Hilda Annersley sat back in her chair and surveyed her study. It had been a long day and she was tired. She had started this little project about 40 years ago now and had initially only envisioned it running for a year or two but it had proved to be a smashing success. The coming of the internet had served to make it more popular.
Hilda thought back to when her idea had first taken hold. She had been trying to break into the TV business for a couple of years but had met little success. Then she met a young actress whose name she discovered was Nell. The two of them had got talking and after a quite of few glasses of wine had started to make more and more ridiculous suggestions about possible TV series. One of the ideas stuck in their minds and after being turned down by numerous TV executives they finally found someone who was willing to back them.
They had decided to set their series in colonial India. They cast the main family fairly quickly but spent about 6 months scouring orphanages for just the right infant. She was finally found and after their backers paid some fairly hefty money to the right people they were set to go. The series had premiered to high ratings but the cost of filming in India and complaints of the cast and crew and the heat eventually started take its toll. When the actors playing the parents started demanding pay rises to make up for the conditions a decision was made to kill them off and change the direction of the show.
Ratings continued to be high once they settled in the fictional town of Taverton. It proved much easier to recruit actors to play people who would interact with the now orphaned young children when they were in Britain. They lived with their guardian who was a kindly if at times rather muddled gentleman. This was due mainly to the fact that although the actor they hired was a British icon he was also a bit of a drunk. Still he doted on the little girl and their scenes together were always highlights.
When the little girl turned four, tragedy almost hit the show. She was a lively thing who was always up to some sort of mischief and the two actors who played her brother and sister loved her like they would an actual sister. Then she became ill. The whole country was on tenterhooks to see if their little darling would survive. There were vigils held outside the village where filming took place and it was the lead news in all the newspapers and on TV. The little girl slowly recovered but it left her a little frail. This only made the public tune in more.
By the time she was 10 the little girl was famous worldwide. Dolls in her image sold quickly and parents were cutting their daughters hair in the same style, but popularity in the show had started to wane a bit. The public had had enough of village life so Hilda and Nell made a radical decision. It was time for the show to change direction again. The public wanted more adventures so they decided to move somewhere where this could happen.
Hilda and Nell decided to hold a competition and they were inundated with entries. They quickly ruled out any of the big cities and the show was setting by this time was the late 1920’s so any of the cities were too modern and it would be too difficult to film there. They needed somewhere where they could control the environment and where there would not be too many crowds. At first the desert areas of both the USA and Australia seemed attractive but then they realised that the filming conditions would prove to be just as if not more difficult than those in India due to the remoteness of the locations. A winning location was finally found and casting began for the new format.
Hilda was bought back to the present by the ringing of her mobile. She listened intently with an expression of extreme displeasure growing on her face. When the caller had finished talking she said, “Just do it!” and then snapped her phone shut. Stalking over to a large painting hanging on the wall she pressed a button on the frame, which then swung open and poured herself a large glass of whiskey. She gulped it down quickly and then poured herself another. She wished Nell was here so she could discuss the problems they were having but Nell was off scouting half term locations for the next term. Hilda sighed to herself and then put on her headphones to listen to some music. Her eyes closed and her thoughts drifted back to the early days of the school.
The publicity machine had gone into overdrive to promote the changes and they were helped by the lawsuit bought against the studio, Hilda and Nell by the actor playing the little girl’s brother. He was not happy about the fact that he was to be effectively written out of the series and would be limited to guest appearances. Eventually an agreement was reached and his reappearances in the show were always greeted with much enthusiasm.
The new location and the casting of many young beautiful girls helped the show to become even more popular than ever. The public couldn’t seem to get enough of it. The simplicity of life in the pre-war Austrian Tyrol combined with the fact that it was so easy to arrange for different adventures to befall the girls made it must see viewing. A young piano genius was even cast and before long she had released an album which quickly became a bestseller due to her exposure on the show. Different cities began to vie for the privilege of being visited as a visit always bought along huge surge in tourism along with it. In general the public did everything they could to help the show succeed as it was so fascinating. But they were also one or two nutters around that had to be carefully watched. Britain and Austria went so far as to introduce new laws protecting the show.
They discovered to their chagrin that there were many problems that had to be overcome. They discovered that the young women hired to be the school cook didn’t actually know how to cook so they had to arrange for caterers to cook the food required each day for the girls. The actors hired to clean the school rebelled when they realised that the producers were actually serious about not letting them use modern conveniences so they had to sneak in cleaners every night. Security guards were hired to keep out unwanted guests and also to stop some of the older girls sneaking off at nights.
Auditions were held almost constantly for new girls to the school with some parents actually offering Hilda and Nell money for their daughters to be part of the show. Two of these were Americans and they quickly became viewer favourites due their wild antics and their at times almost incomprehensible language. While some of the happenings in the school were scripted the girls were mainly just told to act like normal school girls. Before appearing on the show they had to attend a six week boot camp to learn about life in the that period and to give them time to get into character.
Any actor or actress appearing on the show had to sign strict contracts, keep up with the school work given and had to agree to live in a style that was appropriate for the era. More than once girls nearly gave away the whole concept. Bags were searched often and more than once items had to be confiscated in case the young girl saw them. Girls that broke contracts were more often than not never heard of again, especially in the later years. Many of the young actresses got into trouble during their ‘holidays’ as they went wild as if to make of for the stricter life they had to lead while at work. A spin off series was developed at one stage to follow some of these girls during their holidays but viewers preferred them in the school setting so it was cancelled after one season.
As Hilda and Nell actually wanted the young girl to learn they hired some actual teachers who wanted something a bit different to teach the classes. Whilst they actually taught the girls they only had to stand in front of the class during lesson time. Their correction and lesson plans were done by another team unless it was needed for a plot point. The actress playing Madge, however, had to be tutored to give her English lessons to the young girl. When the young girl was not in the room though, the lessons were very different.
Soon after the move to the Tyrol the actress playing Madge had indicted a desire to not be involved as much as she had met someone who she wanted to marry. She also wanted to live a less restricted life than she had done for the past thirteen years. She was persuaded to stay until she could be easily written out of the storylines. A sanatorium was then established on the show so the Madge could marry the chief doctor. Hilda and Nell agreed to keep paying her a salary if she would stay close so the young girl could visit. Two chalets were then built. One for her to live in with her real husband and one for her to be in when her sister came to visit. The sanatorium was far enough away that the young girl would not be able to drop in for unexpected visits. When the young girl was not around the whole of the Sonnalpe, as it came to be known, were the production offices. When she was there various parts were disguised as living quarters for various hospital staff and patients. The sanatorium itself was an actual hospital that served the production company. All modern equipment was carefully hidden away when the young girl came to visit.
The young girl was never short of friends as the young actresses hired to be around her found her genuinely fun and caring. Another little angelic looking girl was hired to play the part of surrogate sister. The young girl’s shortcomings were encouraged as nobody wanted to watch someone who was perfect. High ratings came when a character actress was hired to play the part of matron. She was thoroughly nasty and the public enjoyed watching the young girl spar with her. They also lapped up the whole Princess and the kidnapping plotline. That worked out even better than expected when the young girl actually decided to go off after the Princess. Some of the crew were not too happy though as they had had to chase her up the mountain lugging all their equipment while trying not to be seen.
It was at about this time as well that Nell decided that she had wanted to be more than just one of the producers. She decided to become a science mistress as she foresaw all sorts of opportunities for explosions and then high ratings. She was actually rather good at science herself and now saw this as a more legitimate way to use her skills. She had such fun playing the part of a sarcastic mistress that she finally convinced Hilda to become a part of it as well though Hilda realised, with regret, that she would need to be a different sort of mistress. They already had Con Stewart with her peppery temper and they needed someone who could get close to the girl. So she became the calm Hilda Annersley, which at times for her was quite difficult to play. Being so close to the young girl made it easy for them to steer her in the directions they wanted her to go.