Filming A Week By The Sea

A Week By The Sea was set in Dorset, close to our (then) home in Bournemouth. Unlike A Weekend Away, where we specified “a hotel”, we wrote to specific locations which we knew. Then Simon Murison-Bowie, who was the Executive Producer, came down and found better ones. We’d specified a pleasant Bournemouth golf course. Simon found the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club, once owned by Enid Blyton, with stunning views. We thought nondescript tennis courts in Bournemouth. Simon found tennis courts at Studland with views over Old Harry rocks. One of the pleasures of A Week By The Sea are the peripheral views of Dorset scenery. Simon was also the main stills photographer, hence the stunning pictures opening each episode in the original Activity Books (which sadly we can’t reproduce in the new Study Guides). I was back-up on stills camera. We also knew David and Debbie (Kevin & Sharon) and could work on the interaction. Clive and Alison were chosen as a total contrast.

It was an idyllic film schedule. Robert Reed (aka Robert Williams) had been an ITV director since its inception, and assured us that we had to film in late June for the best weather and avoidance of the school holiday period. He was right. Apart from the hair salon scene, filmed in Oxford, and the supermarket interior, which was near Reading, filming was based on Weymouth and Bournemouth (though no actual scenes were shot in Bournemouth). The filming has a glow to it. Both Robert Reed and I had birthdays during it, and for Robert’s, filming was interrupted by a “strippergram” dressed as a police woman with a sheaf of parking tickets from our filming in Weymouth. This was credible because in spite of having permission to park, all the location vehicles got festooned with parking tickets in Weymouth. Less interestingly, my birthday was at the location hotel in Bournemouth, where we all got stomach upsets.

We had hired a large mobile camper van as a location changing room, and Robert drove it as well as directing. The atmosphere among cast and crew was great. It was a small unit. We all knew each other from A Weekend Away. The weather was wonderful.

Episode 4: Corfe Castle, The Greyhound Hotel and “old character” on the bench.

The Ghost in the Castle was one we’d researched, starting in the garden of the Greyhound Hotel, and moving up to the castle itself. This meant that we knew which wall Kevin could pretend to fall off, and which edge he could get precariously near, and which windows the ghost could appear through. After researching it, we also “walked” through it with Simon Murison-Bowie and Rob Maidment before finalizing the script.

Maurice Blake as the old man

The sequence outside the pub caused some local irritation. When we researched it, two old men were sitting on the bench. We put our actor, Maurice Blake, there. Ten minutes into filming an outraged old man tapped me on the shoulder and said “Who’s the old character sitting on our bench?” Maurice was in a stage play of “Waiting for Godot” at the time so looked the part. After the garden scene, where he had to finish his beer time after time on about ten takes, we moved up to the castle. Maurice lay down on the grass near the path in the sunshine and was soon fast asleep. He’d put the battered hat next to him, and looked for all the world like an old tramp. When he woke up two hours later, he found passing tourists had filled his hat with coins. He generously bought us a round of drinks in the Greyhound before we went home.

Episode 4: A Ghost in the Castle. Sharon is worried about Kevin.

The story required a film crew to be seen, so Lawrence, the assistant cameraman took over the spare camera. Robert Reed suddenly said to David (Kevin), “I’m going to be in the scene. You’re a natural director. You direct it.” David did, totally seriously too.

Episode 4: “The film crew” actually used some of the crew. Robert (seated) is director Robert Reed. Simon is crouching with camera. Bob, in the red cap, is Robert Maidment, the producer. Lawrence Catford is on camera, and Ben Murison-Bowie is boom operator. I’ve only just realized that with Simon in view, I took this photograph.

Corfe Castle showed the officiousness of the British public. It belongs to the National Trust which owns most such places in Britain. You can become a “member” and get discounts on entry. It’s a bit like having a Tesco storecard, except you pay an annual subscription. While we were filming David and Debbie, a man in his fifties strode belligerently onto the filming area, stood between them, and looked out at the view. Robert Reed politely explained that we were filming, it would take us ten minutes, then we’d be out of the way. The man said, “I’ll stand where I like. Do you realize I am a member of the National Trust?”
Robert said, “Yes, you and a million others. Roll the cameras. This gentleman will be hilarious in the outtakes.”
He moved away instantly.

Episode 7: The doorway of Wimborne Minister … with permission

Officiousness appeared again in Wimborne Minster, where the church sightseeing scene in House For sale was filmed. While we were filming in the doorway (an unused doorway) at least five people came up and asked if we had permission to film there. We had, and told them so. One asked to see it “in writing”. We asked who he was, and he said “I just live there.” Robert said Wimborne was the most officious place he’d ever filmed in. I think it’s changed. I go there about once a week, and there’s no sign of it anymore. It was declared in 2009 to be the English town with the greatest life expectancy, both for men and women, so I guess people have time to mellow.

Episode 7: House for Sale: The house with no doors upstairs

The other incident I remember is filming “House for Sale” at a new housing estate next to Bournemouth University (which is technically located in Poole … Bournemouth is the other side of the road). You may not have noticed this, but show houses on new estates often have half the doors removed to make them look bigger. In this case they’d been removed upstairs. As the cast found out when they wanted to use the toilet. Five minutes into filming, the lights set off the fire alarm, and we spent over an hour sitting in the garden with ear-splitting alarms until someone could be found with the keys to switch it off.

Episode 3: Good Sports. Alison and Sharon after the tennis match

Episode 3: Good Sports Nicholas Colicos as the tennis coach

The tennis scene was funny. It was very hot indeed. It was at a hotel, and a crowd of guests gathered to watch the filming. It became obvious that neither of the women actors were particularly good at tennis. So Nicholas, the hunky tennis coach in the scene, was deputed to hit the balls. He sent an absolute scorcher down which hit Debbie very painfully on the leg. The sudden burst of expletives (not only from Debbie) had the watchers covering their ears.

The golf scene in the same episode had David breaking every one of the long list labelled “Dress Code” in the golf club. No one seemed to mind as we were filming. The crazy golf scene which finishes the episode was filmed in Christchurch. While everyone worked out how to do trick shots, we realized they weren’t necessary: David could just do it most of the time.

Episode 6: The Last Boat Leaves At Six. The cannon and sailing ship just happened to be there

Brownsea Island sees one of my several brief appearances as an extra. Another extra is Daniel, who designed the DVD covers and menus, and who was age seven at the time. That was a day when everything went right, including the sudden appearance of a French sail training ship in the harbour, which Robert Reed incorporated into a visual sequence with the cannon. The powerboats racing through the harbour mouth as we were filming were also fortuitous, as were the peacocks, and as was the large dog on the beach.

Episode 6: The Last Boat Leaves At Six. One of the most pleasant day’s filming ever

At the end of the day, they told us we had paid to rent the ferry for another couple of hours, and volunteered to take the whole crew on a pleasure cruise around the harbour, which was accepted.

Episode 1: Summer Holiday. Sharon shows Mrs Parker her work.

In Episode 1, Lesley Nunnerly plays Mrs Parker, the woman who has her hair done by Sharon, with pink and purple streaks. The colour was only combed in, so when we finished the scene, it had been arranged for the salon (the real hairdresser) to return her hair to normal. Lesley looked at in the mirror and laughed. Then she said she had to attend an important meeting that evening (Parent-Teacher Association, or School Governors, I don’t remember which). ‘Oh, we’d better wash it out right away then,’ said the hairdresser. ‘Absolutely not,’ said Lesley, ‘Leave it in. It’ll give them a shock.’

The final scene on the beach was filmed halfway through the schedule. David as Kevin jumped over the sandcastle (which we had specially built by the sand sculptor on Weymouth beach) several times and landed in the deep hole on the other side. He cleared the castle every time. This is the photo we used in the Activity Book. We checked the tape to ensure that we had a perfect take, then Robert asked him to jump once more, but to just clip the top of the sandcastle. We could do this only once as the sandcastle couldn’t be repaired. He did it, but having clipped the top, he fell badly and twisted his ankle. So, we had to do it again, strategically placing a child’s bucket over the gap in the sandcastle. David did it again with a very sore ankle and made it worse.  It swelled like a tennis ball. It seemed potentially disastrous, but David said we needed to get him to a professional football club where they would have the equipment to treat it fast. He had played for the Showbiz (Show Business) football team, so made the phone call, and AFC Bournemouth treated him with the ice and warm rays and got him functioning very quickly.

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