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EPSOM MOVIE MAKERS

formerly EPSOM CINE & VIDEO SOCIETY

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AN EVENING WITH JOHN SUCHET
We were quite apprehensive about whether we would have enough audience support when we were visited by such a famous speaker as John Suchet. There were so many other things going on at the same time, like an inter-club competition at Staines, a delayed Christmas party at Orpington amongst other things but it all turned out very well in the end. What with Haywards Heath, Copthorne and Sutton groups along with many other friends we reckoned we mustered more than fifty people on the night. I somewhat nervously introduced our distinguished guest and John Suchet soon launched himself into an energetic account of his experiences in television news reporting and announcing. He started by telling us how British news reporting differed from that of the American method. They use what is known as wild track - that is writing a script around which the vision editor would edit his footage to (film or video), as opposed to writing to the picture - John was experienced in both methods. The latter method reasoning is that television is picture driven. He then went on to describe how the evolution of technology effected the delivery of reporting.
John Suchet

In 1976 for instance when he first joined ITN the media initially was film with all the problems that ensued such as processing, editing, dubbing and all the logistics involved in getting all back to London in as short a time as possible. He recounted many stories from numerous forays into foreign lands at times of revolution, conflict and political turmoil in which film had to be practically smuggled out from under officialdom's nose. His expertise was in very short 2 1/2 minute 'packages'. Failing initially to get himself into the BBC or ITV he started his career at Reuters but after a while he practically forced, as he recounts, his way into the BBC. But there he confesses he screwed up badly and made his next move to ITV vowing not to make the same mistakes again and promising to return to the BBC after making good. This promise to return was never fulfilled as he spent the next 32 years at ITN. The big change came about with the evolution of international satellite communication - film could be transferred to video and transmitted to the other side of the world within minutes but even this was by no means perfect. For instance John covered the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini to Tehran and the ensuing revolution. What with combating the indigenous censorship and personal life threatening danger he managed to have his precious footage transmitted to London only to be told it was not coming through. Numerous attempts were unsuccessful until on the eighth pass signs were given that images could be seen at the other end but were very distorted. Apparently the sprocket claw mechanism on the telecine machine had become bent and had scored the film through and rendered it unusable! Other instances of utter frustration can come when there is no time left to insert a report into the evening schedule which then has to be binned. When video reporting became the norm there were many instances when due to various accidents video footage was missed, reporters from differing companies would share resources. The most outstanding example came in 1986 when he covered the dramatic toppling of President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines by 'Cory' Aquino. He put together a very good eight minute 'Catch-up' reportage when the average was only about 3 minutes. This won him the Royal Television Society Reporter of the Year accolade and more or less made his career. What was not widely known at the time was that only about one minute of that eight minutes was captured by his own crew - the rest was from ABC news. Afterwards as a bonus he scooped a very sneaky personal interview with the newly elected President. In John's opinion, outcomes such as in the previous case and for example the fall of the Berlin Wall, television had actually helped shape the course of history because in these situations, brutal and aggressive resistance to change would have been witnessed by the entire world. John kept us all enthralled with many stories but he said he really loves being in front of the camera as it concentrates the mind so much that its like running a marathon. There was an instance when news items became impossibly mixed and almost reduced him to tears after the show. He was about to throw it all in when his boss took him to one side and told him that he was the man to hold it all together. 'He was the viewers friend, he was the representative of all the people behind the camera and in the back room.' A lesson he was never to forget. After leaving ITN he became employed by Channel 5taking over from Kirsty Young and was almost treated like an 'elder statesman' much to his amusement. During questions and answers he was asked about his present job at Classic FM and his writing. He has written about six books on Beethoven and the last one published in October, 'Beethoven: The Man Revealed' exposes a side of the maestro that is little known to the world. This is the basis of a twelve part series which is running on Classic FM Sunday nights at9:00pm from 10th March this year. Some of the benefits of broadcasting on Classic FM (he was to divulge) is that no make-up is required - he does not have to dress up and he can relax and enjoy the music he so loves. All in all a brilliant evening and one that everyone thereon the night were glad they did not miss. Many thanks John.

SECOND TAKE APRIL 2013

 

 

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