I watched some of the filming of the new series of Foyle’s War today. The driving rain and the card some cruel swine put under my windscreen wiper ( “Free scrap car collection” ) had conspired to depress the hell out of me, but I thought Michael Kitchen might cheer me up. Perhaps I might swap witty banter with Michael Kitchen, probe him about playing the Devil, the King of England and a rather dull policeman in wartime Hastings, maybe give him a few tips on how to improve his acting. I’d even decided on my opening gambit: “Hello Michael Kitchen,” I’d say. ”Aren’t you Michael Kitchen?” Really, I couldn’t fail to become Michael Kitchen’s new best friend.
Knockhundred Row in Midhurst, West Sussex, still looks much the same as it did a hundred years ago, when a youthful H G Wells worked there. By applying black grit to the road, dotting some lovely old vehicles about and sticking a few bits of paper over the signs, it’s easily transformed into postwar Hastings (because for DCS Foyle the war is now over – but will the series, recently rescued from cancellation, remain Foyle’s War?). I was particularly taken with the following sodden bit of set dressing. I should very much like a butterfly bomb:
I’m not a fan of Foyle’s War, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full episode, but I’d never seen anything being filmed before and felt sure it would be terribly interesting. (Actually, that’s a lie – I was in the audience of an edition of It’s A Knockout in Arundel when I was little, but can’t remember a thing about it. Don’t even have nightmares.) But what struck me was how dreary and lengthy the whole process of getting a single scene in the can was. I stood for about two hours watching a young girl push a pram past a church, to be confronted and intimidated by a gruff American military policeman. I must have heard the line “If you think it’s bad here just wait till you get to the States” a dozen times. Here’s the start of the scene:
People were stomping around looking pissed off and soaked to the skin. The director, who looked like a thin Penfold from Dangermouse, was getting stressed because the rain wouldn’t let up. Batteries kept dying, planes and helicopters went over, lunchbreak was hours overdue. Michael Kitchen was due to film his scenes that afternoon but they just couldn’t get past that pivotal “If you think it’s bad here just wait till you get to the States” scene. Dozens of bored-senseless crewmembers stood around idly like the cluster of prideful extras, before springing into their few precious seconds of activity. Then it was back to the waiting. And the waiting.
In short, the whole thing was deathly dull. But I’d still give anything to work in telly, even if I’m the guy who kicks lumps of coal about to mark where the US army jeep has to stop, or the bloke with the tape measure, or that fella over there holding John the MP’s umbrella. Anyone got any advice? Seriously… (Although, as I write this, it’s just hit home how desperate we’ve become financially since I was made redundant in January, so maybe it’s time to give up the idea of doing something I actually enjoy, like graphic design or making Doctor Who artwork or kicking bits of coal around. Fuck.)
I didn’t meet Michael Kitchen today: I got too hungry and wet and achy from all the endless standing around. When the battery ran out on my camera, that was the last straw – I left. Michael Kitchen’s a rubbish, utterly immobile actor anyway, all he does is “smug and pompous”. Look, here’s Michael Kitchen’s range:
I’d like to think it was Michael Kitchen’s loss, not mine. And while I would’ve liked to have seen his expression change when he realised he’d missed me, I imagine that particular feat would have involved a very long wait indeed.