From Venice to Port Talbot
The shoot for ONE CHANCE kicked off in the glorious canal city of Venice for scenes in which
Potts goes to learn his craft and attends a master class with the great Italian tenor Luciano
Pavarotti, getting the chance to sing in front of the maestro himself. Unfortunately, nerves get
the better of him and he fluffs his chance to impress Pavarotti. In the film, it's a massive blow to
his confidence and any hopes he had harbored about becoming a professional singer.
Venice is a notoriously difficult city to shoot in, not just because it's surrounded by water, criss-
crossed by canals and can only be navigated by boat, but even in low season it's teeming with
tourists and throws up logistical and financial obstacles. But there was no alternative as far as the
makers of ONE CHANCE were concerned; they earmarked a one-week shoot at the start of
production, eager to strike while the weather was more likely to be good (their scheduling
turned out to be prescient; they missed the worst flooding in the city's history by a scant few
"We'd heard horror stories about how unpredictable it can be to shoot in Venice," observes
Thykier. "There was tension leading up to it in terms of how it was going to work, but in fact it
turned out to be glorious once we got there. It was a joy. There was something wonderful about
getting to Venice and suddenly understanding the scale of the ambition that David had for this
film. There's a lovely tone that sits in this which is reminiscent of some of the great British comedy,
which starts at Ealing and heads all the way through, but with an American sense of scale and
"It was a crucial chapter of the movie to show the contrasts in Paul's life," adds Frankel. "When
you're walking through a city that's 700 years old and you're travelling by water and you're
shooting scenes of people studying opera in a music school where people have been studying
opera for hundreds of years, it can't help but seep into the fiber of the movie."
Venice was the glamorous, majestic counterpoint to ONE CHANCE's other key locations in the
Welsh conurbations of Swansea and Port Talbot, the drab industrial town where Potts settles
down with Jules and manages a branch of Carphone Warehouse. Wales offered a different kind
of majesty to Venice, with the massive steelworks that dominate Port Talbot and rolling green hills
that come right to the edge of town undoubtedly majestic in their own right. "There is something
about the relationship between the Welsh hills and this enormous steelworks, which covers 12
square miles and is set against the ocean, that is John Ford-ian in terms of its scale," says Thykier.
"That backdrop has its own majesty."
Frankel also shot on the very streets where Potts lived, and in the shadow of the steelworks that
dominated his horizon for many years. "We've had the opportunity to tell his story in the most
authentic way, which has been fantastic," he says. The production filmed for two weeks in
Wales, under skies that weren't as threatening or grey as Frankel had been hoping for. "The first
time I went there the weather was so bad and the fog was so thick that you didn't know there
was a steel mill and you didn't know there were hills," he says. "We didn't get that weather. On
the first day we shot, there were gorgeous, glorious blue skies. It was like we were in St. Tropez."
For Roach, the Port Talbot portion of the shoot was only 15 minutes away from the town she
grew up in and where her parents still live. "It was really lovely to have that connection with
home. I know the area so well so I took James out to my local pub," she says. "He got mobbed.
But to meet James was massive to some people because for Welsh people, it feels like we own
'Gavin and Stacey'."
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