Tuesday, 30 August 2011

24 Days Later

So, anyway – we’ve only gone and shot a bloody movie.

Yup five zombie hordes, two visits to A&E, 1400 baguettes, just over a kilometre of gaffer tape, one awesome wrap party and a spot of mild breaking and entering later, and if everything goes to plan we’ve now got all the pieces to put together the Resurrection jigsaw.

I only wish I’d watched more Big Brother before kicking off, as this would have been a valuable insight into what the life of a feature crew is like. Thirty strangers get locked into one place for a month, where they have to get on and grind through the slow (and often extraordinarily dull) mechanics of making a movie.

And in and amongst this motley assembly I’ve met some people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life. Or till the cast and crew screening (ETA next April), whichever comes first.

‘Nuff respect to the Resurrection posse over this last month – some extraordinary talent in the mix and just the right amount of collective group insanity required to push through en masse to the finish line. It’ll be a while before I can watch Predator again, in any case.

And by Christ it was hard work; hard work in a way that no amount of making shorts can ever prepare you for. At any one moment over the last month there were at least thirty “challenges” that needed solutions (for any female readers, understand that the maximum number of concurrent thoughts that a guy can have before he steps out of his comfort zone is one). For the first two weeks Jake and I were surviving on about three hours kip a night, and it was a regular feature that I would need to pull over after dropping the last person off to have a sleep in the car before I could muster the fifteen minute potter up the M3 back to my sofa.

So, the question that Jake and I are wrestling with is “what happens now?” Our outlook has been deliberately separated into two files marked “pre-27th August” (i.e. needs a decision now) and “post-shooting” (some mythical land in the distant future). And now we’re there, it’s turned out to be a very strange and foreign place. Life beginning again for the last two evictees.

In any case, before then it’s time off from the Charmed enterprise. Everything starts again on the 12th September, when Jake and I get to gaze over the rough on-set assembly that our editor Sam has been compiling, and to catalogue around 1200 sound files. Sam’s edit was intended to be our insurance against pick-ups (and fuck-ups in general), and the noises from the suite are pretty positive that we have everything.

Really? No pick-ups? I remain to be convinced, but thoroughly delighted if it actually turns out that way. Let’s just say that we’re not going to be filing the props and costumes just yet, no matter how badly they smell.

So, another enormous and sincere thanks to everybody involved in the cast, crew and hordes, as I drop off the radar for a couple of weeks to re-charge the severely depleted batteries and re-acquaint myself with my son and girlfriend. In the meantime, keep an eye on Rob’s pictures and see you on the other side. Gone.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Half time

It’s half-time in Charmed land, and we now get to hand around the oranges in anticipation of an exciting finale to the shoot

So far so good – we have some great footage and nailed-on performances from our supremely talented cast; we have made our pages for the first two weeks and have broken the back of the tricky gags and horde activities. The next two weeks will be (on paper at least) considerably easier, and I achieved my first sensible night’s sleep last night safe in the knowledge that we should end up with all the puzzle pieces from which to build a movie come the end of the month.

Irritatingly, the sensible night’s sleep started at about midnight, and I may have just reset my body clock to day-time hours. I have a feeling that 3 am Andy may be rueing that decision.

In any case, it’s an early start today to get some shots of the party getting into the refuge at golden hour, and we should be done in good time tonight to let the cast and crew out early.

Yesterday evening, after shifting all our gear to a new location, a mini posse of cast and crew hit the Charmed local for a couple of beers and a chance to chat about stuff that wasn’t just zombies, all without the pressure of a camera in the face, someone tapping a watch and a room full of waiting people. A very enjoyable and relaxed evening, although it may take a few months to get my alcohol tolerance back to pre-shoot levels (Two pints? Really?)

Anyway, time to get going, but before I do I thought I’d share a couple of links from the more diligent and energetic bloggers within the team. Alex, our Digital Imaging Technician, has somehow been finding time everyday to file his thoughts from the edit room - http://runningwithzombies.wordpress.com/

…and Rob, our Assistant Camera-man, has been posting some extraordinarily entertaining photos from a studio that he has set up at the location - http://welcometothedarkslide.blogspot.com/

Tonight everybody gets camera time as we wait for the sun to go down between set-ups; keep checking back. After a night off, this is as good as any of us are going to look this week. Refreshed.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Apocalypse now

A rare moment for reflection as Britain burns around us. A prescient moment to be documenting the end of days, it seems.

Anyway, we are now eight days into the shoot, and a set of lessons for the next time round has already emerged.
  • Don’t work with blood gags. Just don’t. They are messy, sticky, mess up your continuity when they cover actors’ faces and clothes in a different way to how you expected, and never look as good as had you imagined them in your head. One face cast prosthetic which should have spurted gore from the temple sprung a leak when pressurised, and pissed red syrup out from under the chin. Not what we were hoping for.
  • Continuity. Man, oh man – it is such a pain in the arse to get this right. We have already had to re-write two bits of script to get around continuity problems, and our opportunities for fixing future problems are getting fewer and fewer. And this is with an absolutely awesome Script Supervisor on the case.
  • Night shoots are a massive ball-ache. You spend every day squeezing in shots to chase the sun-rise, and are forced to compress and improvise diet-versions of gags and action on the fly to make your shots at a time when everybody is powering down mentally.
  • Why didn’t we write in more acting moments? Big action sequences are a massive drain on the actors: yesterday was one of our set pieces, and we ended up having to splatter our already-knackered cast up at 5:30 am just to get a single shot of them braining a zombie with poles. Some of them are excused for being a little pissed off on their way home.
  • Sleep. Shooting hours, stress and never being able to switch your brain off make this an extraordinarily valuable commodity. I have taken to smashing a couple of impromptu beers at the end of each day just to give myself a fighting chance of falling asleep; alcohol as medication. Not a positive step, one imagines.

And the saving grace - our stellar cast and crew. We have chanced out here and somehow avoided any divas and dick-heads. Most of these people I have never worked with before, and it is absolutely down to luck rather than judgement that we ended up with the soundest of all posses. I can’t imagine what it’d be like if we had to put out fires all day long as well.

Oh well – back to the front we go. It’s a day of acting to look forward to (with a few pick-ups from yesterday thrown in for good measure); let’s hope this resets everybody in time for another hitting and biting session tomorrow.

But are you actually enjoying yourself, Andy? It’s not an easy question to answer. I absolutely loved the mega-horde day last Friday (a day that was itself responsible for more than one sleepless night over the last month), and I really get off on watching our cast when they’re given a chance to act. But the stress is just enormous. One dropped continuity moment; one under-dressed set; one missed edit because we were forced to busk it to make our shots and be sure we wrapped on time – all things that drop a viewer out of the film.

And here endeth the lessons on the most important one of all – be careful what you wish for. Ask me again on the 28th. Tense.