Simon’s (Further) Back Story
Other Lighthouse productions include; ‘People and Trees – the Sahel’; ‘The Kingfisher Bridge Conservation Project’; a Video for the RSPB; the filming of animals for the ZSL Website; a half-hour film, ‘The Fly-fishing Bug and How to Catch it’ a film shot in India and Nepal; ‘People and Trees – the Himalayas’, etc. etc..
A film on ‘Rice-growing and Mediterranean wetlands’, for the European Agricultural Commissioners / RSPB was also produced for the RSPB.
Lighthouse made Reader’s Digest’s first fully-funded UK commission; three sixty-minute films ‘The World of British Birds’, an exploration of Britain’s bird life through the experience and enthusiasm of those who make bird’s wild secrets their very subject. Some sixty thousand sets of videos were bought in the first two months of publication and it’s an ‘evergreen collection’, one with a very long shelf life.
From an internal Reader’s Digest memo; The Executive Director Global Programming to The Head of Development, US:
…a splendid job. (Lighthouse) creatively responded to the research by constructing three hours that responded to customer desires and worked like a dream on the screen. We were going to use mostly archive material but because of (Lighthouse’s) planning, production techniques, and careful budget management we ended up shooting approximately 80% of the programmes. It was a compact but very creative production team that delivered the production on time and under budget.
This exciting commission for Reader’s Digest followed on directly from an 8-part ‘people and wildlife’ series ‘WINGS’, that Lighthouse made for Channel 4. The series, with its lively style, dispensed with the distancing intermediary of a presenter, preferring to go directly to those who know the birds and can lead us to them. The series was extremely well received by both Channel 4 and the viewers.
Written about ‘WINGS:
‘Congratulations’…. ‘Many people feel it’s just the sort of programme Channel Four should be doing more of.’ (Mark Galloway, Commissioning Editor.) | ‘Congratulations for such an enjoyable series’ (Karen Brown, Controller of Factual Programmes) | ‘We were very pleased with WINGS,…’ (John Willis, Director of Programmes) | ‘Congratulations on a splendid series’ (Kate Mitchell, programme finance manger) | ‘..a strong film and I’m pleased to say that the series has gone down very well.’ (Mark Galloway) ‘…a new and interesting formula to work with’. Green Umbrella, Bristol. In the press; “…4’s acclaimed WINGS series”, “a bright-eyed series” “..a box of delights” ‘…deserves to pick up a few awards…..” “I cannot congratulate Channel Four enough for WINGS…..” “Best Documentary”. “Choice”
Lighthouse devised, and procured a publisher for, a Field Guide to go with this series. More than just a field-guide, it has intervening sections that demystify the varying groups of birds and tell what is interesting about them and their behaviour. Unusual, distinctive and rewarding, the book continues to be a good seller and complements the innovative style of the programmes that echo Channel 4’s remit. The book went to a new edition in May 2000.
Lighthouse had prior to this made a 3 X 50-minute series, ‘Vets in the Wild’, for Channel 4, following the story of wildlife vet Berkeley Hastings as, at Whipsnade and in Africa, he trained four young vets from tropical countries to work with wild animals and then join the fight to save their countries endangered animals. The series, shown several times, was second only to the Channel’s ‘Soap’ in the ratings and was the subject of an audience research investigation:
All the above programmes were produced and directed by Simon Normanton whose company Lighthouse is. Tigress productions ‘Elephants of Timbuktu’ was produced in association with Lighthouse. Numerous other productions have been produced or post-produced at Lighthouse by others, or by Simon Normanton at Lighthouse for others.
Simon Normanton was for some years on contract to the BBC ‘World about Us’ Travel and Exploration Unit, working on many assignments in the wilder corners of the earth. Of particular interest is his two-parter ‘Tibet, the Lost Mystery’ and ‘Tibet, the Bamboo Curtain Falls’ compiled entirely from, until then, unseen colour footage of the old Tibet and in the words of those who were there.
Together with his book ‘Tibet, the Lost Civilisation’, it created a unique portrait of an unknown world. The book, with its 200 pictures, sold 25,000 copies.
In addition to the films detailed above, Simon Normanton has produced and directed numerous programmes on contract to other independent production companies.