Friday, October 13, 2017

Working With Monty Halls Filming the Channel 4 Series 'Freedom Trails'

The 4th programme in the Channel 4 series Freedom Trails was broadcast on 7th October 2017. It was produced by Seadog Productions and followed Monty Halls trekking across the Pyrenees from France to Spain.
Monty Halls, presenter, writer, ex Royal Marine
Monty Halls ready to go to work.

Monty was walking in the footsteps of the brave men and women who crossed the mountains to escape Nazi occupied Europe and oppression during World War 2. We learnt about what it was like for them on the run and about the brave man and women who sheltered them, fed them, clothed them and guided them to safety.

Initial Seadog Productions team in June 2016 filming for the teaser trailer to send to television companies to get the commission to film the series. 

A small team from Seadog Productions, including Monty Halls, first came to the Pyrenees for several days in June 2016. I was a 'fixer' helping with finding locations and sorting out logistics. The footage shot led to a teaser film that was sent to the major TV channels. Channel 4 were the first to reply and later commissioned the series.

A larger team returned to film in the Saint Girons area in February 2017 (completing many interviews that were never used in the finished documentary) and again in June 2017 for the filming of the trek across the Pyrenees.

Behind every great presenter there is a great production company and behind every great production company there is a great support team. Day 1, June 2017

As well as the crew filming Monty, Pyrenees Mountain Adventure looked after logistics and guiding.

Before the arrival of Monty and the film crew, George Manley and myself spent 2 days checking on snow conditions on the approach to the border. We were checking that conditions were not dangerous. Mid June is early in the season in this part of the Pyrenees.

'Big' George Manley checking snow conditions on the approach to the border.

There was enough snow to make the shots look exciting but not enough to make it dangerous for Monty and the team.
Big smiles from me on day 2 of the route recce. Enough snow for some great footage but not enough to cause problems for Monty and the crew.

Me and George also checked on the food drop I had made with the help of Paul Debons at the Refuge d'Espugues a week earlier. He worked as a friend accepting no payment as did Gerard Cassagne who did 2 days of portering.

Actual filming began with fine weather and progressed well although George Manley was not on top form because he had a stomach bug. Two porters Lee Sharp and George Cassagne helped carry kit so as to not overload the crew who were already carrying large loads.

Gerard Cassagne one of the porters with the biggest rucksack you have ever seen!

It's off to work we go....

'Little' George the second cameraman.

In the evening of Day 1, (Big) George Manley retired early at the Refuge d'Espugues still not feeling well and (Little) George the second cameraman, had also begun to feel unwell.

'Little' George was ill during the night and the following morning the decision was made that he should descend with 'Big' George to the nearest road where he could get taxi transport to Saint Girons. 'Big' George would meet us all again the following day at the Refuge des Estagnous but the trek was over for the second cameraman.

DOP, cameraman, camera
Rich the Directer of Photography
Tom the Directer

Filming progressed well on Day 2 with some awesome drone footage filmed by Rich the DOP (Directer of Photography) - that's main cameraman to you and me! Rich, Sonic the Sound Man and Tom the Directer worked well together with Monty but it did take a long time with lots of retakes to get the perfect footage. Katy the fixer kept smiling and kept everyone calm.

soundman, boom micropshone
Sonic the Sound Man
Katy the Fixer

Happily the way the trek had been planned, there was the time available to get all the footage the crew and Monty wanted. A great evening was spent at the Refuge des Estagnous where we were well looked after by Laurent and Stéphan who had planned to be shut between the 2 opening weekends of the season but opened especially for us. All the crew enjoyed proper mattresses and proper food after sleeping mats and dehydrated food packets the evening before.

Lake, frozen, ice, person
Top lake with George Manley on the recce.
Day 3 began early as this was the longest of the 3. Big George met up with us as we arrived at the Round Lake. An even earlier start for him meant he was able to meet up with the team before the ascent on the snow to the border. The top lake was partly frozen and looked great and most of the ascent to the border was on snow which made it look spectacular.

mountains, snow
The final approach to the border.

From the border, a long descent into Spain, a beer in a café that Monty bought me (like he promised he would) to celebrate the end of the trek (which was filmed but like so much of the footage, never used) and then on to the Refugi de Fornet where we arrived at 10pm! I had rung ahead with the sattelite 'phone because there is no mobile coverage and the food was waiting for us as we arrived. Like at the Refuge des Estagnous we ate well and were well looked after by René and Tatiana.Their pet Patou was the centre of attention - nearly upstaging Monty (but not quite.)
The end of the trek. A happy Monty, film crew and Pyrenees Mountain Adventure support team.
If you would like to walk the Freedom Trail/Chemin de la Liberté or want more information about it, please see the Pyrenees Mountain Adventure website
You will find a contact page or you can contact me at

I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,


Paul Williams
Pyrenees Mountain Adventure

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