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Every Day Except Christmas: The other characters


Every Day Except Christmas
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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This was also quite an interesting film, both to make and to see. It started out as a... it was going to be a 20-minute film. And, Lindsay had found the subject which was the Covent Market... Covent Garden Market in London, and he had proposed this to the, not to the BFI, but to the... the Ford Motor Company because, at that time, Karel Reisz had got a job as Films Advisor to the Ford Motor Company who had, sort of, an outfit going. They had a film library and they had quite a... there was a place there, anyway, for a films officer. So Karel took that job and whilst he was on that job... in that job, he sponsored Everyday Except Christmas and The Lambeth Boys. So on the beginning of Everyday Except Christmas it says, 'Ford of Britain presents', and then comes the... the film. And, Ford of Britain left... left us alone. They just said, rather... rather sort of plaintively, that in the... in the market scenes, 'Will you... will you... if you go into close-up onto the bonnet of a... please, you know, do it... if you're doing the close-ups do some Ford trucks and not the competition'. But that... that was about the extent of their interference.

Anyway, so we shot for four weeks. The film was made in four weeks and there were two weeks of night shooting, and two weeks of dawn shooting, or dawn and day shooting, because the film starts at midnight. Or it starts before midnight when the first truck arrives from the countryside. In fact, it starts in the countryside and there's this ride through the suburbs of London on this vegetable truck, which is coming in from Sussex with mushrooms, and stuff. And, again, very controversially and uniquely, Lindsay chose to play God Save the Queen during that, because it's the... you hear the voice of the radio at that time, Home Service, it was called, I think. You hear the voice of the radio commentator, very... it's so typical of the period, you know, it's very relaxed, very slow. It says, 'Those of you who are working through the night, I hope you have a quiet and peaceful night, and to the rest of you who are now going to bed, goodnight, goodnight'. And then they play God Save the Queen, which they played after every cinema performance, and at the end of broadcasting, it was the habit of playing God Save the Queen. So Lindsay put this over this journey, so you have this... travelling shot, long travelling shot, or a series of travelling shots through the southern suburbs of... of London at night, when this truck arrives with the... vegetables, on the way... this truck is on the way to Covent Garden and you hear God Save the Queen. And that... that of course, caused a lot of problems later when the film was about to be released they said, 'Well, you know, that's... that's very... awkward because when people hear that they're supposed to stand up, so all these people in the cinema they're all going to rise to their feet'. Of course, no... no such thing happened, but they were afraid it might happen. And then the truck arrives at Covent Garden and then the film goes through the... very meticulously through the process of what it takes to unpack and display the fruit and vegetables, ready for the first buyers who arrive at six in the morning.

So it takes you through the night with a group of people that we get to know quite well, who are the porters and the... the Covent Garden Market workers, who... who we get to know quite well. And, there are some quite interesting sequences in there which... where I follow a simple process really, where they're... where they're throwing cabbages, one... one to the other, and he... and he takes it... he... they're unloading things one by one, and they put the boxes out and... and they have a sort of rhythm to their work. And I found, that, by studying this rhythm and sitting on top of the racks, on the top shelf, as it were, with my hand-held Arriflex, I... I could follow the... you know, it... it turned into a sort of rhythm which I could follow back and forth quite... in quite big close-up. And that also teaches you something about operating, because when you're operating, you're always supposed to leave room ahead, or if a person is looking to the left, you're supposed to leave some room ahead to the left, so the distance between the back of the head and the frame edge is less than the distance between the nose and the frame edge so it's, what they call leaving air ahead, which is the principle of operating. That came in handy many times later. But when you're doing it in close-up it involves some manoeuvres, which again, came in very handy later, where you learn to follow somebody, and knowing that he's going to turn around and go back the other way, you kind of anticipate that, and while he's more or less static- static, you pan him from the left side to the right side, ready for his new departure, leaving again, air ahead. So it has some interesting sequences from that point of view, where... where you follow a work process closely. And the other aim of... of Lindsay, and not only Lindsay, but the whole group, was to do something different in the... in the way of British documentary, which up to then, was really the Grierson School and not much else. And, the Grierson School focused a little bit on people, but not all that much. Very often you... you saw documentaries where the camera focused on what was going on, but not on the people doing it particularly. So Lindsay was very keen that that should be... the focus should be the... the faces. Whilst showing clearly what they were doing, you then concentrated on the faces, so you get to know the people. And that is very successful in that film. That... that was done very successfully, I think.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: Ford Motor Company, Every Day is Christmas, Lambeth Boys, Lindsay Anderson

Duration: 5 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008