Sunday, May 20, 2007

Excitement, regret, guilt, terror

I was at a car boot in Bottesford (just off the A52) a few weeks ago. Got a reasonably good haul - some big box 80s horror VHS tapes (more of which to come in a later post...) + a whole pile of Fortean Times magazines for a quid, so that wasn't bad. About halfway down one of the aisles, there was a middle-aged woman with a blanket spread out in front of her, filled with the usual car boot items - clothes, crockery, paperbacks, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits on vinyl - and, near the front, a row of VHS tapes with handwritten labels. Always on the look out for more obscurities, I took a closer look - and found that they were all labelled 'XXXX Porn' (that's one X-ier than normal porn), with titles that included the deeply evocative 'Dripping Snatches'. At the time I remember thinking, 'who the hell would buy a second-hand VHS tape of possibly homemade porn from a car boot sale?'.

Then, this week, in the edit suite with our editor Leo, we watched a scene from 'Mum and Dad' wherein there is supposed to be some porn playing on a TV. Not having the rights to any actual porn at the time of shooting, we just shot a blank TV screen, deciding that it would be something we would composite into the shot at a later date. 'What we really need' Leo said 'is some kind of dated homemade porn where it doesn't matter about copyright.' At which point I realised (not without a splinter of shame lodging itself forever into the forefinger of my soul) that I am exactly the kind of person who should have been buying 'Dripping Snatches' from a car boot sale in Bottesford.

Ah well, hindsight's a wonderful thing. In the end, Leo got someone from the office to nip out and buy some porn (luckily the editing house is situated in the middle of Soho) which we're going to use in the interim, although it does mean that at some point we're either going to have to licence some proper stuff or come up with our own. (And by 'we' I mean 'anybody else but me').

Leo's got a rough cut of about 90 minutes at the moment. I watched it through on Thursday and had the customary mixed bag of emotions flow through me - excitement, regret, guilt, terror (y'know, the basics). Some bits of the film are already working really well (Leo's been working like a dog over the past few weeks), but some areas really need work and are giving me The Fear about whether we've actually got the footage to sort them out. At certain points I was kicking myself for not getting more coverage (although how that would have been possible on the schedule we had is difficult to imagine) or for not shooting things in a different way.

The beginning of the film was a place which was really rough, so we started with that, and over the next couple of days managed to get it into a much better shape. It's not perfect yet, but it's working a lot better than it was, and hopefully sets us up a bit for the more difficult stuff we've got to get into next week.

Leo's really good to work with - he's really into the film and has got a good handle on the material, so I don't worry too much about the actual editing side - it's more a question at the moment of whether the restrictions that we were working under during the shoot (money, time) have left us with a selection of material that's a little too spartan. We'll see.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mum and Dad - Bonus Photo Post

In the aftermath of the shoot, things have been pretty quiet - Leo Scott, the editor, is working hard to put together an assembly - I'm going down this week to have a look - and Jeanie is gearing up for her shoot in the States, so I've just been dealing with getting back to relatively normal life. Got a rejection email from Cinema Extreme on Friday (which is practically the dictionary definition of relatively normal) and started working a bit more on the outline for my new project 'Empire of Flesh', which I'm hoping to start writing properly over the summer.

In this lull, I've had the time to get the rest of the images of the shoot off my phone. They're all a bit random (I didn't really have time to fully photo-document the whole thing) but they give a bit of the feel of the making of the film. So, in the entirely random order that Blogger has decided to upload these images...

This is my comically distorted face through a magnifying glass (kind of like those you find in a dentist's surgery) which I found in a deserted room when we were shooting at the University of Nottingham building - formerly Carlton TV. The only other things in the room were giant piles of empty plastic water cooler bottles. What can I say? It was a night shoot, at the end of the shoot, and you take your amusement where you can find it.

A view of the field from the relative comfort of the temporary shelter we had erected in the field. This was the view my parents would have had of events - the only thing missing is me galumphing across the piles of horseshit towards the sun-baked cast and crew to impart another nugger of directorial wisdom like 'that was great, but can you do it again with less hopping.'

This is actually a bit wierd. I found this amongst the props in the cellar set. It's a guide to making cocktails and the reason it's strange is because my Mum and Dad had the exact same book in their house when i was growing up and it really intrigued me. (We had a bar in the living-room - hey, it was the Seventies, everyone had one - and it was kept behind there in amongst the optics.) Seeing it in this setting gave me a bit of a weird feeling. Like when I saw that the T-shirt that Elbie was wearing one day had the number 35 on it - the number of my Mum and Dad's house. Okay, let's not alert the Fortean Times or anything, but little things like that do add up. To what, I don't know...

This is me, standing in a shower cubicle while we shot the bathroom scene (it was the only place I could be and not be in shot) with Jonathan Bloom (D.O.P. , sans his customary beret and scarf) checking a text message or something.

Ah, the old 'photo of the slate just to prove you're making a proper film' shot. We ended up shooting (I think) 445 slates. It was going to be 444, but we had a kitty on who was going to guess the final slate total and I fixed it to allow Ainsley to win, totally stabbing Alex (Sound Recordist) in the back. And he's practically my brother-in-law. I have no shame.

Another shot from the FX bathroom. Where you go when you need some fake teeth.

This is Barry, Focus Puller and Steadicam Op. in a custom-designed T-shirt by Jo from Costume. Shortly after this I think he added to the fake blood on his T-shirt by cracking his head on one of the gruesome hanging tools in the Tool Room.

The FX bloodbath.

The Green Man pub in Bedfont, where we had lunch. Very patriotic round that way.

A horse, non-plussed.

Mum and Dad's bedroom. Not really much horror in there. Unless you count the dolls, which are always pretty freaky.

There are also a couple of publicity photos for the film out - one on this site - which also carries interviews with Olga and me (and, for the record, I do know that George Romero didn't direct 'Night of the Evil Dead') - and this one:which appears, currently, on the Film London site.

Curiously, both sites dub me 'A New Hope for British Horror'. If that's so, it means that my next film will be darker and better, the third one will be ruined by weird little teddy bears and the next three will all be CGI-laden dull-a-thons featuring petulant teenagers and Jar-Jar Binks. Wow, it's like a glimpse into the future...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mum and Dad Shoot - Day Seventeen

The last day of the shoot - and everything felt very strange. Because of the shift from nights back to days (or at least lates - today was 12 till 12) and the travel day we had, it was nearly two and a half days since we shot, so that feeling that you get at the start of the week of having to gear yourself up again was magnified. Also it was strange because we're in London, and I'm staying at my own parents' house - in the bedroom I grew up in - and filming in a location that I've walked past a thousand times - a field at the end of a runway just outside Heathrow. Also, our unit base is at Bedfont Football Club, next to the Rec where I used to play as a kid. Suddenly I feel about 6 years old again.

The field is a great location - at least in some respects - it's facing the end of a runway, so planes take off directly overhead every couple of minutes, and it's got landing lights in it, these weird yellow plastic towers spaced along a line towards the runway. It's also got about twenty horses in it, which we constantly had to herd about during the day to stop them encroaching on the shots. Obviously, it's a bit of a problem for sound, what with the deafening roar of a jet overhead thirty times an hour, but luckily, there's not really much dialogue (at least not during the day stuff).

We started, as usual, slowly - Art Dept had to reconstruct part of a fence we made in Nottingham to sell the location, so that took a while - then there was rigging Barry's Steadicam which he was letting us have for the day, and then setting up the corner of the field we were using as a base. It was also blazing hot - meaning that within a couple of hours, I had a sunburnt face, at which point (despite about twenty people advising me to do it earlier) I put on some suncream. We eventually turned over at about 2 - then had to wait for planes to come into shot. I don't know if we managed to actually get any great stuff of jumbos roaring overhead (and it's something that we can also work with in the edit) but I thought that, seeing as we were there, we should try and get some if we could.

While we were doing the Steadicam stuff, my Mum and Dad turned up. I didn't get the chance to speak to them much, but I'm really glad they came and I think that the cast and crew kept them entertained. Although what they made of Perry's blood-stained dress I don't know...

Time seemed to vanish today (as usual) and when the blocking for the climactic scene wasn't working out, I had to come up with a quick alternative - not least because we were starting to lose light (losing light, gaining light - it's always something...). We ended up rushing through the final through shots, staging them in a slightly different way, but hopefully getting some good stuff. Oh, and we also managed to kill a sofa (not ours - we found it in the field.)

At lunch, I had a quick chat with a couple of journalists, (including Alan Jones - who has written extensively on Argento (I had to reign in my impulse just to talk about the new Third Mother film for the entire thing). He was really into the script - and said that he had it pegged as a 'Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girlie' homage from the start.)

Then it was into our final session - a night shoot in the field. Again, night exteriors seem to take forever - but we managed to get it all done - our final shot being a long lens shot of Lena, Birdie and Elbie walking silhouetted past the lights of the airport. And that was it - back to Bedfont Football Club for a quick drink and then back to my parents' house to have a long lie-in.

Everybody was asking me if I felt weird that it was all over, but really, it hasn't had time to impact yet. Also, the minute we finished, my brain started filling the void with a million other things - the edit, my next script, how to pay the mortgage while I finish the film - so that, in a way, the energy I put into the shoot is probably just going to morph into another set of concerns. Also, I'm so used to shooting now that the scale of what we've done hasn't really hit home. 17 days for a feature is really good going (especially picking up a day during the shoot), and I'm hoping that we've got all we need to tell the story. I know I've had to change things here and there because of time and budget constraints, but it's never felt like I've had to compromise the film too much - in fact, I feel that, with the aid of a great cast and crew, I've actually been able to make a lot more of some things.

I'm going to miss working with everyone on that intensive a basis - but it does make me really determined to get another filim of the ground as soon a possible, so that we can do it again. That's the trick - to try and make this a regular occurence, rather than just a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Even if it means working on a low budget all the time (although maybe not always this low), it'd be great to just carry on making twisted and perverse little horror films for the next few years. Although, I'm getting ahead of myself - I haven't even got this one done yet - and there's still a long way to go...