Robert Khodadad

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Film Director, Granada TV.

When I started on Coronation Street it’s quite a strange sensation working in through the doors of Stage One. I was born and grew up in south Manchester, just six miles down the road from Granada, and I remember as a five year old watching television with the family. We used to watch Coronation Street and I never in my wildest dreams thought that maybe thirty years later I would be working in through the doors to direct it. It is one of those programmes that is greater than any one individual who might be working on it. So many programmes are born and produced by one or two key individuals who then stay with it through the life of the programme. The thing about Coronation Street is it’s perpetual, it keeps going by its own success and popularity. It is a part of British culture and that’s why I think it’s far greater than any one individual.

The other thing about walking into Coronation Street for the first time and it can be quite daunting even as a director where you’ve worked with a lot of well known people in the past, when you walk into the Green Room of Coronation Street for the first time and you see the thirty or so actors who you’ve seen on the screen for years all sat there together, it can be unnerving and it can be quite daunting. They’re just ordinary human beings like the rest of us but even as a director although you get desensitized to stars to walk into the room for the first time and see thirty of the most famous people in British culture and a big percentage of them who were very prominent even in my own childhood, it’s quite an interesting experience.

As a director at any one time when there were four episodes there were four directors on the Street so we were all in different stages of production. When there were only three episodes there were three directors. Because Coronation Street is a bit like a merry-go-round, it’s constantly in production, if there were three episodes on screen fifty two weeks of the year, one director is in the stage of pre-production, another director is in the process of shooting, another one is in the process of post-production and the fourth director is in-between post-production and pre-production. For the actors it’s slightly more difficult. At least as a director you get some breathing space, albeit very little. You basically direct a week’s worth, or a block as we call it was three episodes worth and eventually became four episodes worth. You would start with location filming which would take place Sunday and Monday. Tuesday morning you would block the episodes in the studio. Having worked on the scripts already as a director you plan exactly where everybody is going to be in every scene and you plan on how you’re going to shoot it so you actually do a physical plan, that’s done in your prep time. When you actually go on the set to block it you show the actors where they’re going to stand. You don’t do any rehearsing, you just literally say ‘You’re going to be there, you’re going to be there, the camera’s going to be here’ and you would probably just have a quick run-through the scene and that’s it you move on. There wasn’t any rehearsing, it was just so the actors, the lighting people and some of the other technical staff knew where physically everybody had to be. Tuesday afternoon we started rehearsals so you really had to run through that blocking very quickly because you had three scripts worth to get through in the morning. In the afternoon you would start the rehearsal with the actors with lines. Wednesday you would rehearse and then you’d have a tech run where you ran the episodes in the right order continuously on the set for the producer and all the other technical staff that weren’t party to the blocking. Thursday and Friday we would record the show. Over the two days you would record the studio stuff for three episodes. The location stuff had already been done. It had to happen, If my mum sitting at home switches the television on on a Wednesday at 7.30 to watch Coronation Street she doesn’t want to be told there is no episode because Robert was slow. It always had to be finished by around 7pm in the evening.

The biggest pressure then and even now in directing and particularly programmes like the Street, the biggest pressure and your biggest enemy is time. The biggest pressure isn’t ‘Are the actors behaving themselves? Is the scene working? Is the episode working? Are the performances right? Is the camera shot working? Are the crew working well together? Am I going to work up with some decent television?’ all those factors come into it but your biggest pressure that’s working against you is time. And when you go into that studio the obvious difference between working on location and working in the studio is that location is shot single camera in the same way a normal film drama is shot so if we’ve got two actors in a scene in a coffee bar you’ll shoot all of actor A’s lines and then you turn the camera round and shoot all of actor B’s lines and they’ll be put together in the edit. The difference with the studio is that it’s shot multi-camera, ie two or three cameras all recording simultaneously so you can do the actions and reactions all at the same time. By shooting multi-camera it is very efficient in some ways and it creates a whole host of problems in other ways but the thing about the time element is that in the studio you always knew which actors and which scenes were your bankers, those that you knew you could rely on and there were those that you were always concerned about because some actors can walk into the studio and be super efficient. They will know their lines from day one of rehearsal, some of the actors will know every line and have it word perfect. Some of the other actors by the time you go into studio to record it still don’t know their lines. So that was one element. The other factor to take into account is which actors are working with which others because you could have one actor who is absolutely superb with their lines and one actor who isn’t so good with their lines and you knew that that scene could potentially take a lot longer. Also it’s the complexity of the scene and how you’re going to shoot it. So you always thinking in your mind, you have a 1st assistant and a PA who are constantly telling you. We allot so many minutes of shooting time to each page of script irrespective of how complex that script is so as you’re shooting you have to know in your mind ‘I know they’ve allotted fifteen minutes to shoot this scene but it’s a very, very complicated scene therefore I know it’s going to take me a lot longer’ so straightaway you could be ten minutes over on the schedule but you have to keep an idea in the back of your mind that you’re got to make that ten minutes up later on. You’re always thinking ahead and you’re looking towards the end of the day knowing that ‘Okay I know I’ve run over on this one but I know I can make time up on the other because I’ve got two very good actors or actresses who will come in and they will do it and within two takes we’ll probably get it.’ So that’s your biggest enemy,

time and even more so when we went to four episodes.

Effectively Coronation Street is run over a maximum working week, it works six days a week in production and if it wasn’t for the fact that you use the same actors it could work seven days a week by changing your crew around but the actors have to have a day off. For the actors, it’s very, very, very tough. They could have a location scene to do at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning which means they may have been in make-up from seven which means they may have been called for six thirty in the morning. They will be expected on the set at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. They will have to know their lines. The difference with the location stuff is that there is no rehearsal. We effectively go on the set wherever the location is, it could in a school hall, it could be in a library, it could be in a church and we will block it, rehearse it and shoot it almost immediately. So the actors and actresses will have no time to go away and learn their lines. When they go in a Sunday morning they have to know their lines for all the scenes they’re doing that day and that’s true of a Monday as well. So they’re working Sunday, Monday. Tuesday they’re blocking. Tuesday afternoon they’ve got time to rehearse and learn their lines as they have on Wednesday. And on Thursday and Friday it’s record so they have Saturday off. So they could have had last scene on a Friday and they could be in first scene again on the Sunday. But they finish Friday exhausted and they have three more episodes for next week to get their heads round.

I’ve worked with actors and actresses that they’ve had a very heavy storyline and they are in a huge number of scenes in every episode over a number of weeks. So Friday night they are absolutely exhausted and come Sunday morning they’ve got a make-up call at six-thirty and they’re on the set at eight o’clock and they could have a whole day’s filming and the difference is there’s no breathing space. They have to know their lines on a Sunday.

Exterior shots of the Street are done on single camera, even on the Lot itself. One of the problems that Granada inherited was the success of the Granada Studios Tour. One of the main reasons for visiting the tour was Coronation Street so all of a sudden whilst the Lot was purpose built for the programme it now had tens of thousands of tourists walking round it so it had to be carefully scheduled so that we could go and do all the location filming. There are certain times on certain days when either the tours is closed or we work around each other.

During my period on the Street one of the main changes was going to four episodes per week which effectively if you said it took six working days to make three episodes and you worked flat out it now was going to take six working days and you had to make four episodes. So if you were working flat out before, where did that extra time come from? The answer to that came from being even more efficient than we previously were. It came from the schedule being run slightly differently. We still shot all the location stuff on a Sunday and a Monday and we still blocked on a Tuesday but what went was the tech run that we ran for the producer which could take half a day. So we inherited half a day but we lost the tech run. The tech run was quite an important things because at the end of it when we ran all the three episodes that the writers would attend and we would make an adjustments or any changes that weren’t quite working and any episode that was running over we would make the cuts then, we lost that. Really what happened was that the scripts had to be a little bit stricter after they were written. When you went on to the set to shoot the scripts they had to be slightly tighter scripts. You had to know that they were going to run pretty much to time whereas the advantage of the tech run was that every scene was timed and we could say at the end of it, this episodes four minutes over, which scenes shall we potentially cut and that’s when a lot of the cuts were made. So we had to be a little bit more accurate. If you over-record by three scenes you’ve used up a lot of studio time which might not end up in any episode which was a waste of resources and time when you’re already short of time. When we used to do three episodes a week, we would have episodes that were two and three minutes over which would require firm editing. As you’re recording, the PA is not only telling you whether you’re on schedule, they’re also telling you how the episode is running in terms of time. Every scene goes through several stages of timing, when it’s written, when it’s blocked in the studio, when it’s rehearsed, at the tech run and when you actually record it. That’s five stages of timings. A scene that may be a couple of minutes long can spread by 50% between reading the script off the page and actually recording it. Now if any scene ran over by 50% then you would end up with an episode which was three-quarters of an hour long. You can’t just chop stuff out willy-nilly because hopefully every scene that’s written is important, there’s a reason for it being there. You also have the added problem that if you drop a scene, have you dropped a character from the episode? There are certain contractual reasons that actors and actresses are in a certain number of episodes. If you drop that scene and drop them from the episode, it gives the producer a potential problem administratively. It’s extremely difficult. The whole machine is so complex and the whole machine of characters, are characters available, who’s in which episode, even the order the scenes are recorded in. We don’t record the scenes in programme order. What we do is take a block of scenes. For example if we’ll try a do the scenes in the Rovers in blocks, we’ll do eight Rovers scenes and then we’ll move to another location and do maybe three Kabin scenes. But the actual scheduling of the order in which we do the scenes is highly complex and involved and it has to take into account make-up changes, because you could record a scene for Monday’s episode and then the next scene you’re planning on recording is for Wednesday’s episode so you’ve got costume changes, make-up changes, character changes, lighting changes, a huge number of changes. It’s also a little bit unfair if you call an actor in at 8 o’clock in the morning to do one scene and their next scene and last scene of the day is at seven o’clock in the evening. A lot of the actors live in London so if they’ve come up just to do that scene then what do they do all day? They have to hang around. Similarly if you give them the first scene on a Thursday and the first scene on a Friday then they’re not going to be very happy. All of that has to be taken into account as well. Once the PA has set the schedule you will always get actors calling up saying ‘Look I’ve got a real problem with this. I want to get back to London for Friday night and you’ve put me in last scene on a Friday, it’s going to be impossible.’ That has a knock-on effect, if you pull that scene up it then affects another actor.

The timing of the programme is a very strict about 24’30 for thirty minutes because you’ve got to account for commercial breaks and the titles and credits at the end and the break bumpers. there is a little bit of latitude maybe literally about eight or nine seconds but that’s about it unless you get special permission for an over-run. But an over-run is a matter of seconds. So the programme has to come out pretty much on time, give or take a couple of seconds. With drama that’s not so easy. With documentary you can say ‘Okay we’ll just trim eight seconds off that music sequence and take out a GV’. With the Street or with any drama every shot or every line of dialogue has a value and a meaning. There are certain scenes often identified by the writers as cuttable. A writer would send in the script and once it was timed, as the director you would go back to the writer and say ‘Look this is running a minute or two’ and give the writer the chance to cut some scenes. It might mean re-writing some of the others to accommodate them. It’s very embarrassing thought when you go to the writer and you say ‘This is running a minute or two over’ and they cut some scenes and you record the whole programme and you find you’re thirty seconds under. That is difficult. Somehow you always do it. Don’t ask me how but sometimes you are in the edit, you cut the episode, it’s two and a half minutes over. I’ve had an episode that was four minutes over and you think ‘Where the hell are we going to pull this time out of?’ but you always manage it somehow.

The biggest technical change that became an advantage to the Street was the introduction of non-linear editing. When you shoot on film, you shoot your scenes and all the film is spliced together and you could look at the programme and it’s 35 minutes long and you say ‘We need to make it 30 minutes long’. So you can run through the film and just extract sections from the film by literally cutting them out and joining the two remaining ends together and you shorten the film. One of the problems that video always suffered from was that in order to edit video you transfer like an audio tape the sound and vision from one tape to another and you building it up in linear mode. Unlike film, you can’t then go and extract an eight second segment from the middle of it. In order to do that you’ve either got to start your edit again from a point at which you want to lose that scene or you have to transfer the whole programme down another generation to extract the section you want. If that’s one section that’s fine. If you want to extract eight seconds from one bit, two seconds from another bit, little bits here and there it makes it a very cumbersome long-winded process and also to go down another generation degrades the quality. The introduction of non-linear editing which has become the norm now in the last seven or eight years. All the videotape is transferred onto the hard drive of a computer and the whole thing is assembled, sound and pictures in the same way as modern day word processing. So if you want to drop a scene, you mark the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ and cut and the computer will just cut it. What that has done is introduced the traditional film-making techniques into programmes like Coronation Street. The whole basis of making films was ‘Let’s have a look at (what we used to call) the rough cut. Which bits not working? Well let’s take that out. Let’s move the scene around, put that dialogue before that dialogue’. You couldn’t do that with video in the past. You used to go into the edit and you had to come out with a thirty minute episode and that wasn’t easy. Nowadays you can go in, have your rough cut and you can say ‘Look why don’t we just transpose those two scenes’ and you click on two buttons and the two scenes will just be transposed for you. Or ‘Let’s pull four seconds out from here, a little bit from there’, click, click, click, it’s all done. What you have done and what you do lose by having that wonderful editing system is the thinking time. As a director what used to happen was whilst the film editor was taking the film out and splicing it and getting it all back in sync again may have taken 30, 45 seconds to do that and it gave you a chance to put your head in the script and see what you were going to do next. You’ve lost that thinking time now. If you say to the editor ‘Let’s just lose that scene’, it’s literally two clicks of a mouse and it’s gone. You see it instantly and if you don’t like it you can undo it. It is marvellous, it’s speeded up the process and it has introduced what is effectively a film-making technique into modern multi-camera video production. And it’s made it a more creative challenge, it’s technical and it’s creative. The other advantage of this system is that previously what used to happen in a multi-camera shoot in the studio your vision mixer cut your whole scene together so that when you came out of the studio, your scene was effectively recorded and finished, each scene was finished. The job of the editor was to bolt together the scenes. What we can do now, and what a lot of directors do, is instead of having a multi-camera finished product, what they will come out with is one video tape recorder is recording the output from the vision mixer which will be the cut scene on one video tape. But now with the advent of very light weight video recorders and the fact that we’ve got more of them, you might take the output of one other camera and have just the output of that camera recorded on another tape. The difference between shooting multi-camera as opposed to single camera is that when you shoot single camera and you’re on each individual actor separately you get wonderful reactions that might occur when they’re on an off line, when another actor’s has got a line. With traditional multi-camera shooting you miss those reactions because you don’t know they’re coming and even the actors don’t know they’re coming. By having an iso-camera on a multi-camera shoot you can record those reactions and with the modern editing system, the non-linear system, all the cameras and videos are time-code locked so very quickly you can just search out the reaction of one characters at that particular time that you want to see it. So it allows you to be more creative.

I think the Street is conservative in the way that it is shot and it always has been. There’s always been a traditional way in the Street. What I tried to do, because we were going through a process of change, I think when Brian Park came on as producer. I think there was a feeling from myself and a few of the other the other people round me that the approach to the Street was very traditional and was a little bit turgid in the way it was shot. And this traditional camera set-up where you’d have perhaps one camera giving you a wide shot and two other cameras giving you close-ups and you would go between the three gave you a certain feel and a certain style that is very commonly associated with soaps. But I think soaps have moved on a little bit and if you take a programme like ‘The Bill’ which is ostensibly a soap, it’s all shot single camera and it’s shot on the move and it’s shot hand-held. It’s still shot to a formula but it’s a little bit more adventurous and a little bit more interesting than the traditional way of shooting a soap. What I tried to do and a couple of directors who were working at the time was to get rid of one of the cameras. What I wanted to try and create was a single camera feel to a multi-camera shoot and what we did was, I reduced it to two cameras and had a feed off each camera to a separate video tape which were time-code locked and if we had a two-handed scene with two actors talking to each other we recorded in a film-style shoot but each actor had their own camera. So that when we went into the edit we could cut between the two if we needed to and we had every reaction from every actor throughout the scene. That wasn’t possible with the old style of editing. It’s only the new non-linear editing system, namely Avid or Lightworks, which allowed you to do that.

I think during my time what I have seen the storylines get a bit more risqué. If you take the story of Hayley and Roy, the concept of having a transsexual on Coronation Street maybe as early as ten years ago would have been horrific to most of our viewers.   I think it was Brian Park’s idea to introduce this but he took a risk on it, it was a calculated risk, but it worked very well. I think the other changes were the acknowledgment that it needs to appeal to a wider and potentially younger audience. I think as you will see now a lot of the younger members of the cast are very much in the public eye and they have an association with the Street but they have almost a separate career outside the Street, whether it’s a pop record or a modelling career or some such occupation which throws them into the public eye a little bit more. I think that has been a big change, the awareness of the appetite for the younger audience which if we go back fifteen years ago it wasn’t so much the younger members of the cast that were the prominent ones, the ones in the public eye, whereas now you see them on the front covers of many magazines. If you look in the book shelves and the magazine racks of any shop now you may see four or five of the young Coronation Street cast on the front covers of magazines in any one week. I think the Street has lost quite a few of what were the fabulous characters. I think some of the key characters that were there and had been there for many years were a sad loss to the Street, people like Bet, Hilda Ogden, Alec Gilroy, even the characters like Reg Houldsworth who now I see is returning, but these were great characters. Like them or loath them they were great characters and to be a successful soap there have to be those characters you loath as well as love. That’s important and whilst a lot of people say ‘I don’t like that character’ they still watch the programme. They do need to have need to not like a character. I don’t know that a lot of the younger characters coming in are as strong characters as some of the older ones.

The changes have been good and bad. What they’ve done is that by introducing a lot of younger people they’ve opened up the potential audience base and opened it up to younger people. Younger people can identify that little bit more with the programme. I think that in terms of soap and pure characterisation and pure humour, they are a loss. One thing I think the Street has lost , When I used to talk to a lot of people about the Street, they used to say the one thing about the Street is its humour, its comedy. It’s very subtly done but it’s comedy and I think it has lost a big element of that. Inevitably when you knew a scene was coming up with Reg and Curly you knew it was going to be funny. You looked forward to it because you knew it was going to be a humorous scene because the characters worked so well against each other. Or again with Bet and Alec there was a certain chemistry there, a certain on-screen chemistry, that you can never design. You can only hope for it and when it works, it works superbly and whether Alec and Bet were being serious with each other or comical with each other, their scenes would always work. I don’t know that you get that kind of chemistry from a lot of the younger, newer characters. That’s not to put them down and you could argue that it takes many years to build up that on-screen chemistry which is fine but I think you have to be careful not to dilute some of the very good characters too much or too soon.

There was one scene in particular, it was actually a fight scene and it was between Des Barnes and Alex, Tanya’s boyfriend. He found out that she’d been having an affair with Des and you knew over a number of episodes that this was going to build up but what we had to do was the fight scene where the two of them came tumbling down the stairs from the flat above the café and the fight broke into the café itself. We talked about how we were going to do this and often with soaps and other drama one of the key ways of making something like that more dramatic and more realistic is to shoot it a number of times, to put a couple of cameras on it and try to give the thing the pace and energy in the edit and give it a realism through the speed of the cutting, the tightness of the shots. What I decided to do was to try to give it a realism in itself and do it all on one shot which is almost going back a stage but I thought if these two characters can pull it off it will seem very real. This is going to be one long shot and there will be no edits in it. I think that if the audience has a scene that’s got lots of cuts in it you accept that as being drama but I think even your colleagues and those who are watching it think ‘You’ve done a pick-up shot there, you’ve set up each part of the scene, shot it separately and put it together in the edit’. What I wanted to do was to shoot the whole thing as one continuous scene. So we brought in a stuntman to stage this and we basically blocked the scene very slowly and set very specific angles where they would throw punches at each other, obviously they don’t throw real punches but if you put your camera in a certain position it will appear that one actor has punched another, particularly if you add sound on to it later. What we had to do was make sure every time a punch was thrown it was thrown at the right angle for the camera. This was quite a long fight scene, this was going to run for maybe a minute, which in screen time and in terms of punching each other was quite a long time. And the spoons and the forks were all going to be knocked off the top, and they were going to tussle and fall on the table and fall on the floor. So we brought in a stuntman and we rehearsed it and we blocked it very slowly, imagine walking through the whole thing slow motion. We’d run it for about four seconds and then say ‘Right at this point, Phil, (who plays Des), your hand has got to come off the counter top and knock the spoons off.’ The whole thing was also shot in subdued light because it was night-time. We’d do it in slow motion and then we’d rehearse it and block it one stage faster. One of the big problems was that they really were physically falling on tables and on the floor and normally you would use a stuntman to stand in for the actors. Both actors were very keen to do it for themselves and I was very keen to show that we weren’t using stand-ins or stuntmen which would have made it more difficult to film except that is one of the advantages of being able to put it together in the edit, if Des Barnes falls back then you cut to a close-up of a body landing on a table, you assume it’s his. By doing the whole thing in one shot, it definitely was his. When we came to do the scene we gave both actors quite a bit of padding underneath their clothes and the first time we were going to go for it real was the first time we were going to shoot it. We knew that potentially they could only do this about twice because after that they would be battered and bruised. While they weren’t really thumping each other, they were falling on tables and everything was for real. We came to do the scene, set up for it and we went for it and they went for it in a big way and it looked absolutely superb and we got the whole thing in one take. It looked very effective on the screen. The next day the pair of them limped in because even though they were acting, just from that one scene they felt a bit battered and bruised.

Another memorable time on the Street was when I went to Amsterdam with Hayley and Roy, 97 or 98. It was a storyline which required Roy to go and search out Hayley because Hayley had gone to Amsterdam for her operation as a transsexual. I went out there beforehand because we were going to use one or two Dutch actors and actresses and we ran some auditions in Holland. We got some of the best actors and actresses from Holland. We were offering them very small parts, the part of a taxi driver and a boat owner. The casting director, who was from Holland, said ‘Coronation Street has not been shown in Amsterdam for over ten years, it used to be shown there in black and white, but even to this day ten years on it is still one of the most famous shows in Holland and that’s why these actors are happy to come and audition even though it’s a small part. They’d like to be associated with it.’ When the actors came in, one of the actors said ‘Yes I used to watch Coronation Street in black and white. Is it still in black and white?’ We had a young girl about twenty-two years old and as each actor or actress came into audition we videoed them. She was twenty-two years old, she was Dutch and she was operating the video-camera for us. I asked her if she’d ever heard of Coronation Street. ‘Have I ever heard of Coronation Street?’ she said, ‘I’ve never seen it but I know it. My mother used to call me Ena Sharples because as a little kid I used to run round with curlers in my hair and that is what my mother still calls me today.’ I was gobsmacked, it was absolutely bizarre. Such is the power of Coronation Street.

When we came to film the scenes in Amsterdam, we’re used to it in the UK when people come up, but even in Amsterdam the Dutch people when they heard it was Coronation Street they were quite enthralled and they would stand and watch and try and get autographs.

In terms of technological advancements, modern digital cameras have had a big effect, to the quality of the picture and how manoeuvrable they are and they’ve allowed you to do hand-held stuff. We don’t do a lot of hand-held. There is a certain style for shooting Coronation Street and if you try and impose too much of your own style on it, it jars with the public. I wouldn’t say there’s a standard way to shoot it but there is definitely a way not to shoot it. So in that respect for a director the artistry is so much in the way you shoot it. With any other drama one of the major factors is the style in which you are going to shoot it and the feel that you are going to give it on screen and there is more individualism for you as a director. Whereas on the Street there isn’t. The Street is far bigger than you are will ever be. There are different ways of achieving the same on-screen look but ostensibly you will achieve the same on-screen look.

One thing as a director that’s always amazed me and I think I probably saw it on the Street more than anywhere else is the ability for actresses, when the script calls for it, to cry and shed real tear. There were one or two actresses who were absolutely superb at it and one in particular was Julie Goodyear who if the script called for tears she was able to produce these tears. I don’t know how they do it because I think crying is a natural reaction to a certain set of personal circumstances. It probably comes from the fact that when some of the more professional actors or actresses are playing the parts then they are actually living the part of that character. I did make me wary of trusting a woman’s tears ever again. It was the ability with which they did it was quite astonishing. They couldn’t do it take after take, generally you had to do it in the first take. As you got to know them you got an idea that they were probably going to be able to do it and that the first take was probably going to be the one. Maybe you gave it a little bit more rehearsal so that when you came to record it in the studio, it was spot on the first time. After a fairly emotional scene you would shout ‘Cut’ and the place would just be completely silent and nobody would say anything. That’s when you knew that a scene had worked very well.

One or two of the more mature characters of the Street did have on occasion problems learning their lines. What would happen, particularly in Rovers scenes where they were always very complicated to shoot because there are a lot of characters and a lot of scenarios going on, this one actor would write his lines on the beer mats in the pub so that he could tap the beer mat and just remind himself of his lines. I remember one scene in particular where we were doing the whole thing in one shot and a lot of little cameos would happen and at the end of a two minute scene this person would have to come in and say something like ‘A pint of bitter please Betty’ and he’d blow it. And he’d blow it for everybody because then we’d have to go back to square one to record. So what he did was he’d write his lines on his beer mat to remind him and it all worked very well in rehearsal. But I remember on one occasion that Phil Middlemiss who was always a bit of a prankster and a joker and had a devilment in him, during the actual take he leant next to this person and put his elbow on the chap’s beer mat. I could see out of the corner of my eye as the scene was progressing and we’re closer to this person’s line that he was getting more panicky. When it came to his line it was ‘Oh I’m sorry I’ve dried, I’ve forgotten my line.’ But it was very funny to see it unfold. He couldn’t budge Phil because he was on camera and in theory he should have known his lines.

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