About the unseen clips

The first thing you should know is that nothing on the DVD appears on this website. The purpose of the website is to complement the DVD and encourage visitors to support the Wildlife Trust by buying the disc. You won’t see any spoilers here and you shouldn’t consider the use of this website as a substitute for watching the DVD. You won’t see any of the official film here. Buy the DVD to enjoy The Great Fen Spitfire Excavation.

The clips here have not been through the full post-production process, so they might not be colour-corrected and on some of them the sound is not great. The sound and image quality of the DVD is better than the clips you will see here.

In most cases, the sole reason for not including sequences was in order to keep within the agreed running time of the main feature. It’s important to say that all the interviewees featured on this website did a great job and I really regret not being able to keep everything in the final version of the film. This is just a normal part of film-making but it doesn’t make it any easier to drop great contributors.

In one or two cases I, the film-maker, made mistakes and the quality of image or audio fell below an acceptable standard. I will explain the reasons for this in the text accompanying the the unseen clips, not as excuses but to help other film-makers to avoid my mistakes.

Making The Great Fen Spitfire Excavation film

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When producer Louise Rackham asked me to pitch for the opportunity to film the excavation in 2015 it felt like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.

I put together a proposal that had me doing the work for next to nothing, using language that ranged from ‘gushing’ to ‘desperate’.

Louise was persuaded by my enthusiasm for the project, talked some sense into me over the budget and hired me. I wonder if she regrets that decision now?

The original plan was to simply film the week-long dig but I got a bit carried away and offered to add some off-site interviews. Then I bought some archive footage from the Imperial War Museum and the project started to really take off.

What became known as ‘part one’ was completed in time for a Great Fen event in April 2016 and the film was so well-received that we took the decision to carry on filming, making a ‘part two’ about the processing of the excavated aircraft parts and including interviews with the newly discovered relatives of the pilot killed in the crash.

Parts one and two came together into one film in the autumn of 2016 after the dedication of a memorial stone to the pilot, placed close to the crash site, but not before a shorter version of part one won ‘best documentary’ at the St Neots Film Festival.

As I write this the DVD of The Great Fen Spitfire Excavation is on sale via the Wildlife Trust BCN website for just £6.00. That’s an incredible deal. I was paid to make the film and create a DVD that is designed to generate income for the Wildlife Trust. I don’t get any money from disc sales; all that revenue goes towards the great work of the trust.

So click here (or on one of the many other ‘buy’ links around the site) and get yourself a DVD. The disc has a 43-minute feature version of the documentary, a 20-minute film of the memorial stone dedication ceremony and two superb photo galleries featuring shots by the official Great Fen photographers Mark Williams and Matt Lodge.

Enjoy the film and then come back here and read all about what it was like working on it. I’ll be posting some of the wonderful sequences that didn’t make it into the final edit. There’s already an alternative intro and over time I will be adding an alternative ending, interviews where I messed up the sound, and a clip of a lovely old man singing a song from his childhood (where I didn’t mess up the sound).

I want this to be a place for conversation, so these updates will be like blog posts, giving you the opportunity to comment. If you like the film, come back and tell us why. If you were on the dig and want to reminisce about it, we’d love to be back in touch. If you’re a Spitfire enthusiast or a keen film-maker, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to interest you.

Producer Louise has just read on Facebook that I’m doing all this. I think she might be worried…

 

2016 St Neots Film Festival – best documentary

 

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When producer Louise Rackham first commissioned me to make the film of The Great Fen Spitfire Excavation, she asked me how we might get it into a festival. I hadn’t a clue.

I created the first half-hour film about the week of the dig in time for a Great Fen event in April 2016 and assumed Louise had forgotten all about her festival ambitions.

Then in the summer I spotted a call for entries to a new film festival just down the road from the Great Fen, in the lovely market town of St Neots.

Festival organiser Melina was looking for films shorter than 20 minutes, so I made a few cuts and sent her the video file. The months passed and I heard nothing, so again I assumed the festival idea had slipped away.

So when I got an email from Melina saying that the film had been selected to be shown at the multiplex cinema during the festival week 7-11 November 2016, I was surprised and thrilled. Really thrilled.

Documentary evening was Thursday 10 November so I went along to watch my film on the big screen, along with some very accomplished other films. Not least, this from Adrian Storey:

You can imagine how amazed I was to be announced as the ‘winner’.

I’m not sure how I feel about film-making (or any creative pursuit, for that matter) being a competitive sport, but I won’t pretend I’m not very proud of the accolade.

An alternative intro

When we considered producing two episodes of the film, this sequence was one of the proposed intros to part two. I needed visuals to accompany the Radio 4 broadcast and threw together this breakfast sequence to show the producer. She wasn’t keen.

The very first words spoken by John Humphries are a slick edit of three different broadcasts. I found separate clips of him saying the day, the month and the date so that I could recreate the date one year on (when the 5th of October wasn’t a Monday).

Maxey Stacey sings

One of the young boys to witness the crash of the Spitfire in 1940 was Maxey Stacey, life-long resident of the village of Holme.

In December 2015 I was joined by the Great Fen’s Mandy Corney and we went along to interview Maxey at his home.

We enjoyed a lovely couple of hours in his company and I got more great footage than I could ever use, including these priceless few moments:

You can hear Albert Whelan sing Maxey’s song in a recording made in 1931 here: