On Three… Three!
Judgment day was upon us, it was real, it was happening and there was nowhere to hide. On the 9th of August 2021 we would begin filming and believe it or not it was probably the most relaxed I’d ever been going into a shoot. Usually I’m scrambling to make sure everything is in place, running on three hours sleep if I’m lucky. But this time, for the first time, it was out of my hands (ish) and all I needed to do was show up on time and know what to do. A very welcomed but unfamiliar situation. I turned up an hour early on day one, not chancing anything.
The motorcycle track scenes we were shooting that day were very hard and required a much larger crew than what we would normally have on most of the days to come. There were a lot of unfamiliar faces, people there I hadn’t even met, so kicking things off in-front of 50 people was really scary. Maybe not all of the crew were aware of it, but this film is both mine and Adam’s creation. We’re very much in it together, so if one of us is struggling, we can lean on the other, and there’s a tremendous comfort knowing that it’s daunting for everyone, and it’s not all on you.
I was also lucky enough to have my girlfriend, Dad and Brother there to help me; which brought me enormous relief, especially during the anxious start to the day. My girlfriend would constantly (and discreetly) check on me, tell me I was doing a good job and remind me to keep hydrated and energised. My Dad and Brother were organising the motorbikes, making sure they were working and safe. At one point bending over backwards to fix a broken gear leaver whilst the crew switched tactics to film a different scene until the bike was up and running again. We would either win or lose together, and that’s a valuable perspective to have in very high-pressure environments, like the first day of your first feature film shoot.
Times up pal
We ran over by about 20 minutes on that first day, which I hadn’t realised was a big deal. Coming from only making amateur short films, the mindset is you keep filming until you run out of light and batteries; basically until you drop, until it’s done! But now, this was a “professional film shoot” and we had to be very mindful about running over schedule and whether or not the crew were okay about it. With the most important shot of the day still to go I was quite taken aback when our AD (assistant director) told me “sorry but we need to stop now.”
I was so pumped up on adrenaline and nerves that I rather quickly snapped back something like “If you all want to go home that’s fine, just hand me and Adam the camera and we’ll do it ourselves.” The idea of spending years getting to this moment and suddenly dropping everything you’re doing because the clock struck 5pm, seemed absolutely bonkers to me at the time. But that’s the difference when you’re the producers and the film is very much ‘your baby’. You don’t see it as ‘this job you’re doing today’ it’s beyond that, it was way beyond that.
However, it’s really important that you understand for quite a few people, it is a job they’re doing and you need them far more than they need you. It was wrong of me to snap back at the AD the way I did, I just hadn’t ever been confronted with this issue before and it left me dumbstruck. Thankfully the crew were really enjoying the day and took no issues with us running over. It’s something that would really improve over the coming weeks and as the crew bonded more and the film began to take shape there grew an amazing energy and comradely which simply never faltered.
Beware the lunch!
From my (limited) experience, two critical moments on a shoot day are the first scene and the one after lunch. This is because the day’s success (or failure) comes down to momentum and morale, which are always compromised at the beginning of the day and just after lunch. These times seem to find the crew at their most anxious and lethargic. You need to find a good rhythm and it’s usually down to the director and first AD to really kick things into gear during these tricky slow periods.
A lot of big productions do what’s called a rolling lunch. Whereby there is no set time everyone breaks for food. But instead there is a period between say 12pm and 2pm where if individual crew members have the time, granted by their HOD, they may nip-off for their break. To anyone reading this who isn’t in the film business, I can imagine it may sound a bit cruel, but with the nature of film sets I promise it’s not that bad at all and usually makes the day feel a lot shorter. Film sets usually consist of almost nothing happening for 90% of the time followed by sudden rushes of activity. So there are plenty of times where people can dip out without missing much! Be warned and try to keep the carbs down!
One down, 23 to go
The first official day was in the can and out of my head. It’s quite something when a scene you’ve written, drawn and dreamt of for years is suddenly a repayable clip… a tangible thing. It feels like emptying your mind and being free of the idea, forever. You literally never imagine that scene ever again in any other way and It’s very, very satisfying… so long as you’re happy with the footage I suppose!
Thank you as always for reading. I’ll start getting stuck into the production of the film and believe me I’ve got some funny dramas to talk about. If you enjoyed this blog please do recommend it to a friend, same with the movie. Word of mouth is the number one way to build a great following and our little project needs all the help it can get.
Till next time!