I’m going to do my best to split blogging about the shoot into week-by-week otherwise this may turn into a book! So here we go, week-one.
Film vs The World
If I thought day one was hard, day two was also taking no prisoners. We had to film a scene inside a pub and then move outside for a scene in the carpark. Both scenes involved multiple characters moving around the space and interacting from different distances. I can see now why some people choose to have their characters stood still and close to each other in scenes. It might make for some boring viewing but my god it’s easier to shoot! Basically the more people and the more space they need to cover, the difficulty of a scene escalates rapidly!
We filmed in (and outside) the Harvester’s pub in Stockwood. Being able to use the real outside to match the real inside was a massive time saver and a rare find indeed. I remember it being painfully hot that day, and when we came out of the pub slightly behind schedule I knew me and Adam had a challenge on our hands in the blazing sun. The scene where we first meet the Picket brothers was a difficult exterior to manage. We need to move characters from one spot to another, working around a car and a modern backdrop that needed to be carefully framed so that we didn’t see anything we didn’t want to. This meant sometimes having the camera quite low and pointing up at the characters so that the backdrop was effectively just sky.
As well as the blistering heat, we had a drunk shirtless man heckling us with his Staffordshire bullterrier, a team of roofers we needed to stop working during takes and a cement mixer nearby that needed halting… oh and several modern cars to clear off the street. Filmmaking is the most unnatural thing, you have to freeze the real world a few moments at a time to capture ‘your world’ which makes filmmaking on locations quite the anti-social activity. It runs in direct conflict with the normal goings on and you will see and feel the consequences of it the moment you put a camera down on the side of a street, believe me! Go and try it yourself.
What isn’t a stunt?
Something I remember from that first week was that we had a fair few ‘small’ stunts to get through. We had to film an Ice-cream man being dragged out of a van, the ‘hardest kid in school fight’, another fight at the track, Andy slapping his colleague and hitting someone else with a bat. We had never done ‘professional stunt work’ before so we were about to learn, and oh boy was it a steep learning curve. When it came to the short films in the past we ‘just did it’ whether that was falling to the ground, slapping each other or jumping off a cliff! Whatever it was, we just cracked on and tried our best not to hurt ourselves but ‘proper stunts’ are a total operation.
From the beginning we only thought there was one stunt in the film… which is where someone is punched off a moving pushbike at speed, landing backwards onto concrete (which is brilliant by the way). What we now know is that a stunt is basically ANYTHING that is even slightly dangerous. If a character is handling a small knife or even a lighter it’s a stunt which needs supervision. This partly blew my mind and caused a lot of grief during filming. Something that caught me and the props department out was that every ‘prop weapon’ needs a fake version so that stunts can be performed more safely (rubber bats and plastic knives etc).
We mistakenly had NO FAKES for any of the bats and knives meaning we had to painstakingly re-evaluate each stunt so that it could be filmed safely. This meant begrudgingly changing many of the camera angles to allow for greater distances between performers and to keep props out of frame where possible. The knock-on affect is that it took way more time to shoot the scenes and often the end result wasn’t quite as good as what we had hoped for. That isn’t to say our stunt co-ordinators didn’t deliver, rather that our inexperience with stunts made shooting them an awkward process, not to be repeated.
Don’t worry we know what we’re doing…
I mentioned before that me and Adam weren’t used to having a large crew around us and to be honest we weren’t even used to having an Assistant Director! By chance rather than choice we had only really had a dedicated AD on just one of our six short films which is bonkerz when I think about it as they are a crucial part of any production. Usually the timings just never worked out with the people we wanted to work with and perhaps we had a few trust issues when it came to letting other people organise our shoots.
This meant that in the first week we were really ‘grinding the gears’ of our AD because me and Adam would be discussing things together, often quite quickly without letting them know what we were thinking in the moment. This lead to them being left out of the discussion which was having a knock-on affect through the chain of command. The AD needs to know what’s happening all the time, not because they’re trying to invade creative discussions but so that they can relay valuable information to other departments on what needs to happen in realtime.
This was another big lesson for me and Adam. For years we had developed a ‘short-hand’ with each other, which is great, but had never considered the consequences of people around us not not knowing what we’re thinking and why we choose to do what we do. We can be quite protective of our creative space because it’s really the backbone of what we’re able to accomplish and letting others into the discussion didn’t come easily. Once we understood that the AD needed to know what we were plotting to simply keep the train on the tracks it was no bother at all and we really learned to keep them ‘in the loop’ as we went along (at what was a pretty rapid pace from start to finish).
Thank you as always for reading. If you enjoyed this blog please do recommend it to a friend, same with the film itself. Word of mouth is the number one way to build a great following and The Fence needs all the help it can get.
Till next time!