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This is Your Life: 1969 – 1985

From 1969 to the first half of 1985, I handled almost all of the overseas shooting requirements for This is Your LifeThames Television always shot their United Kingdom excerpts using their own crews, but to shoot in many locations overseas would have been at a prohibitive cost.

If the journey was to be over 1,000 miles, the crew would have to fly first class. They would not be able to work on the day they travelled. They would stay in first-class hotels and been paid overtime for all the time they were on location.

They would, from time to time, send their own crews into Europe.  However, locations in the North and South America, Africa and Asia, they always called upon UPITN to provide a crew.

It was always done with the utmost secrecy.  We were privileged to know beforehand who the subject was, but this was essential in terms of what we were required to do for them.

The researchers at Thames would track down the person to be interviewed, make an appointment at a convenient location, and then advise us of the appointment.  We would then raise a sound crew, with lights and go to the location to shoot the interview, or rather to record a statement.  There would be no representative of Thames at the shoot.

Classic "London Skyline" ident 1969 1989

Classic “London Skyline” ident 1969 1989 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The camera crew would ship the exposed film back to Heathrow, where our shipping agents, Shand Air Cargo, who were based at the airport, would retrieve the film from customs and deliver it directly to a named person at Thames Television.  This was to make sure that nobody other than the TIYL crew could get their hands on the film.

Mostly, everything worked like a charm with few hiccups.  However, on occasion we did run in to problems.

On one occasion, we sent a crew to a city in the Mid-west of the United States.  It was an appointment with The Carpenters.  I cannot remember who they were meant to be speaking about.  However the appointment had been made by the Thames production team.  Upon arrival, our crew made contact with The Carpenters only to be told that they did not wish to speak to them.

The crew called me, I called Thames and Thames got back to the Carpenters.  Our crew had to wait, on location, for three days before they were finally given the word that the filming would go ahead.

On another occasion, we were chasing Burt Lancaster.  The chase was across the northern end of the Caribbean Islands.  We were supposed to have had an appointment in the Virgin Islands and sent in our crew based in Puerto Rico.

On arrival, the crew were told that Lancaster had left for Puerto Rico.  The crew followed.  They went to his hotel to be told hat he had gone on to the Dominican Republic.  They followed by the next island hopping plane.  In Santiago, they went to his hotel to be told that he was already gone to Jamaica.  Off went the intrepid crew who finally found Burt Lancaster in his hotel in Kingston.  That was expensive.

One of the most difficult for us to do concerned the daughter of Sandy Gall.  Sandy was the subject of TIYL and his daughter, at that time, was hiking in New Zealand.   The Thames production staff had a hard time locating her, but the problem was that the film was to come into the laboratory at ITN House and, as Sandy worked in the same building, it was quite possible that someone could see the film and give the game away.

I suggested that we sent the film to Humphries Laboratories, an idea that was accepted and we managed to keep the secret.

I worked on behalf of This Is Your Life for seventeen seasons, that is until I left the company in 1985.  In January 1985 I was invited to see a recording of a This Is Your Life programme with host Eamonn Andrews at the Royalty Theatre in Kingsway, London, the subject was the then England captain Bryan Robson. Naturally the after show soiree was attended by players of the time as well as footballing greats such as Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law.  A great night.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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