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  The Chatter Box : Messages from Michael
Sweet Sixteen by Michael Palin on 10 September 2007 6:39pm
Exactly sixteen months after setting out on the first day of the first filming trip of our twenty-two week New Europe shoot, the results of our labours will hit the screens on BBC1 at 9 o'clock on Sunday 16th September. So, for any numerologists out there, sixteen is the number for New Europe.

A lot of behind-the-scenes work is going on at the moment as the finishing touches are put to the shows, and the series is handed over from the filming crew to the post-production team. Alex Richardson, our superhuman editor and Birmingham City supporter, has to complete the final edits - around 58 minutes per show for BBC1 and a shorter version for foreign sales. BBC1 gives us a nearly full hour, but there are very few television channels out there who don't want it chopped down for commercial breaks, promotional stuff etc. Which makes the DVD - with full-length shows, plus sequences we just didn't have space to squeeze in - such great VALUE. End of plug.

I have been writing and recording commentary. Each show has around two and a half thousand words of narration, and for me it's a very important part of the process, requiring a mix of tight, reduced information and a bit of fun as well. I like to try and make each episode into a story of its own and make sure the commentary captures the excitement of the filming. I still have commentary for Episode Seven left to record, after which my creative input into the series is over.

The commentary then goes into the general sound mix put together by Alex and Dubbing Mixer George Foulgham and his team. The music is added and the richness of our recordist John Pritchard's sound tracks are revealed as the various sounds of New Europe are balanced with words and music.

Then that's it. Sue Grant, our production manager, along with assistant Michelle Hanley, tie up all the paperwork and the finished product goes off to the BBC, and we all feel rather lost.

For me, the publicity now takes over. The book of New Europe is published on Thursday, so there's TV and book promotion to be done.

I don't mind doing it. It's part of the job, and book signings are about the only chance I have to meet the audience - hoping there will be one !

I hope that the incredibly concentrated work everyone has put in these past sixteen months (and for the directors even longer than that) produces something that you'll find interesting, entertaining, sometimes riveting and always good to look at. New Europe has been an eye-opener for me, and I hope that it will be for you too. These countries that have seemed so grey and indistinct are shown for what they really are, full of life, colour, great people and lots of energy and hope for the future. I'm just sorry, that even in seven episodes, we haven't had time to do justice to every one of the twenty countries we passed through, but those that don't get much on-screen time are in the book and on the DVD.

I've just come back from a week's publicity for my Diaries 1969-1979 in the States, and must thank anyone who came to the signings or talks in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. You were great audiences. Many of you had seen the travel series, but the fact remains that they've never been given the level of exposure on US television that they have here, and as they keep appearing on different cable channels, it's been difficult to build up an audience.

Our latest home is the Travel Channel, but at the time of writing I've heard no word on when they plan to screen New Europe. Any feedback from US fans would be very welcome !

So, now I'm off to bite my nails and hope for the best on Sunday the sixteenth !

Talk soon,

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