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The making of A Fisherman's Tale

Trawler in trouble.

I've just returned from the Guernsey Lily Festival where A Fisherman's Tale won awards for Best Documentary and Third Best Film. The 12 minute movie records the events of Monday 22 September, 1999, when a small trawler got into difficulties in heavy seas off the beach at Hastings.

I've been overwhelmed by people's reactions........."I was on the edge of my seat." High praise indeed, but it's been said many times, even by judges.

So how did I create this masterpiece of tension?

I was lucky.

Rescue boat

I just happened to be on the beach with my camera when the drama unfolded. In less than two hours I had recorded the events, the cuts-away, four interviews and the wild-track sound.

I feel extremely guilty at this lack of endeavour compared to the Herculean efforts of Tim Jones' 12 minute stop-frame animation Greenhouses, and Darren Lalonde's 30 minute drama Life Goes On, placed Second and Fourth at Guernsey.

I don't feel quite so guilty about the overall winner, Nardo a 12 minute drama by Douglas Boswell of Belgium. Why? It can't be that he's young and good looking, because so are Darren and Tim, (and most of the civilised world, compared to me, come to think of it ....) It must be that Douglas used a good percentage of the population of Belgium as cast and crew.

So, I've got the footage cheaply, nearly an hour of it. How do I cut that down to 12 minutes of watchable video.

I was lucky, again.

Skipper: Paul Joy

I sent my shot-logging tape (a VHS copy of the camera tapes with visible time-code) to Paul Joy, a trawler skipper, and Tush Hamilton from the RNLI, who recorded their expert commentary onto audio cassette. Paul and Tush were in radio contact with the stricken trawler, and with each other, as the events unfolded. Now I knew what the problems were, and how theyhad planned to overcome them. I also learned that, by concentrating on the launch of the lifeboat, that I had completely missed something quite significant happening to the trawler.

No excuses here! There were at least a dozen fishermen on the beach who would have explained what was going on. But I didn't ask them. I'll know next time, but then a man who never made a mistake never made anything.

The film started to come together when I transcribed Paul and Tush's commentary. The interviews, recorded immediately after the event, told most of the story, and by the time I'd finished logging my shots I knew exactly how the film would cut together. All I had to do was add an introduction, make Paul and Tush's words into a voice-over and put the interviews in the right place. The only changes I subsequently made to my "pencil edit" were to cut out a couple of shots of another trawler landing (good shots, too - but the pace increased without them), and to start the voice of a "talking head" shot over the live action he was describing.

Crashing in the surf

The music over the titles at the beginning and end was by the guitar and fiddle duo "Four Poster Bed", used with permission, but it didn't feel right to try and heighten the drama with background "high-tension" music, although I had to do something about the wind noise, it sounded like thunder. In the end I used no "live" sound at all, even the interviews were recorded onto mini-disc with a tie-clip mic'.

The "added" sound was taken from some footage I'd shot the day before when there was hardly any wind, just the sound of the waves breaking on the beach. Perfect! I liked it so much I started the film with a few seconds of wave sound over a black screen. I even put a countdown clock at the start so the projectionist wouldn't miss the "audio-only" start. Some hope!

- Brian Hazelden.

My thanks to Brian for responding quickly and positively to my request for information on how he made this fascinating, engrossing, film. Thanks also to him for the stills. (Dave Watterson).


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Page updated on 09 October 2011
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