Sunday, 14 March 2010

All smoke and mirrors

Once again I'm involved in directing a shoot, from last Monday until the 24 March, so my blogs may be less frequent until we wrap. My apologies to my readers.

This shoot is fairly complex, involving not just "real" interviews, but actor's drama scenes and animation. We've just finished the first week with all those elements taking place, and it went well. This coming week is a bigger challenge as we have comedy scenes to film which have no dialogue. The actors involved have to mime to the narrators voice, and this can be far more challenging for the actor concerned. We also have to record sound, which gives us the problem of how to give the actor the narration to act to without hearing the narration on set. Our solution is quite cunning: we set up someone in a separate room with the script and a walkie-talkie linked to me. We then place a radio receiver ear piece in the actor's ear, hidden behind his hair. The narrator can then deliver the lines to the actor, on my cue using the walkie-talkie, and hopefully I get what I'm after. I'll let you know how we get on.
This week also saw the passing of a certain anniversary. It is forty seven years since I was born in 1963. I can hardly believe I am three years short of half a century. I did a little research into 1963 and was surprised to find just how many well known events happened in that year, a time when the world population was less than half what it is today.
There are the headline events of course, such as John F Kennedy's assassination in the November, Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech, and the Great Train Robbery.

But I also found a few other fascinating facts:
The United States introduced the ZIP code; the Beatles released their first album Please Please Me; Alcatraz closed; the Flying Scotsman steam locomotive ran its last journey; Beeching introduced radical cuts to the UK's rail network; Marvel Comics debut Iron Man and X-Men, now internationally famous characters; James Bond appears in his first film Dr No; Lawrence of Arabia wins best film at the Oscars,
as did David Lean for directing it; Gregory Peck deservedly wins best actor for To Kill A Mocking Bird; and Dr Who is broadcast by the BBC for the first time.

All that and topically it was, and is still the coldest winter on record for Scotland.

All in all a pretty important year. Not forgetting of course that March saw the day I entered the world!

The crew were very thoughtful on the day and all signed a card for me, and in the evening Pauline and I ventured out for a meal and saw the French movie Micmacs, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who gave us Amelie and Alien Resurrection, among others.

So this coming week will see me rehearsing with one of the principal actors on set for a day, before shooting three of the most challenging days so far.
Our biggest challenge overall is having a limited budget, but sometimes this can bring out the best creativity. As I said to one of my crew this week: "Just as when the commander James Lovell of Apollo 13 encountered a problem, he and his crew only had the tools onboard to get them successfully to the end of their journey, and had to knuckle down and get creative". At times we have to look around for what's immediately available and try to create an illusion of reality.

It is, as they say, all smoke and mirrors.

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