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Charles Crichton: BECTU Interview Part 4 (1987)

Making programmes and differences shooting TV series and feature films

Main image of Charles Crichton: BECTU Interview Part 4 (1987)

The copyright of this recording and transcript is vested in the BECTU History Project. Charles Crichton was interviewed by Sid Cole with Alan Lawson in 1987.

1. Black Beauty

CC: Black Beauty was fun. I enjoyed it. I mean, again we needed the money. The idea of shooting Black Beauty, remembering the book, absolutely horrified me. Alright I've do it, I need the money but we had a bloody nice time, I enjoyed it.

SC: Of course it wasn't anything like the book.

CC: It was nothing to do with the book.

SC: But it was very nice because we had this marvelous location down near Rickmansworth which after all is only 18 miles or something out of London, with a farm. That farm was very good because you had that 3-1 place, you had a 360 view of nothing but countryside, although it was just outside Rickmansworth. And the kids were nice, it was all about kids.

CC: And the stories were mostly good.

SC: The stories were quite good and we went on what two years on that which was very pleasant.

CC: Bill Lucas said at the end you know it's become a way of life and it's very funny to be deprived of it.

SC: Because we used the house as offices and also for shooting. So any moment you'd get turned out of your office in order for a scene to be shot there. It did become a sort of a way of life. It was very pleasant. Tell me about The Avengers. When you were on it, was it Honor Blackman? No, Diana Rigg? But they were fun too weren't they?

CC: Yes, they were good. I mean the schedules on those things were always too tight but apart from that

SC: They were standard, the half hour ones would be five days.

CC: That's right.

SC: And the hour ones... although as I remember on the whole series we would always go a few days altogether with second unit stuff and extra shooting and so on. Did you feel when you started doing those TV series did you feel you were to some extent slumming after features?

CC: It's a difficult question. I'd been slumming on features after all. [Laughter]

SC: The ones that you didn't really want to do.

CC: There was always, provided the story was OK, even sometimes provided the story wasn't OK, there was always the interest of doing the best one possibly could with the material, which is always interesting.

SC: Sure. Yes.

2. Shooting TV series versus films

SC: Did you find any great difference between doing features and doing television series?

CC: No, shooting with one camera, as far as I'm concerned the technique is exactly the same. Usually there's one right place for a camera and anyway we were working on film after all and we weren't using multiple cameras or anything like that.

SC: On multiple cameras one only used in terms of fights. The Charge of the Light Brigade or something, otherwise you're quite right, the point of film is that there's one place to put the camera. And the same thing is true of whether you're working on film for television or film for a feature.

CC: And you've done much more than I have so you must know.

SC: Well they were always on film the things I did. It's interesting, when tape came in originally all those years ago there was a feeling that tape was going to supersede film and in fact it hasn't. Did you have any experience of tape?

CC: Very, very little. My problem with tape would always be the editing. Because you haven't got that touch that you have when you've got film in your hands. Backwards and forwards and all that kind of thing, you're not touching it.

AL: You can find the exact frame on film.

CC: Yes.

SC: You still can't really on tape can you?

AL: No, you can paint stuff on it. [Laughter]

CC: If you want to look at another shot so you have to whiz forward, and then, I can't explain it. Its like a sculptor not being able to handle his clay.

SC: Yes, there's something in between you.

AL: In fact you can't break it down and hang it up in the bin.

SC: I'm sure you felt that way Charles when you first became an editor. Certainly it was true for me, I think you'd agree the first moment I actually handled the stuff, 35mm film in the hand, making movies which I'd adored in theory before, became absolutely real to me, because this is what Chaplin and Eisenstein and everybody worked on. Did you feel that when you first became an editor?

CC: No, I don't think so but I do feel that film is much easier to handle than tape.

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Crichton, Charles (1910-1999)