How is the job of a mountain rescue team?

Stung by freezing rain, buffered by high winds, and with snow crashing down on them every few minutes, two young mountaineers – Philippe Berclaz and Philippe Heritier – had spent four days trapped on a tiny ledge more than 10,000ft (3000m) up in the Swiss Alps.

The two Philippes, both in their early 20s and training to be professional mountain guides, had set out in August 1975 to climb the almost vertical, north-east face of Piz Badile. The mountain rises 10,850ft (3300m) like a gigantic knife blade on the borders of Switzerland and Italy. The climbers had got to within some 500ft (150m) of the summit when dark clouds rolled down and they found themselves in the middle of a blizzard.

Unable to go on the top, or back to the bottom, they abseiled 130ft (40m) down to a narrow ledge, with a sheer drop of 2200ft (670m) beneath them. They attached themselves by ropes and pitons, or iron pegs, to the granite face and spent their first two days there in agonies of cold. Repeatedly they shouted for help, but each time the wind mocked them and carried their cries away.

On the afternoon of the third day there was a break in the clouds, the storm eased, and their desperate yells and whistles were heard by two German tourists, far below in the Bergell Valley.

News of their plight was telephoned to Swiss Air-Rescue in Zurich, the volunteer organization that deals with mountain rescues in Switzerland. By then dusk was falling, and fog had blotted out Piz Badile. No rescue attempt could be considered that night.

At dawn the next morning, however, the air-rescue service went into action. They rang Beat Perren, head of Air Zermatt, a commercial helicopter service, and commissioned him to undertake the rescue. Within minutes he and his chief pilot, German-born Siegfried Stangier, were flying the 100 miles (160km) to Piz Badile in a powerful Lama helicopter, equipped with a winch.

They reached the mountain in an hour and saw the two stranded mountaineers clinging like flies to the white wall of the north-east face. Strong gusts of wind threatened to send the chopper – with its whirling rotor blades – crashing into the mountain. Siegfried Stangier was unable to get as close to the two men as he would have liked.

So a cable was later lowered 150ft (45m) to the ledge. On the end of the cable was a sack containing a walkie-talkie, warm clothing, flasks of hot tea, dried beef and vitamin sweets. The mountaineers were soon in radio contact with their rescuers, and reported that they still had the strength to lock their rope harnesses into the safety catch which was fitted to the cable.

But cloud and wind delayed the rescue bid until six that evening, when the conditions suddenly cleared. Only one man at a time could be winched to safety, and it was agreed that Philippe Berclaz would be the first off.

Cautiously, Stangier manoeuvred the chopper until the tip of the rotor was about 25ft (7.5m) from the mountain face. Berclaz unhooked himself from the wall and held Heritier – who was still anchored to the granite – tightly around the waist. Heritier grabbed the cable with numbed, frost-bitten fingers and snapped the cable’s safety catch onto his friend’s harness.

Suddenly, Berclaz was whisked into the air, dragging his friend off the ledge. Helplessly, Heritier dangled there by his rope and piton. Then, using every last ounce of determination and strength, he managed to scramble back onto the ledge. Meanwhile, Berclaz – suspended from the end of the helicopter cable – was flown to a stone shelter on the plateau above the Italian border. There, helpers guided him gently to the ground.

Later that night Heritier – in the face of freezing wind – succeeded in fastening himself to the rescue cable at the fourth attempt. Soon he, too, was swinging through the air to safety.

Land based

Since the early 1970s, helicopters have proved the most effective way to locate victims of mountaineering accidents and take them and their rescues to safety. The choppers’ manoeuvrability and speed are essential in getting badly injured people to hospital.

But they are not the perfect answer. They are expensive and cannot operate in fierce winds, heavy snow and thick cloud. The noise of their rotor can also trigger off an avalanche. They are best suited for hazardous alpine rescues – and are not suitable for prolonged and remove rescues, where refueling can be a problem.

So the traditional land-based means of rescuing people trapped on mountains, or buried by avalanches, are still employed.

On Mont Blanc, for instance, overland rescue teams are involved in more than 400 rescues in a year.

The highest peak in Western Europe, Mont Blanc towers almost 15,800ft (4800m) above the borders of France and Italy. It attracts more than a million visitors a year – many of whom want to climb to the top (in summer, some 200 people a day do so). In 1987 the mountain claimed 44 lives, and almost 300 people were injured.

Almost every mountain region has some kind of rescue service, but the more popular resorts – the Alps, the Scottish Highlands, and the Rocky Mountains in North America – have highly trained teams of professionals, with sophisticated networks to coordinate their operations.

Everywhere, mountain rescue organizations work closely with the armed forces, local police, the Red Cross and other medical services, and various rescue specialists such as the coastguard and dog handlers.

A basic mountain rescue team consists of a team leader or controller, who directs the operation from a base off the mountain; the party leader, who directs the team during the search and rescue; and as many people as necessary, depending on the scale of the accident or disaster.

Team members are almost always local expert climbers familiar with the terrain and weather conditions. They are all trained to work in snow, ice, bare rock and atrocious weather. They also receive first-aid training, even though larger teams have doctors or paramedical staff. Communication is by radio or portable telephones.

Depending on the terrain and weather, the team may climb on foot, or with snowshoes or skis; they may travel by horse or motor vehicle; they may use sledges or snowmobiles; or they may arrive by helicopter.

Rescue teams usually use specially trained dogs to locate victims who are lost, and to help dig out people buried in an avalanche. A dog, with its acute sense of smell, can search an area in the time that it would take 20 men to cover the same ground. Dogs – usually German shepherds, Labradors and border collies – are trained to locate any person lost in the area. (St Bernards, traditionally associated with alpine rescue, are considered too cumbersome to work in difficult terrain.)

In March 1985, for instance, a group of Royal Navy sailors – nine ratings, two officers and a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service – were mountain walking in Wales. They became stuck on a slippery ledge 500ft (150m) from the summit of Glyder Fawr – a 3280ft (1000m) sister peak of Snowdon. The party was reported missing when it failed to return home by 9.30 that evening.

‘A good hot-water bottle’

Two local mountain rescue teams set off for Glyder Fawr, as did Philip Benbow – a builder’ merchant and member of SARDA, the Search and Rescue Dog Association. With his black Labrador, Jet, he scrambled through the icy darkness with Jet sniffing the winds for any human smell.

Suddenly, Jet shot off up a steep slope followed by his master – who was guided by a small green light on the dog’s jacket.

‘Jet was far ahead when I knew by his bark he had found the group’, Benbow said later. ‘The coldest was the young Wren, so I put Jet in a sleeping-bag with her to thaw her out. A dog has a higher-than-human body temperature and makes a good hot-water bottle.’

Benbow contacted the mountain rescue base on his radio, and before long team members arrived with casualty bags to warm the rest of the frozen walkers. Daylight broke and an RAF helicopter arrived and winched the party – Jet and Benbow included – from the ledge and back to safety. ‘Jet didn’t look too cheerful as we dangled from the aircraft,’ commented Benbow, ‘but it’s all n the job!’


Picture Credit : Google

What are the risks and rewards of staging a musical?

The lights dim, the hubbub dies down and the audience settles back in their seats. Then the curtain goes up for an evening of music, lights, dancing and hit songs. But how does a stage musical ever come to be presented?

No other form of entertainment requires the delivery to a live audience of such a complex blend of creative and performing skills, nightly for sometimes years on end.

The skills needed to put on a straight play – from financing the production to rehearsing the cast – are all present in a musical, but it has many more complications uniquely its own. There is the music itself, which must be composed, arranged for an orchestra and dovetailed into the plot. There is dancing, which needs to be choreographed. There are the costumes and sets, often more lavish than in a conventional play. There is the need to find players who can sing and dance. Finally, the theatre itself must be big enough and suitable to accommodate the show – with good acoustics and room for an orchestra.

All this makes big musicals the most expensive form of theatrical production. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera cost about £2 million to mount in London’s West End, and Ziegfeld, which opened there in 1988, cost an initial, £3.2 million. On Broadway in New York, the starting price is around $7 million.

Just to break even, a big musical needs to play to full houses for a year, compared with about three months for a play.

The rewards of success with a musical can be phenomenal. Another Lloyd Webber hit, Cats, generated £250 million in three years in the mid-1980s. The show played at the same time in Britain, America and eight other countries around the globe. The record album sold millions, and souvenir items such as T-shirts added to the takings.

Failure can be equally spectacular, particularly on Broadway, where the fate of a show can be determined by the critics virtually from the opening night. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Carrie closed there after a week, losing $7 million. Even lyricist Alan J. Lerner, whose My Fair Lady is among the most successful musicals ever, suffered the ignominy of seeing his Dance a Little Closer taken off before its third night.

Man in the middle

The risk and responsibility of putting on a musical rests with the producer. He selects the show, organizes the money, and superintends everything to do with the production. There are two types of producer – the impresario and the manager.

Impresarios operate independently, with their own production organizations. They are largely free to stage what they wish, when and where they choose. The real restrictions are financial. Impresarios must be able to raise the money to pay the bills, and their ventures must show the promise of a useful profit if financiers are going to back them.

Managers, most commonly, are employees appointed by the board of trustees of a particular theatre to mount their own productions. The theatre itself may be privately or publicly owned.

Because of the money involved, large-scale musicals have usually been the province of impresarios. And forms of co-production have evolved. Both Cats and The Phantom of the Opera were presented jointly by the London-based impresario Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s group, The Really Useful Theatre Company.

Choosing the show

Original musicals involve three separate strands – the lyrics, the dialogue and the music. They are rarely all ready together when the producer is beginning his deliberations, because it usually takes at least three people to create them.

To simplify the problem, many of the best-known musicals take their plots or story lines from works that already exist in another form. Kiss Me Kate and West Side Story raided Shakespeare; My Fair Lady came from George Bernard Shaw’s stage play Pygmalion, itself built on an ancient Greek legend. Cats originated from light-hearted poems by T.S. Eliot. Oliver, Les Miserables and Man from La Mancha were adapted from novels by Dickens, Victor Hugo and Cervantes.

By borrowing a ready-made story line, authors and composers have a concept that can be easily grasped by a producer. Additionally, they may assume that the plot has already proved its attraction.

The genesis of The Phantom of the Opera illustrates how the various strands of a musical can come together. The original novel was written by a French journalist, Gaston Leroux, in 1911. It was made into a film three times. A stage version was put on at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, London, in 1984, using the music of operatic composers such as Verdi and Offenbach.

The composer Andrew Lloyd Webber became interested in the Stratford show, and considered putting a version of it on in the West End. At that point, he too planned to borrow the music; only later did he decide to write his own.

The project was still at the idea stage when Lloyd Webber approached Cameron Mackintosh to co-produce it. So the producers were involved with the show from the start.

The creative team

In any stage production, a key figure is the director. He is responsible to the producer for the casting and for all artistic and technical aspects of the production. He is responsible, too, for rehearsing the performers and the technicians in charge of sound, lighting and scenery.

Lloyd Webber chose Hal Prince, whose musical successes included Fiddler on the Roof and Evita. Even before Prince was in place, Lloyd Webber had decided on the set and costume designer – Maria Bjornson, who had previously worked for the English National Opera and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

To write the lyrics for the songs, they appointed a young unknown, Charles Hart, after hearing his work in a competition. And the dialogue, or ‘book’, was by Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe – who also wrote additional lyrics.

Casting the parts

In major productions, the star parts are normally cast a year or even longer in advance. Early casting ensures the widest choice of top names – leading actors usually stay in one role for six months to a year. But, equally important, the commitment of a star performer helps to raise the vital money.

For that reason, the producer has the final say about who plays the leading roles, through he will take the director’s advice. The other parts are left to the director to fill.

Christine, the female lead in The Phantom of the Opera, was written by Lloyd Webber specifically with his wife, the soprano Sarah Brightman, in mind. At that time, she was not a front-rank star, and others were auditioned before the role was finally given to her.

The male lead, Michael Crawford, was personally chosen by Lloyd Webber. Crawford was a household name in Britain; from the television series Some Mothers Do Ave ?Em. He had also had a huge hit in the musical Barnum which had had a long run in the West End.

Raising the money

While the director is assembling all the components of a production, the producer is putting the final touches to the finances. His budget itemizes all the main costs.

Some costs are fixed from the start – for example, the sets and costumes, which will be needed however long the show runs. For The Phantom, they cost £900,000. Others, such as theatre rental and wages to the less senior members of the company, are partly fixed – they no longer represent a cost if the show closes.

Some costs are tied to the income from the production, as fixed percentages. The star may receive a flat fee in rehearsal, plus perhaps 20 per cent of the ticket income until the show recovers its investment, and then 12.5 per cent after that.

Other key personnel, such as the designer and the musical director, are on smaller percentages – say, 2 per cent. So are the writers and the composer.

The less money a producer needs to raise from outside sources, the more profit he can keep for himself. However, few impresarios wish to take all the risk themselves. Their proportion varies from 10 per cent to 70 per cent, either directly in cash or in personal guarantees to secure a loan.

The usual sources for the rest are companies or individual investors, who put money into a show as they might buy shares on the stock exchange. Most producers have their own lists of companies and individuals – known as ‘angels’ – who are potential investors, but sometimes the opportunities are publicly advertised. Angels do not begin to see a return until the initial expenses have been met in full.

Producers of musicals have other opportunities to raise money – for example, by interesting a record company in advance in the album rights for the show, and by licensing merchandise associated with it. Andrew Lloyd Webber and the lyricist Tim Rice – collaborators in Jesus Christ, Superstar and Evita – pioneered the techniques of releasing single records, albums and pop videos before the show opened – in effect testing the response, creating public awareness, and raising money.

Once the finances have been worked out and the company begins to assemble, work on the show can begin in earnest. One early priority for the producer is to book a theatre and set a date for the opening night.

Depending on the type of show, the official first night may be a year or more ahead. Some productions are given a provincial tryout before they are brought to a major centre such as the West End or Broadway – to identify and correct any flaws before and grand opening. Others may have previews before invited audiences. In either case, these dates must be built into a timetable.

Those associated with the production divide, loosely, into two groups. The producer and his associates concentrate on the business matters, including publicity and advertising. Much of their effort is directed towards advance ticket sales. The Phantom of the Opera, for example, opened in New York with a guaranteed box office advance of $19 million – assuring it financial success. Few producers can count on anything like that.

All the other aspects of the production are under the overall control of the director. First, he will want to make sure that the script is nearing its final form. He may call on the writers to make changes, sometimes right up to opening night and even after that.

The musical score is the responsibility of the musical director, who may edit it with the help of the composer, supervise its arrangement for the orchestra and prepare it for the show.

Simultaneously, the designer will be working on the sets and costumes. The sets may begin as detailed models or drawings, and they must be approved at each stage by the producer and director.

A number of specialists may work alongside the designer – creating the lighting or working out special make-up, for example. A master carpenter and his assistants eventually collaborate with the designer in building the sets. A wardrobe mistress supervises preparation of the costumes. A property master assists in obtaining such items as furniture needed to dress the sets.

Meanwhile, the director is beginning his work with the cast. He must also make sure he has suitable understudies – reserves for the leading players – and ‘swing’ or utility players available for minor roles in an emergency.

Rehearsing the cast

From the time they are hired, the actors begin familiarizing themselves with the script. Before proper rehearsals start, the director sometimes conducts readings involving the entire company, indicating how he wishes each part to be played.

These ‘read-throughs’ can be held anywhere. But in the next phase, where the actors move according to stage directions, a rehearsal room or stage is needed. As there are usually no sets, their positions are indicated by coloured taps on the floor.

The early rehearsals are conducted both with the whole company together, and also with only certain individuals or groups who require special instructions for their parts. The musical director takes the singers and musicians through their paces. The choreographer or dance master instructs the dancers. An arranger may be brought in for flying stunts or fights.

Gradually, under the director’s eye, the separate elements come together, and a move into the theatre becomes essential. As the sets are built, the stagehands may be given practice in scene-shifting. Lighting and effects are rehearsed. Singing, dancing and other special stage routines are integrated into the rehearsals.

The final stage – perhaps a week before the first performance to an audience – is the full-scale dress rehearsal. The actors are in costume and make-up, the sets and lighting are in place. The full orchestra is assembled. Only minor changes remain before the theatre opens its doors and the audience and the critics deliver their judgment.


Picture Credit : Google

What are the Ingredients of a Hollywood movie?

Hollywood feature films originate in the chaos of creative egos and live or die by public whim. Only in production, when a film falls into the hands of technicians, are there firm rules.

The whole process breaks down into major stages: conception, pre-production, production, post-production.

The concept

The basic idea, or concept, for a film sometimes comes from a novel, but may simply be an idea, often expressed as little more than a title, sometimes in conjunction with a star’s name.

In the words of the director-writer Steven Spielberg: ‘If a person can tell me the idea in 25 words or less, it’s going to make a pretty good movie.’

Usually the concept is written up in the form of a brief presentation, which evokes the plot, characters and appeal in a few pages.

Some ideas move with astonishing ease. When, in 1976, Dino de Laurentis decided to remake the 1933 version of King Kong, he gave screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr the go-ahead in a ten-minute meeting. On the other hand, the writer William Goldman researched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (19698) for eight years on and off before he even started the screenplay.


The pre-production period may take years, during which deals are discussed and stars and directors approached. This is followed by months of rewriting, location finding, and budgeting, designing sets, rehearsing and scheduling transport and shooting.

The first essential is ‘the deal’. Decades ago, major film studios such as Paramount, MGM and Twentieth Century-Fox controlled ideas, production, stars and budgets. Now the studios concentrate on financing and distribution, and all the other elements must be pulled together by ‘the deal’.

As an investment, a film is a gamble. Those who control access to film finance – like agents and managers – have assumed huge influence. Agents often become independent producers, who are the forces behind some Hollywood deals. With the ‘elements’ – the idea (or sometimes a script), a star or two and a director – the producer sells the package to a major studio for development money (which would be around $100,000). By getting the deal off the ground, the producer can at least cover his expenses – the major one being the creation or purchase of the script.

As this stage, most projects are either shelved, or are rejected by the studio and go back into the marketplace. However, if the studio approves the script, it goes into production. Only then does the producer – who receives much of his fee when the cameras start to roll – start to make money.

The basic script remains the skeleton of the film. As a piece of writing, it is sparse – around 135 pages is considered a rough standard – containing little but the dialogue and simple directions to suggest character and atmosphere.

The images presented by the script can only live when fleshed out by the director – the person who chooses the camera angles, commands the actors, and gives the film its artistic shape. The script is usually heavily rewritten once the cast, director, budget and location are known. It frequently evolves further during shooing, into the final shooting script.

The stars use to be controlled by studios, which could use a contract to enforce whatever they wanted, including extensions to the contract. As David Niven wrote: ‘Some of us gave 12 or 14 sulphurous years of our short actor’s lives working off a seven-year contract.’ Now major stars, the keys to success, wield enormous power. At any one time, there are about 15 important stars that everybody wants. Since they can make huge sums for the film, they are paid accordingly. Robert Redford, who received $500 for his first film, War Hunt, in 1961, earned $100,000 a day for A Bridge Too Far (1977).

Negotiations may last for months, with offers and demands in the millions. Many stars depend on their images, and refuse to be bought unless the part is right. Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, James Caan and Warren Beatty all refused $4 million to play Superman (1978).

The Missouri Breaks (1976) teamed Marlon Brando (who was to receive $1.25 million plus 11.3 per cent gross receipts over $8,850,000) with Jack Nicholson ($1.25 million, plus 10 per cent of gross receipts over $12,500,000). The deal took almost a year to set up and the film was a box-office failure.

Directors, too, are a part of the star system. Success breeds success; but equally important in Hollywood is ‘word of mouth’. When George Lucas made American Graffiti (1973) his studio, Universal, described it as a ‘disgrace’, and almost did not release it.

Lucas had at this point received just $20,000 in three years, and was in debt. But Graffiti was a hit, and he used his new-found status to work a deal with Twentieth Century-Fox. The film was Star Wars (1977). It made him a millionaire.

Budget of feature films are a constant source of fascination to both film makers and the public. No two are the same. ‘Below the line’ costs – those directly related to the craft of movie-making, such as sets and technicians – are estimated from the script. ‘Above the line’ costs of producer, director, stars and writer are open to negotiation. Both run into millions. One of the most expensive films ever was Cleopatra (1963), which cost $44 million in 1962, and lost money at the box office. Average budgets for American films in the 1980s were around $10 million, of which $7-8 million might be ‘below the line’ and the remaining $2-3 million ‘above the line’.

After the elements in place and the deal agreed in principle, contracts are drawn up, an epic operation in itself. The negotiations are so tortuous that they themselves may become books and films.

Even relatively straightforward films may take years to evolve. The Dogs of War, the film of Frederick Forsyth’s 1974 best seller, was six years in pre-production. Developed with money from United Artists, it had two writers and two producers before John Irvin was contracted as director. A third script acted as a basis for location research. The producer, Larry de Waay, contracted to shoot in the Seychelles in cooperation with the country’s president, James Mancham. But Mancham was ousted in a coup before work started. De Waay finally settled on Belize, in Central America. This time, shooting went ahead. The film was released in 1980.


A major feature demands a small army of specialist departments. The main ones are sound, camera, lighting, art, make-up, hair and wardrobe, publicity and script.

On different films, different specialists acquire particular significance. Stanley Kubrick’s design department for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) had three production designers and an art director to oversee the sets. Close Encounters of a Third Kind (1977) needed 60 arc lights strung 80ft (24m) above the ground. Franklin Schaffner’s Sphinx (1981) needed dozens of live bars.

Direction has been compared to war – hours of mind-numbing boredom occasionally interrupted by moments of pure terror. One shot of a battle scene in a war movie may cost millions. Possibly the budget will not allow for a reshoot. Perhaps the director is contractually liable to repay costs that are over budget.

 A major source of stress for the director is that many of the people under him, or her, can make or break the film. This is particularly true of the cameraman. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) was crucially dependent on Vittorio Storaro’s ability to control anything up to ten cameras at once.

Since camera work is so important and so expensive, sound has come to take second place on the set. The sacrifice must be redeemed later, and dialogue is dubbed on after shooting.

The art department may have to solve demands like Franklin Schaffner’s for Sphinx: produce an Egyptian tomb with 800-900 jewellery artefacts. Jaws (1975) required a 25ft (7.6m) automatic shark.

Location managers have an equally vital role. For Apocalypse Now, Vietnam was re-created in the Philippines; but the difficulties drove an original budget of $13 million up to $31 million. Location managers can save costs by doing deals in North Africa or Eastern Europe, where studio and location costs may be under half those in America or Britain.

After shooting, the immense amount of film must all be carefully processed. The loss of any one of the hundreds of reels can be fatal for the movie. The potential for disaster is huge – in August 1978, masked men robbed a Boston studio of 15 unedited reels from the Brinks Job (1978), and demanded a ransom of $600,000 (the money was not paid; the film was edited without the reels; and it lost $9 million).

Creating special effects and stunts

Special effects are a particularly demanding area, in whichever country a film is made. Back in 1966, in One Million Years BC, the British special-effects man Les Bowie created the world in six days for £1200, using porridge for lava. But today’s special effects demand high technology. In 1988 a sequence showing asteroids in The Empire Strikes Back included 40 shots, some of them with up to 28 separate optical effects, involving 100 pieces of film.

Stunts have always been important to film makers. Stunting is a dangerous and highly paid occupation. In Highpoint (1984), Dar Robinson was paid $100,000 to leap off the 1851ft (553m) CN Tower in Toronto, breaking his fall with a ‘decelerated cable’. For Steel (1979), A.J. Bakunas jumped off a 350ft (107m) building into a huge air pad; his fall split the bag, and he was killed. Car crashes fires, fights, explosions – all demand their own skills, and have their own dangers.

One particularly controversial area is stunting with animals. In the first version of Ben Hur (1925), 100 horses were killed. As a result of this and other similar abuses, controls were tightened.


Editing – in which a film is cut and then assembled ready for release – can also make or break a movie. Scenes will have been shot in many different ways to provide a wide choice. Stanley Kubrick shot over 200 miles (320km) of film for The Shining (1980), of which only about 1 per cent was used. A typical shooting ratio is between 10 and 20 to 1.

One vital element remains to be added: music. The American composer Bernard Herrmann once said: ‘Music is the connecting link between Celluloid and audience,’ completing the film’s psychological effect. It can only be written when editing is almost complete.

Because of the pressure of time, the composer usually works with assistants who fill out his musical sketches by writing the dozens of orchestral parts required. John Williams’ 90 minute score for Star Wars ran to 900 pages, written by him and four orchestrators.

After editing, another huge machine – promotion – swings into action: this involves advertising, printing and distribution. For Alien (1979), for instance, Fox spent over $18 million on so-called ‘overheads’ - $15 million on advertising and $3 million on prints for distribution to over 2000 cinemas.

Only then is a film ready for its audience. Only then will the army of people involved in its creation know whether they have in its creation known whether they have made a disaster or something magical.

One reason why up-front money is so huge and the negotiations so demanding is that studios are notoriously slow to pay any share of profits to the stars, writers, producers and directors. They refuse to declare a profit, setting income against ‘overheads’. Alien, which cost Twentieth Century-Fox $10.8 million, brought in almost $50 million in its first year (1979), and still Fox did not declare a profit.

A major reason for the ‘no-profit’ mentality is that films not only cost hugely and earn hugely – they lose hugely, and do so more frequently than they earn. In the 1980s only three out of seven major features made money – a remainder that the public’s taste in subject and stars is notoriously fickle.

No one dares predict success. Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981), the story of a dying cripple, was highly successful as a play. As a film, it flopped. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982), one of the most successful films ever, was turned down by every, major studio except Paramount Columbia researched ET (1982). Concluded there would be no audience, and turned it down.

Why? Because as scriptwriter William Goldman writes emphatically in his book Adventures in the Screen trade, the ‘single most important fact of the entire movie industry’ is:


Anything that is, about what the audience will want next year. Despite the millions of dollars, the tons of scripts, the heart-stopping negotiations, the scrupulous technicalities, movie people do not really know how to make a movie work; they only know how particular movies have worked, and hope against hope that the future will be like the past.


Picture Credit : Google

How many calories do Olympic athletes need to consume in Seoul Olympics?

Feeding the athletes is another major responsibility of the Organizing Committees. At Montreal in 1976, for example, a staff of 1400 served over the 16 day Olympic period a total of 1135 tons of meat, fish and vegetables. It worked out as a daily average of 8lb (3.5kg) and 5200 calories per athlete – served in a 24 hour cafeteria larger than two football fields.

And at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, a team of 135 chefs prepared some 60,000 meals each day. The fresh food was delivered daily from more than 100 suppliers, and included an order for 45,000lb (20,400kg) of meat every day. Kosher food is prepared for Jewish contestants (in Rome in 1960 this was supervised by the city’s chief rabbi) – and Muslims look after the kitchens providing food for their fellow Muslims.

But the number of cooks (300 at the 1964 Tokyo Games, for instance, recruited from Japan’s top hotels) is greatly exceeded by the number of interpreter – guides needed for each Game. Almost 1000 interpreters, well-versed in sporting terms, attended the athletes in Tokyo. And by the time of the Seoul Olympics, 5000 interpreters were on hand. Their duties included acting as translators for the National Olympic Committees, the hundreds of assorted diplomats, and more than 1000 journalists. Over 30 languages were spoken – including the IOC’s two official languages: French and English.

In addition to this in 1988 almost 30,000 South Koreans volunteered to serve without pay as guides, ushers and ticket sellers. A thousand English-speaking inhabitants met foreign visitors at Seoul’s modern airport – many of whom became guests in the volunteers’ homes during the Games.

In whichever country the Games are held, the weather frequently plays a key role. In Los Angeles in 1984, for example, smog occasionally threatened to blot out one event or another; and in Helsinki, Finland, in 1952 – when the Soviet Union took part in the Olympics for the first time – the threat of cold and snow had to be taken into account. So at each Games an international team of meteorologists issues up to 20 bulletins a day. As a result of the forecasts, some of the events have to be hastily re-scheduled – usually to avoid gales, hail or rainstorms.

Equally important are the ‘sports bulletins’, or computerized results services, which flash out the Olympic results and times. In Tokyo’s vast National Stadium, for example, the electronic scoreboard was big enough to display up to 500 letters or numbers at once. And the timing device for the track events was timed to one-thousandth of a second.

But no matter how carefully the Games are planned, there is always something that goes wrong.

Montreal was a prime example. The main Olympic Stadium – in 1976 the world’s largest prefabricated structure – proved a major problem. First of all political quarrels, and the complexity of the design, delayed the start of fitting together the stadium’s 11,770 concrete pieces. Then three months of union strikes, slowdowns and walkouts – staged to gain substantial pay rises for the construction workers – brought work almost to a halt.

Blizzards and plunging temperatures – the wind-chill factor hit a low of -63  (-53 - intensified the holdups. Some of the 3550 workers had to fight wind gusts of up to 60mph (96km/h) and accidents cost the lives of at least 12 men. Because of all this, turf was still being laid in the stadium on the morning of the opening ceremony.

Once the various Games are over, the task of dismantling the villages, or converting them to other and profitable uses, begins. In Munich, for instance, the Olympic Village was originally divided into two sections: one for men and the other for women. Today the men’s section has been sold or rented out as living accommodation – and the women’s section is used as a students’ residential hall.

Mounting the Olympics is a highly expensive business – it cost $8000 million to put on the Moscow Games in 1980 and a ‘mere’ $850 million to stage the Seoul Games eight years later. Much of the money comes from the governments concerned, as well as from local businesses, and contributions from the cities’ residents.

Television rights

However, the rewards can be equally impressive. The Seoul Games made a record profit of almost $500 million – more than twice the profit made in Los Angeles in 1984. The bulk of the Seoul profit came from the sale of television rights – the USA alone paid $325 million.

The modern Olympics were inaugurated in Athens in 1896, when their founder, the French scholar and educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin, coined the slogan. ‘Not to win, but to take part’ – which is quoted at the opening ceremony of each Games.

The words of the late Avery Brundage are also recalled: ‘The Olympic Movement is a 20th-century religion. A religion with universal appeal which incorporates all the basic values of other religions. A modern, exciting, virile, dynamic religion!’


Picture Credit : Google

How city was chosen in Seoul Olympics in 1988?

Only cities – and not countries – can be candidates to host the Games. This is intended to eliminate, as much as possible, governmental influence.

Before the city is chosen, a National Olympic Committee (NOC) makes sure that the city is able to provide all the staff and facilities to stage the Games. And an Organizing Committee is appointed to plan and oversee the entire operation – and to report regularly to the IOC.

The staging of the Games inevitably involves improving, modernizing, and sometimes changing the face of the city concerned.

For the Tokyo Games in 1964, the world’s longest stretch of monorail was built from the city’s Haneda Airport to the specially built National Stadium. Super-highways, subways and miles of new sewers were rapidly built – and 22 dilapidated main arteries were designated ‘Olympic Roads’, and were widened.

There was a similar situation in Seoul, where in 19 months thousands of acres of rice fields were turned into a concrete mini-metropolis containing the Olympic Park and Village. The work included a new air terminal, an access road, the Olympic Drive, and flats and temporary homes for 35,000 athletes, journalists – Press, radio and television – and officials. In addition, 200,000 visitors had to be housed in hotels or apartments. Private developers seized the opportunity to build 178 luxury high-rise apartment blocks near the two main Olympic centres. The apartments were put on sale for up to the equivalent of £90,000 each and were snapped up by their new owners – who rented them out for the Games and moved in afterwards.

Living space was at a premium during the 1960 Rome Olympics, when the Olympic Village was built on a 74 acre (30 hectare) site near a bend of the Tiber. It included a 4500-room apartment development designed to house 8000 athletes.

However, many of the 100,000 visitors to the Rome Games – who arrived at the newly built airport of Fiumincino at the rate of 6000 a day – were not as fortunate. They had to sleep in convents, monasteries and school dormitories, and camp out in the city parks and green spots. One camping place was even set up in the grounds of the Emperor Hadrian’s villa in the nearby hill town of Tivoli.

But the Olympic villages consist of more than just sleeping quarters and training facilities. There are also beauty parlours, cinemas, discotheques, boutiques, post offices, churches and cobblers’ shops – which do a brisk trade in repairing the athletes’ running shoes.


Picture Credit : Google