An Extract from The Way, The Truth and The Dead

Several people have asked me if I could give them a flavour of Alan Cadbury’s filming scenes in his new adventure, The Way, The Truth and The Dead. Now obviously I don’t want to give away the plot, but here’s an extract which describes the film crew arriving on site and the start of the very first sequence. At this stage Alan’s dig was being filmed and recorded, to be edited into a documentary later. The actual ‘live’ programmes were to happen subsequently (which is often what happens in the real world). Frank Jones is the film’s Director; Davey is the digger driver. So here’s the extract:

Alan drove the Daihatsu onto the old pig yard and drew up. When he turned off the headlights he could see that far away on the south-eastern horizon the sky was just starting to lighten up. He peered out of the window. Not too bad. Light cloud cover, a slight breeze. The farmers’ forecast had said the next three days would be dry, with just the occasional shower along the east coast. Ely was well inland, so they should be OK.

He got out, walked round to the back, opened the big single door and took out his steel-toecap rigger boots. Then he sat on the edge and started to pull them on. As he was finishing, his eye was caught by three sets of headlights turning into the drive from off the Ely-March road. That must be the crew. He reached into the back and dragged out a large and very dirty hi-viz topcoat which he struggled into. It always felt cold – he much preferred good old-fashioned donkey jackets, but they’d long gone. He returned to the front and reached onto the sill, where he kept his trowel. Instinctively he thumbed it clean. Nothing worse than a dirty trowel.

By now the three vehicles had drawn up alongside him. Two VW vans and a very clean Citroen hire-car. The car was closest and both passenger’s side windows wound down as it drew alongside him. Through the half-light Alan could discern two faces. In the front was a woman in her mid-forties; in the back a younger girl. The lady in the front was the first to speak:

‘You must be Alan Cadbury?’

Alan nodded and stepped closer.

‘I’m Sonia Hawkes, the Production Manager. I always like to visit any major new locations, so I know what I’m dealing with. Offices and screens can be so impersonal. Normally we’d send an AP.’ Then she turned towards the back seat, ‘And this is Trudy Hills our PA on this shoot.’

It had been several months since Alan had last filmed and for a moment he couldn’t remember the difference between an AP and a PA. Then Trudy stepped out of the car and he could see she was very young; barely out of school. Probably on work experience. But she proved him wrong:

‘This is my second shoot, Alan, so you must be patient with me.’

Alan couldn’t think of anything to say that didn’t sound hopelessly patronising. So he smiled benignly. Then the driver’s side door opened and Frank Jones stood up. He gave a huge stretch, his arms straight out and yawned widely.

‘Ah, that’s much better. Morning young man. I trust you’re feeling alert. Lively and well-informed. We’ve got to get this film off to a good start you know.’

Alan could see these words were just a long way of saying hello and good morning. Frank opened the boot and hunted around for his wellies. Alan had to ask, if only to break the silence:

‘Sonia Hawkes. She was a very famous Anglo-Saxon archaeologist. Married to Christopher Hawkes. They related at all?’

She shook her head, but got no chance to reply, as Frank had jumped in:

‘Great minds think alike, Alan. That’s the first thing I asked her when Lew introduced us last week. But we’re both wrong.’

By now Trudy had her wellies and coat on.

‘Alan, be a treasure and show young Trudy here where you keep the tea-making stuff. I think we’re all desperate for a cuppa.’

Trudy produced two large bags from the boot. Alan took one and escorted her around the perimeter duck-board walk, past the Reed Barn, to his Portakabin office, where he had a small fridge and an electric kettle. He told Trudy, who was looking rather anxiously at the tiny shelf, that over the weekend contractors would be delivering two more Portakabins for the dig, and one would have a larger sink and more power points. Meanwhile they would just have to make do. Some people are never grateful.

As he walked back, this time taking the direct route across the disturbed surface left by the removal of the cellular paving grid, he was in time to see Davey’s van arrive. By now the two other members of the film crew had got out of their vans and were preparing their equipment. Speed was frowning as he wrestled with the settings of the HD camera he had had to hire for the shoot. He hated hired cameras; they were never set-up right. His sound recordists and long-time side-kick was Dave Edwards, known to everyone in the business as ‘Grump’. In fact Grump and Speed had become something of a legend, a few younger people even referring to them as ‘G and S’. When Alan had heard this he assumed it was a pun on Gilbert and Sullivan. But it wasn’t.

Alan stood by his Fourtrak and watched. He liked to see how directors handled their subjects and crews; it told you so much about them. He’d seen Frank having a few words with Speed as he was walking back from his Portakabin, but now he was nowhere to be seen. That was odd. Then he noticed that Speed had stopped fiddling with his camera’s settings and was filming, while sitting on the tailboard of his van. His camera was pointing at Davey who was pulling on his boots. He continued to film as Davey extracted two heavy Jerri cans of diesel from the back of the van and carried them the few paces to his digger. He was still turning over as Davey collected a third can, plus a large yellow plastic funnel and began to fill-up. He only stopped when Frank, who had appeared from nowhere, tapped him lightly on the shoulder. Alan was very surprised. This was the first time he’d worked on a shoot where the subject didn’t know he was being filmed. He decided to have a word with Frank, as he was blowed if anyone was going to treat him like that; but then he paused. Would that be entirely wise? No, he reminded himself, he was here for the long-haul. Best put up with it for now.

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I do hope you enjoyed that. If you did, then it would be great if you could subscribe – and why not persuade a friend to do so too!

Here’s the link that’ll take you to Unbound, who are publishing the book:

The Way, the Truth and the Dead

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