I already had ideas for many of the locations that we later used. But it was the production assistant, John McKenzie, who audaciously rang Newington Lodge, that most infamous of all homes for the homeless, and asked whether we could shoot there. To our amazement we were allowed to, so that when the team moved in to shoot the final scenes of ‘Cathy’, it was in the midst of real life scenes in which children were going down with dysentery, and husbands pleading with staff to be allowed to stay a little longer with their wives and families.
This atmosphere of hopelessness and helplessness which hung around this home for the homeless affected the cast and helped them to portray these scenes with conviction.
The film, as finally devised by Ken and me, is very closely packed. Often there are two or three strands going contrapuntally. An official voice may be quoting statistics. In the background we may hear somebody else talking about the inadequacies of the toilet. And on the screen we see some of the action. I think this compactness is important, and I find that different people often remember different things about specific sequences in the film. This is, I think, because often more is happening at any given moment than the average person can take in, so that, as in life itself, the viewer has to subconsciously make a selection.
The film was shot in three weeks. Given all these locations and something like a hundred speaking parts, it was a neat bit of organisation by Ken Loach and Tony Garnett.
There has been many a feature film, employing less locations and less characters, that was six months rather than three weeks in the shooting.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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