Filmmaker In Residence Project: Production (Days 9-11)

Day 9

All in on the water's edge.

It's a tough day where we don't quite get what we want. It's down to the elements. Shooting on the edge of the sea, working out tide times and patterns on location is different to looking in a tide timetable book and it takes some time to grasp how to do what we need. The crew is up for it. They are ready for work throughout the day and handle the difficulties really well. It's a day when my three hats collide - writer, producer, educator - and I am reminded of the difference between theory and practice. Today is a day that will help me teach better as I teach both theory and practice of filmmaking. The writer in me was screaming (internally) "Get in the water", the producer in me "Hope the equipment survives" and the educator "There aren't any students at risk are there?". Having worked on the risk assessments with student and 1st AD Ida, there were a few moments where I wondered if and how much we were stretching them but I was proud to see we had accounted for most of what we encountered and followed the protocol we set out. The director Justin, well that's a different story and it's one that illustrates the nature of filmmaking at the coal face where risks are dealt with differently. It was a reminder of how difficult it is to teach filmmaking because so much of it is learnt by doing, in the moment, and also because of how institutions are bureaucratic businesses whose job is to safeguard its investment (understandably) but that can sometimes get in the way of true creativity. Much to ponder.

Day 10

Back at the water's edge and all the preparation, tinkering and frustration from day 9 comes good as we get what we need. It's sunny and a number of School of Film & Television colleagues come down to visit the set and see the workflow in action. It was nice to be able to showcase what we were doing to colleagues and see how positive they were about it. It's that bittersweet mix of sadness at nearing the end and also pleasure that the physical toll will soon be over. 

The past two days have seen executive producer Steve Clarke (mentioned in the earlier casting blog) and his wife visiting the set. Part of the success Justin and I have had over the past 15+ years has been down to the support of people who get what we do and are there for us, physically, when it matters. Seeing Steve at the tail end of a tough shoot lifted our spirits and filled the air with raucous laughter. It was a fillip that helped us get to the finish line.

Day 11

I take a coffee and Chaos Dog to Chun Castle and the Quoit and contemplate all we've done, as we head into the final day. We get some pickups from the  and focus on the final scenes of the film - excluding the very end which was shot a few days back. They are intense scenes and in the filming of them I start to see how Justin is constructing the film visually, through a series of visual callbacks that should work beautifully. It was great to see Seb Badarau work, having missed his first scene through illness and I'm in the room for the filming of the intimate, penultimate scene of the film, the final full scene to be shot and yet again am astounded by the performances of our lead actors. They only need one take and in it they do so many small things which resonate with lust, truth and humanity and enable multiple, messy readings of the scene. We have been truly blessed with Kat Davenport and James Barnes.

In between watching some scenes shot, Mark Jenkin (filmmaker) and Mary Woodvine (actress) visit the sun drenched location, which is really nice, and Chaos Dog gets bored not being involved and escapes from my car through a half open window, twice. 

The last shot is an establishing shot and it was nice to head off with Justin to capture it just the two of us. This experience has been strange. It is both my project being piloted and my script being filmed. In both cases I'm proud of what we have achieved and I know I couldn't have done it without Justin. It was a poignant ending, standing with him as he recorded the shot, 20 years after I wrote the first film we would make together.

Day 12 - Pickups & Goodbyes

We rise early following a wonderful wrap party with all but one of the student crew, all HoDs and our intrepid stills photographer Andrew. The wrap party had a really celebratory atmosphere and it was clear that this group of people had bonded and shared a valuable and valid sense of accomplishment. The morning after it was a skeleton crew, no students, and two sequences to get. The first was car based and driving around, the second was some close ups on a beach with my dog getting his big moment. It was gorgeous weather and the mood was tired but happy. The actors were pros and we got what we need. Following that we separated and Justin and the actors, plus production coordinator Jonny and editor Steven, headed back to Luton. It is over. At least the bulk of the project and the filming is. The debriefing, the contextualising, the analysis and the editing start now. That's all actually pretty exciting. 44 scenes in 11 days with over 75% of the crew never having worked on a pro set before. I think that's pretty impressive.