Recasting and recceing. Those aren’t real words are they? Whatever. There’s now two actors confirmed coming for an audition tomorrow, thanks to Fiona Farley at Acting Associates and my friend Sarah, who’s in the film and has a friend who might fit the now vacant lead role. Fiona may also be sending a third actor too, which would be good.
Now, can anyone spot the obvious extra problems which need to be solved? Anyone… anyone… Bueller? Something ‘v-e-n’ place to audition. Venue for audition. No way to organise that at the weekend so add it to the list of things to do tomorrow morning along with informing the actors of same, actually getting to the place and running the audition. Oh, and booking a camera and booking a DP.
Today there’s only just enough time to go on a recce. Stills photographer Pete takes me for a drive around various villages. The backstreets of Chorleywood are first.
Chorleywood. A village pretending to be a town. A place so pretentious that the village post office has been turned into a house. There are no normal shops. No newsagents. No place to buy groceries, milk, a few necessary items. No. There are three shops selling decorative stencils. There’s a hairdressers, a cafe and a shop selling bricks and tiles. It’s too weird. Earthenware-eating aliens with fabulous hair clearly live here. There’s nowhere to park and no reason to. We drive on.
Chenies. Chenies is a quietly dozing village with a tiny village green and two pubs. The Village Shoppe again appears to be the name of a house (it’s on the gate) and the road is full of Sunday drivers demonstrating their tight formation car-pursuit skills around the narrow single-track lanes while looking for… well, even more isolated pubs is the only reason which springs to mind. Time and traffic have passed by sleepy Chenies and so shall we on our journey to…
Sarratt. Ahh, now this is more like it. Sarratt has a small general store which is also a post office right on the edge of a large village green. There are two decent pubs and a pond. More important, it’s picturesque and logistically possible to film away from the fast-moving traffic which is ubitquitous in home counties villages. There is plenty of space to park outside the shop and the road meanders up to it in graceful arcs, curling around a willow here, an oak tree there, and small pretty fences past the pond. Sarratt wins.
Getting out of the car for a better look and standing on the green, I begin plotting my opening shot. I want to follow the Westfield on a wide shot as it wends its way up the road towards us, moving into a close up as it stops outside the shop. Charlie (the main character) gets out and we follow him in mid-shot into the shop. Then pan down and pull focus to a sign in the foreground–a newspaper hoarding changed to show the film title. Pan up and pull focus back to Charlie exiting the shop.
So far so good but I want to continue, in the same shot, with a whip pan including a change of shooting speed, a la John Woo, to reveal the car has gone. At the end of the pan, change speed again to slow motion for Charlie’s reaction in the wide shot. I estimate that with my part-professional, part-inexperienced crew, this one shot will take the best part of a whole morning to rehearse and film. I’ll get coverage with extra shots but if it can be done all in one take, that would be perfect. Simon the editor doesn’t need to know yet.
There are five or six focus changes for the camera assistant to deal with including a long focus pull up the road to the shop. There are complex time cues and location marks for the actor to hit, which means his speed must be exactly the same each time he does it, and the whole film speed change thing means a second camera assistant to deal with it on specific cues from the operator. Plus we have to get the right lens at the right place on the village green for it all to work. Still, worry about that later, eh?
Pete and I estimate the light will be perfect at around sunrise as it will rise across the road, so the car will start by coming almost out of the sun and then, as we pan around with it, it will become more sidelit. That means an iris pull is needed too, just to add to the fun, unless it’s an overcast day, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Another thing for the second camera assistant to take care of. The iris pull, not the weather.
[As I write this, I realise that if we end up shooting at midday and it’s not overcast, the camera will be pointing directly into the sun, which will–what’s the phrase?–suck majorly.]
Cracking at dawn
Shooting at sunrise would mean everyone getting to the location around 5am. In their own time. Without being paid. With the actors and a couple of others coming on public transport when the trains cost more than double the fare of off-peak journeys. The actors will want reimbursing for travel. Ugh.
Plus, we’ll need walkie talkies to be able to cue the car from out of shot. We’ll need to block the road, if possible, to prevent a long line of muppets lining up behind the Westfield then following it into shot. And we’ll need the cooperation of the shop owner to block their driveway with the car.
Still, those are problems for the producer, aren’t they? Yes. So that’s okay. Except, hold on a sec. I’m the producer, aren’t I. Uh oh. Time to delegate some more.
Tomorrow’s challenges: get camera and director of photography, arrange audition venue and inform actors, get up to London, hold auditions and select lead, inform lead of decision. Oh, and make sure the print of Fate & Fortune is sent off to Delaware. Plus work long hours in television studios on ‘day’ job.
Shame I’ve given up caffeine.