Monthly Archives: October 2002

Long Stories Short

Friday morning: Simon hasn’t started editing The Car yet and doesn’t look likely to before January. Tapes need to be transferred to another format for editing. Time cost blah blah blah. Audio will need sync’ing to pictures before this transfer takes place. Time cost bleugh. Hold up after hold up. A pattern re-emerges. The hold ups take me to…

Friday lunchtime: drive to work. Except, don’t. Spend thirty minutes trying to get to the motorway (five miles away). Every road is blocked because some idiot has driven into something bigger and harder than their car and caused part of the motorway to be closed. Listen to the radio where there’s a play on about two newlyweds who have themselves sealed into glass coffins for thirty days as a fairground attraction to win the price of a house back in the nineteen thirties. Sealed in a glass coffin for a month? I wonder how much of our lives are spent driving to offices.

Friday afternoon: email from Laura to say LA Shorts Fest don’t appear to have shipped Fate & Fortune to Florida yet. Email arrives from Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. They’ve received postcards but where’s the film? The organiser loved it! It was due on Wednesday. Err… I’m stuck at work and can’t make international calls. Luckily, help is at hand across the planet. Laura contacts Joseph who, in true hero fashion, goes down to the cinema in LA to find out what’s going on and sort things out.

Friday early evening: last minute tape deliveries nearly screw up things up as I’m directing live on air. One item arrives just two minutes before Tx and there’s barely time to check the beginning, which almost results in a countdown clock being transmitted. Nice. Somehow I avoid this and managed to look more than competent at my job. One of my colleagues sends me some crap emails discussing poor preparation and late tape deliveries which drag me back to mundanity.

Friday mid evening: Complete Automation Failure. No vision mixer to control which source is going out. No system for automatically playing short items. This is bad. Really bad. I should be spitting and fuming and stuff but actually I’m very calm because secretly I love this. I actually get to show how absolutely shit-hot I am. Calmly, I swing into action. I cue everything to be played in manually and direct programmes using the emergency cut panel. Woo-hoo!

Friday later: the automation is fixed and I can get some slacking off time under my belt. I check the email again and someone rejoicing in the name of Myriam has emailed to say Fate & Fortune is en route to Fort Lauderdale to arrive Friday 24th. The fact that she doesn’t know what day it is doesn’t bode well. I forward this to Laura who writes back to say Joseph is already at the cinema.

Friday late evening: fresh email arrives to say Joseph has not only visited the LA Shorts Fest people but has found they hadn’t shipped the tape so he took the reel down to the Fed Ex dispatch center himself. Myriam emails again to say F&F will be available for collection on Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, it’s too late for her muppetry because jps is hero of the day. Fate & Fortune is a Cinderella story which shall go to the ball and I am full of gratitude for yet more people helping me out.

Friday midnight: driving home in the drizzling rain, autumn leaves whip and dance across the road and in the verges. Arthur Miller is on the radio now discussing witch hunts, the McCarthy era, suspensions of justice and similar themes in relation to The Crucible. I listen until it ends and becomes the shipping forecast. I let that stay on too until it becomes BBC Radio Four closedown time. They play the national anthem and I pull into my drive as the BBC World Service takes over at midnight, GMT.

Home again:sit down and watch the middle part of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, this week’s acquisition on DVD. Reflect on the stunning visuals–absolutely the right photographic treatment. Why is the sound in mono and poorly dubbed? I’ll have to look it up on the net some time. Some time when there’s more time. Is there ever more time? Perhaps tomorrow. I pour a glass of wine and reflect on the good things which have happened today–friends coming to the rescue, the strange radio play, dynamic directing, positive praise from Fort Lauderdale…

Lauderdale leads me to thinking about Travis McGee and Bahia Mar. Ahh, that would have been good. Well, maybe next year I’ll get to see it. Wasn’t it only a year ago I was writing things here about Travis and various other musings, some inspired by those books? No doubt. Now I’m re-reading the Dune series and thinking about that. Reflections in the water of life. The film plays on and the second glass of wine makes me a little fuzzy. Mmmm. Where does the energy come from for all this? Who knows. Life is good. Crazy, but good.

Dog Ate My Rushes

The rushes and soundtrack are now with Simon, the editor. Simon is working on a film for HBO, which means all his equipment is in the USA TV standard (NTSC). The Car is, of course, now in the UK TV standard (PAL). So Simon was going to try getting another edit deck so he could digitise my rushes into Avid (the computer edit system).

With me so far? Good. Well it’s been a week so I call Simon and play the answermachine game which we all know and love. What news? Simon calls back later (thereby changing the rules of the game from the one we’ve played with other people). And… he’s been evicted. No really. Okay, the production company have been kicked out of the premises they were using because the owners went bust last week.

Therefore, the news this week is, no rough cut. Or sync’ed up rushes. Or indeed anything to note on The Car except for wrap drinks up in town this Friday with the cast and crew. Oh, and I’ve designed publicity postcards and sent them off to be printed. Once Simon’s settled into new premises and got a PAL deck, he thinks he should have something for me to look at next week (another one we know and love–the old “call me next week” game).

Meanwhile, I’ve had three emails personally addressed to me requesting viewing copies of Last Train and Fate & Fortune for possible screenings in London and also a film festival in Japan. I’ve stuck 150 labels on 150 postcards publicising where and when F&F is on in Florida at the end of the month. And I’ve updated the website, which now seems to be getting a fair few number of hits.

While all that’s going on, Melanie–one of the actresses who appeared in F&F–emails to say she’s been working on a horror movie–A Vampyre’s Kiss–and they can’t find anyone to edit for them for free. The only person who springs to mind is working in a shed in someone’s back garden down the road. I’ll put them in touch.

Reminder: this weekend Fate & Fortune is being shown at the 6th Los Angeles International Short Film Festival in glorious 35mm with the full surround soundtrack (I’m assuming) which took all that time to do. For anyone in the area, it’s on Saturday (October 19th) at ArcLight, Theater 1, 6360 W Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, as part of program 37.

ps. For anyone wondering, I lied about a dog eating my rushes. Sorry. But it made a good title.

To Edit

Rushes and DATs are now with Simon, the editor, together with logging forms and marked up script. Now I just have to wait for him to get hold of a PAL (European TV standard) Betacam machine to put everything on to the Avid. He’s working on something called My Umbrian Home for HBO at the moment and it’s all on NTSC (USA TV standard).

I Have A Film

Picked up the VHS with the rushes this evening. Wonder of wonders, nothing is completely overexposed or underexposed, nearly everything is in focus, most of it is reasonably framed. I won’t say well framed because I was looking through a 16×9 frame and taking a guess, then discovered that the format only comes out as 4×3. Still, it’s not a bad guess. The action is there and the acting is there, which is what counts, and the lighting is fine.

The advice I received to shoot everything one stop overexposed seems to be slightly exagerrated. Looking at the rushes, they look bright to me. However, all the tones are there and when it’s graded it can be pulled down–made darker–which will make all the colours much more saturated and improve the contrast. At the moment it looks like something from the 1970s–which, funnily enough, is what the writers wanted. But we can do better than that.

There are a few faults. The close ups of the lead actor in the police station have lens flare in all of them. Parts are okay, but mainly they’re unusable. I kick myself for not noticing that. There’s also lens flare in the two shot (the only take) of the lost woman talking to Sgt Cobbett on the police station steps. It’s still funny and might be usuable but it’s not clever.

Then there’s the opening shot. This long shot tracking the car as it winds into view then stops, the driver gets out and we jib down to the film title. The film title is far too small in the shot. Well, it’s okay for cinema, just too small for TV. We could do with re-shooting it. Apart from the that, the only other (major) problem I spotted was the crew appearing in three shots. One is inexplicable and looks like the viewfinder can’t have been on properly. The other is a shadow and Simon (the editor) will freak.

Continuity: the old lady exits frame left in a wide shot and hides behind the phone box in a close up. Other than that, I didn’t spot anything which couldn’t be fixed with the coverage I got, which is all good. Some of my tripod work could be better, but considering I haven’t operated a moving picture camera for six years, I don’t think it’s too bad.

Today has been spent designing postcards. Now I know I actually have something that will cut together, I’ll be sending the artwork off to the printers in the morning. More pix (and links to all the film stills) are now up on the website, which has a new frontpage.

Passing Out

Okay, game over. That was three really great days and if it’s all worked, we (the cast, crew and I) have got some fantastic material in the can. If it hasn’t all worked, I’ve still had three really great days. Today started at 4am heading off to do a timelapse sequence in Pinner and finished around 8.30pm with putting batteries on the charger.

I now have a stack of thank you’s to write, equipment to return, negative to get processed and various bits of kit in various people’s possession which needs returning to its rightful owners. The last feels kind of like swapping your Christmas presents around when your parents aren’t looking.

And now it’s time to fall into bed. (Then the PC crashed so this didn’t get posted until now).

Day Two

More than two thirds in the can now. Filming interiors on location at Verulam School, St Albans. Really good. Long time setting up and messing with lights, as expected, then plenty of time spent getting master shots and close-up coverage. Great crew, great cast. Seem to be spending more than planned on food for people but not excessively. No hassles, no worries. No idea if any of it has come out but if it has, it should be fantastic.

Tomorrow: time-lapse photography in Pinner starting at 5am which means leaving home at 4 o’clock. I’ve just spent an hour reading up on the subject and am pretty confident I’ll get something. But not quite sure what. Still glad I’m both directing and doing my own cinematography. Very glad.

Onwards and upwards.

Day One: 8.55pm

One third of the script is in the can. One actor has wrapped completely. One village–Sarratt–has a major kcuffing attitude problem.

Within thirty mintues the self-important parish clerk had arrived to tell us we needed the permission of the parish council to film on the village green–a piece of open public grassland–because “it belongs to the parish council” and they “charge the BBC £500 to film”. What a wally. Simon, my AD, took him to one side and talked to him and he went off, although not quite satisfied.

As the day went on, we watched in amusement as regulars to the village shop pulled up next to our crew cars thereby completely blocking the road. Literally, they parked so that the road was impassable while they went in for ten minutes to buy a paper. This was rather than park in the empty spaces–several hundred yards worth–that were next to where we were and on the same side of the road.

Honestly, the number of cars in this tiny place was unbelievable. As well as the obligatory SUV’s and Landrovers there were two other sports cars parked outside the shop, then a BMW Z3 and then a red Ferrari. We also had a coach trying to get past the double parked idiots, a tractor, fifty parents collecting kids from school, four delivery vans, a post office van (which drive on the pavement into the shot!) and a milk float.

Oh, and down the road is even more bizarre. Another village, Chipperfield, has three shops–a newsagent and general store, a butcher’s (closed), and a Landrover dealership. Yes. You can no longer buy meat and produce in Chipperfield but you *can* buy a vehicle which does practically no miles to the gallon in order to get from your house to Sarratt Village Shoppe™.

About half way through the day, his pomposity, the Chairman of the Parish Council appeared (sans heavenly host) to tell us he wanted to see our public liability insurance cover and inform us once more that they charge people to use the village green. Despite us only have a tripod set up on this huge open space and all the dog walkers, it was too much for the parish councillors who clearly had nothing better to do with their leisure time than get up in arms because people were doing something creative and enjoying it.

“What are you getting paid?” the nosy shopkeeper asked one of my crew. “Nothing,” she replied. “Well, somebody *must* be getting paid,” the woman insisted. “No, it’s an amateur production. We do it for nothing. In fact, it actually costs us money.” The whole moronic village was totally baffled by the concept that people might actually make something because they enjoy it. How can you buy a £2m property in a place half a mile across and drive to the local shop four times a day if you don’t get paid? Mind you, how do these people afford to live there?

Sarratt was redeemed by the kindly filling station owners who let us get our last shot on their forecourt and were more than happy for us to film. Throughout the day my heroes were Michael, the actor, who was a real star and my camera assistant, Kate, who was fantastic and sorted everything out to do with the camera. All I had to do was take light readings, choose lenses, frame shots and roll the stock. Piece of cake.

In fact, all the cast and the whole crew were superb. It was a really good friendly fun atmosphere and I’m looking forward to working with them again tomorrow. Why can’t I do this for a living?

More film info here

Day One: 6.25am

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, plus some trial and error, I now when: the camera is running ‘at speed’; how much footage is left in the magazine; when the battery needs changing; that the camera has a built in light meter; how to switch it on!; what the markings in the ground glass screen (viewfinder) are actually telling me.

Okay. Time to hit the road.

The Day Before Filming

7.12am: Ashley is up for it. But he needs to leave at 2pm on Saturday because he’s got an evening’s work. He’s ‘between jobs’ at the moment (or ‘resting’ as they say in acting circles). The evening’s work? Cameraman for an cable channel which does on air auctions.

Fiona Farley at Acting Associates is golden. She comes back with another Michael to play the police sergeant and I’m meeting up with him this afternoon for an audition/chat. Next problem: where to meet. Whatever Pictures solves the problem by letting me use their office.

Rob Miles, freelance sound recordist, is golden too. He has loaned me his DAT recorder free of charge and supplied me with some tape stock at cost. I picked it up earlier and the batteries are now charging in the hall. Hopefully I won’t trip over them and fall down the stairs.

Jack, the original police sergeant, is an unprofessional dirtwad, no matter what he thinks. He hasn’t even phoned me back. He can cuff off and fester. And various stronger words.

Now: eating toast and drinking a huge amount of tea in a large NYC mug (featuring a yellow cab on the handle) which a cool friend sent me out of the blue last year on September 10th. I’ve given up giving up caffiene for this weekend. Large tea is good.

Next: get back to equipment company and organise time to pick up camera kit.

Later: try to have a meeting with art department.

This is a full-time job, really, isn’t it? It’s clear why they have all those heart-felt ‘thank yous’ when film makers accept their awards. “I’d like to thank everyone who has made this possible but there are so many people I’ve just phoned in one morning that I can no longer remember their names!”


3.21pm: Five and a half hours of driving around London. Oh, joy.

Too Easy?

When you first rang me about this film (1) you told me there was no money, not even exs. Fair enough. You’ve now sent me a crew list long enough for Ben Hur, and if you’re not paying at least some of them I’ll be very surprised. (2) You said I’d be required for one day’s filming, with possibly an extra morning. This is now obviously going to be two full days. (3) You said filming would be local. I don’t regard Pinner as ‘local’. Finally, you didn’t mention that the calls (unlike F & F) would be at unreasonable times: 8.00am in St Albans on a Saturday and 8.00am in Pinner on Sunday are not reasonable – especially for nothing! I’ll behave like a professional if I’m paid like one, but on this deal I feel I’m being used. Well, the goodwill just ran out; I’m no longer available, sorry.

So, no police sergeant, then.

Forty five minutes drafting an email to my missing police sergeant. Who knows, maybe he’ll come back?

Other options: call Jason, comedian friend, at midnight. He’s going to a wedding. If he wasn’t, I suspect he would do it. He’s planning to make a feature in the States next year about an Englishman moonwalking (Michael Jackson) style from coast to coast and cheating by travelling on a minibus.

Next option: call Ashley, actor friend and sports presenter (weird combo) tomorrow morning. Ashley is the perfect Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You see him and grin. Ideal for comedy, although younger than I first envisaged this character. Still, policemen *are* looking younger as I get older. Bonus: Ashley can put a lighted match in his mouth and do this huge rictus grin which makes him look like a Jack O’Lantern. We’ll have a larf.

More options: call Fiona at Acting Associates. Call the new crew member who just happens to be production secretary on Casualty, a BBC soap opera. Call Whatever Pictures and ask them for help. Call Sarah, actress friend, and see if she knows anyone. Call everyone and then call some more.

And do that while picking up the camera kit, checking it’s all there, finding a DAT machine and purchasing some DAT tape stock.

Film making’s not like this Stateside, is it? I mean, people make commitments and then keep them, surely/Shirley? Now you know *exactly* why film makers always hire people they’ve worked with before and their relations. It’s not just about who does the best job. It’s about who you can trust to actually *do* their job.