During the intervening period, I worked on a host of low budget, no budget films as a VFX supervisor. Several months later, a well-known charity that had taken me under their wing failed to inform me that they were doing a film and tv career week at their stately home. I invited myself onto it. As I walked through the door, leading it was Terry. Within an hour, he had me working as a factotum, with regards to VFX. Then later in the week he made me act for the first time.
Outside the stately home, a film production unit was set up by Terry to show potential candidates for the industry how a film was made. In the middle of it all, was me acting in this scene. Secretly I loved acting. Terry and I were enjoying the experience whilst he directed the scene.
Another film career seminar appeared on the horizon, and this time the charity did not want me on it. So, I told Terry and he hired me as the crew just so I could attend. At this event in Yorkshire, Duncan Moyse met up with Terry who has a story of his own to tell (see blog posts).
After that period Terry tried to get me on other productions with him, Military Wives as a military advisor, and Brighton. Sadly, other medical issues got in the way of all that.
Duncan and I were contacted on a Thursday night, can both of you come to Pinewood for a week you are on course. Duncan and I had no clue what the course was at first, but we arranged to go down. On the first day of the Assistant Directors course, we both looked at each other what are we doing here? The next day we realized that our military background in order extrapolations and mission briefings and leadership was making the course extremely easy.
The transfer of military skills and hierarchy exactly matches that of the film industry. One of the best-kept secrets was that during the second world war the men who came back to Pinewood from the military brought that hierarchy and organizational ability back with them, it is now an industry standard. This is why Dunc and I found it easy. On a Friday we got to direct, I loved it, we had a professional film director come in on the day to oversee. We both passed the course and were ready to take on the world at that point. Terry had seen something in us both, not only that he threw me and Dunc a lifeline. Something for which I am extremely grateful.
Covid hit a week later and ripped the world apart, I saw production after production were closing and my chance in the industry vanished in a puff of smoke. I was devastated. Then, out of the blue, I was messaged by Terry can you send some photos of you dressed as an Irish farmer. So, I rushed out and got a glass of Guinness, wore my painting and decorating clothes did some selfies. Terry messaged me you have the job. Terry, what job? Found out he had hired me and Duncan to work as a supporting artiste on a horror film. Duncan and I ended up having featured non-speaking roles. The onset atmosphere was brilliant, great crew, the director was so friendly, and Terry introduced me to his assistant directing team, an exceptionally talented hand-picked crew. Suddenly I was next to actors whom I respected and watched in film and television. I fitted in so well, and Terry realized this, plus I got to watch a first-class director and assistant director work together. This was during the height of the Covid pandemic and all the special measures.
The next year Terry disappeared on a secret project, helping a friend and a production that was dealing with constant rescheduling and Covid problems. Then I get a phone call from one of the production team from <working title redacted>. Are you available to work in the second unit in the assistant directing team? Terry has asked for you. The immediate answer was yes. Then on a cold day in May, Dunc and I went and did a covert set recce for the filming the next day in Greenwich. The day after we were an hour early for the call and went straight to the production office to meet up with Terry. It was our first working day on Bridgerton Season 2, within two hours I had managed to lock the series director from coming onto set whoops, I was photographed by the national press putting the leading actress’s shoes on and made friends with a horse. By the close of play, I had spoken to the CEO of the location site who was incredibly angry about production doing several things that they do, within ten minutes utilizing a skill set I had learnt in the Army I managed to win him round, next day he was amiable to anything.
Production was not without its difficulties, The first week on set out of embarrassment I did not use my walking stick and relied on my brace and hurt myself. The next week I was in a location with rough terrain and in a lot of pain. This was my dream, and I was determined to not let my disability dictate my life. Terry had noticed and he and the health and safety officer, had a conversation with me, I thought I was going to be sacked, but Terry and the H&S coordinator, both asked me, what do we need to do as a production to make life easy for you?
The next time I was on set I had my electric wheelchair, a friendly minibus driver who was amazing, and Terry always made sure I was catered for, not pandered to but respected. I did suffer from the unending questions from the crew, but it was respectfully, “oooh what have you done to yourself?” I just answered with, “got blown up in Afghanistan” and most people would not pry any further after. The biggest problem I had was with some members of the team not understanding that the pair of us were military. We have a multitude of operational experiences and responsibilities, from being in charge of equipment that was in the tens of millions of pounds, to directing and leading young soldiers, and teaching and leadership skills.
We also possess a unique ability to utilize what is known as the Curse of Cassandra. We can see problems happening in the future and direct our current actions to prevent anything untoward from happening. The reason it is a curse is you are not taken seriously when you bring it up. We also have an eye for detail, and members of the team did not understand it. It got to a point where those team members were being a nightmare. So spoke to Terry, he understood right away and dealt with it there and then. Next time on set it was a different story, we were utilized and respected by those crew members.