I have worked on dozens of dramas, countless documentaries and a myriad other types of programmes, but throughout my career as Editor at the BBC, there was one constant – namely various encounters with the Royal Family.
I have cut programmes like “The Queen at 80”, “A Concert for Diana”, The Queen’s Speech, as well as interviews with many of the present Royal family, etc. My first ‘Royal booking’ was as assistant editor on a new documentary which was being written and presented by HRH Prince Charles entitled ‘The Earth in Balance’, transmitted in 1990.
The Prince had already received notoriety when he made a documentary ‘A Vision of Britain’ about Architecture, and this time he was going to make a programme about the dangers of global warming and population growth. The opportunity to work on this new documentary came about quite by chance, and I very nearly turned it down!.
In 1989, I was working at Ealing Film Studios, which was owned by the BBC at that time, and was the home of its film department. At that time I would be working on things like Bergerac, Campion, and single dramas like Tumbledown, and Hallelujah Anyhow. One day a call came through from ‘allocations’ – this was situated in the front entrance building, which is still there today.
“Ah Chris, will you start work in a couple of weeks on a documentary with editor Geoff Shaw, it’s rather hush-hush and you’ll be working with Prince Charles”.
For some unknown reason I prevaricated, and muttered something about wanting to stay working on drama. After a quick word of career advice from Ken Pearce, a prolific BBC film editor, who was my mentor really, I rang back and said of course I’d love to work on it.
A few weeks later and having been Police checked (unknown to me at the time), I remember turning up at the BBC’s Lime Grove Studios (now demolished) for my first day on the Doc. I quickly got to know Geoff Shaw, a calm film editor who got on with the task of starting to construct the film based on a script by Prince Charles. The film was directed by a young James Hawes, who now directs Dr Who, and dramas such as the remake of 39 Steps and the Enid Blyton film. We worked through the rushes, which had been shot all over the world, including Indonesia, New York, Hong Kong, Washington, as well as wilder parts of Scotland. The film also featured an interview with a then little known senator Al Gore.
Before long, in our lofty cutting room, we reached the point where the assembly was ready to be viewed. Prince Charles had made it clear that he wanted to come to the cutting room at Lime Grove about 4 or 5 times and that it was to be a working visit, no fuss, and it was to be virtually secret to most people. Not a word about it from us etc.
On the morning of his first visit, I arrived at Lime Grove early to find more cleaners around than usual. All the brass plates on the doors were shiny, someone said,
“ooh yes Prince Charley is coming today”.
So much for the secrecy then! I made my way up to the 11th floor where we had commanding views over the vast White City estate and Shepherds Bush Green!
The Prince arrived at 11.00am precisely; I could see out of our window his car parked down in the middle of the road, with another unmarked car behind. Traffic was building up, but a swift waving of a cardboard sign saying POLICE soon kept the horns quiet. I remember thinking I must try that myself one day!
The viewings with the Prince took place in a small cutting room, and his Private Secretary Commander Richard Aylard sat in the room with us with a huge leather bound diary. After initial hello’s the Prince came over to my film editing bench and picked up some of the 16mm footage of himself on a boat off Hong Kong and said,
“so is this film or videotape?”.
I was thrown by this a little, but we soon got on with viewing the film and making notes, all the time there was a burly plain clothed officer outside the door.
Later on I was sent to get BBC tea from the Lime Grove canteen. When I came back with standard issue white poly cups, the producer Christopher Martin, in a rather Basil Fawlty way, said
“I’m so sorry Sir that it’s not in a china cup”, to which the Prince replied “Oh that’s quite alright, I have drunk out of polystyrene before!”
Arranging the next viewing, one thing I do remember noticing was how the Prince’s diary was set out in 15 minute intervals – he had such a punishing timetable it seemed to me.
Later during the sound mixing I remember the Prince bringing in a ‘packed lunch’ and we all sat around at his invitation, chewing Buckingham-Palace-made Avocado and cream cheese sandwiches, and ‘special’ mineral water (I reckon it was Palace tap water put in a Highland Spring bottle) We had all commandeered the office of the ‘BBC Head of Wigs’ in the East Tower at Television Centre.
The film was finished and transmitted to the usual mixture of criticism and applause, and the nicest thing happened several weeks later. A letter came through from Buckingham Palace (no stamps on Royal post I noted – just a blue pencil cross on both sides.)
I was invited to Highgrove House in Wiltshire for afternoon tea, along with the rest of the crew. He was beginning the separation from Princess Diana at the time, so there was no sign of her. We had a lovely time touring the grounds and chatting, very naturally and he was very relaxed, unlike most of us! There’s a photo of me walking with Prince Charles, where he was asking me about Sky TV and how he hated satellite dishes. All the time we were walking, we were being watched by discrete CCTV camera painted green in the trees.
Working for the Prince was quite a pleasure and the environmental message of the film is even stronger today than it was back then. I wish it would be re-transmitted. He was an intelligent, kindly man, shorter than I expected, who made me feel at ease and it was one of the highlights of my career definitely. He sent out thank you letters to all of us personally signed, which was a nice touch.
Many years later I edited a special DVD to be given to Prince Charles and Camilla as a wedding gift. I also edited HRH Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburgh’s obituary (He is still alive but an obituary is remade every five years), and it was only then that I realised how active Prince Charles father was on environmental and ecological issues, decades before most of us had any idea of the threats to our world. Like father like son they do say.
The Earth in Balance
Prince speech about Chelsea Barracks –mentions The Earth in Balance
“Nothing argues for a re-evaluation of our way of doing things more than the state of the planet. Some twenty years ago – shortly after I made A Vision of Britain – I made another B.B.C. film called Earth in Balance in which I interviewed the then Senator Al Gore. I don’t think many people paid much attention to that film. It’s amusing watching it now! His subsequent bestseller, Earth in the Balance, played an important part in framing the debate before the Kyoto Conference on climate change. At that time, I argued that a rebalancing of priorities from short- to long-term was needed and that short-term thinking was at the root of the environmental crisis. I may have thought that then – I am convinced of it now! Sustainability matters.”
Cream of British Directing Talent 2008
see James Hawes section
HRH The Prince of Wales website http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/
Official roles: Heir apparent; Duke of Cornwall; Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland; Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester; Knight of the Garter.
Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regiment of Wales; Colonel of the Welsh Guards; Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy; Major-General in the Army; Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force.
Patron or president of around 200 organisations including: President of the Prince’s Trust; President of the Royal Shakespeare Company; Chairman of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust; Vice-Patron of the British Council; President of the Phoenix Trust; Patron of the Philharmonia and English Chamber Orchestras, the Royal Opera, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and many choirs, musical societies, Festivals, colleges and schools; Patron of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts.
|The Earth in Balance – details|
|ACTOR(S)||Prince Charles (Prince Charles), Al Gore, Henry Heinz, Claudine Schneider, Emil Salim more….|
A documentary written and presented by Great Britain’s Prince Charles, in which he addresses environmental issues and our attitudes about the natural world.
|Prince Charles (Prince Charles)|
|Prince Charles (Prince Charles)||Writer|
|Chris Hainstock||Dubbing Editor|
|Geoff Cutting||Dubbing Mixer|
|Carrie Johnson||Publicist (Pbs)|
|Harry Forbes||Publicist (Pbs)|
|Bbc Lionheart Productions||Production Company|
|Film Production – Main:|
|Sarah Hyde||Production Assistant|
|Richard Aylard||Program Associate|
|Michael Spencer||Film Recordist|
|Michael Turner||Film Recordist|