Judith Jones remembers working on a documentary about the cyclist, Robert Millar

I then started doing some documentaries. So there was probably a sequence of them, I think one of the first documentaries that I did was in 1985. And I was given this, I presume, because I could speak French, and I know that there were probably a couple of PAs who probably weren’t that happy that I was given this programme. But anyway, I was given a programme about the cyclist Robert Millar. I already knew the researcher on the programme, Don Jones, because of my links with sports, and it was essentially his idea. So Robert Millar, in the previous year’s Tour de France, I think, had won the King of the Mountain stage. He was a Scottish cyclist. So this was really quite a significant thing in the world of cycling. And Donnie had this idea, along with the director, Peter Carr, who had done the City programme for Granada, decided to focus on doing a programme about Robert Millar. So over the course of the year, we went back on a number of occasions to follow his cycling during 1985, starting with the Tour de France, but then following it up with the World Championships later on. On a documentary, in some ways there’s less for a PA to do. So the main things that you were doing were making a note of the different shots that were being filmed, so doing a shot list to accompany the film. So that when the film editor came to start editing the film, they knew which different slates matched up to which shots, and which were the good interviews to use, etc. So the main part was the shot list, but also the logistics of the shoot. So I was responsible for anything to do with money on the shoot, so paying for people’s hotels, paying for people’s meals, paying any expenses, helping to sort out with the transport of the luggage, etc. And because I spoke French, I was relied on in that programme even more for liaising with people on a day-to day-basis.

What was it like to work on that? 

One of the issues with the programme was… well, it was great fun to work on, the crew got on really well, and as a as a filming experience it was really enjoyable. We were inhibited by a few things. One is that because we did it fairly short notice, we didn’t have accreditation to get access to all the areas we’d really want to in terms of the Tour de France, so that inhibited us. Also, Robert Millar, although as a crew we became very close to him and went to his wedding, he wasn’t a great interviewee. He was quite quiet and reticent. He also didn’t do as well in the Tour as we had hoped, and there was a point within the filming where we thought about, well I didn’t, but Pete Carr thought about,  changing to a rising Liverpudlian cyclist called Joey McLoughlin. So there was a bit of a switch of focus maybe. And I think because Pete Carr’s City film was very much just ‘film and keep filming’, he was fortunate in that something happened in that film about Manchester City. It wasn’t necessarily the case with the Robert Millar film, The High Life. So we shot a lot of footage, but actually, not a great deal happened. And even when we went back to the World Championships. So looking back, it’s an interesting snapshot, but it was probably just a matter of luck that maybe we chose the wrong person. But as a PA, it was a great opportunity. And yes, that has given me a lifelong interest and insight into the cycling world.

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