Monday 24 September 2007

The People You Meet

On Saturday I had a rare partial day off of my usual role of wife and mother (and all that implies) and was just a woman hanging out with her girlfriends.

We went to the cinema and saw a real chick flick (Atonement, highly recommended, if you are interested). Then we went out for lunch at the Runnymede Hotel & Spa not too far from our home. One of my girlfriends brought a friend of hers, Pam, who turned out to be a real honest to goodness movie star. Well, sort of.

Can you be a movie star if you are behind the scenes rather than in the scenes? My answer: Of course you can!

Half way through lunch I noticed that Pam was wearing two charms around her neck which appeared to resemble Oscars. You know, those awards that you win for outstanding achievement in the film industry.

I reached for them and asked her if they were hers, not really expecting a yes. I thought she would just tell me she was an avid film buff.

Instead she replied, "No, they belong to my husband. He won 2 Oscars before his death in March last year."

Well, blow me over!

I reached for my "blog notebook" which I now carry with me everywhere I go to capture blog ideas that hit me at the most unexpected moments.

I then learned I was eating lunch with Pamela (Mann) Francis the wife of the late Freddie Francis. Pam was a "Continuity Girl" before they were called Script Supervisors. Freddie was a cinematographer (which won him both his Oscars) and a director. In fact he directed one of my favourite girlie films, The Man in the Moon, starring a just discovered Reese Witherspoon who had answered an open casting call in Tennessee. One of his Oscars was for Glory, one of my favourite all time war movies about the Civil War,

I did ask her what in the world a Continuity Girl does. I've always wondered about all those credits at the end of a film. Pam explained that, for example, in the film we had just seen, a servant boy carrying suitcases is wearing his cap in the house. Pam told us that the job of the script supervisor is to ensure that things like that don't happen. I told her I still didn't understand. In the period of the film, a male servant would NEVER have worn his cap in the house, she explained. Ah! She also pointed out that the swimming caps were far too loose for that time period. I was starting to understand. It was the job of the Continuity Girl to make sure everything fits with the time and place and is remains the same throughout.

She would drop comments into the conversation like "Katie was always fun to work with" when she was referring to Katherine Hepburn. Or "George walked over and asked me what I was doing at the Oscar ceremony" when she described her Oscar experience and bumping into George Lucas whom she worked with extensively on the Star Wars series of films. She also expressed disappointment over not being able to afford to go to the first Oscar ceremony (1967) for Sons & Lovers and disgust when she explained that Mr Francis forgot to mention that it was his wife's birthday during his acceptance speech for his second Oscar.

I also found out that a Gaffer is a the chief electrician and the Best Boy is his assistant.

Oh, the people you meet and the things you learn!

Editor's Note: I created the Wikipedia entry on Pamela Francis and made minor edits to the entry on Freddie Francis based on my interview with Mrs Francis on 22 September 2007.


Janell said...

Wow! I think that's the first time you've written about a lunch out without mentioning the food! Pam sounds like a fascinating person! What a great job to have - where do I sign up?

LaDawn said...

Lunch was a salad bar (UK style-will explain another time) - healthy and delicious but a bit boring.

Pam was a secretary who just developed a knack for continuity. It took her quite a while to get the job.

She was fascinating!