Monday, April 30, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Sixteen

The last shoot day (night) in Nottingham, and we were still in the offices - we're using a location which used to be Carlton studios, just off Lenton Lane - somewhere I've been quite a few times before in the past. Carlton TV left there a few years ago and now it's used by the University of Nottingham, but there are still the remnants of the TV station there - including an enormous empty studio, with a massive lighting rig, plus a props store. It's actually quite a good place to be, kind of like being in school out-of-hours. Everybody can spread out and be comfortable. The only problem with the place is that mobile phone and walkie-talkie reception is terrible, so we had a couple of occasions tonight when we were waiting to go for a take but couldn't track down key members of the crew because they were out of reception range.

We also had a group of extras tonight, including a couple of people I know - Dena Smiles and Yvonne Varnier. It was good to see them, although I did apologise to Dena for scandalously underusing her.

We got on a bit quicker tonight, although as soon as we went outside to do the exteriors (involving extras and van driving (with a cameo role for Trnovski as the bus driver)) things slowed again. It's weird, it feels like we've got a load of people and quite a lot of equipment, but realistically, we're still working on quite a reduced crew and with a limited amount of resources and it's when you try and do things like tonight that you feel it - Jonathan had lost a big light so had to be quite creative about how he employed the other lights we had - the kind of thing that makes you have to rethink your blocking and staging just to accommodate the fact that you want your characters to at least be visible.

As it got towards dawn we still had one more scene to do - the opening of the film. I wanted to do a shot from outside, looking through a window down a very long corridor, with Lena turning to walk away. We set up the shot, with light quickly building outside, then waited. And waited. And waited. Because Olga wasn't there - she was down the other end of the extremely long corridor where the make-up room was, getting her hair redone for continuity's sake. But with the bad reception, it meant that nobody knew that. Cue lots of frustrated moans from people, as it was getting brighter by the second. Eventually, we got Olga back and managed to get the shot, and the scene, just in time for dawn.

And that was it. While everybody derigged, I went into the enormous empty studio and found a battered football that someone had left there and me and Toby (Elbie) had a kick about. While I did feel bad about not helping with the derig (typical director), it also felt great to expend some energy, runing about and lamping a ball across the studio. It's only when I get the chance to relax that I realise how tightly wound I've been over the past couple of weeks.

Of course, we're not finished yet - we move down to London on Monday to shoot the ending of the film in a field near Heathrow. That's if the weather holds, of course. If not, there might have to be a hasty rewrite involving all the characters finding shelter in an empty warehouse.

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Fifteen

Got in at about half six this morning after the first of our night shoots at the office location. It was weird going from days to nights – having a lie-in and then being able to relax a little bit during the day wasn’t necessarily a good thing – when we all arrived at the office it felt like it took longer than usual to get back into our stride, and before we knew it it was ‘lunchtime’ (11.30) and we’d only just finished the toilet scenes. The location was great though – finally having some space to spread out felt really good, but then maybe that – and the fact that we’re coming to the end of the shoot – gave the whole night a bit of a half-term feel.

I thought when we first arrived that I wasn’t going to be able to last through the night – I was so knackered today, and couldn’t lie in as long as I wanted to – but the more we went on, the more the adrenalin kicked back in, and by the time we had lunch, it felt more like a normal day again.

Then problems started to kick in – it started getting light in the windows behind the actors, making it really difficult to make it look like nighttime – the problem hampered by the fact that the camera – which had been playing up a bit all night – suddenly decided it didn’t want to work on the batteries, so we had to track down a mains power source, meaning that the last shot we did is going to require some grading in post to make it match.

By that time everybody was flagging anyway – I looked up to frame a shot at one point and saw Olga lying on the floor half-asleep – so we wrapped ten minutes early – then me, Jonathan and Andrew had a chat about the schedule for tomorrow – when we really need it to get darker quicker and lighter later, or, more realistically, to work a lot faster than we did tonight. Will force-feed everybody coffee when they arrive, maybe

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Fourteen

Second day in the cellar and a stupid amount of pages to get through again – basically due to trying to fit all of the scenes orginally scheduled for two days into a day and a half. We started with the biggest scene and got it pretty much done before lunch, but then had to go straight into blocking the next one. At which point, after 14 and a half days and 350 slates, my mind just went blank. I knew what was happening in the scene, but for about fifteen minutes I just couldn’t think about where to put the camera – like I’d burnt out that bit of my brain. Jonathan was suggesting things and I just couldn’t tell if they felt right. Then Lisa and Andrew and Caroline (script supervisor) all started to make suggestions as well and for a moment I really really wanted just to walk away for half an hour and get my head together. But the demands of the schedule mean that half an h our of doing nothing could cripple us for the rest of the day – we had to clear that location tonight – so I just decided on a first shot and thought – whether it was the best shot or not – it would at least get us going again. And once we got Olga, Ainsley and Toby in and started shooting, things seemed to resolve themselves and we managed to get everything done that we wanted to. But it did make me think that next time (when or if ever that might be), I’m going to try and ask for a little more time in the schedule. Because working like this again is just going to break my brain.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Thirteen

We actually managed to finish early today - albeit only twenty minutes, although compared to the last few nights' rushing around it felt positively leisurely. This morning we had to pick up a couple of bathroom scenes which we'd had to postpone from ten days ago due to Olga's illness (and the concurrent loss of our original location). Because of the new location, it meant that my original plans for the scene had to go out of the window a bit and I had to try and reconfigure the same action with different elements. Hopefully it's all going to work. Because of the cramped space, I had to spend most of the morning standing in a shower cubicle to watch the monitor, although at one stage, just for a change, I got to straddle a toilet.

After lunch, we moved to our new location - the cellar. The art dept. have done a fantastic job (as usual) of making the space look as small and weird as it is in the script (the actual cellar is massive) and it was surprisingly easy and enjoyable to shoot in there - despite the dust which seems to permanently hang in the air. This afternoon's scene is one of my favourites in the script - we used it as an audition piece as well - Birdie's big teenage temper tantrum. It's one of the least horror-ful scenes in the film, but it's got some nice character stuff in it and Toby (Elbie) and Ainsley (Birdie) were both fantastic - as they both had been during casting. It was a good day, all in all - we've got another big one tomorrow in order to get us back on schedule after the lost day, so I'm really hoping we manage to get that all done.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Twelve

Bit of a gruelling day today. Well maybe not gruelling (it's not like I was mining coal or gutting chickens or anything), just strangely hard-going. I don't know whether it's because we're into the third week and the tiredness is really starting to embed itself in me, or whether being in that house for so long has started to drive us all stir-crazy, or whether it was just having Christmas yesterday - whatever it was, I was finding it difficult to really keep going today. Again, because of the relentless, steaming, rivet-popping juggernaut that is our schedule, we had to pick up a whole set of (short) scenes which we missed yesterday, then move onto a bit of action which in the script is quite simple, but which by necessity I had to turn into a complex piece of action. (Basically, because of rushing things the other night, I got us into a situation where Lena had to have a chisel metamorphose into a knife in the space of a scene - which meant engineering some threeway hallway tussling between chisel-wielding Lena, knife-wielding Birdie and chisel stabee Mum.) Because of the complexity of the blocking (and none of us being experts in stunt coordination) the whole thing took longer than scheduled for and we had to carry it over until the end of lunch. For the second day in a row my lunch-'hour' then disappeared as we had to go and view the cellar location, which is being dressed in preparation for the next two days. As soon as we got back from there it was time to start again...

Not having the time to step away for half-an-hour really has an effect - it's like you don't get the opportunity to reset your brain - it just all rolls into one big mush of people saying things and doing things that you have to try and organise in something like a recognisable pattern. When it finally came to the day's biggest scene, I just felt knackered. Which is a shame, because it's one of my favourite bits - Dad's foot massage. The performances were great - luckily - so hopefully we've got a scene that works, but it didn't feel like I was firing on all cylinders.

By this point time was really getting tight - and we still had two - admittedly short - scenes to do. With only about 40 minutes left till wrap, we had to be really inventive and hone the blocking down so that we could still get all the action, but we could keep it to a minimum amount of shots.

So, we ended up doing two scenes in two shots - which must be some kind of record for economy in terms of the shoot as a whole. And actually, they both ended up working really well - thanks to some great lighting by Jonathan and terrific performances by Olga and Perry. Yeah, the whole thing is essentially a bit of a steal from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but then again I must have referenced that film in every interview I've done so far (and I had three more today, from Rotten Tomatoes, BBC Film Network and Film London, again eating up any spare moment I might have had (although I'm not allowed to moan about it as Lisa reminds me that we still need to sell the film (and they weren't actually too bad in the end))), so maybe it's only right that I nick a bit of it as well. I mean, everyone else does.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Eleven

Christmas is supposed to be one of the most stressful times of year, so the prospect of spending the whole day trying to film Mum and Dad's Christmas (a nearly seven-page scene featuring the largest amount of cast - seven - and the biggest prosthetic effect we've got in the film) all in one day wasn't exactly enticing - especially when we also had set visits thrown into the mix. Today we had Sol from Film London who is our (very supportive) exec, plus our Unit Publicist and our Stills Photographer, plus a video documenter from Film London, plus a journalist from Empire and a journalist and photographer from the Times. Because it was raining it meant that we couldn't go outside (our usual lunch space) so every time I stepped off the set - a garish mix of blood and tinsel - I couldn't go more than two paces without bumping into someone. At one point I stepped off to catch my thoughts and try and figure out a bit of blocking and ended up bouncing like a pinball from one doorway to another (all occupied by journalists or photographers) until I ended up bouncing back onto set. So my mind got a bit fried. Calm as I was trying to be, the fact that we didn't turn over until midday (after being on set at eight) really put the pressure on for the afternoon and we had to work like dogs to get everything done in time.

One of the hardest things was not having the time or space to myself, even for a couple of minutes, that I usually get. Over lunch I agreed to sit down and be interviewed by the writer from The Times, who started off asking me about "torture porn" and how I felt about it. As much as I tried to distance myself from 'Grindhouse'/'Hostel' style gratuitous exploitation violence for the sake of violence, I'm not sure I managed to convince him that 'Mum and Dad' was going to be anything different - especially when it does feature a woman being tortured (albeit only really in one sequence). When the photographer took me upstairs and snapped me with a row of torture implements in front of my face I suddenly got the fear that I was going to be stitched up - potential headlines started running through my head - 'Inside the mind of a torture pornographer' or 'face of evil' or 'stop this sick bastard' - but we'll have to wait and see. People keep telling me that there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I'm not entirely sure that's the case. There are also points where I look at what we're filming and wonder - like many people who don't get horror - why on earth somebody wants to put stuff like this on the screen. That's the weird thing about filmmaking - especially when you're a writer/director - it's a little too revealing of the dark corners of your own mind.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Bonus: Views from inside the SFX bathroom

Simon's table for creating stabbings and the like

Reference pictures of Mark Devenport (amongst other things) who is playing the ill-fated Van Man

I don't know what this is about

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Ten

The end of the week and we’re pretty much bang on schedule (apart from the lost day….) which is a near-miracle after the state we were in midweek. Today was mostly corridors and staircases – those shots which are just about people opening doors, going in, coming out and walking up and down which are really simple and necessary, but take an age to get done because you’re constantly moving location. The other thing that was difficult was trying to structure the sequence (basically Lena moving through the house) so that it made sense in terms of visual grammar – she goes out here so she should come in here, that kind of thing – especially because the floor plan of the location we’re shooting in bears no relation to the one in the script, requiring constant cheats and finesses to actually try and make it make sense. I eventually got it all figured out in my head, but then confused everybody when I tried to explain it – basically it meant cutting down the number of shots but increasing the action of them – or, as I put I to Andrew (First A.D.) complicating in order to simplify.

At the end of today we got to do a whole bunch of shots which I’d been hoping to fit in, but which we had to wait to do because we realised they needed a macro lens. It was a good chance for some catharsis – I got to do some stabbing (bloodying one of my favourite shirts in the process) and some injecting. Actually, I volunteered Simon (FX) to do the injecting but then pulled rank and did it myself because I thought he was being a bit too gentle about it. What was good was the reaction of the crew to what they were seeing on the monitor (disgusted moans) – it makes me feel that we’re going in the right direction in terms of getting something out of an audience.

What's also been good this week has been having friends come down to the set and have a look round - Jeanie has been down a few times with Betsy (although Betsy, being three, has not been subjected to the full tour around the house and I have to shield her eyes every time we go through the living-room because of a particularly gruesome bit of set decoration in there) and so have my friends Mark, Chris and Gareth. Everybody seems really impressed by the Production Design, which I'm really pleased with because Jess and her team have been working so hard to get everything done on a budget which was pretty much halved about two weeks before we started filming. Having people come round and tell you how good things are looking is a real boost, especially when you're so knackered and you've been looking at it for days on end.

Back in the same house on Monday morning – when it’s going to be Christmas...

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Nine

Our second (and last) day on the Dad’s Tool Room set and we were scheduled to do the following: finish the scene we’d left off filming last night (three shots), shoot a four page scene involving a severed head (which would take a good few hours), then shoot three more scenes in that room, before moving back into Lena’s Room to shoot another two scenes. At lunchtime our wildly optimistic First A.D. Andrew McEwan was wondering if we could also slot in a whole range of pick-ups at the end of the day and I just burst out laughing. I mean, I know we’ve got to do all this stuff, and I know our schedules tight, but sometimes the sheer amount of stuff we have to get through in a day really does my head in. By the end of today both myself and Jonathan (D.P) were almost in a daze because of the number of different scenes we’d had to think about.

Still, bar one shot, we pretty much managed to get everything done today that we’d hoped, which meant that we were clear to move out of the Tool Room and onto the next set of locations around the house. And the severed head stuff, featuring Mark, turned out okay as well – at the start I thought it was going to be a nightmare – Mark couldn’t hold a comfortable position, the latex prosthetic didn’t work as it should, we couldn’t get the right angle – but then we adjusted the workbench that we’d had made specially and all of a sudden it seemed to work. And Mark put in a great performance – even though he attempted to undermine me in front of the crew by insisting that I personally took the chewing gum out of his mouth before the take, something I got him back for by subsequently depositing the same chewing gum behind his ear. Where it stayed until we let him out. That'll learn him.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Eight

After last night's exhausting and frenzied finale (and a night of very little sleep, due to a combination of being irresponsibly filled with industrial-strength coffee throughout last evening's shoot, Betsy waking up and coming into bed with us and having a nightmare (I never have nightmares, or at least ones that I can remember - and this one wasn't very exciting, just a feeling of overwhelming fear and panic that someone had got into the house...)), today was actually felt a bit more back on track. We got everything done that we'd planned, and a little bit of stuff we had planned to start tomorrow, so that was good, and we were in a different location, which seemed to cheer everybody up a bit - although the new set - Dad's tool room - though brilliantly art designed, does feature some vicious implements hanging down (saws, hooks, what looks like a rusty rotovator), which means a lot of banging, scraping and near-impaling of heads.

We did a couple of big-ish scenes - including the first proper introduction of Dad, which featured a shot which managed to disgust and repulse everybody on set - even me. It's not particularly gory, really, just a really wrong image (again, you're going to have to wait to see the film to see what I mean...)

Everybody seemed on good form, even after yesterday, so that made me feel a bit more relaxed. We do still have an ever-present nagging of things that we've either missed, or need to pick up, but if I block all of those out of my mind, it actually doesn't seem to impossible to do everything that's in the schedule - especially now we're up to speed with how quickly we can move.

More tool room stuff tomorrow, including Mark Devenport's severed head...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Seven

I'm going to keep this brief because I'm absolutely fucked. We shot eight and a half pages today - including a big scene towards the end of the film where we had to do vital effects stuff. It got to wrap time and we knew we weren't going to get it all, and so had to ask all the cast and crew if they minded working an extra hour. Even then, we ended up rushing a really vital bit of action - it's always the way - you end up having to speed through something that you know you should spend more time on, and you just have to hope that instinct, the talent of the cast and crew and pure blind luck pull you through. There's a couple of pick-up shots I think we could really do with getting, but we're going to have to see if there's any time later on in the shoot.

It's been a weird day - by lunchtime I felt really elated because we'd already knocked off five pages - but then in the afternoon, because we had more scenes to do - and so, more changes in the overall lighting set-up - time started to get really eaten up. Then there was about an hour when we were stuck in Eyeline Morass (where two shots of people looking at each other that should match up for some reason don't...) and then we decided to go handheld for a scene, which, although frees you up in terms of being able to reframe (and get things in one that might otherwise have required numerous individual set-ups) also means more complicated lighting and blocking.

So, by the end of the day, fuelled by far too much coffee (make a mental note - don't drink coffee) I was feeling really at the end of my ability to concentrate, and had to make some key decisions really fast - one of which involved Perry being stabbed by a fake chisel - which although blunted and retractable, was still obviously going to hurt. He went through two takes with it and didn't complain. I"m just hoping that we haven't scarred him for life. It was the point where I really felt bad - getting 30 people to work another hour at the end of an already long and exhausting day (for which they are not exactly getting handsomely paid), and then making someone get whacked in the back by a blunt instrument to top it off. I really hope that the next couple of days can find some give in them, otherwise I'm worried that people are going to get pissed off, and the good feeling that we've had up till now is going to start dissipating. Maybe things'll seem brighter after a good night's sleep...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Six

Man, this shoot-a-feature-in-eighteen-days (or-seventeen-if-you-lose-a-day-early-on)-thing has really started to tell. We shot five pages of script today, which is great going (5 pages x 18 days = 90 minutes) especially in terms of feature films, but we're still behind. Today we had effects - piercings, cuttings and the like - all of which take time to set up and time to reset + we had some tricky art dept. rigging with wires and stuff - and it was really tough on Olga, who had to spend most of the day held up by metal wires, so it was a lot to contend with, but I think we got some good stuff. It's just that we missed off getting a couple of other dialogue scenes which we could have done with knocking off. Which means that tomorrow's schedule is horrendous. I've just been looking at it now - at the moment we're averaging somewhere between 25 and 28 set-ups a day - and the minimum I can see for tomorrow is 31 - so we're going to have to go some - we really need to be moving out of the set that we're in by the end of tomorrow.

Being in Lena's room - the main torture area of the film - is starting to do my head in. Although it's quite empty, it's also airless - as a result of the window being blocked in and the doors being closed. So very quickly it gets very hot. Also, that space seems to get eaten up by various crew members - at one point today I counted 19 people in the room (which is basically the size of a master bedroom). Part of me looked round and wondered why the hell we needed 19 people in the room, while the other part of me rationalized it by reminding myself that it's all because I've written a script which requires loads of attention to art dept., lighting, make-up, costume and fx. As far as I'm concerned, the blame always comes back to me - it's more comforting that way - at least if I think it's my fault that things are complicated, I can think of ways to change it in the future.

Everything's looking good though - we had our Anna, our unit stills photographer on set today and some of the stills she took looked great. Hey, maybe that's a cheaper way of doing a scene - film it all in a series of stills with captions in between - it'll be daring and avant-garde - and it'll save a load of time...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Five

I knew from the start today was going to be a tough day. We originally had scheduled 8 pages of script to get through (I think 5 is usually about right), and even though it was all set in one room, it meant a lot of set-ups and a lot of moving about. Also, because of having the weekend off, it kind of felt like starting the shoot again - and the first day of a shoot is always a bit slow as people get up to speed. So we didn't turn over till gone ten (with a call time of eight), so it always felt like we were chasing it a bit. Throw in a tracking shot to set up and shoot, and we ended up by six o'clock having to shoot two more scenes - including loads of fx. So I decided that rather than start a series of complicated set-ups, we would instead switch the schedule round and pull in a scene from tomorrow that we could do in full - a scene post-torture where Mum creepily spoons with Lena on her bed (Dido is hoping to develop a reputation for these kinds of 'specialist' films now - it was all a bit Brokeback Mountain.)

I think it's days like these which make you feel the budget - it's not that we don't have the crew or the equipment or the props or the fx - it's that there is no room in the schedule for going over - no contingency days or places where we can pick up the bits that we might be missing. We just have to keep going - which sometimes means changing the staging of a scene (something I keep doing and which I know is going to fuck me up at some point because I'm going to get rid of something and then forget about it until it becomes absolutely critical for another scene to work...). I'm really trying to make sure that I get everything that's in the script, but sometimes that's more in essence than in precise detail. I'm hoping I"m not losing things - or if I am, that I'm replacing them with something equally effective. This is the hard thing about shooting a feature - especially on this budget - trying to keep everything in. I have to make decisions really quickly - sometimes deciding not to mention when something is slightly off-script just because I want to keep the momentum going. It's like striking a balance between being obsessed with the minutiae of the story and letting it go for the benefit of the larger picture. Kind of like being a pragmatic nerd. Which isn't actually too far from the truth, as it goes.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Four

Friday the 13th should be a lucky day for horror film makers, but we seemed to be a bit cursed today. The morning went fine - we just had Perry in alongside Mark Devenport, who's playing Van Man and we did a nice little scene where Mark is trying to sell Perry a van, which Perry is trying to get for a fraction of the price (I know it doesn't sound very horrorfilmy, but it's all part of a larger bit..). Mark and Perry seemed to get on well and they worked well with each other, so it all seemed to go pretty smoothly and we even managed to break for lunch early. Then we went over our other (main) location where we were shooting for the afternoon. The art department have been in there for a couple of weeks now and have made a fantastic job of Lena's room and Dad's tool room (which are the two really horrorfilmy (that's a really ungainly adjective, isn't it?) sets. After doing a quick prelight for those rooms, we had a bit of a wait until Dido (who, because of our change in schedule wasn't initally in today) was available. Then I got to kill Mark. Or rather, Dido and Ainsley did. And it looked great - the three of them did a terrific job of really selling it, with Mark adding in a couple of extra-horrible suggestions of his own.

But while we were filming that, we found out in quick succession that a) the location we had planned to shoot in tomorrow - a bathroom, which art dept. had already painted, retiled and dressed - was now not going to be available - causing us to do a rapid rethink of scene staging, blocking and framing (especially considering that the stuff we shot this morning was part of the same scene and was designed to match with the other bathroom)...and b) that Olga is still ill and unable to work. Which actually - weirdly - made a) a bit less of an immediate problem. With nothing else to pull into the schedule (Olga's in pretty much every other scene, apart from a couple at other locations, which we haven't got access to yet), we've had to postpone tomorrow's shoot. Meaning either picking up the scenes at some later point in the schedule or adding another day onto the end, both of which cause us a bit of a headache. It can't be helped though, so we've just got to get through it and hope that Olga is better for Monday. If not...well, I can always say that I made a quarter of a feature film once...

We also hit our 100th slate today - which Owen (Camera Asst) pointed out is sometimes referred to as the champagne slate (meaning that on it's completion everybody in the crew gets a glass of champagne), but considering the headaches that production have been trying to navigate around today, I thnk that was probably the last thing on their minds. And we can't afford champagne. Unless Lidl do one...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Three

A good day today, but also a tricky one. We did the last of our kitchen scenes, including a great bit between Dad (Perry) and Birdie (Ainsley), as well as a terrific scene between Mum (Dido) and Lena (Olga). Unfortunately, Olga also discovered – after feeling ill for the past few days – that she’s got a throat infection. The doctor has recommended rest – which means a bit of rescheduling for us – Olga’s in pretty much all the scenes in the film, so if we lose her at all, it’ll really screw us up, but luckily we were able to swap the one day where we don’t need her for the stuff we had planned tomorrow, which means bringing Mark Devenport in to play Van Man (no-one in the film apart from Lena actually has a real name) a day early. He’s looking forward to it – especially playing opposite Perry, who Mark actually first suggested for the part. ( I’ve told Perry that he owes Mark a drink for it.)

It’s also meant that our Prodution Designer Jess and all the Art Department crew are having to work even harder (and they’ve worked incredibly hard for weeks now in getting everything together) to get things ready ahead of schedule. I’m just hoping that Olga going to be okay to carry on after a bit of rest – obviously for her sake I hope she gets better quickly, but from my own selfish persepective, we really need her back soon. Or else it’ll be me in a wig and a lot of long shots from the back for the rest of the shoot…

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Two

Today was a hell of a day. Serves me right for being so smug about being ahead yesterday. We had five scenes to get through today, including a big dinner table scene in the kitchen, which again was tough for blocking (one of the reasons I wanted to set the film where it is is because I don’t like it when films have to have people living in unrealistically large houses just because they’re more ‘interesting’ than normal houses. However, having to try and block 5 actors and at least five (if not more) crew round a dining table in a small kitchen in a semi-detached house, and ending up stuck in a corner behind the focus puller with a tiny monitor totally out of sight of the actors while your trying to direct isn’t the best way of doing things and probably explains why people try and avoid it.) We also had a fight to choregraph inlcuding stabbings and a clunking with an iron, as well as a chase through the garden and a leap over a fence. Sight of the day was Perry Benson in drag stumbling through the washing lines covered in blood. It’s moments like those that actually make the whole thing seem quite surreal – like I can’t quite believe that things that I’ve written are being acted out in full. It’s like having some weird God-complex.

Anyway, we wrapped about 10 minutes over, after knocking off two scenes in an hour. Not the best way of working, because it’s easy to forget things, and anything forgotten now is going to be difficult to pick up on our schedule. But our schedule also demands that we keep moving, so it’s just a case of having to readjust my brain quickly and hope that either my innate knowledgeof the script or, more likely, someone else paying more attention will pick up the things that I’m missing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day One

The first day is always the worst on a shoot, at least in terms of nerves, because you don’t know how anything’s going to pan out – how people are going to work together, how all the elements are going to look once you’ve got them in front of the camera, how the actual script is going to hold up. So it was good to get today out of the way – not that we had a bad day – far from it – we only had one scene scheduled – a big kitchen scene with all five main cast – but we managed to get it wrapped ahead of schedule and knock off a couple of extra smaller scenes as well (thus keeping me in the good books of Lisa and Andrew the A.D.) I think we managed to cover it all – it was one of those scenes where it’s mainly people walking through a room or sat at a table, so the focus of the action was quite split – my worry with it would be that it looks too disjointed – but the performances were all good and everything seemed to work okay, and the space wasn’t even as tight as I’d feared (helped by the fact of using the camera that were using with the pro 35 on, because it really helps us out with depth of field.)

Although bricking it a bit last night, once we actually got on set and started working, I felt a lot calmer – its obvious really, but once you actually start doing something rather than just thinking about it, a lot of your worries have to find other places to hide outside of your immediate forebrain.

I think we got some good stuff – one of my favourite bits of today revolved around our stunt pig (a weird half-homage to 80s sitcom ‘Bread’) and his deadpan appearance at the end of one of the shots. Along with close-ups of sizzling steaks, it was a bit of a meaty day. Although we did end it with a shot of some pretty kittens. Aaaah.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Jackie Chien! : Bob Clark RIP

Just found out that Bob Clark died a couple of days ago. Bob was the director of 'Porky's', the classic eighties teen sex comedy (as well as 'Porky's II:The Next Day') but in the early Seventies he made a number of great horror films including the original 'Black Christmas', the low-budget (and totally exploitation-titled-up) 'Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things' and the fantastic, and grimly depressing 'Deathdream' (aka 'Dead of Night' or 'The Night Andy Came Home'). He also made the great Sherlock Holmes/Jack the Ripper film 'Murder By Decree'.

In latter years, his career has been less horror oriented - in fact he seems to have made a bunch of kids films ('Baby Geniuses', 'Fudge-a-mania') and dramas, although 'Karate Dog' - "When LAPD computer expert Peter Fowler investigates the killing of an old man in Chinatown, he finds the only witness is his dog, Cho Cho. But Fowler soon discovers Cho Cho is the only dog in the world who can speak to humans... not only that, Cho Cho is an expert in martial arts..." - sounds like it might be worth a watch (and has got this great french (punning) poster.

Cooke's suggesting an all Clark horror night in memoriam. (That'll be after the 'Trash' night he's also suggested...I don't know where the hell I'm going to fit all of these in...)


Last (semi-)working day before the Easter Break and the beginning of the shoot for 'Mum and Dad'. In between doing parenty things like taking my daughter to her friend's birthday party (all screaming, running and wotsits), I managed to get over to both of the main locations for the film. They're looking good - the art dept. are doing a great job, but the tightness of the kitchen location is still a bit of a worry - mainly because it's one of the few locations where we've got all five main cast involved and a lot of movement. I'm hoping that the weather will have cooled a bit by Tuesday so that the place doesn't become a sweatbox. We're starting with quite a big scene - where the main character Lena is brought into the family kitchen and experiences the perverse normality of the family. I think it's good to go straight in with something that has everybody involved - hopefully it'll help people to get to know each other, and will give the actors a good cue as to how their characterisation is fitting in with everybody else's.

I get the feeling at the moment that however much I try to be calm, I'm actually worrying too much. Or maybe not too much (I think a certain amount of worry is crucial to the whole film production process) but maybe in the wrong areas. It's hard to know. It's funny, every time I start to make a film, there comes a time where I suddenly seem to lose sight of what it is that I'm doing - like all of a sudden I forget how to do it. Hopefully, the experience of making my shorts (and especially the recent experience of 'Deliver Me') is going to carry me through - it's just that sometimes when I'm thinking about how a scene's going to work, my mind just blanks and every shot I (badly) draw seems really clunky.

Then again, maybe I'm just a clunky filmmaker and should just learn to live with it.

Tried to speak to the actors today- just to check out that they were okay with the script and stuff - but most of them were out - probably enjoying the lovely weather. Managed to talk to Toby (Elbie) who says he can't wait to start - he wanted to get going as soon as we'd done the rehearsals. It's good to hear that kind of thing - makes you realise that the project is bigger than you, and that everybody else working on it has got things invested in it too. As far as my own feelings go - I'm torn between really wanting to get started (just to get the momentum going) and stressing about not being prepared enough. Have to tell myself that this is just the normal state of affairs, though.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wild horses

Back from London again - spent the train journey attempting to get a bit further on with the shotlisting (which at the moment seems like a never-ending job), while trying to block out the drunk boy and girl who were sat on the seats opposite engaging in loud and repetitive flirtation for most of the journey.

Today we scouted the airport location - a field near where I grew up. It looks great, with giant lights and planes (at least today) screaming overhead. It was also populated by a herd of horses which I'm not sure we're going to be able to move - and which might then add another level of weirdness to what is already going to be quite a full-on scene.

Then this afternoon we did a camera test with Jonathan Bloom (D.P), Barry Squires (Focus Puller) and Owen Tooth (Camera Assistant and filmmaker). We're using a Sony 900 HD camera with the Pro 35 system, which is a little gadget that attaches to the camera and whirrs a disc behind the lens which is intended to give a 'film' effect. In the confines of the testing room, on the HD monitors it looked great, so I'm hoping that once we get on set and have all the art design and costume and make-up and actors it's all going to look fantastic as well. My only worry is that with the Pro 35 system and the lens and the matte box on, the camera is really long, and considering we've got to shoot a load of (sometimes really tight) interiors, I'm a bit concerned about being able to get the shots that I'm (hurriedly) coming up with. I guess it'll be all right - I just have to keep flexible. Yeah, that's right, it's not compromising it's being flexible..

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Something crawling

It’s a little less than a week before the shoot and I’m in the bedroom I grew up in back at my Mum and Dad’s house in Bedfont, under the Heathrow flightpath. While I’ve been coming down to London all this year, I’ve either been staying with Lisa and her husband in Battersea or here with my Mum and Dad. Because of the setting of the film, it’s actually been quite good to come back here a lot and get a feel for the place – I’ve not actually lived in Bedfont since I was 18, so it’s been good to reacquaint myself.

Everybody keeps asking whether my Mum and Dad have read the script. They haven’t – not that I’m worried about them reading it, it’s just not really their thing – they don’t like horror films and I’m not sure what they’d make of it. In a way, it’s probably simpler to make the film and then let them see it, so they can respond to it as a story rather than just an idea or a blueprint. Also, the coward in me fears having to explain stuff to them – although I don’t think they’d be offended – my Mum and Dad have been through a lot in their lives and I don’t think anything I could write would really phase them. I guess it’s just that while it’s on the page, it just feels like something that has crawled out of my head – dank and miserable place that it is – and therefore I seem wholly responsible, whereas as a film it will necessarily involve a whole bunch of other people - so I can kind of spread the blame for all the Wrongness. Like I said, cowardly.

Production-wise, everything seems to be going well – Art Dept are working on the locations, we’ve got most of the costumes done, the FX and make–up seem to be progressing well – I just feel like I need to catch up a bit. What with last-minute location scouting (we’ve still to confirm two places…), and rehearsals last week, my working time’s been pretty full – it was only really over the weekend that I got all my director’s notes done and started in on a shotlist. And that just made me realise how much I’ve still got to do. I’m acutely aware that once we get started I’m not really going to have much time to think about anything apart from What We’re Doing Now and What We Have To Do Next (and hopefully not too much of What Have We Fucked Up and How Do We Get It To Work Now?), so all the time I can put into thinking now is going to stand me in good stead.