EXTERIOR, DAYTIME, A COUNTRY ESTATE
Roland Forbes (Sir Anthony Hopkins) takes Lady Helen Fotheringay
(Dame Judi Dench) by the arm and indicates a path winding down an immaculate
lawn sloping gently towards a river, sparkling in the afternoon sunshine.
'Come, I've got something to show you'.
CU Lady Fotheringay
'I hope it's not a boat. I hate boats. I get
seasick if I step over a puddle'.
(He smiles knowingly and leads her on. The camera pulls back to a WS.)
SFX: birds twittering, a peacock calling in the distance.
They arrive at a small jetty, where a lovely burgundy and
white boat bobs in the water. She is called Sunberry.
MS Lady Fotheringay
'I just told you. I hate boats. (She looks critically at Sunberry)
Although this one is rather cute. What did you have in mind?'
MS Forbes as he offers to help her step aboard
'A little voyage of discovery'.
CU Lady Fotheringay
(She accepts his hand and steps onto
the classic Edwardian launch)
'I should have thought most of the Thames had
been discovered by now, wouldn't you?'
'Ah yes, but I'm sure there is a lot to discover about you.
You are, how shall I put it? "Uncharted waters".'
Forbes climbs aboard and casts off, Lady Fotheringay sitting primly yet
nervously in the bows as the boat drifts slowly away from the jetty.
MS Lady Fotheringay
'Well I hope you've got a life belt.
I have dangerous undercurrents'.
Okay, it's a totally facbricated scene from a movie that's never been made, but indulge me for a short while. I'm hoping that our new boat Sunberry has movie star potential, and I'm making her available to the film and television industry.
I don't need to tell you how popular period dramas are, and every time I watch one I can't but help look carefully at the props, particularly vehicles. And boats. Are they the correct vintage? Are they all too shiny and new? Is there anything out of place that isn't quite right for the year in which the film is set? No, yes, and yes again to those questions, frequently; but I don't tend to let such details spoil the movie, and anyway, 99.9 percent of a viewing audience wouldn't notice such trivialities.
But let's look at Sunberry for example. If she were to get the supporting role in the film scene above, would she pass muster? Would she come across as 'the real thing' rather than a film prop put together by the set construction crew? I think she would.
Sure, if you lifted the engine cover in the cabin you'd instantly see that she is powered by a 14hp Yanmar single-cylinder diesel engine, but that's the beauty of the nice wooden cover - it hides the engine. Externally her exhaust gives off a pleasing and old-fashioned pop-pop-pop-pop sound, which could be an Edwardian combustion engine. Not steam obviously, since there's no funnel, though I'm sure a props department could fit one if necessary, and add chuff-chuff-chuff sound effects, plus a charming whistle in post-production.
So there's little to give away that Sunberry has been brought up to date. Maybe the horn on the bow is a bit too modern, but the lovely old cable steering mechanism is genuine, and her shape is absolutely classic Edwardian. In the cabin are two charming wicker chairs, which again evoke the period, as does the burgundy and white striped upholstery. The fire extinguisher would have to go.
Externally Sunberry looks like a garden party afloat, and she'd almost certainly pass any audition that came her way. She is also undemanding, capable, reliable, not given to tantrums and I'm confident she can learn her lines and hit her marks as required. I'm even happy to don a skipper's hat and long white beard and moustache should it be necessary for me to play the role of the boat's captain.
Anyway, I've been researching props and transport companies that specialise in providing classic boats for productions. One of them is just half an hour down river from where Sunberry is moored. Plus the boat can easily be transported anywhere in the country, being just 23' long and weighing probably less than a ton. She doesn't require make-up or a luxurious trailer with spa bath and mini-bar.
And best of all, after she's starred in an award-winning film, she won't hog the stage at the ceremony, is unlikely to ever encounter Harvey Weinstein, and hopefully can congratulate the industry for there finally being equal pay for boats, barges and cruisers appearing in films.
She will be exactly what she is, a gracious lady.
I think she's ready for her close-up now, don't you?
Photo of Dame Judi Dench borrowed from a website called ProLandscaper
Photo of Sir Anthony Hopkins from the Over Sixty website
With gratitude to both sites, MB.