Friday, 23 October 2009

On location #4

Drama day, and not just with actors!

It was well past midnight last night before I finally got to bed, having been working on the shot list for today, even though I'd managed to get home early.

When you shoot a feature film you're shots are following a script with a story line that normally contains one protagonist and his arch enemy, the antagonist, be that a person or a corporation. When filming it's normal to expect to achieve three pages of script per day, about three minutes of screen time, or possibly up to six pages. This will likely involve around six or eight scenes/shots.

By midnight last night it had become glaringly obvious that today I would have sixty eight scenes to achieve! Or to put it another way, eight days of filming in one!


Call time was 8.30am with first shot scheduled for 9am. Our actual first shot was 9.40am, but we forged ahead and caught up. Thorough preparation was key, and the producer had pulled the stops out in organising our volunteer actors, equipment, props and location to all be there ready for me when I needed them. A director is lost without a good producer. Thanks Craig.

The cameraman's hands were a blur as we literally raced through the shots, changing setup after setup, moving from one room to another, carting around lights and tripods and track, deciding on the frame and angle in less than the click of a finger. Thanks Rich and Steve.

Occasionally you come across one person in a shoot who is calm and collected and no matter the level of stress, no matter the demands, will get the job done and be the person you know will catch you when needed, and Mark was that man. Thanks Mark.

And my cast. What can I say? First of all thank you for your patience. The majority of time for an actor is spent doing absolutely nothing waiting to go on. They wait literally for hours at a time for just a few minutes in front of the camera. A few minutes that are vital for me. I never stop, time vanishes and I constantly run out of it, and then exactly when I need them they are there, on set, and they do their bit they've been waiting to do. None of our actors were professional, but you could have fooled me. All stars as far as I'm concerned.

Our location was just in one house today, and thanks to Al and his family we had the run of it. There are many rooms in the house and we were able to set various scenes in most of them, and it is a brave man indeed that allows a camera crew into their home. We'll have that beer soon Al.

There is always a moment on a shoot, that despite the pressures and the stress, gives you that buzz and reminds you that this is great fun to do, and brings you back again and again for more. People ask me why I put up with not knowing, week to week, when I am working; how do I put up with not having "a weekend"; and working regularly ten to twelve hours per day (fourteen today!). Well, it's simple. It's all down to one special moment, and you never know when it is going to happen, but it always does. I'm sitting there and there's a small gap in proceedings while the crew reset for the next shot, and I'm watching them do their thing.
And then it happens; all these people, rigging lights, setting cameras, creating effects, finding props, building sets, rehearsing lines; it's all happening in front of me right at that moment because of something I wrote! A story I imagined in my head, and typed into my computer, and here we all are, all these people, pulling together to make my story come to life. But that's just half of the reward. The other half is the collaborative nature of film making. It's a fantastic business to be in because it is the ultimate team game. Everyone relies on everyone else, and the runner is just as important as the director. Remove any element and the whole things comes apart.

I had one other reward today, quite unexpected, and made me both blush and bring a tear to my eye. Whilst I was sat in a post-production meeting with my Producer, one of the cast passed on his thanks to me via his son by phone, to compliment me on my professionalism. That makes it all worth while, and I was very humbled by his comment, and I am very grateful on behalf of all of my team.

That shot list? We got fifty one out of sixty eight scenes! If there is a Guinness Book of Records for this sort of thing, I think our team deserved that entry today!

So a short gap in the schedule now. Next shoot day is Thursday next week, 29th, when I'll pen the next blog.

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