White Lady

 1986

 

Sophie Thompson, Jessica Martin, Meg Wynn Owen, Cornelius Garrett.

Lighting Cameraman: John Kenway.
Film Editor: Greg Miller.
Produced by Carol Parkes.
Directed by myself.

 

 

 

'Each time you have eaten, I have kissed you. Each time you have breathed...' The White Lady (Meg Wynn Owen): production still.

Amid the Warwickshire farmland, a white-robed lady with a scythe seduces two little sisters whose true mother has deserted them. A parable on the agro-chemical destruction of nature, intercut with horrific footage (authentic) of damaged organisms.


Although I'd worked closely with many fine directors over some 25 years, and had learned a lot from them about what directing is and what it is not, it was still terrifying and instructive to find myself with the responsibility. There was more yet to learn: about being the lonely one to whom everyone looks for a decision; about being decisive in emergencies (most of which resolve themselves into matters of aesthetic taste); about maintaining good relations with a large and diverse company of people, and empowering their creativities and skills. And the experience - in common with most other directors - of waking up the morning after the shoot is over, and seeing immediately all the things that one should have done differently.

Lighting cameraman John Kenway - not one to suffer fools - had the integrity to dispute with me, always quietly and discreetly, when he thought my proposed camerawork was wrong. But he shared with me a commitment to lighting naturalistic set-ups not naturalistically but poetically - so that their inner truth shines through. A difficult concept, this, and not popular in tv: lighting shots that way takes time, and time is money. I thirst in vain for such lighting in tv drama now. In Greg Miller, I had the editor I had wanted for Artemis 81 - and his work here justified that. (He didn't always give me an easy ride either.) All in all, I couldn't have wished for a better or more supportive crew.

With the two children, I believe that my direction brought out their best. With the two adults, I feel that I achieved some strong Romantic presence onscreen: Garrett's dark haunted virility of a man who now must be his childrens' mother too; Wynn Owen all glacial smiling death - but I see now where in directing them I could have been more self-critical.