Recently, we added a new element to the documentary: – some re-enactment sequences to highlight some of the crucial moments in the story. We hadn’t planned on doing dramatisation initially, as we had originally intended to have animated sequences to bring these parts to life in a slightly surreal, magical way. But, as anyone who has experience of animation knows, it takes a looong time… and we found out in January that just for the three bits we wanted, it would have taken six months and cost many thousands of pounds! And that would have put us back too far.
We’ve been watching and revisiting a LOT of documentaries over the past year – from Searching for Sugarman to Exit Through the Gift Shop to Man On Wire and many more, and spurred on by the excellent use of dramatic re-enactments in some of them, we decided to find ourselves a Young Roger and a Young George – actors Freddy Whittle and Howard Caine respectively – and we started storyboarding the key scenes. Next the task was to find wardrobe; as we currently don’t have a budget for the movie and also because we needed clothing from 20years ago, this meant scouring 2nd hand and charity shops. It takes longer than you think to find just the right outfits! But thanks to The Red Cross, Hospice and Oxfam shops, we actually got some excellent clobber – including a beautiful, Made in Britain jacket that looked very George indeed… After countless trips into town over the past week to source all this, I now have a newfound respect for Wardrobe departments.
Young Roger and Roger The First
We’re very fortunate in that the locations and a lot of the props needed for the scenes are still available to us – George’s magnificent house, Riversdale, is not yet sold so we were able to go back up there; the beautiful old building still has a fair amount of furniture and general artifacts in it and it was quite moving when the door opened and there was lovely Carolyn, George’s housekeeper, smiling away at us. But of course, no George to greet us this time… although his essence can still be felt in the very walls of the place and it would feel like the most natural thing in the world to turn around and see his unmistakable form shuffling down the corridor. It did make us feel very thankful that we were able capture the man on film in his final year at Riversdale.
His iconic workbench – on which he worked tirelessly for 65 years, created the co-axial escapement and all of his watches – still exists in the exact form it was when he passed away; as the entire bench and all of it’s tools were bequeathed to Roger, his only apprentice. Even his eye glasses remain, which we were grateful to be able to use as part of Howard’s wardrobe and which really brought his ‘George’ to life.
Roger’s First Watch
Not only this, but Roger revealed that he still had many parts of his very first pocketwatch to hand – the very watch that took him 5 years to make and that he first showed to George, only for the watchmaker to tell him it wasn’t good enough: ‘he sent me away with a flea in my ear and told me to start again‘ (Roger Smith). This watch was then dissected and cannibalised in order to give Roger the parts he needed to craft his 2nd watch. He laid out the surviving components for us so that we could bring young Freddy in to re-enact just a moment of those many hours of work.
We are also indebted to Cara Boalch, a fabulous make up artist who recently moved to the Island and who’s previous credits include Steven Spielberg’s ‘Band of Brothers‘. Cara did a fantastic job ageing Howard for us and was always ready to be a third crew member when needed.
The footage we came away with was good, but we were really pushed for time – with one thing or another, we ended up only having 3 hours to shoot 6 story elements over two locations that were a ten minute drive from each other – and that included Howard’s time in make up!
George’s workbench reflected in his Escapement sketch
Ideally, we’d have liked a full day but of course these things often don’t pan out as planned. We have been able to move one of the elements to another day though, so that’s helpful.
Once these sequences are in place, we can work on the final edit of the film – we can’t wait to get it out there, we’re really pleased with the documentary and want these men’s fabulous story to be heard/seen!