Blog

Updates from Maritime Film UK’s Rob White, TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN

HMS M33 – project gathers pace

27 January 2015
HMS M33

Filming first update movie on the WWI monitor HMS M33. A lot has changed since we were last there, and I was hopping about like Long John Silver, on a duff right leg giving me a load of gyp. Ships are about the last places you want to be if you’ve got an injury like that. It’s all up and down – obviously – and as for the steps going into the dock itself, well they’re at a 60⁰ angle. Triff! Anyway (see picture) M33 is now encased in a kind of giant carrier bag, stretched tightly all the way over her so as to protect the work that’s going on, and the workers doing it. Otherwise bad weather – always threatening in coastal locations like Portsmouth – can hold you up a lot. Great progress has been made under that carrier bag, though…

Seafarers – this could save your life

07 January 2015
SeaPod

About the pic in a minute, but first – an apology: no blogs for too long, the product of injury mainly. Back with you!

The pic shows a Salvare Worldwide ‘SeaPod’ (http://www.salvare.co.uk/seapod.html)

If your boat sinks, you must get out of the water fast (most in-sea fatalities are caused by hypothermia – you fall asleep in the cold water and never wake up.) So getting out of the water is vital. But a life raft can be hard to board – there’s nothing to push against to lever yourself up.  SeaPod comes in a small bag. You take it out; throw it overside; it inflates automatically; both sides are up; and there’s just a couple of inches to climb over to safety. Visibility around 2 kilometres (and most rescues happen in hours.) We’re hoping to make Salvare a film about this lifesaver.

Greenlight!

03 December 2014
Greenlight

What you really want from your client – the endorsement of the film you’ve made.  And Matthew Sheldon of the National Museum of the Royal Navy has given a clear thumbs-up to our film about HMS M33 – the first of four and maybe five. The refit, and later new-fit, of the veteran ship is going ahead at speed, with great plans for open access for the public, able and disabled alike. The key aim is to preserve as much as possible of the original fabric of this ‘monitor’, while telling her story and that of the RN in 1914-18 in a way that gets out there and grabs your attention. Watch this space as we track the progress of the project in a series of video blogs; and catch the first film ’HMS M33 – First World War Survivor’ at http://www.nmrn.org.uk/m33

Star cast

29 November 2014
Star cast

‘To End All Wars’ wasn’t just about the star quality of Hugh Bonneville though – as he was the first to prove, being at once self-effacing and good-natured both during and after the event. Along with Martin, the show featured William Godfree singing and playing piano, and FionaJane Weston singing and acting out the many roles women played during the First World War. The repertoire included classis like ‘Goodbyee’ and ‘Tipperary’ – but also extraordinarily moving moments such as those enacted by Fiona, with ‘Girls With the Bright Yellow Hands’ – a song about the impact on the health of the thousands of women who toiled in the munitions factories, where the explosives they handled turned their hands and skin yellow, and did far worse to them too. A great evening – a show that could transfer to the West End without breaking steps.

‘To End All Wars’

29 November 2014
To End All Wars

That was the title of an evening of poems, prose and songs held at Milland Village Hall in Hampshire. Just to prove that we don’t only shoot ships, Maritime Films UK filmed the event – but not really to show another string to our bow, actually to support this fund-raiser as it had been organized by a team including our ace presenter, Martin Muncaster (left in cast picture.) More than that, Hugh Bonneville (star of the new film ‘Paddington’, and of course ‘Downton Abbey’s Earl of Grantham in) had very kindly agreed to join up for the evening. All in aid of Combat Stress, which helps service people to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder – the terrible condition which won’t let your mind let go of traumatic events. And heaven knows our soldiers, sailors and aircrew have had plenty of those recently.

The HMS M33 team

07 November 2014
HMS M33 Team

In factual TV there’s one thing every producer yearns for: good interviewees. People involved in what you’re filming who love what they’re doing, who can bring it to life with passion and commitment. Well, Maritime Films UK’s cup is overflowing when it comes to this project. Take Project Director Matthew Sheldon (picture.) Despite being involved in several other projects – which means he’s almost continuously on the move, day in, day out – he’s passionately committed to the project, totally, immersively involved. The on-site engineering team are great too, fully understanding the needs of TV, with Project Manager Martin Hobson coming back to give us an interview at the end of a 17 hour day. And conservation expert Jason Lowe is clearly fired up by the whole idea, of reaching back 100 years to stand in the footsteps of history. We’re lucky.

When you go home, tell them of us and say…

07 November 2014
HMS M33 Engine Room

This (picture) is the engine room space. Here the mighty engines that drove HMS M33 along pounded away, day after day, to get her in position to unleash the ferocious power of her 6” guns. Think about that for a moment. Get your ruler out. Imagine that 6” shell, packed with high explosive, heading straight for YOU. You’re a Turkish gunner defending your homeland; but your lords and masters have made a bad call, and allied you with Imperial Germany, with its arrogant ambition to dominate Europe. HMS M33 is looking for you – and she won’t give up till she’s done what she was sent to do. The pity of war is that in the Dardanelles campaign, brave men on all sides, from Turkey, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, died to sort out the mess Europe’s politicians had made. Again.

Below decks in HMS M33

07 November 2014
Below decks in HMS M33

Now it’s our turn to get inside HMS M33. And what a sight she is. Some might say “what a mess” as she’s had so many different roles since her World War I battles, including minelayer, workshop, fuelling hulk and even office space. So many of the spaces are not in their original shape, that most of the fixtures and fittings are gone (like the “heads”, or loos!) and that there’s a heap of work to do to get her ready for visitors in August, the anniversary of the Dardanelles campaign. The upside is that what we can film is incredibly evocative, with dramatic rust patternings, shafts of sunlight like solid bars shining into enclosed spaces, and of course the visual drama of brazing and welding. (See picture.) Nothing like a shower of sparks to liven up a dark shot…

About Rob

Rob WhiteRob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.

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