Terry Bamber has been working in the film industry as a production manager, location manager, assistant director and actor for nearly forty years now, on TV and film productions domestic and international, small and large. His resume includes seven James Bond films including SKYFALL (2012), LARA CROFT - TOMB RAIDER (2001), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2004), and THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005). I talked to Terry about his extensive and fascinating career, and about his experiences with the man we know as Bond, James Bond.
How did you get started in the industry?
started through my Dad, Richard (Dickie) Bamber. He was an assistant director
and then a producer with Portman Productions and TVS Films. He used to get me
jobs as a runner during my school holidays.
You have worked mostly as a
production manager, location manager, or assistant director. Can you briefly
outline the responsibilities of the respective positions?
manager is concerned with the budget and the hiring of the crew and equipment. A
location manager usually works with the production designer, is responsible for
sourcing locations for the specific requirements of the set, and then does deals
with the location and manages the location logistics and requirements. An
assistant director runs the 'floor' (the set) and is responsible for organising
and planning the schedule and the day's work. This is reflected on the daily
call sheet, which shows what times the cast and crew are to be called in, how
the day's scenes will be filmed and in what order.
Which position do you
I prefer being the assistant director as I am much more
creatively involved with the background action and am always in the thick of the
On a film, how far in advance of shooting do you usually get
It depends. A large scale production like a Bond can be up to
six months in advance of shooting. On a TV shoot as a first assistant director
it might be only 4 weeks; or 8 weeks as a production manager.
continue to act in films and TV productions. Does your training and experiences
come in useful when working on films?All the time, especially when
working as an assistant director. I try to give the actors the time and space
they need, and try to give them courtesies like making sure there is a 'beat' on
set after all the setting up is done and filming is about to begin, so that they
have a chance to 'get in the zone'.
What are some of the challenges and
The hours can be very stressful and tiring. Sometimes dealing
with large studio productions and the 'bull' that goes with it is the largest
challenge of all.
What are some of the most memorable experiences you
have had in your career?
I love travelling and working abroad, and
meeting new people and different international filmmakers. Filming in Iceland on
DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) on the frozen lake; with Sharukh Khan on RA. ONE (2011),
and at Heathrow on the forthcoming ALL YOU NEED IS KILL (2014). Nearly dying in
India in 2005 when my heart stopped after seven continuous weeks of working.
Filming in Mumbai for RA.ONE was just fantastic with an orgy of colour, chaos
and noise. When I was in South Africa for I DREAMED OF AFRICA (2000), we had the
most incredible hail storm and we had to abandon filming for the day. I had to
make sure we got all the crew off the location which was about to be flooded by
I've also worked in the likes of Fiji, Ethiopia (where
we were shot at!), Kenya, Greece, Turkey, St. Petersburg (a stunningly beautiful
city), Venice, Lake Garda, Chamonix, Thailand, Australia (Port Macquarie), The
Bahamas, The Canary Islands, Pakistan, The Orkney Islands (survived a Force 8
gale ferry crossing!! - very scary), Belfast, Dublin, the Isle of Skye, Cardiff,
Glasgow, and Liverpool.
I loved working with Derek Jacobi, Angelina Jolie
and Ray McAnally (a quite brilliant actor and the kindest man). Working on 101
DALMATIANS (1996) and 102 DALMATIONS (2000) with amazing animal trainers and the
exceptional Micky Moore. Micky was 85 when we worked on the latter film and was
also the second unit director on the first three Indiana Jones films. He
actually played the baby Jesus opposite Mary Pickford in 1916, and was Cecil B.
De Mille's assistant director. He is 98 now and I hope to visit him at his
Malibu home over the Christmas period.
The list goes on and on! There are
so, so many memories. I have had a most fantastic adventure.
particular films are you the proudest to have worked on?CASINO ROYALE,
RA. ONE, 101 DALMATIANS. RA. ONE was the highest budgeted Bollywood movie and we
shot the London part in just over five weeks with 2 units and we came well under
budget. We had a chase sequence that would have graced a Bond film. I am very
proud of my involvement in this film as David Cain (my colleague since 1996)
and I planned and executed both units as one entity and created a brilliant
working atmosphere. David happens to be the son of production designer Maurice Cain and the grandson of Bond art director Syd Cain. On 102 DALMATIANS
we used to have a party every week where we handed out crew awards for Best
Creep, Best Achievement, Worst Mistake of the Week etc.
What are the
least glamorous parts of your job?
Signing the crew timesheets every Monday!
I imagine in your position you have to be tough and crack the whip
sometimes. How do you managed to still be so well liked in the industry as you
I think the main thing to remember is to try and treat everyone on
the crew with equal respect and with an understanding of their jobs. I used to
work at the Ministry of Defence and they taught me that preparation is
everything. 'The 7 P's'. Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor
Performance. If one talks to all the departments when planning and everyone is
kept fully informed, then one 'cracks the whip' it is done with humour and
through that comes a positive energy that drives the set. I am always updating
plans for the day and always trying to keep everyone informed of how the day is
progressing. Sometimes one has to make decisions like sacking someone and I
always try to do that remembering the individual's dignity (even if they don't
How does working on British and international productions
Every production from training films to corporate videos, to
films to TV, to commercials are all driven by the same principle of planning and
execution. It is the scale that changes and the time one can afford each
What do you feel are the main changes that have occured in
the film industry over the decades you have worked in it?
become harder to achieve. There are problems with raising independent finance
and how the studios have created a working practice heavily influenced by so
called Health and Safety, but that actually has nothing to do with actual Health
and Safety but merely to ensure no blame can be attached to the production
company. The amount of paperwork nowadays is absolutely horrendous. The rise of
computers has many positive aspects but there is now a 24/ 7 attitude where
emails can be received and sent regarding changes of schedules or scripts at any
time without due regard to the 7 P's. People have lost manners. Agents have
created monsters in producers, directors and actors who behave in manners that
in other walks of life would be called 'bullying', but in our industry is
referred to as 'artistic temparament'. I sometimes wonder why an industry I love
so much has so many things I hate!
What advice would you give to someone
wanting to work in any of the capacities you have worked?
yourself. Have a good education and a back up for the times when one cannot get
work in the entertainment industries. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices
with regard to family, and learn to take disappointments and bounce back. I have
recently lost two jobs that I had set my heart on, and when the jobs went to
someone else the sense of disappointment and being a failure are always there.
What can we expect from the forthcoming WORLD WAR Z (2013), on which you
were production manager?
You can expect an edge of the seat, CGI driven
I interviewed Terry by email and telephone throughout December 2012. I would like to thank him for his generosity and candour.
In Part 2 Terry talks about his experiences on the Bond films. You can read it here.
Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has had articles published on Press Play and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased. Paul is also a writer of so far unpublished short stories and novels, and is planning his first short film.