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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Ermintrude's Film Career

Recollections of filming Dancing on the Edge

Having finally watched all the episodes of Dancing On The Edge, we now understand where our short sequences with Ermintrude fitted into the story.  At the time we had no idea of the story itself, let alone what Ermintrude was supposed to be doing there.

The first shoot was in early December 2011 and Robert Spall and his partner Jo delivered Ermintrude to a spot on the A25 where I could drive to the location at Addington Palace.  On arrival I learned that the shoot would be after dark and Ermintrude took part in a number of rehearsals before then.  All I knew was that I had to drive a short distance following a vintage sports car onto the forecourt of the building with some musicians inside the bus.

Various camera angles were tried out at this stage and in one run Stephen Poliakoff and the cameraman sat perched above the rear seats in the sports car behind Chiwetel Ejiofor (who was to drive) and Wunmi Mosaku who were playing playing Louis & Carla.  The car had been driven to the location by a chap who had explained to me that there was a catch that had to be moved out of the way before reverse gear could be engaged and had to be replaced to prevent reverse being engaged accidentally.  He positioned the car immediately in front of the bus for each rehearsal and shoot and on one occasion forgot to replace the catch.

As the word ‘Action!’ came through our radios, Mr Ejiofor set off briskly in reverse before stopping just as Mr Poliakoff was about to be inserted into the radiator and the starting handle was about to be inserted into the sports car.  The look on the upturned face of the famous director will remain with me for a long time.  I was unable to hear his comments. 

We set off home quite late and I arrived at about 1.00 am having neglected to advise my beloved that my hair had been cut, my beard shaved off and I was sporting a black thin pencil moustache.  Her screams when she first saw me next morning could have woken the village.

The next shoot took place on a bitterly cold day in February 2012.  The location was Whitehall Place not far from Trafalgar Square.  It became clear that this scene involved Ermintrude leaving the National Liberal Club (doubling as the exterior of The Imperial Hotel) with the band.  Again I had no idea of the storyline.  From time to time we would rehearse a scene which involved the musicians leaving the hotel with their instruments, boarding the bus and being driven off.  There were long periods of complete boredom and at one point a Japanese lady came up to me and asked what was going on.  I replied that we were making a film.  She asked me what it was about.  On reflection, I think it was a combination of boredom and hunger and the onset of hypothermia that made me reply
 “It’s about Winston Churchill”

She thanked me and went off, only to return a few moments later with a small group of Japanese tourists.

“This gentleman is going to tell us all about Mr Winston Churchill and his film”, she gushed.  I let them have it.  I included a reference to a nearby vintage Rolls Royce as his car and ascribed roles to one or two of the actors who were in view.

I like to think that when Dancing on the Edge is shown in Japan, a small group of ladies may sit through five episodes awaiting the appearance of Winston S Churchill.