Filming Grapevine Three

See also Grapevine Three: Glastonbury, an older and detailed article on that episode.

Tony Garner was the third director on the Grapevine series. Tony had directed Auf Weidersehen, Pet so we had our third well-known director in a row. We also had Cathryn Harrison back, only for three episodes, but they were key ones. We had Jaye Griffiths too, Phyllida Nash from Grapevine Two’s Radio Plays, and then Amanda Root as the new female actor, later famous for her roles in Jane Austen and other classics. We were writing much more with two women in mind, and the original concept of three actors (Jim, Steve & Cathyrn) had been abandoned when we couldn’t get Cathryn for Grapevine Two. It was based in Bristol again.

Dennis Cook’s Party. As we knew Cathryn would be back we could write her back into Dennis Cook’s episode, but we’d lost the house in Bristol which was used for the first two.  People admit a film crew into their lives once. You might persuade them to do it twice, but few people come back for a third one. This gave us the idea for a house-warming party at his new house, which was filmed in Chippenham. I only missed two scenes in Grapevine Three. One was filming Dennis Cook in the supermarket, the other the sequence in the scrapyard in Eddie Barber-Private Eye.

Dennis Cook’s Party: Cathryn (Tricia), Steve (Dennis) and Jim (their new neighbour)

The food buffet by late afternoon on a hot day was something that none of the cast and crew would go near. The odour of very warm prawns, smoked salmon, cream cakes and barbecued burgers didn’t mix well. When the estate agent came to lock up the house (as usual, it was a house for sale) he was overjoyed and he filled a plate  for himself.

The Cricket Match was an idyllic filming day, one of the most pleasant I remember.

The Cricket Match: Steve Steen as Martin is batting.

I found the cricket pitch with its perfect wooden pavilion. It was on a back road which was a short cut  from Bournemouth to Bristol Airport, and I’d seen it on the way to film Grapevine Two and the location inspired the script. Karen and I went back to look before writing it. It was an odd concept, but the point was that Jo Mydell (from Mystery Tour) was an American visitor who had never played or seen cricket, and finds himself press-ganged into the team when the captain (Jim Sweeney) has an accident.

The Cricket Match: Jo Mydell as Larry Brock, the American visitor.

It was Amanda Root’s first role with us. One cricket team was composed of OUP editors and designers. More formed the small crowd. The other cricket team, apart from the terrifyingly gigantic captain, was the real team from that cricket club. The captain was an actor. We were thrilled with this one. It conveyed the mood of cricket. and Jo’s final line sums it up. “Who won?” he asks.

The Cricket Match: Lucy (Amanda Root) and Martin (Steve Steen) meet Larry (Jo Mydell)

The Cricket Match: Jim Sweeney as captain first sees the opposition captain.

No Vacancies was filmed in a hotel right by the horrific morning traffic jam leading into Bristol from the south-east and so I’d waited in traffic right by it many times before, and have many times since. Phyllida Nash was the hotel manager. Jim the reception clerk and Steve the hotel porter. The room full of junk that has to be cleared was small, and with camera and director there was no more room. I was sitting in the narrow corridor with the sound man listening and checking script through headphones. It was uncomfortable and disconcerting not to be able to see the action, except in glimpses on the monitor.

No Vacancies: Steve Steen as the hotel porter.

No Vacancies: Jim Sweeney as Malcolm, the receptionist, and Phyllida Nash as the manager.

ETV South-West News was filmed in the Harlech studio, just about next door to the hotel. This was an ideal one for passives, featuring Jim Sweeney and Jaye Griffiths as the newsreaders, with Steve doing the outside broadcast. Jim was hilarious off camera on that one. As things went wrong with the broadcast, his character gets angrier and angrier. “I’m a professional!” he kept saying. There was wonderful impro dialogue between Jaye and Jim all day.

ETV South-West News: Jim and Jaye as rival presenters Nicholas and Angela.

ETV South-West News: Steve as outside reporter interviews a demonstrator

Ten seconds to on-air and Nicholas can’t move his tie knot. Angela checks make-up.

Princess Calling introduced a second film unit, with Rob Maidment directing Jaye’s journey to cashpoint and petrol station while we were filming other scenes from other episodes. We needed plants for Steve’s character, Trevor Simpson. What we got was cinararia. None of us knew how to pronounce it or what they looked like, but we were stuck with them. We’d been hoping for something recognizable and easy to say, like petunias or begonias or wallflowers. Amanda Root played Trevor’s wife, Valerie. Jim wasn’t in that one.

Princess Calling: Jaye Griffiths as Diana and Amanda Root as Valerie.

Glastonbury Tale

Glastonbury Tale: Keith (Jim Sweeney), Sandra (Cathryn Harrison) and the Guide (Steve Steen)

See separate article.

Love in A Garden was our first venture into costum drama, for the play within a play.

Love In A Garden: Phyllida Nash as the romantic novelist

This was written hoping that Phyllida Nash could play the part of the romantic novelist, Millicent, which she did in a beautiful house in Clifton, Bristol. The idea is that the romantic novelist thinks of the story, and the characters (Troy, Lucinda and Clifford) come to life, then she changes her mind and they have to re-enact the scenes. Amanda was perfect casting as the Edwardian heroine. We knew that romantic novels were extraordinarily good vehicles for reporting verbs like whispered, sighed, exclaimed and so on. We had a Portuguese friend who first came to England to work in hotels. She learnt English, teaching herself entirely from Mills & Boone romances left by guests. Her English was good, though any anecdote was full of those dramatic reporting verbs. The very thought of costume drama (with a twist) was something we had to really persuade OUP to do. We did it again (with a twist) in English Channel One with Robin Hood.

Love In A Garden: Jim (Troy), Amanda (Lucinda) & Steve (Clifford)

Eddie Barber: Private Eye. Originally we cast Steve as the private eye. This was balancing the larger roles, and also we didn’t want to fall into the trap of assigning Steve one sort of comic character, and Jim a different one. Casting Steve was against the “expected.” Filming was to start with a night shoot of the final scene on the docks, and I took the opportunity to drive back to Bournemouth after the previous day’s shooting. Rob Maidment phoned me at 7 a.m. Steve’s partner was having a baby. It was early as babies are. Steve was already on his way back to London. Jim was originally the Scotland Yard detective, but they could find an actor in Bristol, and switch Jim to the private eye. But it needed some rewrites. Karen and I did them right after breakfast, and then we printed fresh scripts at home. Scripts are colour coded so that you can see that everyone is holding the latest version. Version 1 might be on white paper. The rewrite will be pink. The second rewrite blue paper and so on. There’s no colour sequence, as long as each version is different. I utilised a block of garishly bright paper I had for our kids (knowing it had to be different to whatever the last version was), and drove back to Bristol with  a full set of scripts.

Eddie Barber – Private Eye. Jim as Eddie Barber.

Lauren arrives at Eddie’s office

Eddie Barber-Private Eye: Cathryn as Lauren

Jim was, of course, so perfect as Eddie Barber that it’s impossible to imagine any other casting and Cathryn was superb as Lauren. For the final night shoot we used my car (which had to be valeted before the scene to make it gleaming), and I winced every time the door had to be slammed hard shut and the vase broken next to it.

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