Witness Films Ltd ~ Projects in Development with

Truelife stories:~

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 POW to the Japanese in WWII.  It’s an amazing story. Makorongo was on death’s door when he was miraculously repatriated by a high-ranking German Officer who was visiting his slave labour camp.  They had grown up together when Tanzania had been a German colony prior to 1919.

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

Molly ~ The true story of a musical young English lady who emigrates to South 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.

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.

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, the murderer had confessed to killing up to 30 women.’

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.

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 dramatization 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 Researcher BBC TV
Swallows and Amazons Forever! The Big Six 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

Swallows & Amazons (1974) DVD Extras


Safe Sun

Reminisences of the Ransomes

Walton’s Secret Water

The River Orwell – Arthur Ransome Event 2017



MCC Comms


David Webb


Archive footage:
‘The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome’- on BBC iPlayer
‘Books That Made Britain’
‘An Awfully Big Adventure’ (1998)
‘The Discovery of Sodium Cromoglycate’
‘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
Recent TV appearances ~
BBBC Antiques Roadshow, ITV News at Ten, BBC South Today, ITV Anglia News have all interviewed Sophie in her capacity as President of the Arthur Ransome Society, as have Radio 4, BBC World Service, BBC Radio Solent, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC Cumbria, BBC Radio Leeds, syndicated BBC Local Radio, Good News Radio, Lakeland Radio and Premier Radio.
Sophie appeared on a prime-time documentary titled ‘Obsessive-Compulsive’ on Channel 4, on the panel of ‘The Wright Stuff’ and was interviewed on France 3 Television. She appeared in the CBBC show Cinemania and was quoted by Martin Clunes on Have I Got A Bit More News For You’ in 2016. She has been narrating audiobooks and reading on UCB Radio and BBC Sounds.

Early Films ~

40th Anniversary Restoration of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS, starring Virginia McKenna released on DVD and Blu-ray with an Extras package. Order your copy here:

Swallows and Amazons, 1974 playing Titty Walker EMI
The ‘Copter Kids, 1976 playing Liz Peters CFTF

From the archives ~ 

The Fancy Dress Party – starring Patsy Byrne, directed by Sophie Neville

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
Russell Harty’s Christmas Party

Bluebell ~ Carolyn Pickles, starring as Miss Bluebell in the 8-part BBC drama series

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

4 thoughts on “TV/Film”

  1. What a great legacy of work. And some lovely clips to illustrate it! They really enliven the page, thank you Sophie.

      1. That’s usually the case with Film and TV companies; such a shame. We must be thankful for what has survived.

        1. I am so thankful that the 1974 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was remastered and is available on as a Blu-ray for cinemas. It looks amazing on the big screen when you can fully appreciate the scenery of the Lake District. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

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