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The making of The Hallaton Treasure

To BIAFF 2010 results | To Full Making Of Index Still from 'The Hallaton Treasure'.

At BIAFF 2010 Market Harborough Movie Makers won a 4-Star Award with The Hallaton Treasure.

The film shows in reportage style, how amateur archaeologists discovered one of the most significant Iron Age sites in the country, much valued by historians and experts from the British museum.

As a club Market Harborough Movie Makers have a reputation for making good local films and we show these films in the local theatre, and to clubs and societies in and around the town to over one thousand people a year. The Harborough Museum is well aware of our reputation and in fact has many of our films which can be watched by its visitors. When it was decided to refurbish the Museum, in order to house and display the Hallaton Treasure, we were very honoured to be asked to make a series of short films to be incorporated into their Treasure display.

The Treasure was discovered in a field near Hallaton, some six miles from Market Harborough, by amateur archaeologists in 2000. Subsequent professional excavations revealed as many as five thousand Iron Age coins, hundreds of pig bones, a variety of silver objects and the remains of a Roman helmet.

Still from 'The Hallaton Treasure'.We were asked to make four short films about the coins, pig bones, silver objects and the Roman helmet and a fifth one to describe how the finds came about. These were all to be continually showing in the relevant modules which were to be the Museum's permanent display of the find, due to open in nine months. No pressure of course, so I promptly went on a round the world trip for two months, coming back just before Christmas to start on the project, now to be finished by the following May.

The Harborough Museum had identified various experts at the British Museum and elsewhere who had agreed to be filmed and, in my absence, interviews had been arranged at the British Museum with their coins expert, their Iron Age expert and the restoration specialist who was working on the Roman helmet. So within days of my getting off the plane, Len Holden, Peter Wilford and I were on a train to London laden with cameras, tripods, and sound and lighting equipment.

Still from 'The Hallaton Treasure'.These were busy professional people we were going to meet, giving up their time for this bunch of amateurs and so we had to assume that we only had one shot at it. With this in mind, and with the help of the Harborough Museum staff, we worked out a list of questions to ask the experts, which it was hoped would bring out all the features that we wanted to include in the film.

At this early stage we were still learning about the subject ourselves, so with the question list as our guide we simply pointed two cameras at them and let them say as much as they wanted to. The two cameras meant that in the eventual edit there would be plenty of opportunity to cut the interviews to keep the films to the required length. Sound was recorded on all interviews with a Rode NTG-2 microphone mounted on a hand held boom. The cameras used throughout were a Panasonic GS400 and a Canon XM2, which proved not to be a brilliant idea when having to balance the colour between the two in the final edit.

Still from 'The Hallaton Treasure'.The next aspect we had to consider was the telling of the story as to how the Treasure was found and subsequently excavated. To do this there was of course a further series of interviews and I decided that this part of the project should be scripted but with the people involved using their own words.

To do this we also needed a presenter, which Zara Matthews, the Keeper of the Harborough Museum, thankfully agreed to do.

Zara's presenting, I think, gave the finished result an authority it may not have otherwise had. The script was agreed by the Harborough Museum so that there were no arguments as to content after we had finished.

At this stage we, as a movie making club, also insisted that, for all that was going to be involved in this project, we must have a film that we could show to our normal audiences and in competitions. To achieve this I planned to make all the separate elements (coins, silver objects, pig bones, helmet, discovery) so that they could all be "bolted" together into one twenty minute film.

In making a film like this, where the story is being told by as many as ten people, it is necessary to keep on top of the editing. Apart from the almost impossible deadline we were working to, I had to review all the footage of the interviews immediately after shooting to make sure that it was all good and that they said everything we needed. Aware that we were, to all of these professionals, "just a bunch of amateurs" it was good that we did manage to avoid having to go back apologetically for any last minute retakes.

Still from 'The Hallaton Treasure'.Although we started work on this project some years after the finds were discovered and excavated, we were lucky to be able to film the same team on a subsequent dig in a nearby location and this gave us some authentic archaeological activity to incorporate into the film.

For much of the early activity, however, we had to resort to photographs taken at the time but, with the use of Photoshop and the 3D editor incorporated into the Edius editing suite, the stills are, I believe, accepted by the viewer as part of the story.

Just a point about Edius. I bought this a couple of years ago when Pinnacle Liquid stopped being supported and I find it an excellent editing system , not much used by IAC members I believe but it's multicam editing, colour correction, audio tools, 3D tools etc. were all put to good use in this production.

The editor's final and most important task was to make all these disjointed interviews into a fluent story. I like to do this by writing linking pieces and then recording myself, as a temporary measure, direct onto the computer (rubbish quality accepted). For this project I first needed to create the five films for Harborough Museum and then join them together to produce the club's "complete" version. When I was satisfied with all five individual films, these links were printed out and our presenter, on various locations, very ably recorded them for us. As much of the presenting was filmed outside, a concealed wireless tie-clip microphone was used.

The Harborough Museum is now a very popular small Museum and since the refurbishment to house the Hallaton Treasure it has had almost twenty thousand visitors. Leicestershire Museums, heavily involved with this project from the start, has a travelling exhibition (including the films) which moves around the County and beyond. This must make the film the most watched of all the Market Harborough Movie Makers productions.

- Colin Sullivan


Visit the Harborough Museum website for details of opening hours and special exhibitions.


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Page updated on 04 October 2011
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