Monday, 19 July 2010

Short film diary - Week 11...

It's my 300th blog post!!! Do I get a hat?

Speaking of which, in the alternate reality where I decided not to make the film, I would probably be blogging about how amazing Inception is. Luckily I am making a film and you can let everyone else tell you about that while I ramble on about dancing on the seafront and squeezing actors into hats.

So last week we got to review the footage for the first time which was mostly a huge relief and very exciting, and occasionally a bit painful. The most frequently asked questions from me were things like 'We did realise that mic was in shot the whole time, right?' to which the answer would be 'Not in this take...or this one...maybe in the last take...' Yes, I am destined to be forever tortured by continuity errors and things turning up in shots that shouldn't be there. The first weekend we shot I had someone on the lookout for these all the way through the filming. For some reason I never thought to ask anyone to do it again and there are a few problems as a result. But that's what cutaways are for, right?

Amazingly, the monkey hadn't ruined half as many shots as I thought he had. In fact he hadn't ruined any. Even the one I was positive he had ruined was fine - you can see his arm if you look really closely but that's about it. Which means I very nearly lost my sanity over nothing. Which was obviously the monkey's evil plan all along.

Watching the footage also made me really glad we shot so much outside. All the footage looks great, but any scenes shot in a flat always look a little...flat. So having the contrast really helps and makes it feel a lot more like a film. That's the idea anyway.

On Friday we had another dance rehearsal. This was partly for the dancers as it had been three weeks since they last did it. They are awesome and didn't really need it, but it made me feel better. Important plot point here - only three of four turned up. Imagine if this were a film and at this point I say 'That's fine, I'm sure the other dancer will turn up tomorrow'...would you be able to guess what happened next?

But I'm getting ahead of myself - I haven't built up the importance of this musical number nearly enough yet. So this was the scene that back in Week 8 had ended in disaster due to a) it being the hottest day of the century but only in the exact spot where we were filming so EVERYONE wanted to be there b) epic CD player fail - and subsequent attempts to find a substitute didn't work either so there was nothing to dance/mime to and c) me not having a clear idea of how to shoot it. Here's how I intended to deal with each of those problems:

a) My concern now wasn't the heat, but the possibility that the whole shoot could be called off due to rain. I considered the ways one might exert an influence over the now rather unpredictable weather. I couldn't find a goat to sacrifice, but did briefly wonder whether the monkey would work.

In the end I just spent a lot of time on various weather websites which made me worry a lot as most of them said it was going to be raining. By Friday the weather reports were saying that it would be raining in Brighton, but there was slightly different weather in Hove - a window of sunshine between 7am and 1pm, which was exactly when I was intending to film. It looked like it might work out after all.

So basically I didn't do anything to try to prepare for possible bad weather, I just spent a lot of time worrying about something I had never worried about before.

b) I bought an iPod stereo. Such is the extent of my godlike filmmaking genius.

c) So this was the real reason for the rehearsal on Friday night, so I could rehearse how to shoot it. Or at least how to shoot a version of it with three dancers and no actors. It helped, it made me feel a lot more prepared. I made a shiny new shot list. The big issue was going to be time.

Brother Tim needed to leave by 11am which gave us three hours if we started at 8am. The others couldn't stay much longer than that either. We couldn't afford to experience the same delays that had crippled the shoot last time. But I was determined that no matter what happened I would shoot everything we needed to that day without having to reschedule.

So now I've like properly built it up and everything, picture me saying 'That's fine, I'm sure the other dancer will turn up tomorrow...' See how that works?

Here's how it went down...

Saturday 17th July

The first thing to note is that due to a) me being stressed and b) not having as many crew members as before I completely forgot to get any photos during the first part of the day. This may be a good thing, because most of those photos would probably show me looking stressed. I'll post a couple of randoms from later on in the day until we catch up.

I also didn't wear my directing hat. This caused me additional stress.

So at 6am make-up artist Jeanette arrives with dancers Brother Tim and Becky. We have two dancers and a make-up artist - this is a good start. Outside the sky is cloudy but there are odd patches of blue. This is also good. Around ten minutes later Nathalie, Dancer No. 3, arrives. Awesome, this is going great.

There's no Dancer No. 4. Dancers 1-3 spend the next half an hour trying to call him. When that doesn't work they go over to his house, in full ghost make-up, and wake up Dancer No. 4's housemates. They don't know where he is. Dancer No. 4 is clearly not going to make it.

I am surprisingly calm at this point. I have a solution - it involves cloning Brother Tim. I accomplish this using a time machine to bring Brother Tim from five minutes ago into the present so there are two Brother Tims - that way he can be in two places at the same time. Once again I am reminded of my own genius.

It didn't quite work out like that, but Brother Tim did have to dance both parts. This meant he didn't get a break all morning, but he is awesome and did a fantastic job. He also choreographed the whole sequence, which helped as it meant he already knew Dancer No. 4's routine.

So it's 7.30am and we're already shooting.

This is a huge step up after last time. By 9am I've got enough footage of the dancers to make the sequence work - something I didn't manage to film last time which was part of the reason for rescheduling. So then we break the sequence down into the individual character moments. And the next two hours disappear.

When I think back to what we actually shot in those two hours I'm not quite sure where the time went. There were two things that definitely slowed it down. First there was the weather, which despite staying dry for the most part the sky was cloudy and there was a strong breeze. This meant the light was changing every other minute, meaning the shots needed a lot of readjusting and a few takes were ruined due to sudden changes in the light. Then there were the people - less than last time, but enough to slow us down.

At one point a man from the seafront office turned up in a truck. I panicked slightly - we had asked for permission for the extra day, but were told to just write it on the form ourselves and it would be fine (I think the council's response to filming permission requests very much depends on who you talk to there). I hadn't considered the possibility that it might not be okay.

Turned out it was fine. He was vaguely interested in what we were doing, mostly interested in one of our dancers and not at all interested in whether we had permission or not. Panic over.

At 11am I only had a handful of shots left to film, then we could move onto the next scene. That was the other problem - there were several scenes I wanted to shoot on the seafront that day and the musical number was only the first. If we finished by 12pm that would give us about an hour and a half to shoot the other scenes before we would need to leave for the Marlborough for a couple of reshoots.

That was never going to happen. I need to learn how to schedule properly.

Anyway, it's 11am, we're doing okay, just a few more shots to get. Then the camera battery dies.

This was the other problem from last time - the one I forgot to mention, because I also kept forgetting how much it would affect the exterior shoots. The previous weekend it had hardly been a problem at all - we put it on charge while we were setting up other shots and got by without it causing any major delays. Because you can do that inside a flat. You can't when you're outside, and the flat is about ten minutes away from the location.

So Brother Pete leads a group of people back to the flat while I stay at the location getting increasingly more stressed. I was worried that it would all fall apart if I'd gone back to the flat too. It felt like I had to stay there to make sure no one left. No one was going to leave, because they are all amazing and gave up whatever plans they had to make sure filming was finished, but at the time it felt like this nightmare of a sequence that was so close to being finished was slipping away from me again. I briefly mentioned the idea of rescheduling, but it was never going to happen. We had to finish it that morning.

45 minutes later the battery is returned, not fully charged but enough to keep us going. It's coming up to 12pm. There's no way we're going to get those extra scenes done. No problem, we'll go to the Marlborough then come back to the seafront afterwards, presuming it's still light at that point, and film then. It means another epic day but at least we'll be finished.

We shoot the last few scenes of the musical number and I make use of my one remaining dancer before she too has to leave. Then we shoot the end of the sequence. Then the camera battery starts to flash red again. There's one more scene we NEED to film that day so that Simon, the actor who sings the song in the sequence, will have finished filming all his scenes. It's an important scene and one I don't really want to compromise with, but we don't have much choice other than to shoot it in one set up. It works great, we manage to get a couple of good takes before the battery dies. Mission complete. Simon is wrapped. The musical sequence is done.

We got stuck in Saturday traffic on the way to the Marlborough so didn't arrive until 2.30pm. We stopped for lunch first, which felt a bit odd - like me and four friends had booked a whole theatre for the sole purpose of eating lunch there.

But we needed the time to stop and think. Because somehow I needed to figure out how to get these actors...

...into this hat...

...which I did by staring at it intently for a long time...

...until I finally figured it out and explained it to Rosie...

...who then suffered a series of horrific injuries attempting to get inside the hat based on my suggestions...

We got Lukas and Rosie into the hat in the end. Darren figured it out. I mostly just stared at the hat declaring that it must somehow be possible, I just didn't know how. That's like proper directing that is.

So then we film a few reshoots. Like a shot we filmed right at the end of the first Saturday. When we watched it back we noticed that there were about five cables and a light stand in the background. It's quite frightening that no one noticed this at the time but I think we were probably too tired to care.

That first day seems like an awfully long time ago now.

Then Scott turned up to film his last scene, which we filmed on the seafront where there were at least a billion people.

Then we returned to the furthest reaches of Hove seafront, which was empty. I wonder if we could have shot the whole film at 7pm rather than in the early hours of the morning. There actually seemed to be a lot fewer people around and the sky was almost completely clear.

We filmed Lukas' final scene and a few montage bits and that was it. For the first time since we started this I actually managed to film everything I'd planned to film. A few hours later than planned of course, but it's still progress.

So there's one last proper scene left to film, which we're shooting tomorrow evening. Then, presuming we don't need to re-shoot anything major, it should just be a case of filming a few cutaways and one special effects shot (that I still haven't figured out how to to) and we're done.

Sunday 18th July

I had a proper day off.

I watched three films.

It was awesome.

But I could never quite shake the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else...

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