Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Bite-sized chunks of August

Ladies and gentlemen – we now have a shooting schedule.

I can never remember whether it’s pronounced with a “sh” or a “sc”. One of them makes me sound like an American; I want to use the other one.

But however you say it, we can now look at a single spread-sheet and see how August is going to unveil itself. It’s a massive step forward, and has assuaged a whole bunch of Charmed angst. Sweet Dave-the-plan sent through his first spin late last night, and armed only with a collection of fine toothed combs, Jake, Rup and I have spent the evening making like the proverbial squirrel. Suddenly the film is a manageable series of mini-hurdles rather than a daunting whole.

Everybody wants the shooting schedule. The actors want to know when they can head home for a couple of days; Robbie-the-gore can plan when to be on set and when to drop the smaller gags and prosthetics off to us; Jaimie-the-set-dresser can check for days when she’s going to need a whole bunch of helper elves and when she squeeze in a lie-in; and everybody I’ve ever met can find out when they can get their zombie on.

In some lines of work I think these kinds of exercises would be called multi-dimensional optimisation challenges; we only know it as Excel madness.  I am still grateful that PowerPoint is no longer part of my working life, but spread-sheets have quickly stepped in to fill the void, as I find myself continually reaching for the green icon rather than the red one. It’s like giving up ready-salted crisps, only to find that I’m obliged to snaffle my way through non-stop cheese and onion.

There is a mass of information that goes into planning a workable shooting schedule: when are certain rooms not available; how many pages we can realistically shoot out each day; what slow SFX shots are we including; when do actors have weddings to go to; how can we pace the shoot so that all the frantic excitement doesn’t all happen at once; can we group all the scenes in a single location together; where are we expecting to fall behind and what kind of contingency do we need to make?

And the good news for all concerned is that weeks one, three and four of the shoot are looking great. Sure, we have a number of pages to make each day, and the full extent of the horror won’t really become apparent until the shot-list has been completed. But there is an aura of quiet confidence within Charmed Central.

Week 2, though. It’s a monster.

This is going to be when we earn our stripes. All the action happens in one room, spread out over the course of the movie, but we only have the specific location for six nights. Working in our favour are the reams of dialogue that should speed things up, and the fact that we don’t need to be continually fiddling with lights and moving stuff around, but looking at the maths we are averaging somewhere between five and six pages a night. We’re going to need to introduce some kind of forfeit system for forgotten lines, off-target focus pulling and inane direction.

And if we get through that intact, I’m going to drag the entire cast and crew out to the nearest boozer and ply them with half-time beverages and savoury snacks. Anyone know where we can get a drink in Winchester at 6 am? Sober.

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