Despite going out for more than a few drinks in Brighton on Friday and getting back quite late, I did manage to get up at 7am on Saturday morning and make it into London in time for the Hit the Big Time shoot. The location was at Academy Costumes, a huge costume warehouse not far from London Bridge that was going to double for backstage at a Vegas show. The exterior had been shot in Vegas but there hadn’t been time to shoot the interior, hence shooting it in London. In the script the two hitmen, Cooper and Crouch, go to Vegas on the promise of a job. They are introduced to Byron Richmond, an aging drag queen who once had a real shot at stardom, but a rival actor named Barry Brutowski stole it from him. Years later, he finally has enough money to hire someone to kill Brutowski and Cooper and Crouch get the job.
When I got to the location it didn't look like there was anyone around and there was no answer when I knocked on the door. I hadn't had much sleep, wasn't sure if I was in the right place and was considering giving up and going home. Luckily I was joined by Glenn Beck, the actor playing Byron Richmond, and after quick introductions I started to get really excited about the project. Glenn was perfect for the part, so perfect it literally felt like one of my characters had walked up to me on the street and introduced himself. There were also a few similarities between his career and that of Byron Richmond. He was an American actor working in England who had appeared in two Stanley Kubrick films - Dr. Strangelove and 2001. But although his character in 2001 was originally supposed to be one of the crew members on the ship, it was changed at the last minute to a much smaller role and he feels he missed out on a potentially career boosting performance as a result. That said, he’s doing pretty well these days – his last job was playing Abraham Lincoln in the new National Treasure film.
Anyway, we got inside and I finally met Helen (the director of the project who I’ve exchanged lots of e-mails with but never met) and Jason (the actor who played Garrett in Ten Dead Men and the other half of Cooper and Crouch). I don’t usually enjoy being on set when it’s a project I’ve written, because I end up just feeling like I’m getting in the way, but I wanted to meet everyone and I do enjoy getting more involved with the production side of the project. The problem is that when people do ask me to do something it’s usually to do with coming up with new lines of dialogue on the spot, which I’m no good at – I’m not very creative under pressure. Glenn asked me to change a couple of his lines to make them more American, but in the end I left him to it and he did a much better job than I would’ve done. Luckily there were loads of other little jobs to do so I managed to keep myself busy and hopefully didn’t get in the way too much. The production designer hadn’t turned up and Jason was dressing the set on his own so I helped out with that while everyone else was setting up, and later I took some production stills and helped out with the sound recording.
It was a nice surprise to find that a lot of the crew had also worked on Ten Dead Men and that I knew most of them. I’d met the make-up artist, Stefan, on a number of Ten Dead Men shoots and he also helped out with the make-up on the trailer we shot for Dark Future – he made my girlfriend into a zombie! I also knew the steadicam operator, James, as he stayed at my flat once during a Ten Dead Men shoot. And although I’d never met him before, the director of photography, Dominic, had also worked on Ten Dead Men and spends a lot of time in Brighton so we had a lot in common. It was great to be able to share my thoughts on the final cut with everyone who worked on the film and let them know that it’s come out really well.
The actual scene went really well – Helen has a very efficient and professional approach to directing that was really interesting to watch. It was also great to see JC and Jason interacting and developing their characters, and the dialogue between them and Glenn’s character came out really well. The set looked great and we even had a couple of glamorous showgirls walking around in the scene to give it a really authentic feel. Watching the scenes it was quite easy to forget that we were actually in the middle of London and not in the back of a Vegas club so it should cut together seamlessly with the location footage.
The shoot ran on a bit longer than planned, as they always do, so I had to leave before they were finished, but it was mostly all done. And by the end of today the shoot should be wrapped and they’ll be onto editing. Overall I’m really glad I went along, it was great to meet everyone working on it and to catch up with James and Stefan, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished short.
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