The Solitary Rambler

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Filmed August 1993
Post-production completed October 1993
Latest revised edition 31st October 2014
Running time 66 minutes
Michael is unemployed and bored. Desperate for some new interest in his life he takes advice from his friends Jenny and Richard, who suggest he has a day out somewhere. Michael journeys to the historic town of  Chepstow  and its surrounding countryside. He has a thoroughly enjoyable walk in the lovely Wentwood  area, but then it turns rather creepy. Who is the mysterious figure following him whilst he is there? We travel with Michael as he is determined to track down this mystery man who calls himself “the Solitary Rambler”.....
Filmed in the county of  Monmouthshire  including a small part of the Wye Valley . Locations include  Chepstow , Great Barnets Wood,  Mounton Shirenewton , the Cwm, Llanfair Discoed  and  Wentwood .
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Background and production details
I always loved dramas where a mysterious character is unseen, but referenced in some way regularly throughout the story, and is not introduced until later on in the tale. The storyline moves through a series of sequences building up to that character’s eventual appearance, so when he/she does finally appear it is a very dramatic entrance. This was exactly how I wanted to make my entrance in “The Solitary Rambler”. I wrote my storyline in which Michael was the main character for the first two thirds of the film, and I would take over the lead in the final third.

I intended this to be the first of many projects, so I ended up referring to this film as the "pilot episode". For this pilot episode I decided I needed to establish an image for my character. At the time I was wearing nothing but black clothing, so I thought this would be a good idea for the image. I then decided on the hat as I thought it would look more effective in some of the scenes, e.g. the night shots with my silhouette.

In August 1993 we began recording my hurriedly written script. As well as Michael I had also managed to persuade my friends Richard and Jenny to make an appearance in the story.

I recorded the scenes in Jenny’s flat on two separate days. As these scenes are supposed to take place over several days Michael, Jenny and Richard kept swapping their shirts around from scene to scene to make it appear that this was the case! Richard did the camerawork for the scenes where I appear in Jenny's flat, hence the reason why he is strangely not in those scenes as well! As a result I wrote an appropriate line in the script: "It's a pity that Richard had to go to his parents' house for Sunday dinner"!

Most of the “live” dialogue took place in Jenny’s flat. I did not write any lines for Michael, Jenny and Richard in the scene where they sit on the floor studying the map. I just told them the sort of thing I wanted them to say and they ad-libbed, and I think it works rather well. The external scenes were all relatively easy to do as there was very little dialogue for Michael and myself, and most of it would be added later as commentary during post-production.

The musical soundtrack was composed and recorded fairly quickly. One theme I originally used in "Escape into Tranquillity" was re-recorded for this film, which was used in the sequence where Michael first walks through the streets of  Chepstow . All the other themes were completely new. I composed a specific theme for Michael in his introductory scene, which was then used in many of his other scenes throughout this film. For my solo scenes I composed several soundtracks, but there were two specific themes that I created to accompany my walk through  Mounton  and my scenes in  Wentwood .

Revised editions

My original technique of editing videos was by using two video recorders, where I would play the master tape in one machine and copy to the other. However, over the next few years I learnt that it became possible to edit videos using computer technology, so in 2000 I bought myself a new computer specifically for video editing. The digital editing software I purchased with my computer produced far more professional results.

I also bought some software for recording and editing music, which for me was a real breakthrough in my musical compositions as, like the digital video editing software, the results were so much better and sounded really professional. I connected my electronic organ to the computer, but the sounds were mainly produced from the new software, which was just amazing in comparison to what I had been used to. I spent a huge amount of time playing around creating sounds with this new music software.

With these points above in mind I decided to go back and re-edit all my videos originally made before I bought my new computer and software in 2000. I didn’t want to actually change the music, but I wanted re-create all the original themes using the new music software because I was just so excited about the musical sounds I could now produce.

Later on in 2000 I made the first major use of my new digital editing software when I commenced work on re-editing the pilot episode of “The Solitary Rambler”. For the original 1993 version I had created all the title captions by pointing the camcorder at sheets of paper with white lettering printed on a black background. However, for the new 2000 edition I improved on this enormously by using the digital editing software to create the titles instead. I was also able to produce fades and dissolves between scenes, which I couldn’t originally do when editing with two VHS video recorders.

I also took the opportunity to edit down some of the scenes that were in the 1993 version, which I had felt were perhaps a little too long, i.e. the scenes of Michael walking in Wentwood and the sequence where he first sees me and follows me from my car. I also chose to add a couple of scenes. For example, in the 1993 version I made no mention of spotting Michael during the sequence where I am walking in Wentwood towards the end of the film. Therefore, during my re-edit I added a couple of shots from the available footage as well as recording new commentary to state how surprised I was to see Michael during my Wentwood walk.

There was also a scene in the 1993 version where Michael was meant to be out shopping to buy a map, but it was never recorded, so I ended up using a shot of Michael walking down the High Street in Chepstow to try and establish this, but it didn’t really work. So for my new 2000 edition I decided to scrap that and instead insert some footage I had shot during a day out I had in the city of Bath a few years earlier. This was accompanied by a newly recorded piece of commentary by Michael stating he was setting off to buy a map.

In 2000 I also went out with a newer camcorder to shoot a few scenes of the countryside in the region where I had originally filmed the pilot episode, which I used as a few more establishing shots to insert as additional footage into the 2000 edition.

In 2014 I had, by this time, posted all my videos to YouTube, and the digital editing software had also much improved. Unfortunately the first five films of “The Solitary Rambler” were not in the best of picture quality. This was my own fault because, once the original footage had been copied onto VHS,  I wiped the master camcorder tapes in order for me to reuse them whenever I made a new film, so the completed films only existed as second generation copies. Nevertheless I chose to “remaster” my earlier videos, i.e. all those preceding “ Milestone in Matlock” , so I set out to re-edit and re-post them to YouTube in the best form I could possibly get them as well as being able to burn them to Blu-Ray discs. I captured all the video footage from my tapes onto my computer hard drive, so at least if the tapes deteriorated over time the quality of the video footage wouldn’t get any worse. It also meant that any video editing would be far easier to do with all my footage digitised.

For the pilot episode I decided to make a newly revised edition for 2014, so I took the opportunity to produce the best version of the film that I knew would be happier with. Firstly, all the later inserted scenes of the countryside I had shot in 2000 would not be included. They didn’t really work, mainly because they didn’t match the picture quality of the original 1993 footage, so the sequences they were used in looked odd. By removing these scenes, and although they were better quality than the 1993 shots, the completed film looks and flows as lot more smoothly.

Secondly, the Bath footage I had inserted into the 2000 edition was not going to be included. It was just unnecessary padding and didn’t really make any sense, so instead of all that I inserted a simple fade to black in between the scene in Jenny’s flat where she tells Michael to buy a map and where we next see Michael unfolding a map and laying it out on the floor. I think the fade to black works so much better. Aside from this I changed nothing at all in the 2014 edition aside from trimming the odd frame or two at the start and/or end of a shot where there was some dropout from the original tape.
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