If you have read any of my other posts you will know that I’m constantly badgering the sound department. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against sound, it’s obviously a vital part of producing films and TV shows. I secretly have the upmost respect for all in the sound department, and people who know me in the industry know this already… but generally I try to keep that one under wraps – after all we don’t want these chaps to get above their station now do we!
Anyway having said that here’s a true story that I hope you enjoy. As you might expect it involves poking fun at a soundman so I guess it’s got to be good! (Sorry old habits die hard). I will change the poor chap’s identity to preserve his dignity so if you are the soundman in question reading this blog, don’t worry your secret’s safe with me… but you know who you are!!!
Let’s call him Monty – the perfect English Gentleman (picture C3pO with headphones and a boom mic). A good friend of mine and one heck of a soundman…
So, we were filming a Motocross event. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of Motor Sport let me explain. Imagine lots of souped-up rally cars covered in mud with ‘Go Faster Stripes’ and large bore exhaust pipes. Then imagine these crazy looking cars roaring across rough countryside terrorizing the local wildlife, driven by cheerless men and women in damaged crash helmets and grubby, ill fitting overalls.
OK got that? Great… Now imagine the hordes of spectators who relentlessly support this event.
Crowds of bobble hatted, tank-top clad, thermos flask carrying enthusiasts hanging on the sidelines for hours on end, struggling against the certain onset of hypothermia in an effort to get a glimpse of the ‘Action’: the next Subaru, or some other equally speedy automobile, roar past. In reality they rarely see anything because as the car rockets past on full throttle they more often than not get vigorously peppered with sharp grit thrown up from the track OR drenched in ominous looking, filthy, stagnating ditch water containing every virus known to man. They’re a loyal bunch!
Anyway that’s basically the thrill of motor rallying, so with that enticing image now firmly in mind…on with the story.
Years ago it was my unfortunate task to be part of a multi-camera shoot to film such a rally across Wales in the UK. I think we had about ten, three man crews positioned at various strategic points along the rally track which sprawled over an area of about 50 miles square of rough countryside.
It was going to be a night shoot, deep joy! The call time on location was 10.30 pm so we left our hotel at about 7pm for a meal, before traveling to the Welsh outback to set up. We were staying in a small village with a solitary high street so it didn’t take long to find the only place to eat. A rather dubious looking Indian restaurant…
Anyway we all quickly decided on a meal which would be least likely to result in contracting Botulism or some similar parasitic poisoning. Choosing something ‘safe’ was a bit like playing Russian roulette, only replacing the revolver with the menu. The Assistant Cameraman and I opted for something as harmless as possible, a vegetarian dish. Good. Poor Monty however had not had the pleasure of such exotic foods before. I rather cruelly suggested essentially the most fiery-hot thing on the menu… a good old Vindaloo.
When the food arrived we dutifully scoffed away with one eye on the poor soundman who, in an attempt not to lose face, consumed his curry like a true English gentleman. Sweating buckets with his mouth on fire, he was clearly going through a similar physical and emotional experience of having both his wisdom teeth pulled without anesthetic. When the waiter cleared away our empty plates and enquired (in a rather strange Indi-Welsh accent) if we enjoyed the meal, dear Monty, in an effort to not offend, exclaimed rather unconvincingly that he enjoyed every bit of it!
Later that evening we drove to our allotted filming location, and set up in a dark remote corner of a Welsh forest where, in a couple of hours, the rally cars would come thundering through.
After setting up we sat there killing time, talking about the meaning of life, the universe and the rising price of our favorite alcoholic beverages. Monty would normally wholehearted join in, finding such trivia irresistible, (well he is a soundman after all) but tonight things seemed ominously quiet from the sound department. All that could be heard from the darkness was the occasional whimper and nervous cough as he tried to disguise the relentless escape of gasses from his nether regions.
As the rally cars started to hurtle through Monty took up position with his beloved Gun Mic but, for some obscure reason as we were filming, he began to perform a sort of strange little dance, a weird international hybrid of River Dance and a Latin American salsa. His nimble footwork was sporadically interrupted by his body becoming totally rigid which was accompanied by stifled whimpers through gritted teeth.
I nervously surmised that something biological was going on; maybe his liking for the recent gastronomic delights of the Far East was all too much for his delicate digestive system. With minutes to go before another car came through we were all poised for action. Monty’s dance routine continued to intensify until suddenly the revenge of the Vindaloo came to the fore. It became obvious to us onlookers that poor Monty’s bowels could take no more, the pressure was simply too much to endure. After carefully positioning his gun mic in the optimum position for the best possible sound and setting the levels on his sound mixer (what a Pro) he swiftly disappeared behind a nearby bush to let Mother Nature have her wicked way.
What followed was quite possibly the strangest sound I have ever heard, and indeed will probably ever hear in my life. It’s not a sounds I’d like to hear twice. I can only describe it as something akin to blowing bubbles through an extra large McDonald’s banana milk shake while at the same time playing ‘Colonel Bogey’ rather badly on an out of tune bugle!
Yes poor Monty was behind those bushes giving it large. Now one thing you need to know about Monty is that he really is the quintessential Englishman. So there he was in ‘mid flow’ when a rally car came powering round the corner and illuminated the poor man crouching there having something close to an out of body experience. Yes one million candlepower of Quartz Halogen Spotlights directed straight at Monty in his most desperate of moments. Well most of us would just accept that ‘a man has to do what a man has to do’, shrug it off and let nature take its course. But not dear Monty, oh no that’s just not cricket for an Englishman. Instead, in an effort to defend his pride, and indeed the British Empire, Monty promptly pulled his trousers up over the relentless waves of Diarrhea gushing from his bowels with the velocity of a speeding bullet.
Well, after the cars had passed through Monty rather sheepishly returned to our camera position. Even in the half light he looked pale and confused. Like a man who had been abducted by extraterrestrials, had his buttocks probed and scrutinize then released, rejected on the grounds of not being an accurate representation of intelligent life on planet Earth. As we began to de-rig the stench of second hand Vindaloo became unbearable. But worse was to come, we had the unenviable task of driving back to the unit hotel. The situation was so desperate that we unanimously decided to abandon Monty’s shirt and trousers in the welsh countryside but allow him to retain what dignity he had left by keeping his ‘Union Jack’ Y fronted underpants on (…no, that’s not a joke). So after making him sit on a plastic carrier bag in the car we set off.
Even with all the car windows open and an icy blast of air rushing through at 70 miles an hour, the stench was hard to believe. It was at this point I pondered the ancient art of pearl diving where skilled swimmers are able to hold their breath for ten minutes or more. I thought how useful that would be. I did try this technique for a short time but eventually went dizzy and almost passed out with asphyxiation, not helpful when you are driving!
At 4.30 am we arrived back at our hotel. The Night Porter took one look at Monty and promptly refused him entry into the hotel. Despite trying to bribe the porter with a roll of ten pound notes we eventually concluded that he was a man of principal and that no amount of money would be enough to allow a middle-aged man, wearing nothing but a puffer jacket and badly soiled Union Jack underpants, walk across the lobby of his fine hotel!
Finally the Camera Assistant went back to his room, tied a towel and a clean pair of underpants to some string and lowered them out of the window to poor shivering Monty. After a bit of a sort out in the car park the porter reluctantly agreed to let Monty in so he could have a shower, get some sleep and regain his self-respect.
Even the next morning as we were loading up the camera car, you could inadvertently get the odd whiff of the aftermath from the night before.
Oh happy days!