June 30, 2015 Joe Mander

Castle View School Documentary – Behind the Scenes


You can read about the history of the school here.

Over at my other website, Beyond the Point, I have been working on a documentary about an abandoned school for the past few months. This wasn’t any old school though – it was my old one, so I held a personal connection with the place. I was there from 2008-2011 when the whole school moved to a new site about half a mile away. It was in 2011 when I founded Beyond the Point and I never thought at the time that I would be filming a documentary on it being abandoned in the years to come.

It wasn’t until I came across a photo online that showed police in the site, that I thought, ‘what’s happening there?’ It turned out that it was a training exercise by Essex police, who use the site for firearm exercises and also police sniffer dog training. Liam and I, who I co-run the site with, decided to look into it. I then realised how little I knew about the history of the place, as the crucial historic moments happened before I was even born! I researched some details although I didn’t find out that much. I contacted the school who, as I expected, didn’t respond.

By chance, I was away at Margate FC, filming their match against Canvey, when I met Russell Sullivan, my head teacher when I started at Castle View. Russell retired from Castle View in 2010 and is now an education and community director at Margate FC. Russell had heard that we were looking into the history of the site and took my business card to email me over some details, memories and old photos of the school. This was the first major step for this production. Russell sent over many old photos and details about the school, all of which were very useful in showing the history of this school which had thousands of pupils pass through the doors.

DSC_0086Before I had met Russell, I had visited the site with Liam after getting permission from Essex County Council. We took a walk around the exterior of the site, filming mostly general shots and a couple of pieces to camera. I took my main camera, the Panasonic AG-Ac90 (which is perfect for documentary shooting), RODE NTG2, my RODE blimp and of course my tripod. Liam took photos of the site on his Nikon D3100.Once we had the extra material from Russell, we wrote back to the council who allowed us to visit again, with only permission to visit/show the exterior granted. We invited Russell along on this visit, to film a tour of the site with himself speaking about his memories at the school and how bits of it have changed.

I knew the site off by heart however it made sense to take a walk around first so that Russell could experience the site again and remember what it was like. Liam had only visited the site once before so he could listen to Russell and hear how the site has changed. DSC_0049After our mini tour, we walked back to the site entrance stopping along the way to film the building and also Russell speaking. Russell would look at Liam who was holding the blimp, whilst I filmed. We were also joined by Luke Baker who was taking some behind the scenes photos for us. Once we had finished filming, we spoke to the security guard who let us in some area’s inside of the school which although was good for us to look us, we couldn’t use any footage that we filmed because we didn’t have permission from the property owners to publish the clips. The ending of the video was filmed a couple of weeks later.

CVS Echo ArticleWe now had all of the material that we wanted for the documentary and these were saved and backed up. These were put into a rough picture cut although this was just to get a general feel of how the project was starting to look. The soundtrack that went with it was bought from Audio Network, a favourite website and source for me. I continued to speak with Russell over the next couple of months who spoke about the very first head teacher of the school, Jack Telling. Russell gave us the name of the company that Jack worked for, so I contacted him to ask if he had any materials or memories that he would like to share for the website. Jack was interested and sent over some bits that he had from his time at the school, in the early 80’s. This was great as Jack had scanned many newspaper articles particularly ones that covered the opening. Russell also sent over some photographs of when the gym and science labs opened, prospectus photos and some photos of building work. With all of these together, I now wrote the script for the voiceover, recorded it and mixed all of these together before colour grading the clips. The video clip was then shown to a couple of people. After a few tweaks the final video was uploaded online. I now just had to write the article to accompany it.

The article and video did really well online. Considering our audience is pretty limited for the video, we had over 12,000 views that day (since publishing the post at around 4pm) which was great – everyone wanted to see what the school was like now and the wanted to re-visit their childhoods. A large amount of the audience came from Facebook where people were talking about how sad the school looked.

Documentaries are the main videos that are made at Beyond the Point, as we have plans for many more to come, including one of the closure of a local pub, with the future of the historic site uncertain.

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