Captain's Journal – February 2003

It’s been nearly a year since I formally conceived the documentary film project Sea Warriors- The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail.

I'd been mulling this idea over for years while I read and enjoyed books by Patrick O’Brian, Alexander Kent, Richard Woodman, Dudley Pope and others. With over 50 million books in print on this subject today, there definitely is a loyal audience for this heroic subject. It is a romantic idea, to be at sea, facing danger from weather and predator, free to roam the oceans of the world. But anyone who has spent long periods of time traveling by car or rail cannot possibly perceive the time, distances and lack of communication of those lonely passages. I wanted to bring to life the reality of what life was like in "Nelson's Navy."

I created a 15 minute demo of the story I wanted to tell. I pitched it to a production executive at Twentieth Century Fox who replied, "We’ve heard these ideas before and it does fit in with our plans to make a documentary to compliment the release of The Far Side of the World (Directed by Peter Weir, starring Russell Crowe), and I hung up the phone thinking "I need more than a good idea, I need a work in progress". Then, I recalled what my father always told me, "Dare to be bold and great forces would come to thine aid." And so it began and great forces materialized.

First, world-renowned host and co-writer, Capt. Richard Woodman, author of the Nathanial Drinkwater novels, and I wrote and completed the script Sea Warriors- The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail.

Then, I contacted Douglas Reeman in the UK, (who wrote the Richard Bolitho novels under the name of Alexander Kent), to see if he’d do an interview and help consult on this project. I found him through George Jepson at www.tallshipsbooks.com. During our discussions, Douglas encouraged me, "Chip, my hand is on your shoulder as you make this great film happen." His assistance has been invaluable to this documentary.

Next, I contacted Richard Woodman who had been associated with the BBC to see if he would be the spokesman for the film. Richard immediately came 'on board' and helped with the concept, story, locations and resources. Through him, I discovered the HMS Trincomalee (www.hms-trincomalee.co.uk) a beautifully restored 1817 frigate which was built in India because there was no more oak to build ships with in England after 20 years of war with France. Interesting fact: Teak although wonderful in its stamina, created a problem for the navy in that it caused the fighter's wounds to fester. We used this ship as part of our footage to recreate this adventure at sea.

Then, I contacted Julian Stockwin, author of the Thomas Kydd novels and one of the newer writers of naval fiction. Although he has only four books on the market, he has a contract for seven more with Hodder & Stoughton. Julian was open to interview and helped me gather even more factual information.

I met up with Bob Tullier, our Director of Photography, in London where we drove five hours up to Hartlepool where the HMS Trincomalee was berthed. We met Richard Woodman there and proceeded to shoot for two days. The second day, Chris Jones and his group of actors re-enacted important scenes for the film shoot. Next we completed the VOC interviews with Douglas Reeman and Julian Stockwin.

On return to Dallas, I created the demo reel to show investors and distributors.