Now that I have written about the day I spent on the set being involved with the filming, I wanted to describe some things I noticed while I was simply watching. In total my husband and I were in Port Isaac renting a house at the top of Fore Street for 12 days. We arrived on a Monday and departed the Saturday of the next week. That means we were in Port Isaac for one weekend during which there was, of course, no filming. My day on the set was the first Wednesday we were there and that was extremely fortuitous because after that the weather became erratic to say the least.
We watched some filming on the Tues. after we arrived and I found the location of the so-called filming schedule. I would say two things about posting a schedule: 1. We learned quickly that no schedule could be followed because of the unpredictable nature of the weather, and 2. If they are filming in Port Isaac or Port Gaverne, it’s pretty obvious where they are because of the trucks, equipment and crew swarming around. We happened to be able to go to the top floor of the house we rented and look out across the harbour to Roscarrock Hill and see if anything was happening out there. If there wasn’t any sign of action, we could take a walk down the hill into the village and immediately tell if they were filming there OR we could walk down the other side of the hill into Port Gaverne and quickly see if there was filming going on below. It may be a courtesy to the town and the people who live and work there to post a schedule, but while we were there, and I venture to guess more than 50% of the time, the weather forces a change. I will confess that I exercise a lot and have no trouble walking up and down the steep streets of these adjacent towns; however, the towns are so small and compact that I think anyone could sweep the area in twenty minutes or less to figure out where the filming is taking place.
We were primed to watch 9 days of filming, but ended up with 6: Tues., Wed., Thurs., and the following Wed., Thurs., and Fri. There was no filming in town on the first Fri. for some unknown reason, perhaps filming indoors or taking a break, and the Mon. and Tues. after the weekend had monsoon type rain and wind, not to mention cold. When they resumed filming on Wed., they had to be very behind schedule for the outdoor shots. Even that Wed. was not a great day to be outside because the wind made us very chilly. That was the day from which you’ve probably seen many photos. The entire day was spent near and on the beach at Port Gaverne (and I use the term beach liberally here). I have some pictures to share from that day too, some of which I haven’t seen posted anywhere yet.
My general observation is that the choice of Port Isaac as a location may be scenic and charming, but is fraught with all sorts of challenges. Apart from the changeable weather and windy, cold temps throughout much of the filming period, PI seems to be a popular place for people to hike through and to enjoy for a day. The place was no ghost town on the weekends even though there is never any filming then. As I mentioned in my previous post, people come there with dogs and children and wander the narrow streets, walk along the coast path, eat ice cream, and enjoy the scenery. Then there are the vehicles that seem intent on driving though town no matter what the obstacles. On the first day we watched filming, there was a construction vehicle with a substantial size loader on its front that kept going up and down Roscarrock Hill while they were attempting to film a scene with ME, the nanny and the baby. (This was the scene in which the young teenager stands too close to JH’s stroller while looking at her mobile phone and ME taps her phone and angrily asks her what she wants.) There were plenty of people bunched together trying to watch and we all had to move out of the vehicle’s way each time they drove through the scene. The hill is narrow, steep and has very little cushioning on the side, but that didn’t bother these guys. At one point, they had to stop for the take to be shot and we all stood up against the vehicle in a precarious position. In addition, there is almost no phone reception. There were several times when I saw people who work on the show holding more than one phone and trying hard to find a place that would get reception. The crew uses two way radios to communicate with each other most of the time, and that’s true on many productions, but it’s especially necessary in PI. (We also had terrible radio reception in the car.) The selection of PI definitely tests the crew in many ways.
Since we were staying in Port Isaac, we went to other villages in the area during the days without filming. The other villages and towns were also filled with visitors, some more than others.
- Wadebridge: closest sizable town to PI and a good place to go for supplies. It has a pedestrian mall with several banks with ATMs, some shops, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.
- Delabole: a good place to wash our car and get gas. We got so much seagull bombing on the car that it was sometimes disagreeable to try to open the door. The town is inland and tiny, maybe one main street and not much else.
- Newquay: a surprisingly honky-tonk city with arcades, all sorts of stores selling beach wares because there is a decent beach once you walk past the conglomeration of places selling stuff. There is an airport just outside Newquay which makes it accessible as well as functional. It did not look to me like the airport used in S6E8.
- Tintagel: where there are the ruins of a castle and some nice views. This is definitely a tourist destination and tour buses swing through regularly.
- Boscastle: where there is a river flowing through the center of town, unless it’s low tide. It has a touristy feel to it because there is a designated parking area from which to take walks as well as several shops. It’s quite scenic though and I have now seen pictures from when they were filming there.
- Rock: where the houses are more upscale, there is a golf course and resort with the main Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant, and a lovely Bay to look at. We were lucky with the weather that day and enjoyed having a drink while sitting on the porch of the restaurant looking down at the Bay. This town is very close to PI.
- Truro: we actually saw this on our way to Bath but since it’s often mentioned in the show, it’s worth noting here. We checked out the hospital areas and did not determine which hospital was used for any of the outside shots. It has more stores and would be a place to shop.
I know we should have gone to Padstow and some other nearby towns, but we saw a lot.
At any rate, as you’ve read in many places, each scene is done many times over from various angles and that requires the runners and crew to keep herding the onlookers from one position to another. We couldn’t really complain since we were getting in their way and were a nuisance, but they must be feeling a mixture of flattery and frustration with all the onlookers. It’s also quite difficult to hear any of the dialogue. We weren’t that far away, but their voices aren’t that loud and the sound doesn’t carry that well. I think it’s pretty hard to put together what’s happening by seeing 2-3 minute takes during which you can’t really make out what’s being said. While we were there episode 5 was being filmed. We saw 6 days of that episode being filmed and I would still be guessing as to how they will arrange it all in the end. I have some ideas, but it remains to be seen if I made the correct deductions. I also think they filmed some scenes that will be eliminated during the editing phase. (Maybe that’s obvious!)
As you’ve read repeatedly, MC willingly allows people to take a picture with him whenever there is a break in the action. There was always an immediate rush to go through his receiving line to have him smile for each picture. He was always good natured about it. There was no such rush to have a picture with the nanny or JH or the teenager.
I noted that John Marquez had a very busy day on the Wednesday that I did the walk-on part. Well, following that long day, he had a four day weekend and a young woman who seemed to be his girlfriend arrived. By chance we kept bumping into them everywhere we went for the next two days. First we saw them in Wadebridge, then we went for a walk up Roscarrock Hill and saw them taking a selfie with PI in the background. I offered to take their picture for them and they accepted.
The Wednesday following the two days of heavy rain and wind found everyone in Port Gaverne. The first scene they attempted to film was of the BBQ in front of the police station. In this scene, Penhale has invited Al, Morwenna and Janice to the Police Station for an outdoor get together. This all sounds good until they tried filming it with the wind blowing and the temps hovering in the low 50s. The crew set up a wind screen to try to reduce the wind and the actors gamely made it look as though they were enjoying a nice, warm day when they were really freezing cold. The two young women were dressed in their summer attire, but kept their winter parkas and boots on as long as possible. The men made an effort to look warm too but also wore their coats as much as they could. Joe Absalom has a very short haircut at the moment and put his hood on regularly. Those of us crazy enough to be watching were also shivering, with the exception of some people for whom temps in the 50s feel warm. I think my right ear froze in the wind because I wasn’t wearing anything on my head! (Naturally we sacrificed for the event that we had traveled so far to see.)
The cold wind led to some problems with lighting the BBQ and I’m pretty sure they suspended filming it that day in favor of waiting for a better opportunity. But that gave me a chance to take a picture from the actor’s POV:
They then turned to filming scenes with Louisa, Martin and JH having a picnic at the beach. First they had to overcome a rivulet that made it difficult for the couple to walk across the beach to their destination. They decided they needed a few well-placed stepping stones to keep them from having wet feet.
Next came the filming of the two of them, Louisa carrying the picnic basket while Martin carries JH and the sand bucket. The plan was for Martin to notice some sunbathers as he walks past them with Louisa leading the way. Not only did these young ladies have to lie out in skimpy outfits, but also they had to appear to be having a lovely day at the beach. Martin can’t help but stop and (most likely) warn them of the dangers of too much sun. The hiccup was that every time Martin leaned over to talk to the nearest young lady, the baby he was carrying would start to cry. They tried it several times and leaning over did not suit the baby; he cried every time. At first Martin did as much as he could to comfort the little guy and they wrapped him in a blanket, but once he was settled down again and they could do another take, the same thing happened. I must say that Martin was very good with the baby. The young one just wasn’t having it.
The above will not be part of the episode. It was just MC soothing the baby. I don’t know if they will keep that segment in and allow JH to cry or have to ditch it.
Louisa has continued past the sunbathers and retraces her steps to extract Martin from lecturing them. It’s a scene reminiscent of so many from the past and totally in character for ME. For that reason, I hope they are able to include it. I saw that there were other scenes filmed on the beach that involved a teenager throwing a frisbee into the Ellingham family space and the Ellinghams attempting to eat something. I was not present for those scenes and will be interested to see what gets used.
Martin was at the beach the entire day, which gave us all lots of time to watch him. There’s no question that he is the main attraction and just about everyone coming to see the filming is most interested in taking pictures of him and with him. There’s also no doubt that he is well aware of this. My impression is that he is performing all the time, either as Martin Ellingham or as Martin Clunes. He has an uncanny ability to switch each of these characters on and off at will. Thus, when it’s time to rehearse and/or film, he snaps into his ME demeanor and satisfies the demands of filming. As soon as the take is over, he snaps into his MC persona and makes the most of where he is. It’s easy to see that he genuinely enjoys people and dogs (not necessarily in that order) and is making the most of the days he spends on the set.
In the case of being on the beach, he took treats from Dodger’s trainer and danced around with the dog seemingly unconcerned about getting paw prints or splatters on his pants, then he waved at all of us watching from behind the stone wall above, and at one point, he took out his own camera from the backpack he carries with him and started taking pictures of the crew, etc. He even had fun taking a selfie:
He also climbed the rocks that jutted out along the edge of the beach and joked around with Caroline Quentin and John Marquez. (If you see pictures of him jumping down from the rocks or otherwise messing around, you should know that those are not part of the show and just scenes of MC having fun.) They were rehearsing and filming the scene captured by many of Angela (CQ) acting like she sees something in the sky and then running into the ocean. Penhale (JM) runs after her asking ME if he should tase her but ultimately tackles her in the water. (That final part is done by stunt doubles and John Marquez expressed his appreciation by giving them a loud round of applause once they completed it. I’m sure he was very glad he didn’t have to fall into the water in those temps. I checked… the air temp was 50 F and so was the water temp.!!) Angela has been acting as though she sees things that aren’t there throughout her appearances and is probably having side effects from medication she’s taking.
It took a while for all of the beach scenes to be completed and, once again, the crew were exceptionally dedicated. Eventually the tide started to come in and they had to keep moving the equipment closer and closer towards town. I never stopped being impressed with the amount of energy they all had. They truly go non-stop, all day long.
The final two days of filming we were able to see had more to do with scenes of Louisa with students and a bit of Ruth with Bert. Thursday actually turned out to be a warmer, sunnier day and filming began on Dolphin St. where Ruth’s residence is. The street is not wide enough for cars, thank goodness, and Ruth’s house is on a fairly steep rise. We arrived there to find that the exterior of the house was wrapped with black sheathing.
Although it was morning, they were shooting a scene that is supposed to take place at night. As you can see, we were all in the dark and could not see what was going on. A little while later they took down the sheathing and we were able to watch Bert approach the door, knock on it, and talk to Ruth. What I heard him say was something like he wanted to come by before he left and thought she would appreciate him “doing something” (I couldn’t make out what). She responds in some way and then rather abruptly shuts the door on him while saying “Goodbye Bert.” He could have been suggesting another of his rather questionable proposals or any number of other things. She was clearly not interested. (I heard someone conjecture that ME must have been inside and slammed the door on Bert because that would be more typical of him, but there was absolutely no sign of MC and Ruth’s voice clearly pronounced the goodbye. I’d say this is how rumors get started.)
I had watched a scene with Ruth the previous week in which she was asked to walk towards the pharmacy carrying a couple of bags that seem to weigh her down. They tried that scene a variety of ways because Dame Eileen was not happy with her approach nor with where they situated the conversation between Ruth and Mrs. T. In the end, Ruth carries only one bag and does not appear nearly as worn out, then she walks in front of the pharmacy only to be confronted with Mrs. T. Mrs. T is in a tizzy because Clive has returned and she tells Ruth he wants to try again. The ever practical Ruth tells Mrs. T to talk to Clive and find out more from him. They toyed with the scene several times and I can’t say which version they will settle on. However, the way they adjusted the scene demonstrated how much the actors contribute to each scene, and the respect the director has for the actors’ intuitions.
Friday was Caroline Catz day. From early in the morning until late in the evening, CC was filmed in various locations. The day started out rather foggy, but filming began on Roscarrock Hill. I missed the very beginning. When I got over there, they were filming a segment that involved two students and their teacher lagging behind and needing to be urged along. They had the planets that figured in scenes throughout the day. It looked like the class was walking to a field perhaps where they might arrange the planets as a display for understanding their relationship to each other (?). (Again that’s pure speculation on my part.) Eventually we watched as Headmistress Ellingham led the way holding a large orange sphere in one hand and a student’s hand in the other as the class heads up the hill. Part way up she turns to talk to the teacher bringing up the rear. I would imagine that we’ll see the two students with the teacher at that point. My sense was that they were using Roscarrock Hill without any reference to actually walking by the surgery building. This is also speculation, but there seemed to be no relationship to being in the vicinity of the surgery as they walked up the hill. I know you’ve seen pictures from this scene, but I’ll throw in one of mine:
Later the filming resumed at the schoolhouse where the students were supposed to be playing on their hard surface playground and then line up to walk from there with the planets. Basically, the day was scenes filmed in reverse order. Here they are ready to depart from the schoolyard:
Having observed Caroline Catz as she negotiates the filming of her scenes, I have to say that she seems to be a serious actor who probably needs to stay within her character while working. I can’t say this unequivocally, but I would imagine that it’s more typical of actors to tune out distractions so that they can present their best work. The working conditions in PI place actors extremely close to the onlookers, and some of those onlookers have no hesitations about talking to the actors. One rather disturbing incident my husband witnessed was during a scene when Louisa and Martin are headed down an alley that spills out into the harbour area. Louisa is carrying the picnic basket that she later brings to the beach and Martin is walking behind her pushing JH in the stroller. As they left the alley and came around the corner one rude man loudly said to Caroline, “You don’t need to be so angry.” This was totally inappropriate and rather obnoxious. She’s in character, forced to walk into a crowd, and then he thinks it’s ok to berate her or taunt her. Enough of those sorts of experiences and anyone would want to be shielded. It’s a sad fact that women need to be more careful than men when surrounded by strangers. Caroline may also be less of an extrovert than MC, but she makes plenty of appearances at all sorts of events. She is simply more private and less interested in working the crowd. Even so, she’s a good sport and does have her picture taken with fans quite often.
It was really interesting to watch how they handle all of the features of the village and accommodate the fans while doing their best to get the filming accomplished. I live in a city in NC (Wilmington) that has had many TV shows and movies filmed in it. It’s not a big city, but it’s much larger than Port Isaac. Plus we have a Screen Gems studio here for indoor scenes and many places around town that are converted into various settings. They often block off streets for filming and alert us that we might hear gunfire or other noises and not to be alarmed. TV shows “Sleepy Hollow” and “Under the Dome” have been filmed here recently; “One Tree Hill” and “Dawson’s Creek” were filmed here for many years. But our area is so much more spread out and quite a bit larger that I’m sure the film crews are not nearly as under pressure as the crew working on DM. They not only work together all day, but they also live with each other in and around modest and remote PI. I know most of the actors live there too while filming. I can only give them a standing ovation for managing it all for close to half a year.
Originally posted 2015-06-28 09:56:24.