Pick Ups

Sarrett is as barking mad as ever. Simon greeted a passer-by with a cheery “Hello!” and received a look which informed us all that he’d just fed this person their own dead mother in a sandwich. The shoppers all desperately tried to get a foot closer to the shop doorway to park on the otherwise empty street. The four-wheel drives won by mounting the pavement. Even then, they scowled.

We started the day with battery problems. The DAT recorder batteries I’d charged up last night held their charge for about ten minutes each before running out. We switched to mains power and got set up for the first shot. By 10.30am we were ready to turn over except Lionel, writer/art director (graphics) wasn’t there and he had the posters for the police station.

Lionel phoned. He had run out of ink and went to buy some. We waited some more with an annoying beeping interrupting us every ten minutes or so. Simon tracked it down to a drawer full of digital watches–clearly lost property or confiscated from pupils at the school where we were shooting. All the alarms had been set by some schoolboy prankster to go off every ten minutes. We removed them and carried on messing about with lights.

At around 11, Lionel phoned again. He’d bought the wrong ink cartridge and it didn’t fit. He was going back to the store. I faked up a poster on my PowerBook featuring Lionel’s head and a caption saying “Please… don’t have nightmares” Simon took my keys and went round to my flat to print it.

At about 11.30, we were ready to shoot. “Roll sound… Roll camera…” and nothing. The camera didn’t roll. Why? I was told yesterday the batteries were all charged, so it couldn’t be that. What were we missing? We phoned Andy’s focus puller friend, Neil. Nope, no suggestions. We tried plugging mains power into the camera–and, guess what? It worked. The batteries were, as it turned out, all flat.

Now we had another problem. We only had one mains supply and it could go on either the camera or the DAT but not both. And while it was on either we couldn’t charge up batteries for the DAT. We shot our scene. “I’m getting T4,” said Andy, checking his digital exposure meter. “I’m getting 2.8,” I replied. I opted to overexpose like last time and shoot at T2. Andy had to rush off at that point to film a play his daughter was in. Meanwhile, Lionel arrived.

Six takes later and it was all going swimmingly. I had re-shot the close-ups previously affected by lens flare and squeezed in an extra hand-held wacky shot of the actor too. Pete, the stills photographer had arrived and offered to go and fetch fish and chips for us all. We were ready to shoot the credits. I patted myself on the back for staying up until 3am last night making graphics for the closing credits and not leaving it to the art department…

“Give me plenty of light,” I told Olly, the gaffer, “I want to get as much depth of focus as possible.” Olly obligingly doubled the number of kinoflos lighting the shot. My light reading remained the same: T2.8. ‘Seems odd,’ I thought and pushed the meter right up against the lantern. Still T2.8. Hmm. Then I did what I should have done at the start of the day–I pressed the Battery Test button. It was dead.

Lionel and Simon were duly dispatched into the wilds of St Albans for new batteries. I wasn’t worried too much as I was only one stop out from Andy’s digital meter on the essential close up and I felt sure the film stock could cope with that. (note: Andy backed this up later, saying the lab could print it down). Pete returned with lunch.

Eventually, this nightmare shoot concluded and I got the closing credits in the can. We visited Sarratt and got some more picks before the light faded and everything seemed fine. Now I just needed to get a couple of the crew to come back tomorrow (Sunday) for a quick close up in Michael, our lead actor in Pinner. Nope. No one available. I have camera, sound, lighting kit, stock, location and actor but no one to clap the board or record sound.

Back home, I spent the next four hours on the phone, long past ready to pass out, because I am a producer extraordinaire and never say die. I drink Coca-Cola until my eyes go like pinpricks and speak to various crew members’ answerphones. Anyone who is in, isn’t available. The main excuse is Mother’s Day. Hey, it’s not just for greetings cards after all and my mum is going to be unsurprised at my lack of participation or card even. I feel a twinge of guilt but still have to get this film made because if these things aren’t shot this weekend, I have no more time left.

I leave messages everywhere and speak to people who feel they’ve already done all they need to do on this film by turning up for the main shoot last year. I learn about people’s lives, editing via firewire drives and a new trend in celebrity answerphone voices. Hahaha, I think. Very funny. No, they aren’t. And you weren’t fooled, were you?

Eventually I get a call back from Ruth Tidmarsh who I met through Pete last year and works as an editor. She’s playing in a band tonight until 3am but is willing to come out and help. She might get someone else to help out. Meanwhile, we have a crew of two and Michael tomorrow.

I unload the exposed stock from the magazine and it doesn’t unravel in the changing bag where I can only feel what I’m doing. I’ve never unloaded a camera before but there’s no else to do it, so I get on with it. Sandhya has warned me that the Arri’s have a ‘collapsable core’ which means that there’s nothing in the middle of the reel when you take it out and I need to be very careful. Somehow I manage to get it into a bag and into a can. I clean up the log sheet, attach it to the can and pop it in the fridge.

It’s been a looooong day.

And I almost forgot, Lionel also got stopped for overtaking someone on the inside lane (illegal in the UK) and speeding at 64mph in a 50 zone. He now has points on his license and a fine to pay. Poor guy has had a really bad day.

But at least he got to work on a film.