Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Google Earth as a writers tool.

I do a lot of research before and during the writing of my books and Google Earth is a great aid which allows you to visit parts of the world you may never see in person but can speak about in your tale with the credibility of a native of those parts.
The ever growing jumble of the carcasses of dead trees cast upon the beaches of French Guiana, and the absence of the locals who once relied upon them for smokeless firewood to cook with, were discoveries made with the satellite images from Google Earth.

I would add a word of caution only in that the images you see are in no way live, they are at least two years old.

I wrote last year about the small military presence at Cayenne Airport, the four shacks at the end of the runaway with the paint peeling off the corrugated tin roof of each one in the sun and the encroaching rust. The naval detachment had a half dozen Quonset huts and a muddy path leading down to a wooden pier. All a little forlorn.
I revisited Kourou and Cayenne for the next book and I found that much has changed. There are modern buildings with white, heat reflecting roofing panels and a secure hard standing for military aircraft at Cayenne, and in similar fashion the Navy has been upgraded too.
The scene of the battle between the Chinese marines and the French Foreign Legion jungle fighters is a jungle no longer but now a car park for European Space Agency personnel.

Ah well, I haven't any readership out that way and they are after all mere novels, not travelogs.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

When money spoils a good story.

When money spoils a good story.

I know little about screenplay or script writing despite being on the fringe of TV and film production for six years but I do recall how financiers were more concerned with ensuring a profit than they were with the story. I mean the story is the whole point of it, isn't it?
Sell them on the story and offer them good actors and direction to loosen the purse strings. More than once though they interfered at the eleventh hour and what would have been a gem was turned to mud instead.

I watched The Bank Job with Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows. From my own very small involvement in its production I know that it was a film based on fact, so I was disappointed that the films financiers felt they had to completely alter those facts. The matter is no longer buried by the Official Secrets Act so they have no excuse.
Robbing a bank to save Princess Margaret's reputation gave them a chance to throw a bit of sex and scandal in, but the real story was that in one of those safety deposit boxes was a Cold War intelligence coup so great that once handed to the authorities by the robbers, not only was all the evidence against the gang quietly destroyed but so were their previous criminal records AND they were allowed to keep everything else they had stolen. The investigation carried on (in name only) so as not to tip off the Russians.

I think I know which would have made the better film and I am pretty sure the writers, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais ('Porridge' : 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' : 'Lovejoy') knew it too. Once again the money men got it wrong.

They were filming in Southwark, beside the Thames a stones throw from the old Fire Station used in 'London's Burning'
Emma Montgomery and Glenn Taylor were two of those assisting the production. The affable and very capable duo Andrew Pavord and Karen Everett of Film Fixer were of course the Southwark reps making it happen for the production company on the borough.

Ironically only the location manager, Giles Edleston, Andrew, Karen and myself knew that they were making a movie about tunneling to commit a robbery of a million or so pounds and they were in reality stood quite literally fifty feet above two billion in gold as the location was across the narrow road from what was back then a massive covert vault disguised as a tatty warehouse.

From time to time local residents may object to the presence of a film unit but this was the only one where one used a forklift truck to attack the portable generator.

Something else to think about as a future project.