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A ‘short film’ for Ramadan 1977

In the late Spring of 1977, an idea was floated in the office at UPITN, where I was Head of Commercial Productions, probably by Yasar Durra, concerning the upcoming Ramadan, the holy Islamic month.

It was suggested that we make a short film on some Islamic Cities in which we featured people from a religious point of view.  I said that we should make twenty-nine episodes so that the broadcasters could show a programme each night and have one in reserve. I also believed that we could sustain fifteen minutes for each episode.  Furthermore, I suggested that we show a short profile of two people, one an artisan, the other an academic.  Both would be devout Muslims.

This was approved and Yasar managed to find enough initial clients to make it worthwhile and allow us to make a start.

It was a tremendous undertaking and we started to research the locations around the world, from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles (the long way round).

Happy Ramadan

Image by Ranoush. via Flickr

For the most part, we were able to make use of the ubiquitous UPI wire service to forward detailed instruction to the film crews.  By this time, we had a large number of competent freelance cameramen.  In seeking cameramen in various parts of the world, we concentrated on local production companies.  By doing so, we had a better chance of finding the best cinematographers in a particular country.  Eventually, we were provided with a top quality group or cameramen, soundmen and lighting men.

Both UPITN and Visnews were to claim that they had 400 news cameramen around the world.  The truth is that there were nothing like that number and I would have though it more likely that there were forty.  The news stringers were a mixed bag ranging from highly competent and experienced cameramen to the local chemist with a Bolex that he did not quite know how to use.

The whole production was shot in 16mm Ektachrome and was processed at Humphries Laboratories in London.  Each of the twenty-nine episodes was shot in a different city.

The editing was done at Dandelion by Bob Rootes and Noel Cronin. I hired Stan Joseph to supervise some of the editing.   Yasar was busy gathering clients until we had a considerable number and were destined to make a good profit.

The big problem arose when I came to calculate the cost of making the required number of prints.  Humphries Laboratories charges were prohibitive as were the other labs in the U.K.

Line of Film Cans

Image by Chris Campbell via Flickr

I scouted around for a more reasonable price and, eventually, found a laboratory in Toronto that offered an acceptable price.The problem was that the cut camera original had to be taken to Toronto and we needed to oversee the processing “on the spot”.  From the Ektachrome, we would make an inter negative. It would take six weeks to print twenty copies of twenty-nine episodes, over 325,000 feet of film.  I decided to send Stan Joseph to Toronto to supervise.I thought it would also make sense to ship the copies out of Toronto directly to the clients in the Middle East, instead of paying for the copies to come back to London for shipping.  This meant that Stan Joseph would have to stay to the end of the printing run to be able to supervise the make up the packages for dispatch.  We found a reliable shipping agent for him to work with.

So Stanley was slumming it in a four-star hotel with a hire-car to enable him to get around.  He was there for several weeks.

The series of programmes were well received by the broadcasters, it was a considerable feat of ingenuity, hard work and professional application by all concerned.  It was broadcast during the month of September which coincided with Ramadan.

© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2010.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about UPITN click here.

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