Filmmaker In Residence Project: Production (Days 5-8)

Day 5.

No energy. Spluttering. Sweating. No set for me. I stay home and write up and post some blogs, do some emails to keep things ticking over, make a couple of calls and watch some comfort film and television. I'm assured it went well but it sucks to not be around. I did however realise that when I posted days 1-4 I did so without consulting my notebook so here are some things from that period I wanted to mention. 

Did I Write That?

I was listening to some dialogue that had been rewritten and reworked the previous day. I heard James (playing John) read a line and he phrased it oddly, or so I thought. It worked, but I didn't think I'd written it that way. When I questioned it the cast and Justin both assured me I had and that they loved it the way it was written. It was a genuine surprise and a single word completely changed the tone and meaning of the line. It's darker now. I thought all my dark was out. A strange sensation indeed. (Day 1. Scene 1.)

The Drama Has Gone

Jem Mackay is a colleague of mine at the School of Film & Television and he is our sound recordist. He has been an amazing collaborator. You never know what people are going to gel with your way of working, regardless of how professional they are and Jem is incredibly professional. Jem gelled with us instantly and he's been a godsend to the production. Chilled, imaginative and diligent we have really been blessed. He's also on the same page in terms of filmmaking and creativity as us and that's something I think is key for the students on the project who I hope will gain a different perspective on creating cinema. There was a beautiful moment on Day 3 towards the end. While we were waiting for the tide to come in and Justin to set a shot, Jem asked if we could re-record some foley. He was asking me because my beloved dog Bailey was in the film that day, wolfing down a picnic and Jem wanted to get the wolfing moment perfect. We found a secluded section of the beach and Jem and student assistant Reuben set to work. A few sniffs then I handed Bailey the sandwich. Jem was chuffed with what he got and after the recording he was talking to Reuben who (I think) asked about doing what we'd just done in a studio, in post-production. Jem replied that while technically you could, you'd never be able to recreate the environment as it is and then, beautifully, said 'and the drama would be gone'. It was a moment that reminded me of the value of this whole enterprise. Jem is spot on. There's something that is unseen and unheard and intangible that occurs on a set, at the the time of shooting. It all needs to be captured there on the film or even on the card. It can't be recreated in post. It is hard to describe but real filmmakers know it's there and they go after it. It felt so good to hear Jem say that because he's right. The drama is here, it's in the air, as we shoot this thing. It's happening now. Get recording. (Day 3.)

A Friendly Visit

I forgot to mention a visit by my friend and boss Kingsley to the set. That was remiss of me. I've known Kingsley a number of years now and have worked for him for three. It's safe to say that without his encouragement, support and faith this would not be happening. I would not be typing these words while I listen to Cannonball Adderley. I can't begin to describe how it felt to have him visit and see the whole thing, the 'real stuff' as he calls it, in action. He's been an amazing friend and, in helping steer this project, an incredible boss. I can't believe it was only 3 years ago I was asleep on his sofa bed in his spare room having just started this job.

I Wouldn't Do This On A Professional Set

One of the most interesting aspects of the production aspect of the project has been being able to talk to students about what they have been doing while they have been doing it. It's been great to be able to guide them when they've made mistakes or things that would stand out on a 'professional set' that might hamper their chances of being asked back. To be fair the majority of students have responded really well and sought to change the ways they've done things. Some however have responded with the phrase or a variant of 'I wouldn't do this if I was on a professional set'. Our set is a professional set, run with humour and manners and grace but without some of the draconian ramifications of 'professional' sets. It personally felt like a real insult to hear that from a variety of students and made me think that maybe a key element of this project is on-set dismissal for incidents that would see the same result in the so-called real world. I don't like to operate like that though, so maybe I will just take it on the chin. One irony of it though is recalling how often students, sometimes the same students, lament to me in tutorials how their peers don't show respect or pull their weight or feel invested in assessed projects. It's definitely an aspect of the project that needs work if it is to continue because sadly I think a lot of film directors and their HoDs are significantly less tolerant than we are.

Day 6.

Back on set. Got a lovely welcome back from some of the crew and cast. Today was a long day on what was intended originally as a day off but that the weather put paid to. We caught up quite a bit, capturing what we couldn't on the Friday. Then, following a carvery we headed for a late night outdoor shoot where we did another pick up (from night 1) and 1 specific scene. The student crew did really well on what was a long day but we wrapped early, well, 1am. Personally it was great to be back even if I was flagging by the end of it. I took Bailey again and it was great to have him on set. I definitely see myself as the kind of producer who brings his dog to set.

Day 7.

So yes, I'm the kind of producer who brings his dog to set. Rain stopped play a lot of the day, but we managed to get a really great walk to Chun Castle, which is near our location. Oh, the shoot. Another good day. At the carvery last night Justin and I had sat and reworked the schedule. We felt that we needed to spread some of the scenes around to focus on certain things at length. It took a while but we felt the benefit today as we got some really great footage of a really key scene. Our actors have been amazing. The students have been gobsmacked by their ability and they have brought a beautiful atmosphere with them. They are all in. Not just the performances but the spirit of the venture. They are friendly and generous with their time. We are really luck to have them.

Day 8.

Back at the same location for the third day. Today the weather isn't our friend so we will have to find time for a few short external bits. Most of the day is dedicated to another key scene and the student crew again pull out all the stops, rising to the occasion and trying to emulate a standard set by our actors and HoDs. The film contains some really intimate and emotionally raw scenes, one of which - the final scene, we shot today. They have shown great professionalism throughout when faced with material probably more challenging than anything they've worked on to date. Maybe they aren't really paying attention, but I think they are, and are just doing a really good job.