The short script for IMPRINT has made it to the finals of the Swedish International Film Festival (SIFF) in the ‘Best Short Script’ category. It’s incredible, but great news that the short script is doing so well with 27 selections, numerous awards and festival placings. I know competition is tough, but fingers crossed.
And in other news, we’ve begun discussions with some potential cast members and are looking to progress the project and edge it towards development / pre-production.
This weekend we (Hasse and I) finished shooting TUMBLE DYING, a micro short comedy horror film about “what becomes of the lost and departed socks?” I’m exhausted now, but it was worth it. I think… I’ll know for sure when I’ve reviewed the footage and gotten into the edit and I’ve recovered from the exhaustion… but it was good to get the same award-winning team from COMFORT HIM back together, to try to make another micro comedy horror short and share more filmmaking adventures.
I wrote the original script for TUMBLE DYING, but Hasse wasn’t into it. However, after some discussion, he came up with a suggestion for a better / richer ending for the movie, and something that we could both get behind, that also homaged a shared favourite film of ours – so it was nice for him to get more involved on this one and for him to take over some more production duties and especially track down some essential props. And this was the second time that I got to work with Darwin behind the camera on one of my films, assisting me with the camera work, having originally helped me shoot COMFORT HIM; and he was a much more significant contributor this time – and actually helped push me through the entire shoot to get it done. Thanks to both of you for that!
Although it was only a 2 page script, it was a miracle that we managed to get it done in two days (except for one minor pickup shot that is needed); despite the weather, ridiculously difficult green screen shoot and sickness, we did it!
Note: as with my other shoot diaries – these are written as a stream of consciousness, recounting of what happened in the production phase, mostly the entries were written the day after each shoot day – due to such long production hours, while it was fresh in my mind, and they are not meant to be overly critical, just to be constructive documentation about what happened, of where certain aspects could be taken as lessons learned to enhance the quality of future productions. But mainly to document what happened, for when the memories begin to fade….
Friday – The day before – 28th August
I was woken, after a restless night, with a bizarre S&M thriller type dream, of a woman being terrorised by her Sadist boyfriend Frank and a young guy who wanted to rescue her, who was becoming tainted and enjoying the sadism like Frank, while the woman enjoyed it, but was ultimately going to abandon them both… like some twisted version of BLUE VELVET, but done Cockney style.
Obviously, I wasn’t well to have a weird dream like that. I had a bad stomach and woke up and immediately dashed across the house to worship the porcelain God. Great. Like I needed that today…
I had a busy day of work, long meetings that required lots of prep and diplomacy, some urgent scripting to do and a Tower of socks prop to finish for the film, food to cook for the shoot, all of the gear to prep and pack / arrange for filming and somehow to stop my body purging itself to see if I could even do the shoot tomorrow.
Luckily, the meetings went ok, and I even got some scripting done, despite the frequent dashes to the bathroom. I also had a call with Darwin to discuss gear to bring for TUMBLE DYING and if we needed a car etc. I had a call with the cast to check they were still coming, with Hasse to discuss logistics, discuss wardrobe etc and last minute additions to the crew to help with the sound, makeup (due to people letting us down and some unfortunate Covid-sounding illnesses) and more. And all the while, talking on the headset, I changed and charged batteries, I glued and stuck more socks on the Tower, and eventually completed it all.
Thanks to Suss buying me some pills from the pharmacy, I finally gained some control over my bodily functions. And I could try and rehydrate.
As a result, of a minor improvement, I cooked dinner for Suss and I, then cooked lunch for everyone for the day 1 shoot at mine, a huge curry and rice, and prepared breakfast etc. It was a huge undertaking, but I got it done. And all while wearing gloves, and making sure that all food hygiene rules were observed.
I then arranged laundry for props, remembering that we would lose time on the shoot if we had to wait for the laundry to actually complete a cycle, between sequences. And then I could finally look over the sequences and prepare for the mental side of the shoot… sort of. It was 9.15 pm when I finished, and then cast a look back over my notes and storyboards etc one more time. But my head wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t in the zone.
The toll, today’s illness had taken on me, was that I was at this point kind of a hollow and washed-out version of myself. And I wondered if I could rehydrate, and sleep enough to feel better over night and get through the shoot. Would it affect things?…
We had an early night. I tried meditating in bed to finish. But my brain was buzzing.
Saturday – Shoot Day #1 – Saturday 29th August
I got up sluggishly at 6.30 am, feeling like crap. Having been awake since 4.30am I think – thanks to the cat and my brain suddenly snapping wipe awake…. eventually getting up to shower. But I wasn’t feeling any better than the night before. Could I get through the day???? Should I cancel? I felt like death.
There was furniture to move, both for shooting and for people to sit on, breakfast for others to arrange, messages to answer (about where I lived, despite prior proactive messaging about it over the last two days and it being on the damn shoot schedule ffs! Always. Every film. Someone always doesn’t check), and a joke message from Darwin trying to fuck with me and tell me that he wasn’t coming, when he was outside the house already [he is a prankster], and then one by one Darwin and the others arrived; and I was trying to be a host, handle the catering / look after everyone and be the director / producer. Tricky. Too many hats. Not enough energy or limbs.
Soon when we were all there, we took the stuff down to the laundry (aka Tvättstuga in Swedish) feeling high in spirits.
The laundry was cramped, but also it had people in it other than us at first. First one of the community residents, as we waited for him to choose a laundry day which seemed to take him forever – probably because he was confused why 8 strangers lugging cameras and lights were waiting for him – and later when another woman came in and seemed sure that we shouldn’t be there! She thought it was her time to do laundry, but she had the wrong date! That could have been disastrous, if I’d cocked up the booking and we couldn’t film at all! While I was thinking I’d booked the wrong day and we’d have to abandon the shoot and vacate the location, she apologised and left. Phew!
We started outside, shooting the establishing exterior and it was sunny and pleasant. And as soon as we moved inside to do the main shoot, the heavens opened. We had heard rumours about potential rain, but after 2 weeks of zero rain, it seemed unlikely. But also the forecast was wrong. It didn’t just have a high probability of some rain, it was raining cats and dogs all day and night!
It was small in there, in my tiny laundry, so we couldn’t get all of the shots, at least not how I had imagined. And not without complex rigs to mount the camera on and plenty of time to burn to do that rigging etc. But we improvised, Mina sat on the Tumble Dryer at one point to hold the camera, and later got in the damn thing, to hold the legs, when the clamps wouldn’t! Her own suggestion I think. I certainly didn’t make her. She’s a trooper! And so talented as a filmmaker in in her own right.
I think despite us running over by two hours, we got almost every thing, save for one button push (which Hasse and I will get as a pickup shot). However, one slight issue – due to the rain being so persistent, I hoped it wouldn’t ruin the edit, to go from a sunny day, to interiors when the Gods are angry outside? And I hope it wouldn’t ruin the sound. But also, would it be like this tomorrow when the entire shoot was exteriors????
It was a day of compromises. I’d started the day with gloves on, mask etc, and the gloves kept splitting and tearing on the gear / switches etc of tripods and cameras and battery compartments etc. And the mask kept coming off. FFS. So much for corona protection. We really had tried. I bought all these masks etc. But instead, eventually we all opted for using hand spirit a lot and had to ignore the other elements. My hands ached from so much applied alcohol after that shoot…
Lunch seemed to go well and everyone seemed to like the food.
Emma had shown up around lunch, as arranged and sadly had more hanging around to do than I would have liked, and we made it a bit tough for her unfortunately by shooting her pieces largely unscripted and in reverse. Mainly because of the way we finished with Hasse’s setups, to save moving cameras and lights etc. This actually meant that she had to do everything in reverse, going from shock, to confusion and then to mild surprise… which must have been challenging. But she did really well. And even though we asked a lot of Hasse, and there was a lot of feeling our way through how to pull-off some of these shots technically due to the shots not matching our plans, he was great, patient, calm and in good humour and professional throughout. He even entertained the troops in between takes and then was ever attentive to being available when needed. What a great cast!
The fake legs worked well I think. And we were surprised, how despite not having any leaf blower and the fan I’d brought not being powerful enough to ruffle hair and clothes, like I wanted, that we actually got the fishing wire to work – although we did lose a bit of time in doing so – it looked great on camera.
Earlier in the day I had a delivery of a light that I urgently needed for the evening’s shoot. Mina’s friend Philip – who did sound recording for us during the shoot – went and picked it up for me. He also proved so very valuable to the shoot, as with Mina. We were very lucky to have them.
After everyone helped us get the stuff back to the house, it was time for most people to start to leave. Sami, Darwin and I stayed to try and get the screen sequences done. This meant unpacking the light that Philip had picked up for me, as we needed more light, whilst I backed up the day’s footage we had shot on each device, and then did numerous tests that we could check the keying, thanks to Darwin’s quick skills with After Effects. Then Hasse arrived – he had to leave, to go home and then pick up a car to return to pick up some stuff for tomorrow, and had been delayed by traffic disruptions caused by Climate change protestors versus Raggar Bilar US car fans; both blocking streets in the centre of the city and snarling traffic to a halt.
We had a problem though. No extra green screen, as I’d hoped we’d have – as the person lending it to us had gone away on holiday. Damn. So because Hasse is so tall and human arms are so long etc, we had a real problem trying to get the shots we wanted – to keep him in the shot, for masking around him – and we still had issues with getting a clean mask, as we still needed a little more light to kill any shadows; but as I’d been let down by a delivery during the week, we had one less light than we needed. Damn.
I was a bit spent, over tired, completely washed out and grumpy as hell at this point. We tried, but everyone was a bit deflated by it. Not for want of trying. And not for want of Hasse diving enthusiastically onto the ground doing his own stunts and screaming loudly and so amusingly, that it’s a miracle that the neighbours (who must have really wondered what was going on) never came to check on us or called the cops. lol. Now that would have been a story. As Hasse is an ex copper.
Eventually a call had to be made. I decided to sack it in for the day. Hasse had to go, Sami followed, taking the Tower of socks, spare socks, makeup, blood etc with them. Darwin and I then took the gear / lights down packed the gear and arranged it ready for the next day’s shoot before he left. And then I did the last prep for day #2.
Then at 9.30pm, I tried to wind down, to enjoy a drink, watch some comedy to distract myself etc.
I was in bed by 10.30pm again. I had no energy to even shower, and crashed into the mattress. However, I was over tired. It took a long time to shut my buzzing brain down and get some sleep. That and a resorb and quite a bit of water to rehydrate first. Maybe I’d be better tomorrow?….
Sunday – Shoot Day #2 – 30th August
I woke up / was woken by the cat wanting to go out and then at that point, after letting him out, I was unable to get back to sleep at 5am. I got up at 6am, once I was alert enough to realise I was one day into a shoot and had another day before me… or did I? Would rain stop play?
I showered, dressed creakily, and ate some of those leftover breakfast items from the day before, before messaging Hasse. I’d seen a break in the rain clouds and blue sky and it looked promising. Would we film / chance it? He agreed that the sky near his place, near the location, had also cleared. Let’s try to do this! Get ‘er done! … but sleep was much more what I wanted…
I rechecked my storyboards and notes, and by my estimation, I think we were only missing one shot for TUMBLE DYING – of the Tumble Dryer being turned on. Bums. But we could get that another time /later. More crucial shots awaited.
Darwin was coming to pick me and the gear up. He arrived on time. However, he again sent me another prank message, but I was already ready for it before I opened the door – both laughing as he read my reply to his text.
By 7.40 we were on the road, car packed and headed off to Hasse’s. We got there just before 8.30am, unloaded the gear and took it up to the apartment where Hasse was waiting for us. There while the others had breakfast, I rigged the camera and set up sound etc and had a look at what gear we would take with us / use. With it being an outdoor shoot, it was unlikely we’d need lights – especially if the weather held out. But we had them just in case.
We didn’t get out of there to the location as fast as I would like. Basically we didn’t get out of there until 10.30. Then Darwin, Philip and I scouted the location, Stora Skuggan, in Norra Djurgården. The fields near the car park weren’t working for me – not where we needed it to look like a deserted and lonely open field. As far as I could see, I saw lamp posts and cyclists, dog walkers and sunbathers and walkers. Damn. However, thanks to Darwin’s encouragement, we walked further and found an old open air amphitheatre on the other side of a small hill. This was perfect, because we could control the eyeline for the shot, without having to worry about runners, walkers and dogs, as long as we didn’t go too wide / pan and capture the lamp posts and paths. But we would have to contend with sheep shit, which was everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
Once Hasse (with fresh head wound applied – thanks to Mina) and co arrived, and as Dana and Emma joined us to be Shemps (aka bodies), we could finish unpacking the props and dress the set. We had distributed most of the socks before Hasse arrived, so the set was ready to receive the skeleton, limbs, skulls and the tower of socks and a crash mat. That done, we could then get onto the fall and the final scene. Suddenly, everything was getting too bright to see anything, or to think…
However, sadly, the ladder / fall scene wasn’t quite as dramatic as I’d hoped / high enough. Hasse did brilliantly with it. We were insane for even trying to pull it off in the first place, without a stunt double or dummy. But a higher ladder and bigger crash mat would have been better…. and we didn’t get to do the blood splat, with the pressure sprayer, as everyone felt that we were running of time / being behind schedule, so that would have to be CG again. More importantly, Hasse had a flight to catch – despite me telling him not to book anything after either day of the shoot! And everyone else needed to be places. Sod it… and then we had to content with double the amount of takes, with the sun now out – due to sun or clouds alternately screwing with continuity; which wasn’t helped when I then realised a sock was in the wrong part of the shot. We needed it later, to shoot Hasse hitting the ground and for the sock to land on him, to join it up with the fall. Now it needed to be reshot…. And have you every thrown a sock? They do not go to plan, and it took probably ten goes before I cast one and it seemed to land in a good location on the 2nd attempt…. and for all of this, we couldn’t really see what we were filming at all! We couldn’t see if it was in focus, due to the now punishing sunlight which made it impossible to see the brightest of camera screens / monitors, even when wearing a reflector on your head (as I do).
However, we did get everything done by around 2pm and then hastily packed away and cleared up the scene of the crime; we covered up the blood patches with sand, scooped up the socks and bones and bodies, and left it as we found it; we made sure all the props were collected for being returned, before sadly crushing the tower of socks – after 5 days of work it really did come apart in seconds, once a heavy boot was applied to it. It was sad, but we needed to get it so that it would fit in Hasse’s vehicle, with the crash mat and props etc, with real and fake bodies to be taken back to Hasse’s.
Back at Hasse’s, we ate a lovely veggie lasagne, thanks to Hasse’s culinary skills, had a nice meal together and de-rigged the cameras and better packed the gear for transport home, parted ways and got on the road. Not quite the wrap we wanted, but the best under the covid circumstances, and with everyone’s prior arrangements. I just wished I’d managed to enjoy the shoot more and goof around with the others more. But we were up against it for sure.
Thanks to Darwin, we got back to mine around 4pm. I backed up his hard drive and then said goodbye, before trying to get everything back into my office, unpack and then back-up everything; then once showered, rehydrated, I tried to fix my now zombified brain, which had crashed despite it only being a two-day shoot.
I was sore and achey. But despite the stresses and trials, I was truly grateful for the combined donations of all of the socks, for the enthusiastic time and help of the team, for the support and the love that the project has gotten. I really appreciated everyone’s contribution, collaborative efforts. And the only critique I had about myself, was that I must learn not to be so testy when I am over tired and stressed. Because I do have a problem with lack of good humour when I get that bad.
The key was to rest up… or postpone?
Lessons learned / Conclusions
Either don’t shoot if ill, or arrange a backup plan / don’t try to do everything yourself and learn to rely on others
Rest up before the shoot. Fitting everything in, like building that tower and working on it every night after work, was not ideal. Sadly due to shoddy delivery standards in Sweden, there was no alternative. Things really do take too long for items to be delivered than back home – where the dream of next day delivery is a reality.
Conduct a proper recce / location planning / on site, complete with diagrams etc.
Ensure you have all of the right gear for a location shoot e.g. a tent over the camera and operator, so you can stay out of the sun and get the shots…. or adopt an eye piece / eye loupe style viewing system.
Do a full test shoot. We only did a green screen test shoot, but maybe I should have done a proof-of-concept first.
Check over every prop and accessory – not being able to gauge the size of the crash mat or the height of the ladder from the videos / pics that I’d seen, meant it was impossible to do anything but improvise during the shoot.
Hire a green screen studio or create a proper one, where full body stunts can be done.
Having said all that, I think that we did pretty good considering. I know we got some good-looking shots. I just haven’t looked to see if we got all of the right shots. But it was a fun adventure, despite the issues. Thanks again to the team for carrying my tired ass and putting up with my short temper. And thanks to you all for reading.
I am as interested as your are, to see whether we can pull off something as good, if not better than COMFORT HIM, with what we shot.
We’re very pleased to share that COMFORT HIM had its first official selection – at the Venice Awards. Nice. 🙏 – well done team! Thanks to Karen for updating the posters. And already, as a result a few more film festivals have generously reached out and offered discount codes to submit the film to their festivals, so such results do pay dividends.
We will be releasing some behind the scenes (BTS) materials soon, about the making of the film. So stay tuned for that.
This happened just before we hit 7K views. Nice. So our micro short has begun its film festival journey and people are also enjoying it – well apart from 1 dislike on YouTube and 1 dumb comment on Twitter, but that’s still not a bad success rate if you think about it 😉 .
Breakdown of views across different platforms – 1 month after release:
= 7016 views
We are very satisfied with the results. It’s a great start. Let’s hope people can continue to like and share it! Because remember:
Liking helps these films get picked up in algorithms, for more people to see them and help us attract more views.
And more importantly, sharing is caring! If you share the film, more people will see it and this will inspire us to make more films. 😉 – thanks to everyone that has already done so!
NEW MICRO SHORT FILM: Hasse and I have officially begun pre-production on our next comedy horror short, called TUMBLE DYING. We’ve started asking people to donate socks, we’ve been gathering props and finalising the shooting schedule, with a date earmarked for the end of August.
THREE PROJECTS IN DEVELOPMENT: We have some exciting potential projects in the works. But we can’t really tell you much about them. Sorry – but soon as I can, I will! Two of them are feature projects earmarked for possible development in 2021, and one of them I am working on at the moment. But there’s also a new short, tentatively titled called HEAR SOME EVIL, that I can’t wait to tell you more about, when it is ready. It’s a return to form of more in-depth and ambitious short films. The reason I am so excited about the latter, is that it’s the second script that is being written after all of the work I’ve done forcing myself to plan scripts and to become a plotter, instead of a pantser. However, all three projects are collaborations and so in time, I’m hoping my improved approach to plotting helps bear some impressive fruit and be able to firmly embed this new approach in my ways of working.
DESEO EQUIVOCADO: Darwin is off in Barcelona, shooting this latest short film without me sadly, although my gear is there and helping him get it in the can. But good luck to him and the team. The film was originally going to be done earlier in the year, but with it being shot while I’m back at work, and while I’m sick, and have no money for the trip, it’s not really an option for me at the moment. And with things being the way they are with the virus in Barcelona, it was a bit too risky overall. But I can’t wait to see it when it’s edited.
MR CLEAN – the short – has had a few rejections recently, sadly. It’s bound to happen, especially with the increased number of film festivals that are cancelling, or having to cut down what they can show during virtual / online events. But there are many more festivals that have delayed and still yet to decide its fate. We’re still very positive about its chances after such a positive start to its festival journey. But it’s always dispiriting when one of the choices was quite a key one to wish for.
MR CLEAN – the feature – is still sort of on hold. I failed in my task to get it done during the summer. I ended up writing two shorts, planning another two shorts, shooting NO TELL, and working on another feature project, and allowed all of those things to get in the way. Work is ongoing, albeit at a slower rate. I am very conscious that I am at a crossroads, re which direction I choose to take with it. As soon as I wrestle it into place in my mind, I will be much happier to proceed at pace. I just have to fill in an important blank for the middle of the plot. But when i do it, I will let you know about how I’m going about it, as I’m using some interesting tools to help me get there.
And the only other news of note is that I am sick right now. I got sick two days into being back at work weirdly. I hope its not Covid, but I’m not sure what it is…. But I feel pretty rotten at the moment. And as usual work deadlines will and are already having an impact on projects. I do miss being on Furlough, although the reduction in pay was significant. But productivity has been high elsewhere.
This weekend we (Darwin Reina and I) finished shooting our 6th film together – NO TELL, a gangster film about “what price can buy loyalty?” (In order – we have shot MR CLEAN, SVEN GUNNAR, LOVELY TO MEET YOU, MAI PIU, COMFORT HIM, NO TELL) and got to realise / ‘get it in the can’, our 4th script collaboration together (we’ve co-written DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, SVEN GUNNAR, LOVELY TO MEET YOU, NO TELL and HUSH MONEY TOWER). I’m exhausted now, but it was worth it. And I think this was our best collaboration yet, to some extent. And to think I almost didn’t get to work on it…
(originally I cowrote the script with Darwin. A good while after, it was announced for production in Sweden in July, and I was going to be losing my job, Covid hit and then all bets seemed to be off about being able to help produce it with him, due to financial issues and lack of time – and as I was busy with my own productions, he already had a crew for that and another writer had come aboard to tweak the script for him. Later, there was talk of a production meeting or read-throughs, and how to do it with social distancing, but nothing ever came of it for me until, I’d later find out that meetings already happened without me despite no contact about them. I was ok with this. But I basically did not come aboard the production until the Sunday before the shoot (4 days prior), once Darwin and I actually had a video chat. And I never saw the script version we actually shot, not until during the shoot when there was no time to read it and I only saw the shot list for day 1. I was still working from my last script version – hopefully that goes to show how last minute / slightly unprepared it all appeared to me, only because I wasn’t updated to the level of everyone else.) – despite that, we did it. We pulled it off! Everyone involved gave it their all.
This was the second time that I got to work with Toro (LOVELY TO MEET YOU and NO TELL) an amazing stunt performer, gymnast and talented actor from Spain), third time working with Hasse Brontén (SVEN GUNNAR, COMFORT HIM and NO TELL) and Isabella (makeup) the first time working with the remaining cast and crew – Dana, Didrik, Mina, Petrus, Reza, Ricky and Sydney. And I’d happily return the favour and work with any of them again.
Although it was a 11 page script, we managed to get it done in three days (except for one pickup shot that is needed, due to a last minute casting change); despite the heat, Covid, disappearing or breaking equipment and last minute cast and crew changes we did it!
From the first day of rehearsals to the last day of production, every reading helped get each cast member to a much better final delivery and then every read-through and blocking rehearsal then gave us more room to add small details in, to enhance each scene. So the end of the production showed a massive improvement from the rough beginning.
And lastly, it’s great to think that when I first met Toro, two years ago for the premiere of DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, and Darwin and I first discussed potential casting for this film with him (when the film was potentially going to be produced in Barcelona), that we finally got to do it with him. It took longer than expected, but we got there. 🙂
As with my other shoot diaries – these are written as a stream of consciousness recounting of what happened in the production phase, mostly the entries were written on the way back from set, while it was fresh in my mind, and they are not meant to be overly critical, just to be constructive documentation about what happened, of where certain aspects could be taken as lessons learned to enhance the quality of future productions. But mainly to document what happened, for when the memories begin to fade….
Wednesday of rehearsals – 15th July
After a morning of doing DIY, I headed off to rehearsals. I got lost and went 10 mins in the wrong location, thanks to Google maps missing one digit off the number when I had copied the address into the app. So technically, despite aiming to get there early I arrived second to last, like a bumbling, confused and slightly rain-soaked muppet.
I met Mina (Clapper board, Script Supervisor and helping with Continuity), who I’d not worked with before, but knew her work as a filmmaker. And then Dana (playing Shorty and Co-Producing) came down to take us up to meet Reza (Sound Recording), Didrik (Playing Jimmy), Petrus (Playing ‘removal man’) – and this was the first sight of the cast members having fun with the fake guns, which caught me by surprise as they pointed them at each other and had fun with the blowback – something I’ve never seen on a set before due to respect for gun training, even when purely using prop guns. Then Hasse (playing Pancho) and Darwin (Producer, Director, Writer and 2nd camera) arrived, for us to go up to the roof to do the rehearsal.
I shouldn’t have really needed to be there for all of it – it was good just to meet everyone – as the writers don’t usually get to be there and usually we feel like we get in the way. But it was clear that some of the cast could do with some input into how certain lines were supposed to be interpreted / pronounced and I was happy I could help.
One actor really needed help at first, was mispronouncing some words and didn’t know them by heart yet (even when reading off the page), and another also needed to understand what he was saying in both English and Spanish (he’d not encountered some of the slang before and some lines in another language), despite a few read throughs before, but I hoped we’d get through it ok. I think that where such issues exist, writers can be useful in these instances, to help guide or advise on cuts and last-minute rewrites to fix problematic passages. But I was really impressed with those actors that were new to me, and the more prepared members of the cast, who had done the work on their lines and delivered them pretty much on point.
But I couldn’t help as much, for all of the new scenes I encountered in the read-through, as the script had been changed since Darwin has last locked it. And no one had circulate it to me, so I didn’t have the right pages.
After that, around 1.30pm, we went to lunch and then we parted ways, and Darwin took Toro and I to his place, to say hi to his family and rearrange the place for the future day’s shooting. After that, after moving furniture, and trying to create a set we could use, we went back to my place, to sit in the garden and talk through the plan for some scenes, before grabbing some food.
After the food they headed home. It was 9pm. And what I thought would be a few hours, had taken up all day. F*ck. Not a problem, but there had been no clear expectation that beyond the rehearsals I’d lose some of that time. However, the production needed that discussion I think, to help shape Darwin’s thoughts and try and prepare for any potential problem areas.
However, I was gutted that I hadn’t managed to keep appropriate social distance. I do think a mask and gloves might be needed. People are really desperate to hug and get in your face on film sets. I tried to bump elbows and keep away… but other people…. I feel silly about it, but I am in the risk category due to my lungs… but yet also, how is that going to work if it’s hot and close conditions on set?
I was mentally exhausted. Tried to rehydrate, but despite drinking as much as possible all day, I had a pounding headache. So despite it being 10pm I was already getting ready for bed. I tried to sleep and shake off this head pain. But eventually could only shift it once I took a Resorb.
Thursday Day#1 of NO TELL shoot – Thursday 16th July
I managed to sleep last night. Nice. The resorb helped me sleep and yet, despite drinking some more water I was somewhat dehydrated in the night. However, some sleep was possible. Awesome. This is an improvement on my sleep before past shoots. Huzzah!
I had already arranged everything / all the gear by the front door ready to go. This was before I tried to assemble an instagram account name list for posts on social media for NO TELL. It felt good to achieve a few things before the day’s chaos. Collating lists of social media accounts involved is always helpful to ease sharing once production is up and running.
Note to self: wear a mask, Stay safe and drink a lot of water! Also, would we get the shots we need? would I hold my tongue / keep my head?
Darwin and Toro arrived at mine at 10am I think and instead of us all heading off right away, they stayed for a drink, and we sat in the garden, discussing the plan for the shoot. Then we were off to Hammarby, to Panne Fresco. First, Darwin wanted food, as we got there early, so we went to have Enchilada’s across the street, then Dana told us off when he arrived, as we should have been eating in PF. Oops. Oh well. No one said anything beforehand.
It was a good sunny day, but as we would need air con off, and doors shut etc, it meant for a warm foetid day of indoor shooting mainly (and this was just like every day of the shoot as the weather got warmer again). So we scouted, checked out where to set up makeup, where to aim cameras, and began the tasks of moving all the gear in – which Toro and I did almost single-handedly, once everyone got distracted. They all came out to help as we neared the doors, but by then we were both sweaty and had done the bulk of it, getting from the car to the door. Not a great way to meet everyone and get started, as sweat pours from you and you’re already up against the clock, and being asked to help in multiple directions at once. But it all goes better eventually.
I rigged the camera, tripod, and also helped Mina with the lights and Reza learn the Zoom unit and set up the mic etc and tried to help guide Mina re unpacking the lightstands, filling out the shot list form etc. And then Darwin and I needed to plan the shot and light the scene. We probably didn’t get the first shot in the can until after 2.30pm. I was getting a bit nervous by this point, that we would be going until midnight at this rate. But things picked up, as they always do, once you warm up. And people soon began to pull together as a unit.
This day’s shooting began with shooting Jimmy and Pancho, and the bodyguards, with the briefcase, the all important set up scene; shooting normals and reverses of their dialogue. I really liked how they both played the scene and also especially how Hasse hit the same marks each time and both were happy to cheat things when we needed to do so from another angle. And to anyone else on set, who had no specific role at that moment, they were brilliant helping hold these huge sun umbrellas to block out sunlight and essentially being human flags! Thank you so much for that – because we’d been promised a really dark area with no light, and had the exact opposite. This is where the importance of location recce’s being done right comes in. No recce had been done by knowledgeable crews. But we got through it anyway.
Then it was time to do the dream sequences, Dana’s fun coke sniffing scene in slow mo, flanked by Ricky and Sidney, the bodyguards – having fun with their smaller roles, and Isabella in the background. And then Toro’s kissing scene, with a hastily rigged curtain backdrop, the others as walk-ons in the background, with Mina and Isabella, out two beautiful ladies on set, suddenly glamming up and stepping in as extras to nail the scene and make it seem like a bigger production than it was. Mina was great on camera, very photogenic and nailed the last take of firing the cards. Dana managed to get a great shot in slow motion, as he faked the coke kicking in, from the line he snorted. Darwin and I also dropped cards nearer to the camera and also got the timing better on this last take, to tie up better with the ones Mina was firing-off.
We had some lovely slices of pizza, thanks to the very kind restaurant Panne Fresco. And Sylvia was very helpful and understanding, when we needed some quiet from the kitchen areas nearest where we were shooting, as they do like to shout and pound / tenderise their steaks etc.
From there, after some pictures with Sylvia – to thank the owner / manager of the restaurant – we went out to film the mafia crew, walking along the sea front, in slow motion, to the amusement of those enjoying and evening drink / meal out by the water. And then we all had a little ice cream, also free and very much appreciated from Panne Fresco – a much needed little sugar pick-me-up – and a chat with some of the guys, and bond, before we then went to Tyresö, for the woods murder scene.
We had to decide between two locations. They asked about Rågsved or Tyresö. I knew my area, Rågsved, but said as far as I knew they were mainly actual roads and not paths, but it was nearer. In hindsight I think we should have gone there. Especially as it has a real murder history, instead, we went to Tyresö. I had asked multiple times, previously, ”you know where you’re shooting and you’ve done a recce right?” and had been assured that they knew the area well. It was only when we got there that Darwin was complaining that it was taking too long, and so I suspected that they hadn’t been there, and then when I saw the path that we were to use, I knew no proper recce had been done. It was impossible to drive far enough into it. It was at the edge of a small turning car park on a residential street. It seriously limited our options and light was fading. We’d left it too late. We either should’ve hustled sooner… or I think planned some pickups / do a reshoot??? But we cracked on and tried to fake it as best as we could… However, I think the all important drone pickup shot, that we didn’t get to do on the day will help save that shot and enrich the film…
We hastily grabbed what we could from the car and filmed the car driving down the track, as the bad guys disembarked from the car. Then shooting them as they were checking out their hostage, from the back of the car, for the murder scene, with Ricky wearing a nice head wound and being trussed up in the boot. Ricky did a great job, considering he hadn’t known about it until an hour earlier. The scene was tense, because of lack of time, cramped shooting conditions, as I tried to lie on my side in the back and work the camera, and then the little tripod broke – completely f*cked-broke and lay in pieces. As soon as I took it out of the bag, which it had been in since SVEN GUNNAR, first one of the legs fell off! Some plastic came out of it, and then the tripod head was not fixed and wouldn’t come back off and was almost impossible to hold steady. Given more time I would have swapped to a sand bag! WTF! But it was my fault for trusting it was good and not testing it prior to the shoot.
We also ran out of gas for the blowback gun at this point. Which is a shame as it was key to the finale of the day. But all that previous playing with the guns came at a price. NOTE: always pre-buy more gas cannisters than you need, for such effects.
Petrus was really helpful, holding lights for the shoot, and I rigged some up from the boot too, to uplight the guys, and tried to ignore the mosquitos and the pain of the weird angle I had to lie in to take the shots and work the camera.
Sadly, we didn’t get all of the coverage I felt we needed, not like the exhaust shot etc. But soon by 9.30pm we were done and the light was long gone.
Darwin and I packed up the car again, and he and I walked the location, I found some cable ties that needed to go in the bin, but we’d not lost any gear / left anything key behind… at least, as far as I knew….
Hasse then drove me back and we had a good chat about the day’s shooting, as the others all headed back to their respective homes. He was happy with how things were going, which was great.
Back at home, my head was better than the previous night, due to drinking more water all day whenever I could, I had a drink while we watched some Japanese film about Cherry Blossoms and Lepers, which looked beautiful and moving. But I was so tired, I could hardly focus, then I took a resorb and headed straight to bed. I think I did so at 10.30pm and hoped I could sleep and rest up before the #2nd shoot day began.
Friday – day#2 of NO TELL shoot – 17th July
I woke up to the sound of my alarm, shocked wide awake, feeling like I was only just sleeping properly. It was so hard to force myself to wake up, that it wasn’t until I made it to Darwin’s that I felt I was awake – an hour later! I got there at 8:15.
We hadn’t been given the code. So I called him and he didn’t answer his phone. So I stood there beneath their balcony as I saw the open kitchen door, and shouted up (sorry neighbours!), until Darwin and Tessa heard me and then I was able to get in. NOTE: Put access codes on the shoot schedule. Otherwise even having the address is pointless if you can’t get in. And answer your phone if you’re expecting cast and crew. lol. Some of them later arrived and had issues finding the parking, as that information also wasn’t on the schedule.
Once there, we had a chat while Darwin fixed me some breakfast. That was really kind of him – he really did his best to look after everyone through the shoot and that was much appreciated. I was done with mine by the time the next people arrived. Then I tried to keep my distance (for Covid) and be on the balcony, while everyone else sat close in the kitchen and ate.
It was a hard day, because of the heat and the lack of fresh air in that apartment, Once we blocked off the windows and airways in the living room and rigged up curtains over the empty doorway, to prevent like leakage etc, so we could light the place. In fact, it was a slow start over all. I don’t think we really got anything in the can until maybe the early afternoon, due to lighting, running through and changing lines where needed, to simplify things a bit, where Dana wasn’t getting his / was having trouble. But we were able to finish by 7pm which was a shock to everyone.
The day’s focus was shooting the poker scene, the build up until the gun play starts, shooting the normal angle and the reverses. I think we got some good stuff. Apart from b-roll, Darwin had me on the wider shots (twoers and threers), while he purely took care of close shots / oners. But I like to think that the two cameras was helping us get through things quicker that way, reducing the need for even more setups. Hopefully the captured footage would support that and provide plenty of options in the edit for Darwin.
By the end of the day, we could feel that the actors were in character more. They all relaxed and had fun with it, especially watching Pancho’s big monologue. And the team had been bonding more around food and sharing their love of films. This helped everyone gel better. It helped because when it later gets tense, like when one actor was having issues with their lines and was needing a lot more takes from everyone to get it, it means that people try and pull together, to help everyone catchup.
My only personal low points, were when I realised that one of the small lights was missing (last seen at the restaurant or the woods scene??? – who knows, RIP my lovely light), those ones that I’d been using since MR CLEAN, and the small tripod was properly fucked still, and then my trusty monitor suddenly went on the blink and I was left with the on camera screen. Although it shouldn’t have helped, either it was because I was forced to leave it off for a bit to cool down, or the change of battery – despite running it off mains power – that brought it back to life. However, once it did cool down and then started working, I felt a little better about things and was better able to check focus. But it is a pain when you have to replace faulty or lost gear and it did play on my mind a bit.
I hadn’t felt great all day. My stomach was a little upset and with the heat, the sweat and the effects of the shoot, I ached everywhere. It may not look strenuous doing a shoot, but it is. It is hard work trying to stay in the zone mentally all of the time, and hard to think how it will all fit together etc, think about continuity of lines and actions etc, all while you must be looking like you’re doing very little at all – to anyone watching from the sidelines. Nevermind, worried in case you have to interrupt a take to run to the loo…
After the shoot, we put a few things on to charge, we applauded the team work that day, parted ways, and Darwin, Toro and I went into the public garden area, to enjoy some air, check a few shots while Darwin backed everything up. Then, he drove me home, and the three of us went for food at my local, (just like when we shot the pick-ups for MR CLEAN), and went over the day’s events, the plan for tomorrow, tried to relax and enjoy some food. Oh and shared a pic of Toro eating pineapple on pizza to wind up Andrea, from the MAI PIU shoot, just for a little fun. 😉
After 9pm though, the tiredness had kicked in. They headed home, and I went back to shower and rest, drink in hand, trying to recover from dehydration and tiredness.
Suss and I caught a bit of HOTELL, a Swedish film about people dealing with grief / abuse, but I flaked and had to crash at 10.30pm. I was out like a light.
Saturday – Day #3 of NO TELL shoot – 18th July
It started with a violent dream. And so as I woke – from beating two men to death with my bare hands (luckily only in a dream) – at 5.30am, confused and slightly upset, I was aware that it was down to my stomach, that was upset. This would mean that travel to the set was going to be tricky, if it didn’t sort itself out. I got through it, but I was worried in case of potential public travel drama. Luckily, the carriages were empty as I made my way to Darwin’s.
I managed, despite heat and sweat and no-show busses, to get there early again. I don’t know how. But I was there on location at 8:20. Again the first one there. I made sure things were on to charge / charged, and then had breakfast with Darwin and Toro, before everyone else arrived.
Soon Hasse was there and getting made up by Isabella, while I finished what Darwin had already done, taping up the rest of the black bags in the kitchen to block off the daylight, and we cleared the breakfast table and cabinets, to start shooting the scene with Pancho checking his drugs and preparing to send the text and start the killing.
I think with some experimentation, Darwin and I found a nice lighting for the scenes, using my small lights, strategically placed, with different colours, and their magnets allowing us to attach them under his kitchen cupboard units, instead of the too bright flourescents that they have. This was also more consistent with the warm look used in the living room and other previous day’s scenes. And it gave me the opportunity to help set out the actions I thought Hasse should perform, as suggested blocking to minimise the need for additional setups and practice following him with the camera, to try and give Darwin more of the slick moving camera stuff that he prefers, but with less setups. I think the latest Amaran lights I purchased, with their in-built effects and customisable HSI functions were suitable next gen replacements for lights like the one I just lost.
Sydney arrived and took over audio duties today, to stand in for Reza who couldn’t make the whole shoot. This definitely helps, having a team that is willing to adapt roles when needed, to help out in other key areas.
Then we were back inside to finish the day in the living room again, the continuation of the previous days scenes – shooting the table flip, the killings, one by one, of Shorty, then Popeye and then Jimmy, and then the scene between Pancho and the removal guy – to finish. It was hot. And it was tough going. I think it took two attempts to get the table flip. Luckily, no bottles broke, no cameras were broken, no furniture got broken and no one was injured. However, the mirror that they were doing fake coke off, got broken twice (both sides). I hope noone was superstitious about 14 years bad luck. I did tell him that ideally, they should have procured breakables for such a shoot and protective sheets for the camera lenses – putting safety of the actors and crew first. And I was expecting squibs, blowback on guns and the firing of proper film blood etc as that was the whole point of doing the scenes…. But hopefully it will all work out in the edit and he will add in CG blood hits and gun fire later… yes I probably worry more than I should. But safety of everyone and the gear is my first concern.
It was a tough day I think, mentally, as I had a bad stomach still, and was suffering from the heat and tiredness, but I think Darwin and I worked well, despite my concern over the lack of prep re glass breakables and squibs. I did try to explain to him that I had specifically asked that we had the means to do blood hits, which clearly was not the case. What he had misunderstood was, that we had a makeup person to add hits to people, but not to show the actual hits, with squibs and blood spray etc that I had actually asked about. But I think this is a language / communication issue. I was just surprised, as for me it had been a key aspect of wanting to do the shoot. But overall it was a fun collaboration. Our best yet.
For the death scene, I asked Darwin if he had some replacement wall paper and he did, so we taped that up and covered that in blood, and apart from some marks on the surface in some places – where the tape was later removed – you would never know that a crime scene had been shot there. Much better that leaving a bloody outline on the wall, as luckily it did not soak through to the actual wall layer below…
It was pizzas for food today, thanks to Darwin, and although my stomach wasn’t happy, I was so hungry and in need of nourishment, I wolfed a whole one down in minutes, before being called back onto set. And back into the heat…
I was really impressed with the cast on this day. Hasse was great and listened and was able to incorporate whatever adjustments we needed to enhance the shots. I think Dana pulled off a good death scene (although seemed unprepared to holding the corpse position for so long, to having to be blooded up and have it spill from his mouth etc, unlike the others who took it in their strides), Petrus and Jimmy were all good, pros. And Toro was a star. He really let fly in his rant, and helped the other actors to drop / get out of frame safely, and he also watched and studied everyone’s bits as well as later cleaned up the crime scene – I mean actual scrubbing of blood and hoovering etc – to help Darwin out, as I was packing up the gear.
After the shoot was done, we didn’t have a wrap party, but we said our goodbyes, briefly posed for a group photo, and then parted ways; and then Mina stayed to help us clean up the set, to tear down the gear, and pack it away etc while Darwin backed up the footage. Her help was very much appreciated.
I left all my gear in Darwin’s hall, as we didn’t have the car and so we couldn’t get it back to mine just yet. I tried to keep it together, and organised so it was clear what to bring back. The only concern from my side was that I was still down one tripod (the small Benro hi-hat was dead, unless I could fix it) and missing one USB light, that had seen me through some great productions.
After that, after Darwin and Toro finished hoovering, we lifted the sofa back and then they put it together, while I rested my sore feet. Then we left to go get something to eat. By then I was a hot mess. However, the food was great, as the three of us downed ice cold water, cool drinks and ate nice hot food. But my stomach wasn’t happy still and I had trouble keeping my eyes open, so at 10pm I said my goodbyes – especially to Toro, as he was heading back, but then to Darwin, as other than dropping the gear off, I wasn’t sure when I’d see him next – and then caught the Tbana home.
On the way back from the shoot, trudging home from Vällingby, trying not to fall asleep, I received some lovely feedback on MR CLEAN. It was very much appreciated and high praise indeed. And it made me hope for the future, for NO TELL to receive some similar feedback / praise. One can hope…
I got back around 11.30 I think. I was sweaty and over tired. I dove into the shower. Then we sat and watched a bit of the Crown, with a cool drink, before I had to get to bed just after midnight. I was exhausted.
Sunday – gear back at home – 19th July
Once Darwin got the car back, he and Toro dropped the gear off after 9pm. Once they arrived, I went out to help them unload my gear.
Once we had everything back inside, (still missing that light), we sat in the garden and hung out for a little. In that conversation over a drink, we covered-off some highlights and challenges of the shoot. We also spoke of future bigger projects. And we wondered how things would change, re Coronavirus, and how Barcelona, already seemed to be locking down again. But it was good to hang out with them both again and enjoy what we had achieved.
Then, we parted ways and I spent the night packing away all of the gear, before the next shoot…
Special thanks to Dana for sourcing locations and to Panne Fresco and Teresa Winkler for allowing us to shoot where we did. And thanks to the team for pulling together to help bring this crazy dream to life.
Do check all gear before the shoot. The only piece I didn’t check, the small tripod, failed on location. But it could have been avoided had I checked it!
Make sure shoot schedules contain details of parking (to avoid tickets) and access codes to buildings.
Have an assistant / someone on set to help keep track of gear
Don’t do hasty unpacking and repacking from the back of a car, on the side of a curb, against the failing light (see above re keeping track of gear)
Do proper location recce’s. Actually go to every location, and do a full walkthrough, with knowledgeable crew members. Draw diagrams, take measurements, study the light and sound levels etc
Do plan out each key scene in advance, to save time, with camera diagrams and storyboards if possible.
If doing a film with gun play:
do plan where the blood is going to go
make sure cast members treat every weapon / even fake guns appropriately, firstly from a safety perspective, but also to minimise people discharging all of the gas prematurely
do plan how you’re going to do blood hits – e.g. add them as CG, Low budget pressure sprayer / blood pumps or arrange for special FX / squibs etc.
make sure the cast know what is expected in advance. As we saw, you can’t assume that an actor reads a gun battle scene, where there character will get shot, that they mentally make the connection to needing to learn how to play dead, in uncomfortable positions and they need to be prepared to be cold, wet and bloody…although it would seem obvious. It’s better to discuss it in advance I guess.
We finally received the last VFX shot for COMFORT HIM on Thursday the 18th June. The relevant files were then dispatched that night back to Eric Lau for Colour Grading and to Luca De Sensi for the sound mix. And today we finished the subtitles for the three key languages: English, Spanish and Swedish.
So now it’s just a matter of time before COMFORT HIM is out there and people can watch it! Hopefully no more than a week. And hopefully people will enjoy it!
I’ve been trying out some new plotting tools and taking a deep dive into story structure:
I’ve greatly enjoyed the Screenwriters’ Goldmine course, by Philip Gladwin (sadly no longer live on the internet) – for the best explanation of a complete process to get from no idea, to finished script. It’s an eBook and Audio book combo (complete with example planning spreadsheet tool and beat sheets etc) and it’s good for both Film and TV screenplays – I only wish I’d taken it back when I bought the damn thing! And I wish more people could experience this course!
I’m re-reading lots of older texts, but I am also reading some new texts – pictures of the relevant books on my Instagram
I just bought a license to a plotting tool – Plottr – on the strength of the ease of use, the fact that it is compatible with Mac and PC and works with dropbox etc, helpful demo videos that they are currently producing and the coming integration with Scrivener, to then import your planning work into that program and take your work into the draft stages.
I’m nearly done with the Robert McKee Storylogue webinars, but they’ve been incredibly helpful in clarifying things that I had not properly understood when I first read his books all those years ago.
– Because I am very much in the planning stage of MR CLEAN the feature. I could have written the damn thing by now. But like the four previous feature screenplays and two novels, I would like to really plan this one out, firstly so that I can create the best screenplay possible, and ease the rewriting process – as opposed to my usual pantsing. But also, for when I consider adapting MR CLEAN as a potential novel. After all, a good friend just read an old script of mine and accurately nailed the structural issues that are preventing it being a top draw action horror script. These would have been easily identifiable if I’d not shirked the previous refresher into story. But yes, time is ticking. Got to get it done! I have one month left!
And lastly, we’re prepping our next short film. Another micro short. It’s tentatively called TVÄTTSTUGA (Swedish for ‘Laundrette’), but actual title to be announced soon. So I’ve been doing a great deal of storyboarding. Not easy with the heat we’ve been having and we’re currently in pre-production on it – and trying to figure out how to make this film, as well as how to make it during Covid.