Frank Prendergast: East Anglian filmmaker's award-winning Broads TV series
PUBLISHED: 11:08 07 June 2013 | UPDATED: 11:08 07 June 2013
Award-winning film and television director Frank Prendergast, who has died aged 66 at his north Suffolk home, was a leading figure in the East of England film community.
Co-founder of the Norwich-based Eye Film and Television production company, his creativity spanned the industry, in London and East Anglia. Among the many triumphs of this devoted family man was the Norfolk Broads children’s TV drama series “The Secret of Eel Island,” which he wrote with a small team, directing all 26 episodes.
The first series of 13 episodes, each running 12 minutes, was commissioned by Channel Five in 2004. Filming in the Broads, which started that July, took just five weeks.
Billed as a return to traditional storytelling in the tradition of The Secret Garden and Swallows & Amazons, it attracted an audience of about 200,000 and won funding for a second series. With a budget of £250,000 or £79,000 an hour - peanuts in TV terms – it was shot at the Magdalen Street studios and also at locations in Norfolk and on the River Deben at Waldringfield, Suffolk.
Born in Leicester, he was a graduate of the Royal College of Art, London, having learned the craft of filmmaking with the likes of Tony and Ridley Scott.
He co-founded Coles, Prendergast and Associates Limited, which became Eye Film and Television in 1973, with his friend and fellow graduate, cameraman Mike Coles. After a brief stint as a film editor, working for the BBC on shows such as Tomorrow’s World, he moved from London with his wife, Sue, to Laxfield.
In 1982, he joined Duncan Fairs and Nigel Rea to establish Eye Film and Television in the Guildhall at Eye. Throughout the 1980s it produced corporate films for blue chip companies, including ICI, Lotus Cars, Pfizer and BT, winning many awards, including for The Thoroughbred which launched the Lotus Esprit and The Collector, which began his long term involvement in road safety films.
He directed the Channel 4 series, A Secret Life of Machines, with Tim Hunkin, as well as three episodes of the BBC2 landmark documentary series Metropolis.
Since 1998, he started a vital partnership with Charlie Gauvain, who became managing director in 2004. From 2000 to 2009, the company produced more than 100 hours of television, most notably The Secret of Eel Island. It won the Creative Industry Award for the East of England and also made the documentary series “Going Home” for ITV, which was narrated by John Peel.
Their friendship was pivotal in the creation of The John Peel Archive, which launched in 2012 as part of an Arts Council and BBC Initiative on The Space.
A gentle, exceptionally kind, inspiring and hugely creative person, who loved people, he was working on a feature documentary about John Peel’s legendary record collection.
He had also just finished the screenplay for the Norfolk feature film Moon Daisy, a five-year collaboration with the author and former EDP deputy editor Martin Kirby.
An inspirational musician, he was well-known locally as a blues singer, fronting the Low House Band, wowing audiences who would cheer for more and he would oblige by entertaining them all night long.
“Frank was a man of many parts,” said his wife Sue. “Those who knew the quiet, shy, patient and loving family man were always flabbergasted to see him on stage – quite a different persona, a sweating, gyrating, cigar smoking, hoochy-coochie man.”
He leaves Sue, children Tom, Rosie and Jack and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Laxfield Church, Friday, June 21 at 6pm.