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Chris Slatter

My Blog


The Magic Hour

Rune of the Day: Othila, inheritance

I was standing on Quai Jules Courmont beside the River Rhone waiting for the precise moment when the evening light assumes that lovely luminous quality beloved of photographers. In Britain it's called the magic hour, but due to Lyon's more southerly latitude, here it's more like twenty minutes. I had planned meticulously, so that the bridge and the Fourviere Basilica behind me would be illuminated while there was still enough natural light to enable me to perform a piece to camera. With only two minutes to go everything was ready. The cameraman was set up, the illuminations had flicked on, even the Friday evening strollers respected our space and had gathered behind the camera.

It was then that an Irishman in pyjamas, leading a dog on a rope stepped beside me. "Can I help you? I used to be in television." He brought out a bottle of wine from his clinking shoulder bag, took a swig and then offered it to me.

I tried to explain to him that we had only a few minutes to record my performance. "Oh, well I'll help you with your lines." This continued for several minutes as the light diminished until in a moment of frustration and rage I bellowed at him. But he continued unfazed until I thought I was going to have to resort to the physical. I looked up to the cameraman who was gleefully recording every minute of the encounter. Behind him was a sea of spectators drawn by the camera and no doubt hoping to see some action. In my mind's eye I saw the next morning's headline: TV reporter lashes out at homeless man. I sobered instantly and for some reason, so did my Irish mentor. "I'm going behind the camera now and I'll direct you from there." By now, there were only a couple of minutes left of the magic hour. One take then. But my mind was a blank, scoured clean by stress.

I gathered my wits and launched into the piece to camera, "Behind the spectacle of a city by night is..." . I halted because the following words had fled. "Take one" intoned the Irishman from beside the camera. I began again, "Behind the spectacle of a city by night is the inconvenient truth that..." The Irishman: "Take two." I continued for eleven takes until I finally stumbled through to the end, my new friend solemnly recording each attempt.

By then it was quite dark and the cameraman had switched on the light mounted on his camera. The magic hour had gone, not to return until the following night. My mentor had a few last words for me as we packed up the gear, "It wasn't too bad, I suppose, but you'll have to learn your lines better in future." He held out his bottle, "You'll be wanting that drink now, I specs."


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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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