Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Shoot - Day One

Back to Wałbrzych in search of you-know-what, this time with film crew. I have a plausible idea of where a Nazi gold train could possibly be hidden...

We fly to Wrocław, pick up hire car and drive to Książ castle; the timing was unfortunate, as it's the first day of the long May holidays, and the castle is overrun by visitors, crammed with booths odpust-style. Additional car parking is in a field; it's raining; our car gets stuck in the mud - by the end of the day, hundreds of cars will be in the same mess. Next location - Walbrzych. We pass the site of Kilometre 65, now debunked as containing neither gold nor train nor tunnel. The town itself continues to exude a sinister atmosphere in the cold and gloom. And finally, on to the wonderful Hotel Dębowy in Bielawa, our base for the three-day shoot.

One thing that struck me after a 30-plus year absence from filming is how technology has dramatically lowered the cost and increased accessibility to broadcast-quality footage. Back in the 1980s, each camera would have three or four people fussing around it. Today, each person on the shoot has several cameras to operate, including a drone, a helmet-mounted Go-Pro, an Osmo gimbal-mounted camera, DSLRs shooting 4K video, as well as handheld smartphones. Each camera has different applications. There is also, compared to 30 years ago, a rigorous yet common-sense attention to health and safety on the shoot.

Below: producer, director, driver, camera operator, clapper/loader, focus puller, soundman, lighting engineer, key grip, best boy, runner - all in the shape of two people - Rory (right) and Oscar, behind the Canon EOS5 MkIII. After Poland and the Gold Train story, they're off to film further episodes in Romania, Barbados, Texas, Canada and Argentina, returning to London in early June. The downside of filming like this is the vast amount of baggage - two guys, seven cases packing cameras, tripods, lighting rig, plus five weeks' worth of clothing. The heaviest load is the ammunition case used to store all the lithium batteries needed. As these can (rarely!) spontaneously combust, they travel in the passenger compartment should anything go wrong, not in the baggage hold. Seven heavy cases/bags, just four hands to carry them all.

Below: overlooking Wałbrzych, and to the left of frame, the foothills of the Owl Mountains (Góry Sowie), one of the presumed locations of the legendary train.

Wałbrzych looks grim and foreboding in the rain. Traces of snow still to be seen here and there. Looking down towards the hills overlooking Wałbrzych; abandoned coal mines stand at their foot, now a museum.

Kino Górnik, a splendid example of Bauhaus protobrutalism from the 1930s, sharing much architecturally with the superstructure of the Bismarck. The cinema closed in 2015.

Wałbrzych's market square and town hall. With a population of 120,000, Wałbrzych is the second-largest town in Lower Silesia after Wrocław. The local special economic zone has lowered local unemployment spectacularly, while Gold Train fever boosted tourist visits to the town by 44% last year over 2015. Below: "Run to the cathedral of Santa Maria Christiana in Brucknerplatz. Buy one of the plain, half-length candles and take back four klubecks in change. Light it in the sacristy, say a brief rosary, then go to Mendl’s and get me a Courtesan au chocolat. If there’s any money left, give it to the crippled shoe-shine boy." This part of Poland just reeks of Wes Anderson's Grand Hotel Budapest.

Bielawa - post-German, post industrial. Round the corner and up the hill to our base, the Hotel Dębowy (recommended). Fabulous food, and a memorable craft ale - Browar Świdnica's Daisy AIPA (7.3% alc.), named after Daisy Cornwallis-West, wife of the last owner of Książ castle.

In Bielawa, we meet up with Marcin, our 'fixer' who's been busy getting all the permissions and lining up the interviews on the ground. Tomorrow we start the search in earnest.

This time four years ago:
Jarosław Gowin quits his post as justice minister

This time eight years ago:
The cycle-to-work season starts


Unknown said...

Flying a short 350km distance from Warsaw to Wroclaw isn't what can be called environmentally-friendly.. what happened to your affinity to rail travel? ;-)

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Berndt:

We flew from London!