Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England

Give us our daily bread


So it’s my turn (Mr UHDD) to take the reins for a few days while UHDD is away enjoying herself.  A blog post …… a first for me …… scary……in such hallowed company.

In her past life, UHDD did a bit of work for film and TV providing props.  I’d never been exposed to this unreal world but felt I knew a bit about it from what UHDD had told me.  Then a few weeks ago I received an email entitled “Male Runners Wanted for TV Advert”.  Never one to shy away from an opportunity like this, I asked UHDD to take the requisite full length photo of me in farmer’s clothing and sent it off that afternoon.  The phone rang a few minutes later inviting me to an audition – wow!

After the audition and a “recall”, I was offered a part as an extra, not a “featured runner” (I clearly wasn’t experienced enough for that) in the filming of a Hovis (a well known brand of flour/bread) advert entitled Farmer’s Race.  It was to be directed by none other than Dougal Wilson who directed the Never Knowingly Undersold ad for the John Lewis Partnership that UHDD featured in her blog last year.

There are many excellent Hovis ads, but this one from the 1970s is still judged by many to be the best TV ad of all time:

I know they work long hours in film and TV, so it didn’t really come as a surprise to be told that it was a 4:30am “call” last Wednesday at a car park in Macclesfield from where we would be taken to the location, Blaze Farm, famous locally for its children’s parties and home made ice cream.  So it was that a busload of sleepy extras including several other runners I know, arrived on the farm and were immediately herded (appropriately) into a barn where we dressed in our kit and then headed for breakfast.  Film types seem to know how to look after their stomachs as there was plenty of good food available, but we were slightly disappointed to be segregated – “crew” got more choice than “background” (as extras are known, for that’s what we were to be in the shots).

The weather couldn’t have been much better over the three days of filming.  Sunburn was the biggest risk rather than the more usual frostbite or windchill – very welcome, but unexpected in March.

The storyline is something along the lines of Hovis wheat farmers having a deadly serious running race across the countryside and encountering various obstacles on the way to the finish.  Some complete the course, others fall by the wayside.  Of course when they’re filming, things don’t go in the same order as in the finished version.  The sequence for day 1 was something like this:

1)      Large pack of runners squeeze through gate

2)      Finish of race

3)      Start of Race

4)      Runners follow camera across undulating field

5)      Runners hurdle an obstacle made of straw bales

So you finish the race looking clean and fresh, then start the race more dirty and tired!

It doesn’t sound much, but filming started as soon as the sun was up, before 7am and finished after 6pm.  Each scene involved many takes, so by the end of the day everyone was pretty exhausted, particularly the more generously proportioned people who weren’t used to running.

A couple of shots at the start – “runners” lined up:

Below – gun about to be fired for start.  Barry who is holding the gun created an unintentional “comic” moment as he allowed the loaded gun to drop when the director was speaking to him, and everyone else screamed in horror.  He was safer when rehearsing with a stick:

Day two was more tiring for the runners, but good training.

Here is the storyboard:

The scenes included running uphill with sheep in foreground, sheep in middle ground, sheep in background, no sheep.  In the end the sheep got so bored they walked off and couldn’t be bribed back even with the tastiest morsel while the runners got more and more drained!

As for the rest of it, you’ll just have to wait until the ad is broadcast.

It’s astonishing to think that three days on set for over 40 crew and 60+ cast/extras plus all the preparation, editing etc. results in one brief TV commercial albeit one that will probably become a classic.

Author: uphilldowndale

Watching the rhythm of rural life, from the top of a hill in northern England. Having spent most of my life avoiding writing, I now need to do it! I am no domestic goddess, but if I were expecting visitors to my home, I would whisk round with the duster and plump up the cushions and generally make the place look presentable. I hope that by putting my words where others may see them it will encourage me to ‘tidy up and push the Hoover around’ my writing. On the other hand I may just be adding to the compost heap. Only time will tell! Pull up a chair, sit yourself down, I’ll put the kettle on.

18 thoughts on “Give us our daily bread

  1. It’s a parable of the modern world, running vigorously in all directions in an effort to nowhere.

  2. Mr UHDD a nice first blog post I look forward to seeing the Ad

  3. What a great opportunity to be included in such an adventure! and a real eye opener on how the ad world works. Sounds like it was a strenuous few days, but I’m sure you were fit for the job! Look forward to seeing the end result. BTW I love Hovis bread and they used to sell it here, but I haven’t found any for ages! When I was a kid in England, the bakery truck used to come around and my mum would buy little tiny loaves that I would slice and spread with butter and marmalade! Yum. Thanks for rekindling that memory!

  4. That is a post worthy of UHDD Hall. Thank you for the Hovis ad. I’ve never seen it before. Now I want to see the finished Farmers Race. We could do a Farmers Race over here. It would do us good.

  5. I’ll look out for the ad – normally I whizz through the adverts! Have to go some to beat the Yeo Valley farmers, though …

  6. Thanks for such an interesting post! Doing something like this is a real eye-opener isn’t it.
    I used to know someone who was a regular extra in films and adverts, and she always told me about all the effort involved for such a brief end result.
    Enjoy the weekend! Cheers.

  7. The original Hovis ad was directed by Ridley Scott who went on to make Alien and Bladerunner. In terms of cost per minute commercials have much higher budgets than the programmes that they interrupt and in some cases it shows and they are considerably more entertaining. 🙂

  8. Congratulations Mr UHDD on being a part of history… I still remember that hovis hill advert and many of us do…. good adverts do more than advertise a product they have a tale to tell xx

  9. Where was Spud?

  10. Spud’s mayhem could spawn a whole new series of commercials!

  11. Very enjoyable post, Mr Uhdd. I trust Mrs will show us the finished advert when it comes out. I hope it will be better than the Yeo Valley one. I’m probably alone in finding it rather irritating, however.

    I hope you will be all ready to show us the best of what Spud got up to this Sunday. After dipping your toe in the movie business you might feel inspired to stage something for tomorrow. You could storyboard it tonight!

  12. I watched some of the other Hovis bread adverts on Youtube. They are quite good. Hope you’re in another classic.


  14. Glad to see the blog has been carefully tended in my absence 🙂
    I enjoyed my time working on TV productions, it was very hard work, not sure how anyone works in that field and has a life, but I found a creative like mindedness, working with the art department, that was something of a breath of fresh air in my world of work at the time
    This Blog has visited Blaze Farm before

    I’m looking forward to hearing the music on the advert, having watched the filming process before and seen (or heard) just what an impact the sound track makes.

  15. great blogg. great day. thanks for resurecting some great memories. looking forward to the ad coming. which one were you? Regards Mark (the muddy one!)

    • What, the very muddy one at the finish, or just slightly muddy like the rest of us?

    • Just looked at your website and I see that you got very muddy! It must have been quite cold too. Google is an amazing thing isn’t it – I assume you found your way here using it? I found it fascinating looking at Dougal Wilson’s work.

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