Saturday, 12 December 2009

On Set

So we started the day's filming by getting up 7am. Neither Maya nor myself are particularly good in the mornings, so it was a slow and quiet ticking off of the check list: gaffer tape, lights, tripods, moss, coffee, cushion, pegs, still camera, moving camera, six packs of video tape and a thousand assorted elements into bags and boxes then loaded into Maya's car.

Impressively we got there on time. Unfortunately Mark (the Director of Photography/
cameraman) was stuck in traffic and almost an hour late. With my watch on - as production assistant - I'd switched into skipper mode and was counting seconds for each activity of moving furniture and unpacking the teaset etc etc until Maya told me to stop it. It had all felt amusing and lighthearted until Mark arrived. Then I got nervous.

This had nothing to do with Mark. He was all slippers and smiles. Very chilled out and friendly. No, I'd suddenly woken up (two supremo coffees later). This was it. We were now officially making a film of my poem and we had one day to get the shots right.

Mark had some massive (to my eye) kino lights which I'd have called florescent tubes, but obviously threw off a far better light than their glare, which while still took three quarters of an hour to set up, both he and Maya were seemingly pleased with the speed of progress. The gear's not in this shoot - but that lovely sunlight from the window is his fab lighting rig.

After an hour and ten minutes we had recorded five lines of poetry. I'm not used to wearing a watch and kept checking it. I was beginning to fret. We had another twenty lines to go, another four different locations and it was almost lunchtime.

I'd obviously had too much coffee. Fortunately Mark and Maya don't touch the stuff. Plus they'd discussed the storyboard its timings and had made films before. They nodded and hmmm occasionally to each other.

This is Maya pointing purposefully and Mark agreeing with her competance in angling. As you can see by the januty angle of the pic, it's a good job I wasn't being director of photography.

Of course the budget being what it was, we couldn't have the equivalent of fancy lighting gear for everything, and for the second stanza Maya demonstrated the 'towel cam'. This was for the tracking shot through three lines of the poem. And involved the camera set on a towel and slid across the floor for a single smooth motion. Nifty.

It was in the third stanza when I realised the strength of my vision and how it veered from both logistics and Maya's idea. I won't go into details of the particular shot but we couldn't get what we had originaly planned so were talking around alternatives. I was shocked at how strongly I wanted a different idea from theirs and how disappointed I felt when it became obvious I wasn't going to get it.

But this is collaboration. You have to get over the ego business pretty quickly, or you don't get anywhere. Besides we were moving into the hallway and into one of my fave sections of the film.
There's a clue in the picture to the right, but you'll just have to wait for the film to enjoy it. The difference in set up time in the bright hallway compared to the panneled room was incredible. Within minutes we were ready to go for the shot.

And suddenly by 1pm we were halfway through the poem and ready for lunch.

By 2.30 the light was already fading so we had to jump back to the opening shot, outside, and then forward to a line from stanza five. This all had the terribly satisfying feeling of filming everything backwards, like a proper film shedule.

Then my big moment. We needed a shadow. I had my off-screen walk-on part. Walking smoothly, not spookily, is much harder than it sounds. Seven takes later I was really getting into character. I know I'm not going to get an Oscar, or even a Bafta, but not since I was the Little Red Hen had I felt so stage struck.

Maybe it was all the chocckie bics I had for lunch, or doing the washing up, but I missed the filming at the top of the house and suddenly we were in stanza six. The last one. And the bathroom. It was all going to be over too soon and I'd barely got started.

Mark managed to squeeze himself, the lights, leads and camera into the tiny bathroom, as well as the crucial props. We had more mucking about with shadows and movement, but because of the size of the room I didn't get a chance to peek into the viewfinder. I think this was good. While it's my poem, it is ultimately Maya's film and will have her stamp over it.

With all the shots shot, Mark was off to Blackpool, leaving me and Maya to record some of the sounds of the house, the silence of each room we'd filmed in, as well other housie noises: door latches and branch scratchings. Again there was a sense of over larding the narrative, but then better to have stuff we don't use than wish we had it.

I was absoutely pooped. And I'm not too sure why. There was a huge amount of concentration into each shot, although of course worry eats up a lot of energy.

We had just short of an hour's worth of film to condense down into two minutes. I can only hope we got the right shots, or that Maya has a plan as to what to do with what she has got. I won't see the first edit until the new year now. But she kept assuring me that it'd be lush. Lush.