Part I of III
Terry and Jason invited me to write a blog about my experience of set culture and working with the indomitable “Mr. Terry Bamber”. Terry, known to his crew in India as Mr. Terry Bamber, is so named as a term of endearment, love, and friendship. The term Mister is a loaded title with throwbacks to the days of the Raj but here it is a sign of deep respect. I have known Terry for many years and only till I worked on set did I understand where that appraisal by his Indian crews came from, a well-deserved title I may add. But why me, why did Terry pick me from a cast of thousands to be a friend, colleague, confidant, and industry professional? It is a question I have asked myself many times, especially when I am carrying more than my fair share of personal psychological baggage and physiological disabilities.
Let us rewind the clock. I was best friends with the late Steve Truglia, an exemplary individual whose mindset was the unrelenting pursuit of excellence. A chap who learnt to play the saxophone to a professional level in a month, same with the guitar and piano. Steve like me served Queen and Country and was a very skilled operator within the TA, SAS, and SBS. I went another path within the military. We met up and became friends. I was his photographer at first then we became good friends, for like him I was a polymath. Steve was also one of the UK’s top stuntmen and stunt drivers. He was one of the Stig’s on Top Gear and the resident stuntman on Fifth Gear.
During my military service in Iraq and Bosnia, I always managed to get myself banged up and injured. After multiple tours, my body was telling me no more abuse. Steve knew I was an advanced driver, off-road instructor, and had various blue light qualifications. I once drove with Steve and he realized I had a unique skill set, Steadicam Operator, DoP and my driving, and he knew that, at some point, I would leave. He wanted me to work with him as a stunt precision driver, and as a driver/operator for the Russian Arm. At the time there was one in the country and Steve tirelessly pushed me into the industry. I also had training in SFX and qualified as a VFX supervisor. He introduced me to Terry, as someone coming into the film and TV industry and quite blatantly pushed Terry to give me work. Sadly, I was still under the employ of the MoD and moonlighting was banned, I was in a reactive post and could not spare the time. Terry and I became friends online and through correspondence.
Then one day in 2012 my life changed; two separate incidents led me to have life-changing injuries. My world during 2012-2015 sent me spiraling to the point wherein in 2016 I was medically discharged from the Army. I joined the Army in 1994 in my school uniform, a small bag of toiletries, pair of civvies and a basic sports kit. When I left in 2016, I had a spinal injury and lost the use of my foot and was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A month later Steve was killed in an accident in China filming a stunt for a Guinness World Record attempt. Terry being a good friend contacted BAFTA and made sure that Steve’s memory was remembered at the BAFTA award show that year. I contacted the Arnold Schwarzenegger team in the US, and they also honored Steve at the Taurus Stunt Awards.
During this time, I hit rock bottom and ended up in a mental health facility in Surrey treated for CPTSD and co-morbid Depression. Terry sent out a lifeline to me, if I am allowed out do I want to meet up with him at his local pub? The answer was yes, so a couple of days later I met Terry in the pub. Typical for Terry, he had dominated the table and turned it into his office, with scripts and schedules for an upcoming film. That night we chatted, and he was really keen for me to get into the industry. He also did a crucial thing; he gave me space and time. Not to rush.