A Weekend Away was the first video we had written but hadn’t performed in. We’d recorded ourselves at Anglo-Continental eventually with many of the Streamline situations on video, most featuring Karen, some me, and others friends like Guy Wellman and Chris Owen. I wish we had them now … not because they were good, but just for nostalgia!
OUP were looking at other writers for a proposed Streamline video, and the scripts were awful. We pitched for Karen and I to do it ourselves and had a long meeting one Sunday at OUP when it was decided to let us try. The video department was new, and had only produced a couple of things. Rob Maidment started as in-house producer exactly as we started A Weekend Away.
The Bear Hotel in 2011. Not much changed.
It was a winter shoot, and freezing cold. The crew and cast were based at the famous Bear Hotel in Woodstock, and the full evening meal was included for the actors. You can’t eat a rich five course hotel meal after a day working and a 6 a.m. costume and make-up call. By the second week, the actors were asking to be allowed fish and chips or sandwiches instead, but that first week of formal communal meals did settle the cast and establish a sense of unity. It was the hotel the characters were staying at too. It was recently seen in the Ricky Gervais film Cemetery Junction.
Episode 3: Kevin asleep. The first scene we actually filmed was Kevin and Sharon in their room at the Bear Hotel.
Matt Zimmerman (Gary) kept us all going in the cold. He lined everyone up to do dancer exercises to keep warm, led sing songs and entertained us by being able to place virtually any Shakespearean quote, however obscure.
Christian (Nick) was straight from theatre school. Avril Angers (Mrs Wilson), a very famous actress, and indeed “pin-up”in her day, was shocked that he’d not been given diction and projection lessons, and spent hours between takes acting as a drama teacher of the old school. He enjoyed it. I think. She had him doing the classic speech lesson phrases How now brown cow and The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain and My mother makes marvellous mincemeat. Sandra Payne (Margaret), another trained actor, assisted. The word now is definitely “actor” but Avril came from the days of “actress.”
David (Kevin) and Debbie (Sharon) kept everyone entertained. David could impersonate anyone in the WWII sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo, and later was to be brought in for the last two series to play the German officer Herr Flick … everyone in TV knew that he could do it. Debbie had recently been in Coronation Street, and David in the air force sit com Get Some In. We were stopped in the streets for Debbie to give autographs. Passing bus and taxi drivers found it hilarious to shout “Get some in!” at David (it means “get some time in the military behind you before you start talking about it” and dates back to the days of conscription, in which the comedy was set).
Episode 5: A Drive in The Country. Kevin sets off to get petrol.
The day no one forgets is The Drive In The Country. It was a cold day but started out well enough, filming the minibus in the Oxford countryside. We did the breakdown scene, and filmed the first dialogue, and then from nowhere it started snowing hard. “Write a line!” shouted the director. I thought, “Er, Matt can say … let me think … um … how about … Oh, no. It’s snowing hard.” No one was impressed with my instant scriptwriting and there were mutters of “Anyone could have thought of that.” Simon Murison-Bowie called for an early lunch to plan the next bit. When we got back the minibus was covered with snow. Robert Reed pointed out that we had just one chance to film Kevin opening the door, then the snow would be disturbed. We also decided to do all the exterior stuff and come back later to finish interiors (with fake snow on the windows). Simon Murison-Bowie is the driver of the SAAB car that gives Kevin a lift. At the end of the day we carried the equipment into the hotel. Paul Swainson (camera) said he daren’t take the tape out. The camera was thick with ice. We put it in the corridor where it could thaw slowly. We waited until the morning to try the tape. It was fine.
Episode 1: Waiting to board the (clean) minibus.
L to R: Gary (Matt), Nick (Christian), Margaret (Sandra), Mrs Wilson (Avril), Kevin (David), Sharon (Debbie).
The temperatures were very low indeed for filming outside the block of flats in episode one (which was done halfway through). As we stood there, we realized the minibus was filthy. In episode two, filmed earlier, it was clean. Continuity meant that we had to wash the minibus. Simon, as executive producer, said he couldn’t ask anyone to do such a job in sub-zero temperatures and so washed the van himself. The crew couldn’t believe their eyes. We were proud of the careful continuity work. Then at coffee break, senior managers turned up to meet and greet with Japanese managers. everyone chatted and we failed to notice that Kevin’s sweater changed between two stakes of the same scene. No one has ever pointed it out. As Robert Reed said, if they notice that, they’re not watching.
The football scene in the park has a group of young kids playing in the distance, supplied by OUP editors. Future film director Matthew Whitecross was one of those kids.