Saturday, 23 May 2009

Night Shoot

The great advantage of true pros in a situation like this is that they are happy to tear the camera to bits and fix it themselves. And in doing so they undoubtedly save the film, because we couldn't have worn a three-hour loss of time. Aside from serious wrist grazing from the manacles and the constant dribbling of film blood - which NEVER dries - into my eyes, the shoot is efficient and relatively uneventful.
The final shot of the day is the car chase, which is a first for all of us. The producer, Rob HD, has lent his funky 4x4 for this, and he hands the keys to me with a moist eye but without actually crossing himself.
I had no idea how exciting this would be. I mean, we're guerilla shooting which is always good for the heart rate, but driving up and down a deserted stretch of dual carriageway with Toby flashing his lights behind me is quite alarming - and we only ever get up to about 50mph.
The final shot, when I pull up and get out, then Toby pulls up behind me, leaps out with a baseball bat and clouts me seems almost ridiculously pedestrian in the shooting. Watching the results back is chilling, though. The best bit is Toby's almost silent, ninja-style running with the bat, and the gravel scrape of his shoes as he swings it. Fantastic.

Chop Stop

We're on location near Blenheim Palace today, and it's blisteringly hot. Toby, who's driving me, has the most amazing job - he's a product developer for Vtech, the kids toys manufacturer - a job he literally fell into from temping. I'm always amazed at those stories, and I'm tempted to say something like it sometimes, but the truth is I pretty much hated everything I've ever done except this so it's more a question of falling out of all the other jobs until I ended up here.
Anyway, the 9.30 am start is looking ambitious as Becky is held up on the M40 in a bus and won't be here for ages, so we all set about catching a few rays. Only our Aussie AD has the real sun-bug though, so I examine the superb manacles and fake machete. The set is great, too. A bleak empty industrial barn with a huge rough table in the middle. It's all very convincing.
My hand, however, is not. I've somehow contrived to move in the mould, and the bloody thing won't lie flat on the table. It looks a bit like one of those hands in religious paintings when a pope of whatever is giving his holy benediction. Awful.
Just as we're putting the gruesome object away, Becky shows up. We do a rehearsal and shoot an establishing shot over the table before lunch, and just as we're unmanacled to go eat, the camera breaks. It's 3pm and we have one shot in the can, and even that may be useless.

Friday, 22 May 2009


The first film I ever made was shot on a Hi-8 camera that I borrowed from Tessa Gibbs, and my strongest memory is of my good friend Sean Martin doing a tracking shot of me over a polished floor using a wheelchair which had bandages wound round the tyres to stop them squeaking.
Well, Sean's just finishing his fourth feature, "Folie a Deux", so things have moved on a bit. What never changes, though, is the frisson of a the new film project, and it's as strong arriving at the location tonight as it was in Weston all those years ago.
What's evident at once is how professional this is - low budget but high standards. Mike and Martin (DOP and sound) are so slick in their set-ups that we complete interior shots in only a couple of hours. Mike's using a jib in place of tracks - a huge counterweighted arm which gives great variety of movement and superbly smooth action. A glance at the rushes for one of the close-ups tells me that this is going to be a breeze.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Cowley Road Film Club

"Chop" - the film we're shooting at the weekend - is not actually the project which is closest to the director's heart. It's a pragmatic choice of first film to showcase the various talents of the cast and crew, and so that the production team can cut their teeth before committing themselves to either a more ambitious short or even a feature.
I've never been very good at the long view, and consequently admire this approach hugely. It's just a shame that shorts are such an undervalued genre. Yes, they do well at festivals and exhibitions but there's limited opportunities for general release.
I love them for a number of reasons. They aren't so long that you lose track of where your character is going, they're completed quickly (both shooting and edit, in theory) and they demand a tense, compact narrative with a distinct situation and perhaps a good twist. Here's hoping.
Anyway, I'm taken at high speed tonight to Maidenhead to the producer's home to have my hand cast in plaster by Paul Robbens, who's worked for Spielberg on Indiana Jones and heaven knows what else. Someone's been on a charm offensive because he, like the rest of us, is working for cost, and for props guys that is UNHEARD of. Anyway, after 15 mins in clammy dental alginate it's done. Just the machete and manacles to finish!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

In Shorts

I've been cast in an Oxford-based short film called "Chop", which is due to start shooting on the 22nd May. There seems to be a whole film collective which has sprung up around the Cowley Road lately, mainly centred around the house of the director Martin Chalk, who is a master networker and all round good egg.
I haven't made a short film for a couple of years (bizarrely enough, I normally do features) and the last one never saw the light of day, despite being professionally run and having all the hallmarks of potential success. Hitchcock Award winning script, full crew...all came to literally nothing. Not even a screening of the rushes.
Prior to this I did one for LIFS which was madly ambitious and in which I played the lead, an obsessive optician who invents a pair of glasses that can see people's emotions as a distinct entity. This was great except I wore welding goggles for 90% of the action, which tends to muddy things a little. Let's just say it's tricky to convey the full gamut of emotions over protective eyewear.
And before that, I made "Bob" - a film about a fishing trip which was shot over two days, but those days were a year apart. During this time some of the cast had filled out more than a little, the boat had sunk twice and was in dry dock and the lead boy's voice had broken.

Some, you should approach with caution...