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The making of A Gentle Woman

This film was based on the true story of the elderly mother of a friend. After a minor road accident her son confiscated her car, saying she would be safer and better off using taxis. The next day she did just that, taking a taxi to the nearest Mercedes Benz main agent and buying a new car! This, therefore, was a simple feel-good tale of an old lady dominated by her son who, under sufficient pressure, rebelled and took control of her own life.

Technically, the film is deliberately straightforward, no clever camera angles, no pull focus, no transitions (other than cross-fade), no Magic Bullet effects. The intention was that the filming should go un-noticed, giving precedence to the story. This, therefore, was a film that succeeded or failed on the quality of the script and the ability of the actors. All the actors played their parts excellently, from the supporting players (such as the nursing home manageress, taxi driver and cabin attendant) to the main parts (such as the son and daughter-in-law). However, special praise goes to the leading actress, Patricia Blundell, who adapted her amateur dramatic skills so effectively to the small screen.
Son. The gentle woman. Daughter-in-law.
As a film maker reading this, you may be interested in how we secured so many location. These included my own house (easy); sheltered accomodation (Geoff Addis's father's flat); a Mercedes dealership (my local main agent for 2 hours on a Sunday morning); Patricia's own hairdresser's salon; 8 or 10 clothing shops in Windsor (a morning spent going shop-to-shop revealed that the private boutiques were invariably helpful while all the chain stores had a head office policy of refusing to allow filming). The final scene was shot on a VC10 that had belonged to the Sultan of Brunei and is now parked at Brooklands motor museum at Weybridge. Anyone who has made a zero-budget film knows the begging and borrowing that is needed to secure such locations…
CLothes shop. Aeroplane cabin.
…and then there are the props. Only a film maker can know the experience of knocking on a stranger's front door and ask to borrow their "For Sale" sign! Or sneaking up behind a parked taxi to photograph its licence plates - to be reproduced in Photoshop. We had a lovely red SLK in the showroom but, for the shots on the road, had to travel to Tunbridge Wells to borrow (from one of Patricia's sons) a red convertible Audi as a double.
For sale sign. Car in showroom.
This brings me to the only technical aspect worth mentioning: in the editing extensive use was made of Adobe After Effects to remove anything that would distract the audience's attention from the story. Reflections in mirrors were masked. The chrome window surrounds on the audi were "removed". The Audi emblems on the rear of the car and steering wheel were replaced by the Mercedes star (but I overlooked updating the numberplate to "10" - damn!). A background image of Heathrow was substituted for the old hangars at Brooklands. Not rocket science but quite time-consuming creating tracking masks. Hopefully making a small contribution to the veracity of the film
Driving the car. Airport - before. Airport - after.

- Phil Martin

A Gentle Woman won a 4-Star Award at BIAFF 2011.

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Page updated on 01 October 2011
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