posted by Glenn Barton

A fishy project, but worth the reward

This has been a week where Sir Alan Sugar might well have pointed his accusatory finger at me. Not to fire me you understand, but to warn me that what I've just done was not financially astute.

I've been asked to make a film for the BBC's The One Show. Topical Television, the production company, told me,"It should only take eight days of your time. Please don't use any more because we don't have the money." Fair enough, I thought, eight days, and the fee was reasonable so it should be fun. The team after all is a fantastic group of people to work with - humourous and supportive at the same time.

Then I was given the film subject - to take a look at an exclusive club for human goldfish. Yes you read that correctly - GOLDFISH. I was intrigued.

I dug around for more information and slowly became in awe at what I was discovering. In 1942, the Goldfish Club was founded to offer a place of camaraderie for aircrew who had 'ditched in the drink'. Those lucky few had not only survived crashing into water, but had often endured hours at sea holding on to a rubber dinghy, before being rescued. To become a member, you have to have the dubious honour of surviving a ditching into water. After WW2, there were 9,000 members, today there are little over 320.

Throughout the course of research, it became obvious to me when speaking to members that I had a duty to tell their story in an honourable and respectful way. In order to bring the film to life, I interviewed a pilot of a Nimrod R1 that ditched in the Moray Firth; a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot who ditched in the Channel just off Ramsgate; and a WW2 veteran who ditched his Blenheim after being attacked by a Messerschmitt and before being picked up buy a German minesweeper that led him to three years nine months of POW survival. Not to mention the chap who ditched in crocodile infested water and was saved by tribesmen in wooden canoes, or the lady who was fixing a radio when the plane took off without the pilot knowing she was on board - needless to say he was grateful after ditching to find she was the one who brought out the rubber dinghy!

So, eight days to produce and direct an engaging, creative film that told not only their stories, but the story of the Goldfish Club. It should have be relatively straight forward. But of course life rarely is. The first curve ball came when the archive trawl began - funnily enough there wasn't too much footage of WW2 planes ditching in the 'oggin'. Then the logistics of filming - interviewees were in Lincolnshire, the club reunion was in Torquay, and after you've thrown in a diversion to Southampton for a kit collection, you begin to sense what sort of monster this film production was becoming. And the whole process is still not finished - the edit commences this week followed by the voice over next.

Have I managed it all in eight days? Of course not! I've easily devoted much more of my time to the project. Do I begrudge spending the time? Of course not. Like so many projects we're asked to produce at Sparkly Light, this one deserved our care and commitment. The financial reward of taking on the project was secondary. It was the privilege of meeting the remarkable Goldfish, and the responsibility of telling their tales that was reward enough.