From guest contributor Derek Evans: New Decade Film & Video 1968-1971
New Decade was founded by Stanley Marks along with his father John Marks in the early 1960’s and were located on the top floor of 12, Orange Street just off the Haymarket in London.
I had known Stanley from British Movietone and maintained contact with him while working at Southern Television.
Stanley Marks was a first class editor having worked on features and shorts. It was at Movietone as a film editor that he borrowed a 35mm cine camera and filmed using short ends scrounged from the camera room the demolition of some of London’s buildings. At one stage during the shooting Len Waldorf, a Movietone cameraman, assisted Stan in the shoot. On viewing the rushes it came quite evident to me that the filming was imaginative and artistic. The next step was to edit the material and he approached Sid Wiggins, the then Editor in Chief, and asked if he could edit the material after working hours. Fortunately his request was granted thereby keeping the cost down by not having to hire an outside cutting room facility.
In 1968 Stan asked me to join New Decade as Production Organiser. Stanley’s father John, dealt with the administrative side of the business with Stan and me chasing projects. At one point Len Waldorf was involved but decided to move on. One aspect of being back in London was having a coffee in one of the café’s located in Wardour Street. It was here that we met a cross section of film makers, scriptwriters, musicians all with an intense interest in the arts which energised the mind and also made a good start to the day.
A show reel was shown to prospective clients resulting in commissions from the Central Office of Information, the British Standards Institute, Barnado’s and other organisations. The COI productions were invariably on a very tight budget and in some instances we utilised the services of our family or even ourselves to keep down costs. One example was the making of a health and safety film relating to house building. The script called for the stunt artiste to fall from the scaffolding and after a site meeting and to ensure his safety, a number of mattresses were required, air bags were not around at that time, and these were eventually obtained from the local council depot on the proviso that they would be returned. Cardboard boxes were sourced from a cardboard manufacturer. The script also required a woman and young child to represent the family of the worker who was now in hospital. It was decided that my wife and very young daughter would be enrolled. The script required the woman and child to be seen waiting at a bus stop and after several takes at different angles with buses stopping and moving on my young daughter said “when are we going to get on a bus.” Location shooting does take time.
One particular production which was for the Dickinson Robinson Group a large paper manufacturer based in Bristol which was having problems concerning paper wastage. The machine itself was some sixty feet in length with operators at each end. Stanley was directing, suggested that to overcome the problem a film could be made incorporating an animated sequence which would be of a humorous nature which would allow the respective operators to take aboard the problem. In those days computerised images were not around so an animation company was contracted who had to produce a number of ‘cells’ depicting the required answer to the waste paper problem.
Stanley’s direction and artistic flair resulted in not only the saving of paper but an understanding by the operatives concerned who were extremely appreciative of the end result as well as a very satisfied client.
The Central Office of Information commissioned New Decade to make a series of films relating to engineers and engineering. As production manager along with the camera team and freelance director locations took us around London and Bristol. Invariably on arriving at a location initial contact had to be made with the Union representative and to explain the pros and cons of the shoot to ensure that we had the cooperation of union member so that filming would go smoothly. On this particular shoot we had a representative from the COI an ex major, John Bourne. A three day shoot took us to Bristol to film Hugh Conway an engineer who was involved in the design of the Concorde airplane. Hugh Conway also took great interest in rebuilding Bugatti sports cars of which he had at least four in his clinical maintained garage. The director wanted him to drive down part of the M4 which was under construction at the time in one of his cars. He agreed and asked me to accompany him and wearing a leather jacket, flying helmet and goggles we raced up and down the road to the director’s instructions. An exhilarating ride and a PM’s perk.
After the day’s shoot we retired to our hotel where as production manager I looked after John Bourne as we would like to be considered for another commission. It was getting late in the evening when the camera team retired leaving me to provide never ending whisky to Mr Bourne who had a capacity for drink. The following morning saw our Mr Bourne eating a huge breakfast which myself and the crew could not face as we ourselves had rather indulged.
Further filming took place and at the end of the shoot and unbeknown to me on arriving back at the hotel a birthday cake had been made in my honour compliments of the camera crew.
A film for the British Standards Institute saw Stanley and I on top of a gantry on the M4 holding on for dear life in the strong wind that was making the gantry sway. After a number of shots we were pleased to get down on the ground. Another location was in South East London where a large housing development was being built. The cameraman on this shoot was Stefan Sargent the founder of Molinaire Studios and we commented that this was going to be a dreadful place to live. In 2010 demolition started.
During my time at British Movietonews I worked with some of the film editors who had moved on to the BBC, among them was John Walker who was a great friend, and on hearing that I was working with Stanley suggested that we approach the BBC for work. This we did, resulting in editing the Money Programme (see top picture) and Omnibus the arts programme.
It was on a quiet day that a gentleman walked into the office, we had now moved to Beak Street, asking if New Decade made television commercials as he wanted one made but not on the exorbitant prices being quoted by advertising companies. It turned out that he was Edward Craven-Walker the inventor of the “Lava” lamp and was delighted to accept the price quoted. In a matter of days the commercial was completed and was initially aired by Southern Television and to this day the product is still selling.
New Decade invariably used Frank Green’s Mercury Studios for production recording and Stanley was a great believer in using the right voice for whatever production and he found that by using actors such as Cyril Shaps and Duncan Carse that they gave a better interpretation to the production. It was during dubbing and recording that last minute suggestions were made be it dialogue, sound or music and it is due to the professionalism of the dubbing theatre crew that one found the final mix was or had been enhanced. The final result was for the client to be happy.
New Decade had one particular client who looked to find fault in a production prior to booking the dubbing theatre. In front of his associates he would pass comment and Stanley soon cottoned on that in future he would leave in a deliberate mistake. It worked. The client was happy in pointing out the deliberate error and felt he was more than involved in the production. It takes all kinds.
Although I left in 1971 to join Visnews, Stanley and I always maintained contact and he often asked to use my name on one of his productions to meet the union’s required crewing quota.
He was always looking to produce a production on a tight budget and he called me to say that he was going to make a film on an art exhibition and it was going to be on a one to one ratio as he had timed every shot before filming thereby editing in camera. Perfection was one of Stanley‘s traits in film making and he made many friends in the industry and I was glad that I was one of them.
Derek V Evans
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Previous articles from Derek Evans:
From guest contributor Derek Evans: Movietone – making the news
From guest contributor Derek Evans: The Forerunner of Television News
From guest contributor Derek Evans: Southern Television Ltd – Life after Movietone News