We’ve finished filming. My 12 minute screenplay has being filmed out of sequence over 2 weekends, at 6 different sites. We’ve now got the film equivalent of 10 boxes of jig saw puzzle pieces except they could be put together in an almost infinite range of sequences.
It’s been an intense experience – thrown together with a wonderful eclectic crew, some of whom I’ve never met before. Over the first weekend there are up to 20 cast and crew plus baby and cat at any one time. We start on Saturday at 7.30am and part company about 11pm on the Sunday. Then 9 of us re-group the following Saturday.
Among the crowd are a baby, a cat, a group of teenage hoodies (my daughter and friends from Cheney) and Barbara Deane, who is approaching 90. There are 4 exceptional professional actresses from London, otherwise everyone else is local. There’s our make-up artist, Diego who creates a silicon pregnant belly over the weekend, just for fun; Danny, camera-man and tree surgeon who scales walls to cover a skylight, and Ollie who feels someone should be holding a clip-board. Polly sorts our sound (with Ollie) and helpfully informs one of our actresses that childbirth is like being chopped open with an axe.
Andy directs with almost inexhaustible energy, arguing over a shot from time to time with Phil, DoP and cameraman who can be overheard growling ‘get on with it.’ Alex and Adam regularly save the day by finding essential bits of equipment or collecting forgotten people or things. Laura brings our star cat and an endless stream of cakes and food, Dan quietly sorts the lights and Jo patiently changes her baby, Isis into the correct clothing for each scene, sharply aware of continuity issues.
There is a strange mix of all-consuming activity and waiting. Everyone on the team is switched on. Until they are switched off. Suddenly they laugh, grab biscuits, water, coffee. People coo over the baby or the cat or share stories. Swathes of time pass as each set is prepared: skylights covered, camera angles argued over, lights shifted, locks blue tacked to doors. There are beats when we’re told to be silent as the sound is tested or a scene is shot. I find myself holding my breath. The actresses are made up, and wait with an extraordinary patience. Lights are adjusted. Director and camera men obsess about the image. They repeat the scene. Mel grabs a photo. They repeat the scene. Every now and then, a particularly intense moment seems to transmit itself
through all of us, a collective hit. Sometimes a shot is repeated and repeated, with exhausting commitment.
I obsess about details which turn out to be irrelevant. The curtains MUST be ironed! We must have a ‘real’ rape alarm, the hoodies look too nice, One of the actresses has forgotten her dressing gown… At other times, I observe only just in time that the scene needs a mobile phone or glass of wine or…
There are great moments – The cat runs off on cue in the right direction with the camera on him. Andy, the director, has been angsting over how we achieve a flickering light – Adam appears with one he’s made earlier. The corner by the stage must look like the entrance to a flat. A piece of flowery staging is discovered which fits perfectly as a wall.
Then there are the glitches – an actress who can only come for one of the days, the central venue is suddenly not available on that day except between 8am and 1pm. A furious care-taker has not been told about us, Crew mistakenly take food supplies from a theatre production when we leave the venue after filming (we return them). Then there’s the bemused employee who reports CTV footage of some apparently relaxed fly-tippers dumping old mattresses, bin bags and a fridge outside his place of work.
Throughout all this and over all this Mel, our photographer, casts her spell. She is everywhere, snapping photos with speed and ease. At the end there we are – caught and transformed. We are cast and crew of “The Choice”.