After Saturday’s debacle we could be forgiven for waking up on Sunday with some trepidation and anxiety about how our hasty rescheduling would come off. But truth be told we were all still fairly calm, perhaps a certain fatalism about the project had come over us. We had done all we could to get it made and prepared all the reasonable contingencies, the rest was up to the gods and beyond our control. If it came off it came off, it it didn’t, it didn’t. C’est la vie.
Once again we were up at 6:30 in the AM, this time accompanied by our assistant saviour Bex Campbell, who had graciously agreed to step in and help us out at super short notice. We would have seriously struggled without her.
Again we were out of the house by 7:30, but this time the Victoria line was running as well as ever, getting us to Brixton around 8:15. With no one to meet there this morning we all headed to the location, wondering what surprises the day had in store.
Upon reaching the location (again) some of the nerves showed up (again), as we wondered what state the location would be in (again). We were pleasantly surprised to find it clean and clear and ready to use. We were set up by 9am, did some quick tests, sacrificed a couple of goats to the film-gods, and then waited for our first actor to turn up at 9:30.
Our morning shoot was fairly tight, with three actors coming in, each staying for an hour and a half. That’s a reasonable amount of time to get a few takes that were 8-14 minutes long each, depending on the style of delivery which we wanted to be varied, and enough coverage to help the edit. But considering we hadn’t wielded a camera in anger for some months, there was a question of how slickly we would work as a unit. If there was poor communication between the crew, then those hour and a half slots would quickly dwindle and start to feel a lot tighter, then the pressure would be on.
Thankfully there were no early shooting hiccups to talk of, and with Coe directing, Carson on roaming camera, Price on static camera, and Bex taking care of camera logs and clapper duties, our session with the first actor, Mark, went well. We were able to get three full takes in, and Coe even had enough time to work with Mark and focus on a couple of key sections so we had extra coverage.
After Mark was Miwa, a Japanese-born actress who kindly translated some of the script and did a take in Japanese. Following Miwa was Robin Kirwan, who we had actually met about three years ago (woah, time flies) when we were working on The Long Hard Goodbye, although this was our first opportunity to really work with him.
We finished the morning session at about 2 o’clock, and with an hour until our next actor arrived we took the opportunity to get out and get some fresh air and lunch. We were in a fairly ebullient mood. The morning had gone about as smoothly as we could have hoped; everyone was on time, the crew were working well together, and most importantly, we had good performances from our first three actors in the can.
The afternoon session kicked off with Jonathan, who continued the run of actors being on-time, prepared and producing good performances. After he left us around 4 we had a three and a half hour wait until our last actor, Luis, was due. This allowed us to relax for a while, although we also used it as an opportunity to work on some sound stuff, including ensuring we had enough coverage of Coe’s dialogue as ‘The Interviewer’, as well as experimenting with some sound effects using an old tape dictaphone and one of the camera mics.
We didn’t let ourselves slack off and lose focus though, and when Luis arrived at 7:30 we were set up and ready to go. It had been a long day and we didn’t need any unnecessary delays to make it longer. Our experience with the actors over the day meant that our final session with Luis was the best in terms of Coe knowing exactly what he wanted and how best to get it out of Luis as quickly as possible, meaning that no one would get too tired from repeated takes.
With our last actor’s performance completed we packed up and tidied the venue, then left the place which had been the source of so much frustration and difficulty yesterday but had been the scene of a smooth-as-you-like production today. That’s filmmaking for you; somedays you get the breaks and it all goes for you, somedays you don’t. You’ve just got to do your best and keep on keeping on.
We got back to King’s Cross about 9:30, fourteen hours after we had left. It was a long day for sure, but we were all happy with the day’s work and quietly confident that we had got what we were aiming for. Too tired to do any big celebrating we had a couple of beers each, watched some of ‘Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men’ (highbrow stuff), then hit the hay, tired but satisfied, the best feeling to have following a shoot.
We’re currently putting the film through post-production, so we’ll give you an update on that soon, and maybe do a bit on ‘lessons learned’. Serious stuff. We should also have some stills from the shoot to post in the next week or so. So much content!
Our shooting day dawned and we were up and about at 6:30, an un-Godly hour for a Saturday. Nevertheless we were presentable(ish), loaded up with our filmmaking gear and out of the door in King’s Cross at 7:30 on the dot. We stopped at McDonalds on the way to the tube to shovel into our mouths what would be the first of many nutritionally dubious snacks that we would consume over the next couple of days. Standing outside looking at the pristine baby-blue sky, the sun gleaming on the grand clock-face of the St. Pancras hotel, it felt like everything had come into line beautifully for this shoot.
However, we were soon reminded that there are many variables involved in a film shoot and some are simply beyond your control. We reached the platform for the Victoria line, which would take us direct to Brixton where we were shooting, only to find it rammed. Now we’re used to the barely civil scrum that is London public transport, but people standing five deep on a platform at 7:30am on a Saturday was a new one to me. It turned out there was a problem with a train a couple of stops down, so we hot-footed on to the Piccadilly line instead, circumventing the obstacle, then changing at Green Park allowing us to miraculously still reach Brixton for our targeted time of 8:15. It seemed that even the capricious whims of the tube could not stop us today.
Upon reaching Brixton, Coe and Price headed off to the location, a ten minute walk down Coldharbour Lane, with the key equipment to set up, while Carson waited to meet our runners outside the station. As we reached the location the first nerves reared their meek heads. We were relying on the location owner having everything in place ready for us, and we were about to find out how reliable they were. First up, the front gate. The key was where it should be and we were in fine. Next, the shutter; again the key left for us worked and we were inside our shooting location.
The venue itself was situated in a converted railway arch, primarily used as a rehearsal space but also used occasionally for theatre productions. It was, shall we say, bijou, with a small basic lighting rig and not room for more than a score of people to watch a performance. We switched on the power; it was good. We tested the lights; they were good with all the bulbs working. Everything was as we had hoped and we were good to go.
By the time Carson turned up with the runners, Jess and Rich, at 8:45, again bang on time, Coe and Price had set up most of the equipment for the shoot. This meant there wasn’t much work left for people to do prior to the first actor arriving at 9:30. So feeling calm and confident about the day ahead we chatted with Jess and Rich about what we had planned for the day, what they were doing, as well as just generally shooting the breeze.
Then the call came.
It was about 9 o’clock when Carson’s phone rang. He stepped outside to take the call while we all chatted away inside. A few minutes later he came back in with a stern look on his face. My first thought was “One of the actors has pulled out”. An annoyance for sure, but it’s always a possibility, and with the film we were making, not a disaster. But no, it was much worse. The location was double booked.
The owner had called him to say that a theatre group who were rehearsing there were finishing tonight, not last night as the owner had told us. And once again that all-conquering master, money, ruled the day and as they were paying considerably more for the place, we were the ones who would have to make way.
That was it. Before the first actor had arrived, before we’d recorded a second of film, our shoot was over. With one short phone call our perfect shooting day had been transformed into an exercise in damage limitation.
After apologising profusely to the runners, who were very understanding about the whole thing, we rang round the rest of the cast explaining to them the situation and promising to let them know what would happen with the production in the next few hours. We packed up our kit and started on our way to the station so we could get back to King’s Cross and decide what to do next.
We had three options;
1) Rearrange the shoot for Sunday when we would have the location to ourselves from first thing until as late as we wanted, and for free as recompense for Saturday’s balls up. But this depended on how many actors would be available for tomorrow.
2) Rearrange the shoot for the end of September, which was the next time when the three of us were free. This would be less hectic than shooting the next day, but also carried the risk of people losing interest, having other commitments, and dropping out of the project.
3) Cancel the whole thing.
Eventually, after discussing dates with all the actors, we managed to get five on board to shoot on the Sunday, the minimum we were prepared to go with, so decided to shoot the following day.
It may seem like a simple solution; shift it one day, getting it for free for as long as we want, what’s the problem? Well aside from losing two actors, there are costs like catering which wouldn’t last an extra day and wasted transport costs, not to mention Jess and Rich, who unfortunately weren’t available for the Sunday so their time was wasted, and also the actors who weren’t able to rearrange and had spent time preparing had their time and effort wasted too.
It was a huge inconvenience, but that’s filmmaking. There are many links required to make a film, and if one of them is weak and breaks, it can jeopardise the whole project. This time we were fortunate enough to be able to continue, but it was a stark reminder of how fragile film making can be.
By 2pm we had everything in place to film the next day and there was nothing left to do but wait. But we felt compelled to do something noteworthy with this unanticipated spare time, so we tried to do what Brian Clough never could and win the FA Cup with Nottingham Forest (on Fifa ‘11)!
We went out in the first round. Kind of summed up the day really.
We filmed our latest project, ‘Event’, on the 28th August. This is an account of the shoot, but first, some background…
Recently we’ve been focused on some writing projects rather than actually filming anything. After the best part of a year away from the camera we were looking for a low-budget, short pre-production, 5-10 minute project to do, something that could be turned around quickly and would help shake the dust off our mouldy old filmmaking bones. Coe had a script perfect for such a project, and so a few weeks ago we started pre-production with an aim to film it before the end of August.
The toughest elements of pre were finding the right location and the right actors. They’re both kind of important, ya’know. The location was simple on the surface; a decent sized, blank-walled room with a table and two chairs, and enough room to have one static and one roaming camera. Unfortunately even the simplest requirements become hard to meet when you’ve got naff all in the way of budget. But, after much searching our dogged producer, Carson, found a rehearsal space in Brixton which more or less matched our requirements and for only £55 a day. A bargain, but more on that place later…
The actors were the other key to this project. It’s something of an experimental piece; there’s one script but we wanted multiple actors giving different interpretations of the same material, which would then be cut up and edited together hopefully offering different perspectives of one ‘Event’. We needed a diverse cast of at least 5 actors, but with the time constraints in place we didn’t have time to do full blown auditions, and instead had to suffice with casting on the basis of the show reels for the actors that replied to our ads on Starnow and Talent Circle. We had a good response to these casting calls, and after some deliberation settled on our 7 for the shoot.
With just over a week before our shooting date of the 27th August we had our location, cast, equipment, and with a couple runners recruited, our crew in place. Over the next few days we sourced the last of the props and the night before the shoot we met at our base in King’s Cross to double check everything and discuss the shoot; schedules, roles, whether having pickle in every sandwich would be a problem, etc… We felt prepared and ready to go, and with less than twelve hours until we started shooting at 9:30 the next morning we felt something we rarely felt prior to a shoot; calm.
But as we’ve learnt with filming, if something can go wrong it invariably will, and our calmness would give way to panic the next day when our shoot would be hit by a show-stopping disaster.