstage thing of being in a Hollywood movie – classes, hanging around for hours, etc. It certainly seems very realistic, and chimes (in a Hollywood context) with what you’ve told us so far. And a grown-up Pauline and Posy turn up from Ballet Shoes!

  4. More fabulous behind-the-scenes glimpses, thank you Sophie. There are surely the seeds of another book here!

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