Crossroads in Tunisia
EVERY three days film is being flown back from North Africa to ATV’s offices in Birmingham, where it is being processed and edited for inserts into ATV’s Crossroads serial.
Enough material is being filmed during 12 days on location to provide inserts for Crossroads for three months after the scene of the programme switches to Tunisia following the blowing up of the Crossroads Motel.
Meanwhile at the Alpha Television Studios in Aston, where the five-days-a-week programme is produced, sets depicting a replica of a Tunisian hotel are being created, based on pilot photographs of the area taken by Peter Harrison, ATV’s Deputy Midland Controller and Crossroads producer Reg Watson.
A newcomer to the Crossroads team Richard Irving has just flown out to Tunisia to join Noele Gordon, Anthony Morton, Sue Nicholls and Lew Luton in filmed inserts. He appears in the programme from May 5.
Two cameramen and two sound engineers from ATV are working under Reg Watson and director Alan Coleman, who has taken over directing duties from Tim Jones (who has now returned to the UK following the completion of his sequences.)
The idea of moving Crossroads to Tunisia arose fromthe three-day pilot survey Peter and Reg conducted in January. They then undertook a more detailed four-day survey of the area, accompanied by the Director of the Tunisian Tourist Board.
“It was essential to carry out very thorough research so that we could not only be factually correct but avoid wasting time while the unit was on location” says Peter Harrison.
“While we were conducting our research, we had conferences with the Minister of Tourism, the Governor of Djerba and the Director General of Tour Afrique, who shared our desire to see that everything should be presented in a factually correct manner.
“For instance, customs vary from one end of the country to the other. In Tunis, it is usual for women to be seen shopping, but if you went to Djerba, it is something you would never see.”
None of the Crossroads team has visited Tunisia before, although Peter Harrison lived in Egypt for a year. They have not encountered any language difficulties because they have had the services of an interpreter from the Tunisian Tourist Board.
“We have not had to call on the local television service for any help,” commented Peter Harrison, “It only broadcasts for two hours a day – one hour in Arabic the other in French”
“All our cameramen are very highly trained technicians, so the operation has not presented any real technical problems. And we have been able to also benefit from the experience of doing previous filmed inserts for Crossroads at Torremolinos and Paris.”
Places where location filming is being carried out for Crossroads in Tunisia are Tunis, Monastir, Skanes, Gabes, Hammermet and the Isle of Djerba.
One site of considerable historical interest that is being used as a setting for scenes in the programme is the Roman Amphitheatre at El Djem. Situated in the desert it is 1,700 years old. It holds 35,000 people and is connected to the sea by a 28-mile underground tunnel.
The exact location of the Desert Croal Hotel, the Tunisian counterpart of the Crossroads Motel, is not being revealed by ATV.
[Note: It was Hotel-Aljazira, Djerba]
It is felt [if the real hotel’s name was revealed] it could lead to the hotel being inundated with applications from viewers wishing to spend a holiday there.
It will be on May 16 that the Crossroads staff, led by Noele Gordon (Meg Richardson) are seen in the story flying out to Tunisia. A sequence is being filmed at London Airport, using a BAC 111 of British Eagle, who are also supplying as an advisor for the sequence Miss Janet Banks, one of their senior Stewardesses.
Naturally a lot of the research for the Crossroads move to Tunisia has involved wardrobe. Some costumes have been obtained locally but most of the wardrobe has been flown out to Tunisia by ATV.
Why has ATV decided to up-root the Crossroads Motel from its imaginary Midland setting and transplant it to such a contrasting hotspot as Tunisia?
Peter Harrison’s answer is “Because it will broaden the scope and vision of Crossroads and open up new horzons. It sounds terribly pompous, I know, but it happens to be true
“This is a programme with which the viewer can identify himself easily. We wanted a place that most viewers could afford to visit yet probably hadn’t done so. Tunisia seemed to be the answer.”
The Stage, written by Dennis Detheridge, 1967