A Journey Through Time – Part 2 – The Village Episode 2

We’d got back into it pretty quickly after finishing Episode 1. After what I’m sure was a frantic summer of scriptwriting (all of the really good ideas from three planned episodes had been condensed into Episode 1), we set to filming again in October 2000. I remember it reasonably well as the first batch of sketches involved me wearing a balaclava and a bin bag… We’d made the decision as a group to shoot this episode out of sequence so we could do multiple takes and choose the best version for the final edit. Tricky business given that it was all going to be done via VHS, but I think the deciding factor was Adam’s dad owning a digital camcorder which would let us begin editing on a PC. Exciting times.In the end I think we discovered that there was a fault in the camera that meant the tapes were unplayable on any other camera, so there’s a lot of raw footage that we no longer have, which is a shame. We do have 90 minutes of uncut footage from my own camera, however, so it wasn’t a total loss. I can’t remember the exact make of the camera, but it was an old-style 8mm camcorder – no frills but then it was originally bought in the early 90s.

We had another filming day about 3 weeks later on 24 October 2000 (almost exactly 2 years to the day since the birth of the project, fact fans). We shot three of the big scenes – a spoof black and white movie, a spoof chat show called Cockchurch, and a return for our spoof spy, Agent Owen.

December saw the next batch of sketches filmed, a sizeable chunk of the smaller sketches and mostly situated in and around Dan’s house. Most of my memories are from the video footage we shot, both for the episode and Behind The Scenes. Whilst waiting for Dan to be ready (or for his parents to go to work, I forget which) we were waiting nearby when a younger child approached, probably only a couple of years younger than ourselves, and just… stood there. It was a bit odd but we soon were indoors and away from the strange creature.

This episode saw us attempt a spoof of Doctor Who (no sign of it returning to the airwaves at that time), which was fabulously written by Pete. It was split into two parts and took up about a third of the episode run time. Pete played the “nth” version of The Doctor – a combination of various aspects of all previous Doctors to date – including a promotional T-shirt of himself as Paul McGann. I had the privilege of playing his assistant Frank – complete with a salwar kameez (which, as it happens, is the name we gave to the giant “The Village” logo that Dan printed after a comment I made in the Behind The Scenes tape for Episode 1) and a monobrow. The monobrow was just a piece of paper coloured in black with a felt tip pen, but it did the trick.

The story saw The Doctor and Frank trying to stop Cuthbert Custard from covering the Earth with custard (he didn’t really give a reason for it…). We were struck with two problems on day one of the shoot – with it being December it was, quite obviously, really cold so we only managed a morning of filming before retreating to the warmth and relative safety of Dan’s house. The second, slightly more important issue was that Adam was due to play Cuthbert Custard but couldn’t make that filming day – so naturally we used the only spare cast member we had to learn the lines on the fly – Tez. Given that he hadn’t prepared at all for it, I think he did a fantastic job. That day also saw us stick about 30 paper eyes to trees literally a few feet away from the footpath, for the purposes of having Frank think the trees are watching him. Good idea on paper (guffaw!) but the eyes really needed to be cardboard backed or something as the final effect was a bit lacklustre. And if you ever see the episode and wonder how we made a tiny, tiny explosion? Pete brought a firework. Simples.

The next filming day for the sketch took place in February – the weather was different, my hair was clearly longer, and Tez had chance to learn his lines. Despite that, we finished the sketch and I think you can only notice my hair if you look really, really closely… That day also saw us shoot the final two sketches for the episode and wrap production. Two episodes completed in less than a year? Ce n’est pas possible!

One thing I will always take from our filming days was the amount of fun we had – you can tell just by watching the DVD footage. Plus it was an excuse to socialise outside of school etc, which was a bonus. Looking back I think we spent a lot more time planning for filming days than actually attending them, but the point still remains that when they did happen we were guaranteed a laugh.

Years later when it came to doing the DVD remaster, due to the lack of on-screen graphics it was easier for us to re-edit the episode from scratch rather than simply copy the VHS version. Besides which the VHS tape was a bit worn anyway and there was a noticeable wobble on each cut – again the perils of editing directly onto VHS. Strictly speaking the DVD release isn’t identical to the original tape as I did make a few modifications so we cut from a sketch quicker, or left it a bit longer as necessary. This was due to having little control over this originally, and despite the changes we made in the remastered episode I like to think of the “original” version on Disc 2 as a modified edit of the original original, if that makes sense.

The daft thing is I don’t remember many changes being made to Episode 2 as for the most part we were quite happy with it – by comparison, the remastered version is only a minute longer than the original. I think overall it’s a much more solid batch of material than Episode 1, and I think it benefited from a short gestation period.

Next week – The Village Episode 3 (unless we’re podcasting again).

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