Back in September I visited the North East in conjunction with filming material for use in my film The Jarrow Crusade. Highlight of the day was a cruise up the River Tyne onboard the ferryboat Pride of The Tyne, and may be read about here if you’ve got nothing else to do. The trip was extremely interesting, but the highlight was undoubtedly the moment when the boat approached the Millennium Footbridge that links Gateshead with Newcastle. As this structure is low slung, the engineer had designed it so that the entire bridge could tilt to allow shipping to pass underneath. This is a fascinating scene to watch from any angle, as the entire bridge is made entirely of ellipses – so as you watch it tilt, the bridge continually alters its shape. The effect is most pronounced from the water, as all of the arches perfectly complement the arch of the Tyne Bridge beyond.
Seen from the Gateshead side, the clever design of the tilted bridge shows up well; in fact without knowing what you're looking at, this could easily be just a contemporary artwork or sculpture!
The bridge moves so slowly and gradually that the viewer is uncertain that any movement is actually taking place in the early stages, and even having viewed this film several times during the editing stage, the uplift is barely discernable as the boat approaches.
Once under the bridge, the boat spins round alongside the Sage Theatre – another modern, curved and distinctive building, covered entirely in mirrored glazing that reflects the buildings on the Newcastle side of the river. Finally the boat ends the turn facing back downstream, with the fully opened Millennium Bridge directly ahead. The whole manoeuvre is skilfully executed and absorbing to observe.
The viewing gallery of the adjacent Baltic Museum is an excellent location to see the bridge. The top picture shows the bridge in lowered position, with the curved walkway and arched span evident. Below, the bridge is raised as a boat passes underneath - yet you wouldn't think that it was the same bridge at first glance. The view from the river introduces an entirely different perspective - this is a stunning piece of engineering and architecture, and almost makes up for St Tony's Dome in London.
I shot the entire sequence in one ten minute take, and other than some minor editing of the approach and turns, (and removing a bit where another passenger in a pink bobblehat got in the shot - a problem easily solved with a handy AK47), the video depicts the lifting scene in full. Scoring the scene was the most difficult part of the process, and is the main reason why it has taken so long to produce this film after the event. The music had to be of a slow rolling tempo to match the speed of the boat and the slowly lifting bridge, yet build up in a crescendo as the bridge rises and the boat passes beneath. This had to be maintained as the boat spun round and ended up looking back at the bridge. I tried numerous pieces of music that just didn’t cut it for various reasons, and the project was then shelved. As is always the case, I was working on something completely different (the Minsk film) when I discovered Yann Tiersen and knew immediately that I found a piece of music that fitted the film perfectly. The project was back on, and here is the end result:
To complement this film, I recommend viewing the video below by Chris Overall who filmed the lifting procedure from The Baltic: