Thursday, 31 March 2011

Oh Brother!

To make low budget films successfully requires a little creative endeavour, a fair amount of luck and a great deal of determination. 
Recently I had to find a medieval monk, a dog, a rowing boat and a trailer for a short re-enactment sequence of film.  Fifteen seconds to be exact.
I was offered an old wooden rowing boat which was perfect for the medieval period.   I had a volunteer to play the part of the monk so all I needed was a dog that was comfortable on the water.   I am a keen follower of the Norfolk Broads Forum, my daily visit keeps me abreast of the latest Broadland news and events.   It seemed the obvious place to track down a boat friendly hound.     In less than an hour I had received an offer from Lisa who assured me her terrier "Miss Leigh" was a natural sailor and was available for the project.
Not only was Lisa willing to help but she also extended her holiday on the Broads by two days to make the shoot possible.

Everything had fallen into place with unprecedented ease by the time my dear wife was putting the finishing touches to the monk's habit.
The day of the shoot dawned - not as good as the forecast but good enough.  Right on time the boat and trailer, the monk and his assistant, trundled onto the car park by the slip way.  While the boat was being unloaded I was informed that the boat had not been in the water for several years.
"Will it float?" I asked.
"Probably" came the reply.
Some life saving equipment was inflated and made ready for any emergency that might arise.  As necessary as the flotation aids were, their presence did nothing to lessen my apprehension.  I tried in vain to rid myself of the vision of a medieval monk clinging to the wreckage of a sinking rowing boat.   

Several unsuccessful attempts were made to fit the rowlocks to the boat using files, sandpaper, knives and screwdrivers.   None of the aforementioned worked so plan B was pressed into service - rope rowlocks?   It probably would have been okay if the monk's assistant had not left the rope at the boatyard.   Fortunately there was a plan C.   Leather laces were removed from the monk's assistant's boots - and some very robust rowlocks were fashioned from them.

At last the boat was launched - immediately the ancient craft began to fill with water.   "It will be okay once the water swells the wood" said the monk's assistant.   I was pleased to hear this theory but was not totally convinced and my vision of a sinking monk returned..    Very soon the monk and Miss Leigh were aboard and rowing up stream toward the camera position.
As the boat filled with water miss Leigh tried to get on the monk's lap in order to keep her feet dry, this made it impossible for the monk to row the boat.  The  monk, dog and oars  became hopelessly entangled  as the boat drifted toward the bank.

The boat was returned to the slipway to be baled out.
After everyone had re-grouped the Monk rowed upstream once again with miss Leigh in the stern, as before the bottom of  boat quickly filled with water.  The boat made a single pass when the boot laces that formed  the make shift rowlocks gave out with a thud.   Before the Monk had regained his balance  Miss Leigh had abandoned ship and swam for the shore.  That is one very smart dog!

The boat had to be quanted back to the slipway for repairs and more baling out.
For the third time the monk set off with the ever patient, but by now,  very wet  Miss Leigh in the stern.
This time the boat made two perfect passes while miss Leigh behaved exquisitely for the camera.
I had my fifteen seconds of film thanks to a very determined group of people.


  1. Hopefully the red plastic medieval oar collars can be edited out of the final film.....

  2. Fair comment Anne Onymous.
    The re-enactment sequence will be in monochrome which should help to tone down the red collars. Of course to be strictly accurate the medieval boat would have resembled a coracle rather than the clinker built rowboat we were able to borrow. Having said that - thankyou for your observation.