This script needs a police station lobby with a counter and ideally wood-panelling to look olde worlde. Back when I was writing for the local newspaper, I visited several schools and a couple of them had entrance halls which, now I think about it, would be absolutely perfect. Forget about the non-phone-call-returning Jane Beddell, I hit the internet and yellow pages for a list of local schools but it’s not quite what I need. What I need is a map.
You see, I seem to have this semi-eidetic recall. I can remember more or less where one of these schools is but without a map showing local schools, I can’t pinpoint it. And it goes without saying that I can’t remember the name. The visuals are in my head but not the words. Frustrated with the limitations of the internet, I get in the car and drive to the place I remember, a few minutes from home. And there it is. Verulam School. Wood panelled entrance lobby, complete with counter and cluttered office behind. Perfect.
It’s the holidays so there’s no one around but a whiteboard is up with the caretaker’s mobile number and a phone is on the counter. I call him and tell him who I am and what I want. Ron Fox comes down and, get this, he says, “No problem. You can do that. Certainly! Pleased to help.” Un-cuffing-believable. Me, a complete stranger wanting to make a low budget film on his premises (I tactfully didn’t mention money). Then would it be okay for us put some ‘wanted’ and ‘missing cat’ posters up? Sure, if we use blue-tack. What about the huge trophy cabinets? Can we dress them? “They’re on wheels. I can roll them out of the way.” Marvellous.
So I push my luck further because I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a very nice sports car parked outside. In fact, it was a beautiful sports car. “That is really perfect. I’m really pleased,” I say to Ron, enthusiastically. “The only thing we need now is a sports car and I’m there.” “My boss has a sports car,” says Ron casually, as if I haven’t seen it. “If you like, I can give him a call.” I like.
Chris Giles, the school finance manager, appears and says, even more unbelievably, yes, sure we can use his Westfield–a green and yellow copy of the Lotus 7–the car which appeared in the cult TV show The Prisoner. [Westfields look like , by the way.]
Separating the men from the boys
Now here’s the real art of producing a film: I ask Chris if I can take a closer look at the car now to think about camera angles and get some ideas for filming. Sure, no problem. We go outside and have a look and I encourage him to talk about it, which he is happy to do. He says the actor would even be insured to drive it. And then he happens to mention something–you have to be fairly small to fit in the driver’s seat and get your legs under the wheel to reach the pedals. “Try it, but I don’t think you’d fit,” says Chris. I do, and I don’t.
Blair, the actor who is going to play Charlie, is about as tall as me; just over six foot. My first thought is that this is the perfect car but Blair won’t fit. I need to change actor or just wedge him in so he can’t move. I get home and call Blair. Blair, who doesn’t have his answerphone on (hallelujah!) is indeed four inches bigger in the waist than I am, so no indeed, he won’t be able to drive a Westfield.
However… Blair also has a confession to make. He’s appearing in a play in Southampton, which is several hundred miles away, around the filming dates. Which makes life a bit tricky for him…
It comes to this. Blair recommends a friend of his, who is much shorter but equally talented, to play the part of Charlie and then everyone is happy.
Now imagine if I hadn’t asked questions and got Chris talking about his beloved car some more? There are often times during making a film where you can never have too much information. Plus, half the fun is learning new things. Research is a huge key to film production because it sets up trains of lateral thought which lead to problems being solved.
Oh, the simple insanity of it all. Camera and stock next. And perhaps a better village.
It comes to this. Blair recommends a friend of his, who is much shorter but equally talented, to play the part of Charlie and then everyone is happy…
…Of course, it would be too easy if Blair’s friend was actually available on any of the shooting dates or the rehearsal day, wouldn’t it. Far too easy. Much more challenging to suddenly find you have no lead actor and only a few days to cast someone.
Oh, yes. Much more character building (no pun intended but credit taken) to try to win a sandcastle competition by building as close to the water as possible and finding that, as fast as you build up one intricate section, another is getting washed away by the waves.
We thrive on challenge.