Why this film, this idea and this particular theme?
Why the violence?
Why can’t we all just get along and love each other and play nice?
Why didn’t we make a heartwarming cartoon?…
Last year, Darwin was lucky enough to be invited to multiple festivals, to accompany our film DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE and attend the festival screenings. One of those festivals awarded us a special mention. Another gifted us an award for best narrative. And then, back in December, I found myself attending a screening of it, to celebrate that award. it was then that I decided to try and organise some thoughts about the creation of the film, from first idea to film poster, to try and provide Darwin with some talking points – figuring that it might help when faced with a few questions from those attending the screenings. This is essentially a more organised form of what we had discussed when approaching the idea for the project and before Darwin first attended a screening and had to talk about the finished film.
Here’s what Surprised Lee wanted to say when he stood on stage, on the 20th Dec 2019, but his mind went blank when the mic was pressed into a hand:
“Domestic violence is a huge problem. A problem of much significance. An epidemic in some countries. Somewhere in the world, every hour of every day, domestic violence is being committed – usually by men. Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the US. Even in Spain! Especially here, judging by the news this morning when another poor woman lost her life in Barcelona. Even those who work to help the victims of abuse are themselves often targeted by the same perpetrators – who are looking for another outlet for their anger. It is real. It is an epidemic. it’s a tragic reality.
DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, in some ways, seems over the top. Too violent? We apologise if anyone is traumatised by the themes and violent content / actions in the film. However, it is inspired by a true story and in many ways is not extreme enough! We had a tough battle finding the right level – enough to shock and provoke a reaction, but when to hold back for fear of losing the audience entirely? Realistic drama was definitely what we felt was needed.
We very much wanted to make this film to highlight this problem, to help open or even provoke a debate about the subject and for that debate to look for solutions to prevent such violence from ever being committed again.
We feel that not enough is being done to combat domestic violence and to help the victims and to fund those organisations who work on behalf of the victims. We only wish we could have had more budget, time, equipment and skill, to make it even more impressive and more impactful in order for the film to be a better catalyst for change. But thanks to our director and wonderful team, we have done the best we have, with the limited budget we had, time allowed and with a collective passion to try and change in the world in some small way.
The black dot on the poster, is a symbol – a cry for help – that has been used by abused women to ask for help, when a careless word or message may otherwise alert their abusive partner. Typically it is drawn on the hand. We want women in such situations to reach out and seek help. We want others who suspect possible crimes to seek help on their behalf, all without endangering their lives. But we also don’t want to endanger them by making the symbol too popular, so we did not include it in the actual film: https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-34326137 – there is some debate about this symbol alone and whether it helps or hurts? But the point is that victims need to find a way to ask for help. Somehow. Your lives are not without worth. You are important. Your story must be shared!
And hopefully, someone who sees this film might know someone in a similar situation and be willing to help rescue their friend from such abuse. Or simply pass the message of the film to another and create a small wave of change and avert something potentially much worse.
It’s not about the film per se. But the message needs to be passed on. Violence is not ok. Abuse must be treated like the epidemic it is, and we must find a social vaccine. We need to change.
Thanks for watching. And sorry for anyone this may have traumatised. “
So hopefully if anyone does get to see the film, and comes hunting here as to answers to the “whys” / those questions, they will find something here that helps…. I definitely think that it is a theme that requires more exploration….
And if anyone is connected with an organisation that is dealing with such abuse and wants to consider partnering with us to help spread the message, we would love to hear from you.
Before you continue, know this – it was only a 3-day film shoot, but I’ve detailed the entire film production related trip to Barcelona and back, from start to finish. The reason? Hopefully it details the craziness of guerrilla filmmaking on a no-budget short horror film in another country. That and the special screening of our other films. Hopefully it helps me remember, when I later forget the details. Hopefully it helps transport anyone reading this to feel like they shared the crazy journey with us, if you care. It’s an update – but a long one. But hopefully you’ll find it enlightening along the way – with a few valuable lessons that we’ve definitely learned – and what not to do!
We had three objectives going into this trip…:
Shoot LOVELY TO MEET YOU
Get on TV again
Screen our three films
Please note: this project only happened because Darwin wanted one more project before the year was over. I was crazy enough to say yes and to produce the script that we then shot. And this time, unlike DFTB, I wasn’t going to miss the shoot! But could we do a 5 / 6 day shoot in 3 days?… only time would tell…
Sunday 15th Dec
THE TRIP OUT
I got up and felt awful after zero sleep. I was exhausted. What was going on with my body last night? If only we weren’t doing a film shoot and I could just stay in bed and rest. Something was up and I had fever and hallucinations in the night…but time to get my shit together…
After many hugs with Suss and Ruffs, my cat. I headed to the airport, trundling my way with too much luggage (half of it containing the production gear). Feeling light headed and woozy all the way and getting smacked in the legs by the cases.
I got to T-centrallen ok; although it was a pain with so much gear. And met a cheerful and well-rested Darwin; and then went and bought two locks for the black camera cases. Just in case the cases somehow got separated from us, I didn’t want to make it too easy for someone to avail themselves of the camera gear. Then, when Rinat arrived, we headed to the bus.
Darwin and I chatted on the bus to Skavsta, reviewing things about the production. It filled the time well enough and kept me awake. And helped focus our minds for the coming battle against time, budget, inadequate preparation and trying to form a collectively talented team.
We did have a long day ahead of us at the airport, as we arrived their deliberately too early; however, I didn’t want to risk any of us missing the flight and ruining the production and losing those funds by not turning up. And also we did not know if we’d have problems with any of the bagagge. I was mainly concerned about Lithium-Ion batteries (after a previous Ryan Air flight had been grounded for a battery fire and overly specific guidance around their capacity) and wanted to make sure we had time for backup plans to leave them somewhere safe, and arrange backup batteries in Barcelona, if things went tits up and we got them confiscated. But weirdly it all went smoothly once we’d divided the bags up and approached the bag drop.
Meanwhile, while there, I was trying to render a new version of MR CLEAN (due to a great new sound mix from Luca) and was eventually forced to give up, as FCP X needed to update the project file (something I’d not counted on after accidentally updating it the day before), then re-render everything and there was no way I was getting a finished output before we boarded the plane. So I force-quit the session and put the laptop away and recharged it a bit.
Cue some lawyer having a melt-down over baggage at the front of the queue and another girl trying to push in and not wanting to get back to the end of the queue that had formed behind her.
Once aboard, it was a really uncomfortable and hot flight – and despite pounding water and soft drinks like they were going out of fashion, I was feeling dehydrated and off-kilter in that heat and fighting drowsiness, knowing I wouldn’t manage sleep. During it, despite the idiot in the middle / next to me trying to sleep and restlessly banging into me and his mate every 5 minutes, I managed to study the script for LOVELY TO MEET YOU, discuss notes that I made with Darwin. The whole way there I wished I’d flown Norwegian at least.
We got to the airport and then on the way to the hotel, when our tickets wouldn’t work for the Metro barriers, we then had to get Rinat to jump the barriers and let us through to catch the rapidly approaching train… only later, finding out that we’d bought the wrong tickets and they weren’t valid for the metro, we realised that we only had tickets for the train from the airport. So we’d accidentally done wrong. Damn. It was funny though.
We got to my hotel, I checked in, then Rinat and I dumped the bags, with a few repeat trips, and then we all went out to a nearby mall, to eat tapas. The food was good, or was it because we were really hungry and it was really late? – much later than I usually eat. But it was good, despite the weird looks I got from the locals while sitting outside in a t-shirt in December.
From there, I headed back to the hotel in Almeda, messaged Suss that we were all safe, tried to deal with charging all of the things for the shoot and assembling rigs and packing it up for the shoot etc. As at this point I really believed that we were shooting the next morning…
I tried to meditate myself to sleep and tried to ignore the noise from the lift that was right next door to the room (clanging away every few minutes) and the bar / foyer of the hotel…. it was going to be a long week of no sleep at this rate, I could tell!
Monday 16th Dec
SIGHTSEEING AND REHEARSALS
I hadn’t really slept, yet again – maybe two hours max – some restless drifting in and out of consciousness and constant disturbances. And too late a night the day before, too active a brain? nervous? I don’t know. But I do know that the hotel room was noisy. Especially from an ever-clanging lift. Every few minutes I heard the lift go up and down and stop noisily; and other weird loud noises, as the hotel was all tiled and had gaps under each door, so noise was free to travel and seemed amplified in the dead of night.
I got up and did a stretch workout. Uncranked my neck etc. And I finally rendered a new version of MR CLEAN, from the file Luca sent to me for the sound mix and it sounded so much better. Then I downloaded another version of the grade for MR CLEAN from our new colour grader and it did not look good. It was far from it. Supposedly it was also a work in progress. But something was definitely off with it. It was unwatchable.
Rinat and I had time to go sightseeing – which was a huge surprise, as we’d both thought that filming began on the Monday… but no. Darwin said that we had time – a few hours, before rehearsals, so I headed out to find the metro and get a ticket. I needed first to explain to Rinat, over the phone, where he was and how to get to Placa de Espanya and send him a pic of the metro map. Then I had to buy a ticket and needed Darwin to explain how to work the machine over the phone. But once I had a ticket I was on my way – once I also worked out how to get there.
At Placa De Espanya, it was hard to find Rinat around that huge station with many levels. But eventually we agreed a place to meet. Once that was done, we then went walking around the city. We walked up to the palace at Montijuic. The musuem was shut and the fountains didn’t work…just my luck. We walked over the hills, through gardens, and Rinat found a new cat friend that climbed right onto him.
We had a nice lunch. And it was good to hang out with Rinat, as we hadn’t hung out much after shooting MR CLEAN. Then we headed around, ending up riding the funicular to the Castle and later accidentally refinding the same cat when we went back on ourselves accidentally… and seeing the cat looking up creepily at us in an accusatory way. We then walked down to near the port / the water etc. Eventually we watched a local low budget / student film crew work and making the best of a cloudy day, while I took a beer. Then we headed down to the Marina, into the Gothic quarter and the Ramblas before heading to meet Darwin…in all we did about 23km walking. Doh! (not smart, but great to see the sights).
We went to Torrassa, waited in a bar and considered getting food… Then Alessandro (playing Michael) met us, and we got to know each other. He was a lovely guy and happily regaling us with tales of working with Ridley Scott and meeting many stars. Then Darwin came to meet us, late, took us to the location for Day 2 and 3 and to meet everyone.
There we did the production intro chat / rehearsals, met everyone (that was there, I think Carmen and one makeup girl might have appeared at another time) and Darwin and I answered all of their collective questions. Or at least we tried to. Bear in mind we were only a team in name only at this point. Would we end as a strong team and firm friends? Hopefully! But there was so much we needed to discuss and check and plan and it was all a bit late… but hopefully we’d get through it despite this. And yet none of the locations in this spot had been prepped or dressed for filming. It would cost us time.
Then by the time we finished it was 10pm! and we’d not eaten yet… and the ‘hambre’ hangriness kicked in. Yes I am a miserable selfish sod when I get hungry. Note to self: bring a shitload of protein bars or snacks with me on the next shoot… or just walk off and get food and don’t wait for others.
We went to a cafe to eat, leaving Darwin with the other local team – because the other producers’ conversations could go on for ages. Darwin joined us later and we ate and drank – although I didn’t get my full order in the end. But I got something.
We then headed off to our respective accommodation. I travelled back by myself and took an unfamiliar route and yet it all went well.
Later, in my hotel room, I was messaging with our colour grader about the file he had rendered and sent to me – to try and understand how it could be that he said it looked great on his machine. But it made no sense that it was great on his machine and bad on mine. I wanted to know if he had checked it before sending it? Surely he had right?
I got back around 11.30. Headed to bed as it was too late to talk with Suss etc. Again a noisy hotel, as per the night before but I hoped it would be ok – it was too late to pack everything and move to another room and would they even have a free room?
I tried to rehydrate, having not consumed enough liquid all day. Then tried to put pillows and my coat down by the door, to block some of the sound. But it was useless. Even a mattress against the door wouldn’t work, not with that lift.
Tuesday 17th Dec
Day#1 of shoot:
I had managed to sleep maybe a couple of hours. But had fever sweats in the night and woke up with blood on the pillow from my left ear. Wtf?!
I was woken by the sound of the lift and slamming doors and the staff setting breakfast service in the bar, and loud chatter in the foyer. Ok. Thanks I guess. Although I’d set an alarm you clearly wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my shoot so woke up in plenty of time to get there, right?
After talking with Suss on the phone, to catch up and explain why I couldn’t talk earlier, I had a stretch and a shower and then got ready and packed the gear for taking to the shoot.
Went to the location via Metro. But I should have taken a cab. I couldn’t fit in the first train due to overcrowding and the fact that it is always a short train from Almeda. I was hot and sweaty and tired by the time I reached the location: Mamajuana bar. And then I was inside a hot and even sweatier chaos. A small bar, not enough room, trying to see my gear, assemble my gear, find places and get more light and then move said gear to set up a shot, ready to shoot. As everyone had naturally set themselves up exactly where we didn’t need their stuff, as no one was clear about what the first shot was and what the plan was for that space. I hadn’t even seen pictures of floor plans of this space despite asking numerous times, or a shot list which matched said nonexistent plans. So I couldn’t have known. But it would have been nice to begin without hours of dicking around.
Meanwhile I met the DP Fabian, whilst sweatily trying to assemble the gear and set about trying out every lens and adapter etc. Despite being an excellent DP, he didn’t know these cameras and how each lens performs under those sensor sizes. So didn’t intuitively know what he needed until he saw it. There was quite a bit of asking for a specific lens combo, I’d ask if you’re sure and recommend an alternative and give a reason why his choice might not work? He’d say yes. I’d change it. And then inevitably it would be changed back to what I suggested. Not always. But mostly – this could be my bad though for not knowing enough Spanish to explain it better that so he’d understand?
All this in between fielding numerous questions, helping Darwin out when he was in the middle of other questions / details elsewhere – such as what makeup should be applied here and how should we block the extras / arrange them so that they fill the background with action etc.
I think we didn’t get the cherry broken on the shoot and get the first shots done until maybe lunchtime? So we were already behind, having lost 4 hours. Even an extra 1/2 day contingency on a shoot like this would help for slippage…. sometimes it’s awful being right.
I was working the second camera with Fabian, tag teaming and switching from BMPCC4K to GH5 and back frequently. And all was going swell to try and cut some delays back and make progress. But then also, somehow he changed the cam settings on the GH5. So every time I tried to take a shot later on the monitor would go dark and the EVF would come on. And it took ages to sort it, once I was freed up from other tasks to find that damn setting. I can never seem to find it when scrolling through all the hundreds of GH5 settings. And I know I’d turned it off before to stop it dicking me around. But at one crucial shot, I could not see any of what I was filming. Great. But once this was rectified I soon found out that the second tripod we had, a loaner, was useless for what we needed. Too rigid, no fluid head and just awkward to use… so soon thoughts of speeding things up with two cameras had to be abandoned.
We filmed the bar scene. Most of it is good, and the extras were restless and it’s hot. Everyone wanted to be outside, where there was air etc. And I’m not sure if we’re fooling anybody about shooting inside and trying to make out it’s night. Ala CLERKS with the blinds down. That worked fine for them in B&W. But not colour. But I liked what I saw from Toro and Ariadna and the extras were great. Once we got into the flow, some of the backgrounds looked good. I couldn’t really see all of the foreground main action until I gave up filming and helped with lighting and diffusions etc, when that was needed so other things could be progressed.
At one point Carmen and Toro go off to do some pant shopping and then suddenly everyone was wondering how long does it take to find a pair of pants for the shoot? Also, how many times can someone trip on the same stuff, when we have to keep moving things around? I see no sand bags or proper visibility tape to tie down cables and make people aware of safety…. no like. And then there was DIY / repair work sounds somewhere through the walls to contend with.
We eventually got done with the bar shoot, I think it was nearly 7.30pm. Then Alessandro and Caroline and I went to a cafe to get some food and a drink while Darwin went off to do the van stuff with the ice boxes without me for some reason. A shit Greek salad (and I mean shit, not even anything like an actual Greek salad – only Greek by name) and a water later, and then we went to meet Darwin at Torassa, before we then headed to Sagrade familia by metro with Darwin and Fabian; all the while we were filming the happy couple on the way to and outside the venue and luckily no one stopped us.
However, Rinat and I got told off for leaning against some fence, sitting on the ground looking homeless across from Sagrada Familia – because of the pain in my feet, I’d had to rest at that point. But no we had to move on. lol.
Once the shoot is done at ten, we then headed to a Chinese Restaurant for a post 10pm meal and drink as I was feeling faint after my previously inadequate meal. It was actually really good food in the Chinese and bless Rinat for treating us to the meal. Thanks! Best food on the shoot yet. But far too late again.
I got back to the hotel at 11.30pm, shattered and just fell into bed – only there was a bar full of Scottish football fans drunkenly cheering every 5 minutes… until 2 fucking AM. Fuck! After my second call to the hotel staff, the fuckers finally got moved on… and I could try and find some rest. But I vowed to change rooms in the morning. Or someone was going to the hospital and someone else was getting arrested.
Wednesday 18th Dec
Day#2 of shoot / TV:
Those drunken Scots finally were made to go or shut the fuck up around 2am. I think it was then that I finally managed to get some sleep, although it was fitful and not deep enough.
By the time it was almost right for my alarm to go off, I got up, I felt like crap. No time for a stretch, because needing to pack for moving rooms. I showered and finished packing and then went to the reception to ask about changing my room. I then left my case with them and headed off to the location, now sans any room key. Again the only guy in a t-shirt and carrying and not wearing a jacket in Barcelona this morning and getting funny looks from all.
I met Darwin on the way to the location – as everyone was preparing it ready for filming, putting some pictures up, had created a bedroom at least, although not yet the bathroom. Then after making sure the gear was prepped and swapping SSDs, I was being presented with a few torture implements / weapons and then I started backing up all of the day 1 footage onto Darwin’s hard drive just before shooting, between fielding more makeup questions.
Finally ready to shoot around 11:30. 3.5 hrs lost today. 1 day behind officially, if it weren’t for the late night previously. And I felt all of it, as my feet were now sore from the sightseeing and a lot of standing around.
Today was the shots with the bedroom and then later the living room scene. The torture scene and then the rescue and some in the bathroom. It was a long day and we only shot half as much as the previous day. But there were some great shots. Although for parts of it, when busy with other tasks related to the shoot, I didn’t get to always see the takes or to check them. Would we get it all right or would we need to redo some of it? Who knows? no one at this stage? Did we have enough coverage? would the angles match and cut nicely? Was it matching the shot list and storyboards? Were shots being selectively dropped? do the performances build in the right way??? all good questions that I didn’t have the answers to. But at least I got some stills along the way to record some of it. We definitely shot less footage today re storage… we definitely lost time to moving gear around and changing the usage of the same location to be multiple sets.
Thanks to Rubi and the producers, we also got a nice breakfast and lunch – and I managed to grab a quick snack from that food after shooting, before I left for the TV show. At one point I think Fabian was picking out random vegetables and things that I could eat from other dishes that contained meat, just go give me more to eat. lol
We finished around 7pm – stressed, as we were so far behind and had to leave a huge scene incomplete – and it was now time for the TV show. We hadn’t originally planned to do this today, but then plans were changed..,. and because of those plans changing without prior communication I didn’t have my suit / shirt with me etc. And was still grubby from the shoot when we headed off. Not ideal.
On the way to the show, thanks to Fabian, we all had beers and chatted on the metro to get to know each other better. and after a wrong turn at Lacuna, we eventually got there. It felt weird not to be filming guerrilla style on the underground as per the day before. But was nice to spend time with the guys.
The show was the usual surreal experience for me as a non-Spanish speaker, – like Moulin Rouge Spanish style, mixed with Twin Peaks… and yet it must have also been surreal for all of those who did not know the show and had not seen it before.
Toni seemed on edge and there was a fiery argument at the start of the show, but eventually it all seemed to go well. But I was clueless as to what was going on. Darwin was on form in the show, like in his old role as compere, and everyone seemed to have fun. I felt embarassed and shy when I was given the microphone and made to speak. “I said Muy Bueno Tony Rovira Y Tu” and couldn’t remember “estupendo” or “espactulo” or somesuch actually more Spanish… I am such a dick in such moments. I need to learn more Spanish and not go mentally blank when such things happen. I could only think in Swedish…
There was the usual dicking aorund, waiting to say goodbye before we left… I was tired and just wanted to get back to the room. I wanted food again… rest, to shower, to rehydrate… I was on the clock and conscious to get on…. I got a lift back from Ariadna (many thanks!) after Tony Rovira Y Tu, and was able to have a good chat about writing with her and Irene on the way.
I had to wait a while, to get dealt with at the reception and for things to be sorted, but eventually got my hotel room and it was on the 3rd floor… a poor guy carried my case all the way up there for me, which I very much appreciate as 3 flights after a long shoot on your feet is a stretch. The room was ok, but I couldn’t get on line – they hadn’t activated the internet, and the phone gave a weird electronic hum when I tried to ring them and sort it – like I was dialling another realm, where communication was impossible, with ghostly interference… I was brain dead at this point, but managed a few instagram posts before I showered the stink away, tried to meditate and find a happy sleepy place…… yeah. Good luck with that.
Thursday 19th Dec
Day #3 of shoot:
I had barely slept. Maybe I got an hour or so, I’m not sure. What day was it?… I got up, messaged suss, tried to put life in my body with a stretch and then showered and dressed and shambled out into a taxi. The taxi broke down and the battery was dead. Luckily his buddies charged it before I ran to the metro. The traffic was also mental due to a fire en route. But somehow I made it only 15 mins late to the set. Toro and Carmen were a bit later as they got the worst of it.
Once there, we all went to a breakfast, just as I was set up and ready to back up day #2 footage. Then it was time for a last day pepp / prep talk and to get our shit together and start the day. Soon after much waiting, it was bustle… Slow, slow, quick-quick-slow. The usual dance. The same sore feet.
I was finishing the rough poster for MR CLEAN – while rendering off and trying to check some different versions of MR CLEAN for the screening; in between helping Fabian get the lenses set up / things he needed and help explain some of the deeper motivation for various specific actions during the action sequences. It was all about helping the actors know what was set in stone script-wise and why, and what could be ‘played with’ so that we could get what we needed and then allow them to improvise and give us more.
We started shooting at 10:45. Closeups mainly. From the torture scene. It was time to get fire extinguishers in faces, torture scenes reversed, and move from the living room to the final scenes in the bathroom. In between holding diffusers or making sure the cameras were powered and had batteries and the right lenses / swapping gear etc, I was tasked with getting the gear moved from the bathroom to set up that set, then dress it, then get ice and ‘surgical tools’ sorted, as none of this had been provided previously and work with both actors re the blocking of each shot / how we were going to film it. All the while Darwin is focussed on getting through the shots.
Eventually once the last scene was all set up Darwin said, “you direct this bit”. By this time it was near 7.30pm. So I did, even though I wasn’t sure what was going on? And why? But we nailed the shoot. It helped that I’d worked through the scene with both Toro and Alessandro separately, and rehearsed what we needed with Fabian, and with Arnaud doing sound and Irene holding lights and help from makeup, soon we were able to finish the most fun scene of the film. It was fun and easy. Darwin did come in and help on the final shot, squirting blood in Toro’s face as he hacked and sliced – which was nice that he was part of that last shot.
Fabian got some great shots in that scene as in all of the others. He’s really great at movement. And although we need to check them all later, it looked great to me from what I could see.
Irene and Rinat were invaluable. A lot of that shoot wouldn’t have happened without them running off and finding what we needed, wether that was scurrying around on set for items or buying missing props etc. Stars!
From there, we packed up some gear but had to leave everything at 9pm, to celebrate wrapping the shoot and take photos. Then we eventually made our way, fresh Estrella in hand, to the breakfast bar on the corner for our wrap party. There was tapas and beer. Perfect. And there were lots of speeches and such to celebrate everyone – and I mean – everyone’s involvement. Even the extras and catering etc, that sadly weren’t there. No one was forgotten. Everyone is crucial to the success of a shoot.
I think that the question of forming a team and friendships on such a rushed, short shoot was answered. Despite the challenges, stress and the rough edges, we had formed into a tight-knit group and it was a warm and friendly during those final moments of the production.
Inevitably one-by-one our new film family said their goodbyes, parted ways and went back to their lives. Darwin, Alessandro, Ariadna, Toro and I were the last ones there. Alessandro gave me his bloodied pants to look after. lol. Darwin and he took off to get Alessandro to the airport. And Ariadna gave me a lift back to the hotel.
Once back, I celebrated with a large beer (stupidly) and tried to message Suss and watch some shit TV before crashing around midnight. Sleep was hard to find. Thoughts of redoing shots and working through the issues of the day haunted my brain… if only we’d had more days to shoot….
Friday 20th Dec
Screening DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, SVEN GUNNAR and MR CLEAN:
I felt like ass when my alarm shrilled at me to get up. I had been asleep for barely an hour or so, or who really knows? It was restless and stressy, but I had to get up and get ready and go to the location to meet Darwin and clean the place up.
I ended up taking a cab, as I was slow to get my shit together and why the hell not? But soon I was there before Darwin, as he was running late also. Although weirdly, while standing around the corner under a balcony and hiding from the rain, somehow the place was opened and I was able to start going inside and clean up, before Darwin arrived. But by then I really wasn’t feeling good. I was coming down with something.
It was a strange come down feeling, to be back in that empty place and look at the remnants of the shoot and try and put it all back as it was as if none of us was ever there. Darwin and I were hustling, but also reminiscing about funny moments on the shoot and how we missed everyone already in between lifting, stacking chairs, sweeping etc. My sore feet were soon the only real proof that we had shot anything at all.
Between us we packed up the gear to return, packed up my gear and found that I was missing one or two batteries… for the BMPCC4K, but everything else seemed to be there, and working, although some things were a bit more scuffed up than usual. But also he hadn’t brought the BMPCC4K and monitor with him, or his hard drives, so I couldn’t break that down or back up all of the footage while working.
Once we got that done, and the rental gear had been picked up, Rinat came to meet us in the cafe from the night before for as late breakfast. Then once we’d eaten and had some tea, we moved on to another location.
By the way, all this time I was more nauseous and resigned to coming down with something… fuck…
Darwin returned with the camera and monitor, while I was backing up all of the footage, I broke the gear down and packed it. Definitely missing at least one battery.
Darwin then reminds me that we need to do Spanish subtitles. WTF! I’d asked him months ago for help writing them and he’d just mentions it now, at 2pm on the day, with the screening at 6pm!?!?! I hurriedly took all the text from the film, as best as I could remember it and formatted it for Darwin to write the Spanish text. Which he duly did. But could I get it into the film and rendered in time?
Rubi showed up with a lovely temp poster for LOVELY TO MEET YOU and then they raced off together to go set up the event.
Then once all the footage was copied across, Rinat and I left to trudge back to my hotel to dump the gear, grab food and head back to the room, for Rinat to chill and watch TV and for me to hurriedly try and do the MR CLEAN Spanish subtitles in FCP X. Not easy when you’ve not done it before and have no plugins for it and your laptop is suddenly on a go-slow.
I soon found a plugin, and once I could get FCPX to stop crashing, as quickly as I could, I built-in the Spanish text – but it was furiously trying to render each bit and struggling.
By then Darwin had called Rinat off to the venue. And I was getting worried, as I only had two hours to get the subtitles finished and the video rendered and get ready and get my arse to the screening.
As it happened, the rendering was going to take much longer. At 5pm I set off a render of the film, and I watched the bar slowly update the percentage – no way near fast enough. Meanwhile I had shaved, showered, dressed and was anxiously waiting until it got to 5.30 and the file was only 60% done… fuck!
I stupidly carried my laptop and hard drive (while rendering) and jumped into a cab that I ordered. The cab driver sets off at haste. As I am buckling and we head towards a roundabout, the hard drive cable decides to uncoil and flip the hard drive off the laptop and into space, sending it crashing to the floor and separating from the cable and even though I was lightning quick, by then the render had crashed, the session was fucked and it took two reboots to get the machine working again… but this time, as I am in the cab, no render is happening. FCP X is crashing… But it gets worse!…
The cab driver was a well-meaning dolt. He nearly got us killed twice, once on that roundabout as he wasn’t paying attention to another car that had to stop suddenly, fiddling with his GPS. The second time, as he was making an illegal turn, down a one-way street and driving onto a major road was quite terrifying. But then also, when I realised that we’d been 20 mins into a 15 min max journey and saw him continually messing with the GPS and muttering, I decided to check up on him. We were no closer to the event. He’d gone 20 minutes in the wrong direction! I gave up trying to do the files and hoping I would arrive on time. Now I was just hoping that I’d arrive at all – once I discovered we were now 35 minutes in and still 15 minutes away, but now having to retrace our steps before we could go in the right direction! Wtf!
I eventually arrived at 6.30 ish and luckily when he dropped me off he said “no pay”., “so sorry”….“Too fucking right mate.” What a shambles.
I met Darwin in the empty foyer, with an equally empty red carpet. He hurried me into the venue and weirdly, as they were screening our films, he guided me to the back of the auditorium to sit with Toro. Ok. Where was everyone else? And why was I at the back?
So despite wanting to try and render off a new file and show it later with Spanish subtitles, after some speeches, MR CLEAN was on first, sadly only in English and now it’s all too late… and this is the point where it gets weirder… These girls in fabulous frocks come into the venue, on really high heels that they could barely walk in and they start falling down the stairs. Luckily grabbing chairs mostly to stop plunging down. But no one is graceful. And one big lass falls on me, then proceeds to chat with her friends behind us so in parts I barely heard Luca’s amazing sound mix and Flora’s amazing score. And my temp colour grade didn’t look so good from where I was sitting… too dull on the small projector… and then with moody teens tromping up the stairs in loud shoes and making a right racket and people talking amongst themselves and playing on phones throughout before and behind me…. And before I knew it the film was over! It was a blur.
Soon SVEN GUNNAR and DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE were also done, and only then I’d finally recovered from the stress and the distractions. Then there were speeches, from Rubi, from Toni, etc. And at some point after a speech that I sadly didn’t understand, about domestic abuse, Darwin and I were brought up on stage and presented with certificates, in a frame each, for our ‘certificate of appreciation’ (Certificate of recognition for your participation in the short film, DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, as a writer from the council of Hospitalet de llobregat).
At this point, I am called down to come on stage. By the way, at this point almost everyone (if not everyone) who went to do this tripped on the red step on their way on to the stage, from the right-hand side. So I decided to just step up elsewhere and managed to get up without incident.
After I got my diploma (I think from the minister of culture) Darwin offered me a microphone and said “say something”, and I replied “about what?, “about the film” he said, so after some thought I tried to remember what I drafted for him to say about the film, how it was designed to spark a discussion about Domestic Violence, how it was intended to highlight how bad it can be, and that although it is extreme we don’t even go as far as some of the very real cases. I talked about the symbolism of the black dot, the very real case on Spanish local TV that morning and the case of the woman who got her partner arrested at the vets. I hoped it was understood.
Afterwards, randomly again, the girls in the frocks started tottering past while we were still stood on stage, as a fashion show began. So we left the stage and returned to our seats. Toro and I clapped through the show, and enjoyed the folk dancing and another speeches before it was all over.
As the lights came up I saw the others in the audience, as we were all called to go back on stage and pose for photos. And it was good to be reunited again after the wrap. And good to see Alejandro again and thank him for everything.
Once the event was done, some people wanted pictures with me, which was new for me. Then when we were outside, more pictures with others in the audience. Ok. Perhaps I need to get used to this? Then more hanging around, chatting.
– I really did enjoy the event, the generosity of the local council and the hard work everyone put getting this event sorted. I did nothing, beyond arriving late etc. But Darwin and Rubi and co all worked their butts off to help the event go smoothly and I really appreciate it. Just in case my bitching gets in the way of my appreciation. It was great. Thank you so much! I’m just trying to honest reflect on where my head was at the time… –
Bear in mind at this point I felt rough. I was tired and hungry. It was 7.30pm at the latest. But more like 7pm. And then we didn’t go somewhere to eat until 9pm, with all the yammering. Then at a cafe, we got a drink, but when we tried to order food they didn’t have anything I tried to order / wanted from their menu. Luckily by this time Carmen had kindly given me some pills for the cold, as she and Ariadna etc were all now suffering too.
It was so nice to see some of the guys again, as if we got a second quieter smaller wrap party of a different sort. And then another small sad parting as some of the group had to go.
By 10pm, I was wanting to go. It hard started raining and we still hadn’t eaten. Finally we went to a nearby restaurant and Darwin calmed me down with some food. I was proper livid until the first food hit my blood stream. Sorry. But anyone who knows me, knows to feed me. Don’t poke the beast. You’ll lose a limb. “Yo tengo mucho hambre”.
Ariadna very kindly picked some of the best local food for us and soon Toro and I were happy, with full bellies. Darwin riffs about writing with me and describes what I do as “formatting a script” which he meant as a compliment, but seriously if that’s all you think writing is, you need help. So on one hand we share an award for the narrative for DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, but on the other my writing partner has no clue as to the difference from his crude story points to my script, other than formatting… weird and unrelated to the shoot, but to me it really highlights how misunderstood Script Writers and how their contributions to the creative process actually are often unrecognised. But this is after getting a certificate and an award…
Around 11pm I really needed to go. Despite the previous hangriness and ‘formatting,’ Darwin and I parted ways happily at the metro as we went off in different directions. And I made it back to the hotel through the pouring rain around 11.45pm. I took a beer and some water from the bar… but couldn’t drink it. I felt too sick.
I think I somehow went to bed around 1am, confused and exhausted but too tired after too much late night food. I couldn’t meditate due to coughing – but I could lie in. The DO NOT DISTURB sign was hung outside.
Saturday 21st Dec:
Sick in bed
I had a miserable restless night. Full of fever. Restive.
Once I’d coughed up enough, I tried to get some water down me and then speak to Suss on the phone. We had a good chat and then I tried to rest again. But definitely had to get up to cough up the green stuff periodically, until I decided to sit up in bed and try and catch up on correspondence etc.
Eventually – by 1pm – I managed a shower, took more pills, dressed and hit the bar up for a tortilla sandwich and a coke, before shakily making my way back to the room.
I messaged the others hoping to see them later. But worst case I could stay in all day if I felt too ill later. I started working on this shoot journal, while watching show reels for actors who had contacted me.
I also created a folder added all the pictures and videos in from my phone, from the shoot to share with the cast and crew. And once I finally had time to let the files render, I was easily able to export two Spanish versions of MR CLEAN to use, and started uploading one to Vimeo for a potential preview screening, to make up for those who couldn’t attend or saw it and didn’t understand it.
Eventually after I had done a fair bit of journal writing and realised that it was about 7.30pm, and I now needed to meet Darwin at 9pm, I went down to the hotel bar and ordered a beer and a meal Although Darwin said I should meet him earlier than planned and we could eat etc, I knew it would get random and my stomach comes first. And would I even make it out?…
Despite feeling sick, I got to Urgell. I checked the map, and a small child crashed into me while not looking where she was going and started screaming. I met Darwin and Stanley and we went for a beer. By then the heavens had opened and a terrific wind came up out of nowhere. Punishment for hurting a child?
Darwin told us about the deal he was close to closing – it was exciting. When they were planning to move on and finally get some food around 11, I headed home, whipped by the illness.
As soon as I got back to Almeda, the wind was even fiercer. I had to do my jacket up, and lean into the wind, just to get back to the hotel, like a comedy ginger Chaplin. Once there, vodka and coke in hand, I stumbled up 3 flights of dark stairways. Weirdly the power was on in the foyer, but the rooms were all without power and around the block. Although the phones worked and smoke alarm still seemed to have power…. but my phone was still so broken that calling downstairs to enquire about restoring power was useless… the ghostly voices seemed louder…
Luckily I had charge, to see enough to get my drink to my mouth and watch BRIGHTBURN on my laptop. I watched half of the movie, brushed my teeth by the light of my phone and then hit the sack.
Sunday 22nd Dec
The trip back:
I was woken up twice in the morning… Once when someone was fumbling around upstairs or in the hall or next door. I can’t be sure. But they were tapping and banging on the walls in the dark, unsure about how to find their way in the dark of their room / the hallway and cursing…. Then I was woken again by the lights coming back on when the power was restored. Eventually I was woken again by people going for breakfast, I tried to nap but was woken again by texts.
I got up late, around 10:45 am. I showered sluggishly, coughed a lot of green stuff up, and packed my bags while I watched the end of Brightburn. I checked out on time but with difficulty due to all those bags and those stairs and needed multiple trips; then started work on a new piece in the hotel bar.
After eating, I got a cab – thanks to the nice cab driver not only helping me with my bags in and out of the cab, but also knowing where he was going (without any sat nav), and no almost crashes, and soon I was with Darwin and we stored the gear across the road in the accommodation where he’d been staying. Rubi and Julio were there and helped lock up and walked with us around a market, looking for late Xmas presents, and then off to the metro. There Darwin and I went to Barcelonetta, for us to share a Michelada outside in the sun. It was my first Michelada – a spicy beer cocktail. Nice. It was also lovely and crazy that it was sunny, dry, 18 degrees on the 22nd December and I was outside in a t-shirt and caught the sun a bit while chatting, and almost forgot feeling rough…
Back at Torassa, we picked up the luggage and repacked it for travelling, before we headed back to the metro. Rubi and Julio helped us down to the bottom of the station, looking after us and took a couple of pictures some last promotion. I was going to miss these guys. And I wish that I could speak more Spanish to communicate with them better. It’s very easy to see the attraction of the climate, the warm people and the life bustling all around you – different to my usual dark, wet, tree-obstructed Swedish view outside my window. And I really appreciate all they did to help the production and make sure the screening went smoothly.
Rinat was was going to the airport by himself. Darwin and I eventually met up with him after we had checked in the heavy case, gone through security and then eaten a nice meal at the first place we saw. Weirdly it was almost without stress. However, Darwin had been distracted by the disorganised queues and had forgotten his red suit case and gone through the x-rays. Meanwhile we’d both been test for drugs and explosives. Luckily he got it back ok, having to go back through the barriers first. Then we were all reunited, armed with drinks for what would undoubtedly be a swelteringly hot Ryan Air flight home and despite the long priority queues, soon on the plane.
Soon on the flight, apart from someone getting a bottle in the head, from the overhead storage upon boarding the plane, we were in the air and on our way back home to the cold and the darkness.
Once we got to the other side, and picked up our bags we hurried onto the bus just before it left, chatting on the way back. Back at T-centrallen, having just missed their last Tunnelbana, Rinat and Darwin helped divide the stuff / repack it and get me into a cab. There we exchanged Xmas greetings parted ways.
Back inside, bags dumped, I hugged Suss and then cuddled with Ruffs. It was lovely.
I climbed into the shower and then climbed into bed, exhausted and tried to meditate in between coughing…. but my head still swirled with all the thoughts of the production…
We had three objectives:
Shoot LOVELY TO MEET YOU
Get on TV again
Screen our three films
We did it all. On that level it was a success.
Did we make a good film? Only time will tell? Did we have a great cast and crew – yes! We were very lucky. We were still crazy to attempt this, but we did it. Could we have benefitted from more prep time? Undoubtedly. It was obvious how the pre-production was rushed and not complete and it did bleed over into the shoot. And could we use more shoot time? Hell yes! Double for sure.
However, despite all that, I really can’t wait to see it all and see the finished film. There were some great performances and some great shots. I can’t wait to go back to share the screening with this cast and crew later in 2020. And despite all my selfishness / hangriness, it was a pleasure to do this project and to share it with this amazing team.
And special thanks to Tony Rovira Y Tu and the Centre Cultural La Bòbila, L’hospital, Minister of culture and the Columbian Consul. Apologies if I missed anyone!
Lessons learned (that should be obvious):
Prepare sets / locations in advance, ready for shooting
Gather all props and wardrobe items before the shoot – you will lose shooting time chasing things down and lose manpower during crucial times – it is what pre-production is for!
Do a test shoot before hand if possible to be sure of lenses you will need / check framing / familiarise yourself with all gear
If you can use more shoot time, plan for that – especially if sets / locations not prepared in advance
If you can get more lights – do so. You will always use them and you will probably never have enough
Make sure to share biographies with actors to explain their history up until that point / shot and where they are coming from in approaching the scene
If doing a kill room with plastic, do not allow an actress to wear heels. It will tear the flooring and make a joke of continuity and logic
Do not plan complex rope tying, and then shoot out of sequence and expect it to match later
Do floor plans of each set / location and do plan the shoot out – make sure to include where catering will be, where makeup will be, where you can change lenses and keep gear to find it quickly and easily – to save needless moving stuff around repeatedly if it can be avoided. If not, allow more time for dicking around
If you can get someone to do script supervision / marking and logging shots etc, do allow them to actually do that. You will appreciate it later
If you read this far, you’re mental. But thank you. I <3 U. And if you’re a creative, I wish you much success in 2020.
Try setting yourself some crazy goals and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Who knows what will happen?
My Spanish is bad, so I can’t translate it for your. However, there will be a discussion panel, exploring the themes of the narrative of DFTB, with abuse survivors and a psychologist / expert, discussing the topic before and after the film. The event will be hosted by Tony Rovira (of TONY ROVIRA Y TU fame), there will be bands playing music, and last but certainly not least, we will also be screening SVEN GUNNAR (also directed by Darwin Reina) and MR CLEAN (by yours truly).
I know it’s a bit hard to travel there just to see a short film, or even three short films. But watch this space, because we might be able to arrange a special temporary online preview of the films… but you need to let us know now if you’re interested in that sort of thing… – so tell us in the comments below.. or email us…
But now that I’ve finished my rough colour grading, I’m just waiting on the sound mix and then we’ve got something to show them! And also we’re currently working on the Swedish premiere event in Stockholm also, as well as getting ready to shoot our next film LOVELY TO MEET YOU around the time of the event. So busy, busy, busy…
If you want to view a throwback to the DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE Premiere from earliest this year in May, play the video below and you might just catch a glance of me suddenly being interviewed… as well as Darwin, and see some of the cast too:
We’re all flawed… Very much me. Very much whatever I produce. But isn’t that what makes us unique?
I think if anyone ever consciously creates anything it usually doesn’t match what the original idea was, once executed. Even a child. I doubt anyone truly conceived the thing that has become me. It’s all one happy accident – a combination of numerous random factors and lots of added road miles and chemicals.
It’s very rare that the film you set out to make is the one you release. It’s no surprise that the editing process is often described as the third stage of the writing process – you write the film, you rewrite it in pre production and during the actual shoot (problem solving and adapting to reality) and then you rework and refine it in the edit, based on what you actually shot. Often compromise is heaped upon compromise and small changes reset the whole, as a result of the effect of collaboration with others.
This film is definitely not what I set out to make at the start. In fact it is bigger and more ambitious. Plotwise, it was a fun way to make a simple short, which could give Darwin and I something to do. Technologically, it would be a useful test of the Gh5 camera I purchased. Scopewise, it was simple – shoot it at home, mostly in a controlled environment and with a limited crew. We didn’t know anyone. We wanted to establish ourselves in Sweden as filmmakers and build a small network of likeminded collaborators. As with many endeavours, our desires overtake our ability in some ways and soon the plot became more ambitious, making the radio DJ and Studio a much more significant part of the film. Then I thought “why not throw in some FX in to the mix?”. This all impacted the Scope, the duration and the budget and the time to get it all done.
The shoot was chaotic at times, but mostly went well for our first shoot working together, despite cinematographers not showing up and not having enough people. With enthusiasm we shot stuff we hadn’t planned on getting. Brief moments became much longer scenes. And we also didn’t get stuff we planned to shoot – partly due to losing control at a few brief but significant moments. All of this added to the complexity of the edit task and once it grew beyond the script it became much tougher to reshape. But it’s all in the past now…
For my part, I inherited the edit, 4 months after having shot the film and having to start it from scratch, due to cross-compatibility issues with files across Premiere and FCP X. Mainly because I refuse to keep paying monthly fees for a buggy sluggish editing programme. Darwin had realised that our estimated 3 week edit timeline was unrealistic and then he’d begun to doubt and move on to other things and it was clear he was not moving forward with it. But I then had to pay the price of a blank slate and try and make up for lost time, when I took it all over. And in that time, the 6.5 months that followed, I had to first identify every shot I liked, then get that timeline down from 33 minutes of footage that told the story I wanted to tell, to the 6.45 mins of finished film that I have now. Constantly trimming and rearranging clip orders and trimming some more. – While also having a day job, writing a new script and shooting that film this summer…
Throughout, I’ve doubted myself constantly. Am I making the right choices? why didn’t I shoot X? How can I weave a narrative from this? Have I weaved a worthy narrative from this? Am I going insane? I must be insane to try and do this for an October 31st premiere? etc. And will anyone even care?
I’d like to think that there are less flaws with each successive project that I work on. That’s definitely what I aspire to – to improve upon everything I do. I think in many respects, this is my best film yet. But despite this, I am well aware of every flaw. How could I not be, after seeing the same shot hundreds of times and each one in a gamut of variations? And all while knowing what my original vision was for each tiny moment.
Essentially, I guess you could say that I am now in the Fine Cut stage. Which means that we have locked picture. We are now working on sound mixing and scoring and colour grading the film for its premiere screening. Is this merely like rolling a turd in sparkle and trying to make it something better than it is? I hope not. I hope the film is well received when the cast and crew see it. I hope that it doesn’t get a drudging by the critics and viewers and I hope that festivals treat it kindly. I hope for all of these things. But even if it gets a kicking from all quarters, I know that I am proud that I have seen it through this far and also will hopefully soon do so to the very end. And that is what I set out to do. I needed to finish this film. I have much more to make. And getting this film done is key to boosting my confidence to tackle more ambitious projects. It’s not perfect, but what films are? I will love it, despite its flaws. I will love it because of its flaws…
So far only a select few have seen the film in its current state. Darwin has suggested edits that have helped (especially one that revealed a continuity error) and others that sought to make the film more linear, until it then highlighted other shots we never got, that would have made that plan work. But it did highlight the fact that two shots I’d considered getting since the original shoot, were still needed to provide a more pleasing ending. As soon as Darwin came back from the US, we got the crew together again to do a fun pickup shoot and snag those shots in true guerrilla style (pics below).
The Composer (Flora) and Sound Mixer (Luca) obviously need that locked cut / edit in order to help them achieve their roles. The VFX Designer (Albin) needs them to work his magic etc. The only question for me is will I have to colour grade again or can I get some much needed professional eyes on this? Oh and the bonus question is always – will we get it done in time? The timeline is ridiculously tight. I am well aware of that. And it’s all my fault. If I had been quicker, the pressure would definitely be on me and not on others. I apologise profusely. But sh*t happens. But let’s hope that something marvellous happens under that pressure and things come together. And let’s hope that no one is broken because of the pressure of this deadline.
And regarding speed. How can you rush your way through an edit, where you essentially don’t know what the final point needs to look like – because the story you shot is more complex than the one you wrote? You can’t. Not really. And not when you have a job that has overly ambitious deadlines you also need to hit. Because. Wages… and then factor in a laptop needing a completely new keyboard and having to go away for two weeks, and software updates breaking the software – which took time to fix – and crashes, not just for me but also while Albin is rendering VFX. oh and having to edit a trailer you never knew you were expected to produce – because who puts trailers together for short films? – apparently it is a thing now. Lesson learned. All of this slows things down.
But there is always value in this process. You learn. All through the doing and failing, you learn and you improve. The lessons learned on this film helped make SVEN GUNNAR a much smoother shoot and edit I am sure. And, the way I feel about this short, is that the effort I have put in is akin to that of what working on a feature must be like. So why not tackle something bigger and more ambitious in the future? it certainly hasn’t put me off – although in the darker periods I’m sure I felt very differently about the struggle I was going through. …
In fact yes, there have been some very dark times. There has been sickness and stress, tears and self-recrimination and illness. There has also been laughter too, sometimes giddy and hysterical or drunken. And the metre has swung from abject loneliness to feeling like I belong to a tight-knit group of co-located professionals and also wondering why no one gives a shit about this epic one-man struggle of creation? Who will see anything other than a flawed, odd, film just shy of the 7-minute mark?
In the scheme of things, does any of this matter? No. Do I matter? No. You are always the only one that cares about your own movie. No one else will ever love it as much as you. And in this time of short attention spans and scrolling timelines, who can get anyone to really care anymore? So why do it? God knows. I only know that despite all the pain, it is a damn sight more interesting than the rest of my life and at the end of it I’ll have something to show to mark the time. And thanks for all the fish…
If you want to learn more about the film editing process, to understand why I’ve taken so damn long, READ MORE.
And as always, if you read all of this, thank you. But why? What makes you tick? What flaws do you obsess about?
And let me know if you want to watch this film when it’s finally done? And tune in after the 31st to find out if we made our premiere and if so, in what form?