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 shot another short film, last Monday. Sadly I’ve been a bit run down and suffering from some lurgy since then, so I’ve been a bit slow to write about the shoot. It wasn’t all plain sailing and it didn’t go exactly to plan. But it was fun and it was brief.
N.B. For those new to this type of diary – some observations may seem harsh or overly critical in places. But this is intended to be constructive, to help me learn from my mistakes and improve on every shoot.
Firstly, what’s COMFORT HIM? you might be wondering. COMFORT HIM is a ‘micro short’ film project. At least I think that’s the correct term – for a film that has a run time designed to be less than 5 minutes. But more specifically for a film that is designed to ideally come out around the 1 minute mark.
COMFORT HIM is a micro short horror film project, designed to be shown / seen on mobile devices; especially when films like DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, SVEN GUNNAR or MR CLEAN have typically lengthy periods before people can actually see them (due to lengthier production times and lengthy festival runs etc). Designed to be seen and shared, if people enjoy it as much as we did making it, we’re hoping that people will want to share the films and spread the word. It will have a target run time of 1 minute ideally, because that is much easier to share on most social media platforms, for high visibility. And we want to test the idea that less is quicker to produce and release, to shorten the production timeline and get more content out there… at least that’s the theory.
COMFORT HIM is about what happens when a sleep-deprived father is woken from a nap, and goes to comfort his crying baby. It stars Hasse Brontén (SVEN GUNNAR) and Sofie Klaesson (MR CLEAN) and Hasse’s daughter Alba.
Originally we had planned to do the film much earlier. Hasse is an avid horror fan, and was on board with the project even before his child was born – right after finishing SVEN GUNNAR. But I needed to do some research first and plan the shoot a bit more… then Darwin and I did a test shoot back on January 13th (which I first mention here: https://eibonfilms.co.uk/2nd-award-for-dont-forget-to-breathe/), before Darwin and I went to shoot MAI PIU in Rome. The idea for the long delay between the test shoot and the film, was to perform a VFX test on the filmed footage… but that last bit never happened due to scheduling and illness…. In the end, as Alba was growing day by day, we just had to go ahead and do the shoot already – before she grew up and started walking etc. But were we crazy to even attempt this? Because everyone knows, “you should never work with animals and children…” right?
The original test shoot took two hours and was a hoot to do. But this was carried out by using a doll and filming in a controlled environment – my home and with my gear and just me and Darwin on the day. However, even then, as it was just me as a one-man-band filmmaker, I cocked-up and messed up recording sound and shot some of it in slow motion. Doh! But I did manage to get from 21 minutes of recorded footage down to a smooth 57 seconds of finished rough edited footage, enough that, sans sound, it still creeped people out in the right way. Nice. So the proof-of-concept worked.
So the big question I had, was could we shoot the actual film in the same way, in someone else’s property, with a full cast and a real child, but in half the time that I’d planned to do the film shoot? – we’d allotted two days for shooting, but intending to shoot the film in 1 day if we could. But then, at the last minute, when dates kept slipping and Hasse was being booked up and had less and less free time slots, we were suddenly down to a restrictive 4hrs of shoot time. Yikes! So, could we pull it off or should we cancel?… we decided to go ahead, seeing as once we changed the date, all of a sudden the crew started suddenly not being available at all. So sooner was better… and then we heard more tales of this virus that was going around…
Sunday 8th March – of shoot setup and housework:
I packed the last gear for COMFORT HIM. I’d been prepping it over the last few days and charing all the things. By prepping it, I mean:
working out what I needed. (camera, lenses, adapters, filters, batteries, tripods, extension cables, duct tape, fake blood and plastic sheets etc etc – you name it I pack it)
making sure it’s clean, working and has relevant accessories.
I have reusable lists in the IOS Notes app, as checklists, that I can copy and tick off and adapt to my needs.
popping gear into relevant carry cases and ensuring that it packs into the smallest available form factor.
charging all batteries, in case we can’t use domestic power.
creating preset in camera – including setting the date, aspect ratio, codec, frame rate etc.
prepping all relevant paper work – including also pre-populating shot tracking apps etc.
I do all of the above for every project I embark on.
I was nicely prepped before Hasse called and I was already putting the gear outside ready for him when he arrived. Soon we had loaded the car and were on our way, talking about the premiere, how SVEN GUNNAR was received, and some other films that Hasse hadn’t seen yet – because we talked about the experience of viewing UNCUT GEMS.
We unloaded the car at his apartment building and then took everything inside as his visitors were leaving. Then I got down to the business of unpacking the key stuff, tripods etc and assembling the camera rig and ensuring the mic boom was ready, and setting up the lights for shooting. Hasse and Gina had to go out for a meal I think, so they left me a key and then I finished setting up a half hour later and then locked up and left.
On the way back, I made notes on my phone of other things to do before the shoot. Then as I had dinner, and as I was cleaning up, inevitable messages from the cast and crew needed attending to. The good thing was people were raring to go. 🙂
Meanwhile, I was also putting together detailed storyboards, using screen grabs from the test footage for COMFORT HIM and sharing them with Darwin so he could study them and see how he could help me out with 2nd camera – this was our strategy for trying to cut down the shoot time, trying to double-up on camera angles for options in the edit, so we might save time in the shoot. It was worth a try. Although he’d had the test film for months to review, I figured this made it easier to reference on the day.
As I was getting ready for bed, I wasn’t liking the sudden wind that was kicking off outside and my brain seemed to dwell on the shoot, despite any attempt at meditating such thoughts away – would I sleep? I doubted it….
Monday 9th March – Shoot day
I had a rough night trying to sleep. It was really windy outside and hot in my room despite using a fan. Also, I meditated multiple times, and I was not consciously stressed, but it wasn’t until I said ‘fuck it’ to the wind rattling the windows and opened them around 3am to cool the room down again, that I finally passed out for around 2 hrs of random patches of sleep. When the alarm went off at 6:15 I felt out of it and exhausted. Perfect energy for filming… not.
I got up and hurriedly got ready – more to get my head in the game, then being late and stressed about it.
I got the train I’d aimed for. Yes, these are super low budget productions – few of the team have driving licenses and cars free – especially if their partners use such transport. So most of us used the train and bus to get to location. But at least we had sunny weather today!
As I was on my way there was the usual random messages that any crew generates. Like ‘how do I get to the location?’ ‘where is it?’ – I am constantly surprised by how few people check such details in advance and leave it to the last minute, despite all information being provided days before… I offered to wait at the bus stop for people once I got to the nearest stop to guide them there, as I got there early. And once we were a small group, it seemed Darwin and I both had little sleep.
Once inside the location, we were raring to set up. A quick safety explanation and introductions were made and then Darwin and I got set up ready for the sofa shot, with Hasse waking up; he then went into makeup and baby Alba met Viking, Isabella’s dog – yes we had both a child and an animal on set :).
The shoot was stressful at times. Seemingly simple takes were proving challenging, despite a video example of exactly what we wanted being freely available for study for months by all involved – both the timing, performance we wanted and shot composition was all there. I produced the test video because often words are not enough to communicate an idea. But yet everyone seemingly forgot that we’d ever done that test shoot – so we were kind of facing a blank slate.
It was helpful that the natural light was great today and we didn’t need all of the lights that I’d brought. That reduced setup times.
Sofie offering to help and to do sound for us too – when she was not in character. This was amazing and much appreciated. Darwin was helpful for the most part as a second camera and alternating with the clapper and I really appreciated getting to work with him again. But I did have to focus on my own shots as well as communicate when I saw him going for angles that I couldn’t use / hadn’t planned on – where I noticed that they would not be helpful / couldn’t be used in the edit, or when I noticed some shaky handheld. “I can’t and won’t use this.” I think I said after viewing one shot. – I often don’t enjoy hand held shots when they are done well. But I hate it more when it is badly done / overly jittery, as it says to me that we don’t know how to hold a camera and I knew no such shots would survive the edit. All would be unused – if we had planned on doing it, we would at least use cameras and lenses with stabilisation.- We were mainly using vintage lenses and the BMPCC 4K which doesn’t have stabilisation.
So why was I stressed? Well we were up against the clock – having much less time than we needed for the level of polish I aspired to. We were up against the impending next appointment that Hasse had, to rush off and record a podcast – as well as the good temper of our smallest cast member Alba. As the day wore on, our very real baby actively did baby stuff and wriggled a lot and got more restive. This and some natural difficulties doing simple lines / issues replicating exact performances and camera movement, and then having to fit in time to do makeup when some shots took longer than planned, proved challenging. But despite these challenges, I think that the overall mood / humour was pretty good throughout. And Gina, Hasse’s wife, was amazing at keeping Alba entertained.
Sofie was funny, fussing and constantly smiling over Alba. And Alba and Viking were happy amid the chaos. And despite the stress Hasse was also under, fitting a shoot in before other appointments, his good humour and patience was also much appreciated.
After Hasse raced off, Darwin and I did a bit more foley / sound with Sofie, then I backed up the footage onto my hard drive and we left to go and get lunch. After a good chat, mini wrap party, we parted ways – all happy but tired.
I got home, feeling brain dead around 4pm. I showered once the files from the premiere and the audio SD card were also being backed up. Then I had the depressing task of reviewing every single take to see if I could use any of it – it’s hard when your aspirations and desire for perfection are hard to overcome, after the fact. It’s also annoying when you see that not every camera was set up with the correct date and time info… oh well. But I pushed and reviewed every shot.
I also bought PLURAL EYES, to try and make the task of syncing up audio much easier… although the process seemed to work great, I would need some help to interpret the clips and get them organised in the best way in FCP X once that was done, as currently it looked unusable for this shoot – in fact it looked like an overly confusing nightmare of grouped clips, which were in a nonsense order. Was it because of the shonky date stamps on the video files?
Eventually I confirmed that the only shots that were not really to my liking was the crib scene – although a do over for it all would also help me, but no one would agree to that 🙂 . I communicated with Hasse to arrange when to redo that bit, to also grab some more foley / dialogue from him and then pack up the gear. Sadly it would be another early morning, to race over there, film the crib bit and then pack up all of the gear to get out before his next appointment the following day. I was hoping for a more chilled day / finish to the shoot, and a lie in tomorrow, but it was what it was.
I couldn’t really concentrate due to a weird sudden stomach pain, beyond thanking the cast and crew for their help and time etc and planning what I would do the following morning. But also knowing that there was a chance I might not be well enough at all or that any plans made would be ruined anyway.
As I hit the sack, my stomach was not good at all… it wasn’t stress. I knew that at least. I was mostly happy, apart from having to get stuff finished tomorrow… at least there wasn’t a foul wind outside…
Tuesday 10th march – pick-ups and pack-up
I managed to sleep last night. Strangely, mainly because of the cold (having the window open) and exhaustion. But the five hours of [interrupted] sleep I got was enough to help me function.
I was at Hasse’s place as planned. Only then they wouldn’t let me in… lol. I think I was my typical too early again…
Once Hasse let me in, I instantly went to set up lights and set up the camera for the crib shot. The light wasn’t there today, as per yesterday. It was rainy and overcast and far from ideal, so I had to use all of my lights to get any kind of workable light. I tried with a lighter lens and with and without the monitor to lighten the rig and it was still awkward trying to shoot through a crib. And this time Alba wanted to wriggle through every shot, to turn and grab the camera etc which was charming, but challenging… So despite getting a better angle today, it was also different – not worse, just different. But we pushed through.
And then of course, Hasse ran out of time for recording sound after the pickups and so I packed-up the gear – super quick. Faster than I’ve ever done before. Soon Hasse and I loaded the car up and Gina drove me back to my house. I really appreciate the lift. And soon I had everything inside and started to slowly, confusedly – as the tiredness kicked in after food – to unpack it bit-by-bit and eventually square most things away.
I tried and failed to get the COMFORT HIM audio synced and useful for editing. Mainly I couldn’t get automatic import into FCP X to work. But then once I did it manually the file still looked like confusing garbage. It made no sense to man nor beast, no matter what I tried. The audio may have been synced for the most part. However, it made no sense why the first shots were at the end of an 5 hr timeline and not at the start etc and having too many lines of edit to work with. WTF!
From two cameras, I now had over an hour of footage. Taking out the pre and post roll parts of each clip and any ‘making of’ type shots filming BTS, I was left with 34 minutes of footage.
But there was plenty of time for that. The shoot was done.
Update: I’ve now gone through it all and I have whittled it down to 21 minutes of usable footage. Now the editing can begin. But I am resigned to manually syncing each clip to the audio…. but all of the shots look great. It’s only how the performances play and how I put it together / make them work in the edit that will take time.
I’am also full of some virus. No I don’t know if is THAT virus. But I will carry on regardless. I’m self-isolating, based on government medical advice and have nothing but time, if little energy, on my hands.
They are right to advise you not to work with children or animals. Things will not go easy on such shoots. However, Alba was a joy to work with. And she really awakened the Maternal instinct in Sofie and had the crew laughing at her antics. And she put up with a lot, considering all of the new experiences and sensations / distractions. Viking was also good, considering everything that might make a dog bark at.
If you think you need more time, try and replan the shoot until you can get the time you need. Working under such pressure is never ideal. Less time means compromise. It’s not always a creative fire / inspiration.
We knew that, going into this shoot without enough people was folly. I really wanted to follow the mark each shot and follow the shot list and get each composition just right as well as get sound sync. Sofie was amazing helping out by holding the boom for us when not in shot, but it was a lot of running around / stress and corners got cut. As a result, I almost tripped and had an accident during one shot. Fast isn’t careful. Two more people, the people that suddenly couldn’t make it at the last minute would really have helped. But that was my fault for having to change filming dates.
Because you have a camera that shoots professional footage, it does not make you a professional. It is very easy to turn up on set and shoot, but you should take time to prep the camera and create shot presets and ensure all data is correct before taking your first shot. The time stamps on our footage claimed it was being shot in January and March respectively! So that’s fun when trying to use shot metadata to sync up shots later on. I need to check this rigorously before any future shoots.
You should use identical lens systems if trying to match multiple cameras, to ease the colour grading / speed up matching shots on post. It still won’t match, but it will make it easier to do so. I don’t think things will be too tricky. But we’ll see.
You should cut makeup shots if trying to keep to schedule. Isabella was amazing and did her best in impossible conditions, but we should have given her more time and had more time available to shoot – the makeup wasn’t important for the film per se. It was a nice-to-have, but it was an added stress. Do it right, or not at all. Right?
You and your camera team should discuss stylistic considerations before the shoot or before a take – not after. One angle was unusable on a perfectly good take, due to deliberate shaky hand held being applied. A perfectly good moment of time / take that we’ll never get back, when that angle was better than the one I’d had. Luckily there wasn’t much of this. But communication is key.
You need to be in a location you can control. And you need to be able to control the schedule. But you will always find challenges, even when the shoot is smaller and less ambitious than other larger shoots. Less isn’t always less.
Overall it was a real pleasure to get parts of two teams together – those of MR CLEAN and SVEN GUNNAR – for a new project. And despite my reservations about certain takes – comparing those in a very controlled shoot with a doll, to that of a live shoot with more live challenges – we did pretty well with what we had. And thanks to everyone who has helped us get here so far, and the post production team that is now waiting in the wings for me to pull my finger out and finish the edit!
I can’t wait to get the film finished and to show you all and share and share away.
Hasse and Gina for believing in the project, entrusting their daughter to us, and helping shift the gear and providing us with a great location and half the cast.
Sofie for not only giving a great performance, as always, but also trying to help us get sound too.
Alba for putting up with us and being a star.
Darwin for working that second camera and helping me get through it.
Isabella for doing great makeup under tough time constraints. 🙂
I’ll keep you posted as I progress this project. Thanks for reading!
“MR CLEAN, directed by Lee Bailes – a different take… a new flavour of horror… a twist with horror and guts on what we see is at first a very normal story, but what we later see is completely different… it goes from 0 – to 100 – of violence, and kicks off in a short amount of time. The movie is only 7 minutes long, but you see so much in this 7 minutes…’wow’! …I can’t wait for it to expand on this. It’s wonderfully shot, reminiscent of Misaki Kobayashi’s KWAIDAN, Whilst something so mundane has got a lot more going on in it…. The way the film is narrated is quite cool, seeing two sides to this story. The cinematography is really really slick. The gore effects are really cool. There’s going to be more to this series, and I can’t wait to see the rest of the series!”
“A slick, cool short film with a lot going on!” and “it makes you think twice, next you see a cleaner.”
It’s reassuring that our first review is positive and enthusiastic. I must also share that Hus isn’t the first person that wants to see more of MR CLEAN. And this makes us all (the entire team) very happy.
We have finally finished the colour grading! Thanks to our colourist Eric Lau, we actually have a colour grade that works!
Obviously the trailer above has not as yet been colour graded by him. That is being redone now by him. But as a result of finishing colour grading, and the fact that I created an Electronic Press Kit (an EPK) we are now submitting MR CLEAN to festivals! Woohoo!
– and if the first [random] request to cut two minutes from the film is anything to go by, it will be quite a ride, as I navigate the world of film festivals….
Those familiar with the blog will know I do these Shoot Diaries after every shoot. The idea being that as developing filmmakers, learning new skills, we should always try to learn from our mistakes. And it’s impossible do anything of this kind of production, no matter the budget without someone cocking-up somewhere down the line.
Before you continue, know this – it was only a 3-day film shoot, but I’ve detailed the entire trip; to Rome / Santa Marinella and back, from start to finish. This is to explain what else goes on in the life of a travelling filmmaker…
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. Hopefully you’ll find it enlightening / entertaining along the way – with a few more valuable lessons that we’ve definitely learned – and what not to do!
Please note: this project only happened because Alessandro devoted his time and money to travel to Barcelona and help us shoot LOVELY TO MEET YOU, and we very much wanted to return the favour. So none of this is supposed to be an attack or a criticism, but simply a stream of consciousness of what happened and how it could otherwise be done. If anything, it’s meant as constructive criticism. Alessandro is a friend and I’m mainly trying to be objective about the art of filmmaking and how it should be approached. We all know the dream, but the reality is that there are rough edges on no-budget productions. You shoot with what you have, under the constraints of the time. This is just my take on how I was thinking and feeling at the time. Most people were chill about it all. I’m the only uptight one here.
Our motivations for this shoot were not entirely selfless. Darwin and I also wanted to ease into a new year of production by crewing on Alessandro’s shoot, to get more experience as well as make any valuable new contacts that we can… the fact that we made many new friends and will treasure the experience is also a reward for our efforts. It’s definitely a bonus. And I hope the eventual film is as good as we all collectively set out to make.
Day #1 – the trip out / pre-production mtg
I hadn’t slept much at all, if any. I know I did get a little sleep with actual dreams, maybe half an hour / an hour. Who knows. But I felt like ass – which is as usual before such a trip – and couldn’t get back to sleep after Suss got up for work.
I got up showered, and then got dressed and said goodbye to Suss, then breakfasted and got ready to leave.
I wasn’t in a rush, but I still got to the airport 30 minutes earlier than planned – reading along the way. So I sat and read some more, and waited for Darwin.
Darwin had elected not to bring his mic boom. Mine was too big to go into the case and now he wasn’t bringing his either. We were assured though that they had it covered.
Once Darwin arrived (and completely missed my instructions of where I was so I had to go find him), we checked in – luckily he carried my other hand bag (the camera bag) for me and we didn’t have to pay the extra fee after all, and somehow got through ok and boarded the plain without incident. That saved 80 euros. I had pounded fluids down my neck all the way, to try and stay healthy and rehydrated – despite feeling anything but and not having slept properly – and did so the whole day, knowing how taxing travel can be, especially the heat on the planes. Anything to avoid a migraine and stay fighting fit.
I was pleased that the Munich flight was cool enough. And I liked the free Cheese sandwich and glass of water and Apple juice I got. It was so much better than Norwegian and Ryan Air. The two guys next to me and in fact lots of other guys on the flight, were having beers despite looking like they were on business trips, including Darwin. The two Swedish middle-aged guys next to me had two each and then accidentally poured it all over their table and chair. Fun times. But luckily nothing near my laptop.
I read the script for MAI PIU and more of my book on the way. Wanting to edit, but having zero time.
At Munich, Darwin and I had lunch and two beers, and I did a bit of editing COMFORT HIM and we discussed our projects and had a good meeting. And reassured the team by What’s App that we were on our way.
The flight to Rome was fine apart from the heat being cranked up. And I got my bags ok at the other end and we still hadn’t had to pay for extra hand baggage; but then as Darwin had pointed out, plenty of other people were travelling with more than one item. I didn’t have more beer on the flight. Two large German beers was enough. Darwin apparently fell asleep and missed the free beer and the food.
Once at Rome, we were ushered hurriedly out of the airport by Lorenzo, a friend of Alessandro and Darwins; another filmmaker, but someone I’d only seen in pics from Darwin. We went to meet Alessandro by his car, get a hug and dump the gear in the back and then left the airport to drive to his town San Marinella. On the way he pointed out the house where LA DOLCE VITA was edited. And after dropping us off at the hotel, he had more pre-shoot errands to run.
At the hotel, after a long and slow check-in process – surprisingly and quaintly all on paper – Darwin and I got our rooms and they were huge. Each of them were 3-bed family rooms. After a quick face wash, we were slightly refreshed and downstairs and waiting to meet Lorenzo, met Carlo (the DP) and waited for Alessandro, before going down the street to the Irish Monkey Puzzle Pub for urgent-needed food (there are literally Irish pubs everywhere…), to meet more of the team, and then headed back to the hotel for a pre-shoot production meeting and to meet more of the rest of the team.
It was then that I realised that Alessandro was playing the lead role – yes, as well as directing and producing a tricky short film, with up to 5 cameras at least. Very ambitious – or risky? To me it was madness, but it didn’t matter how I felt, we were there to help get it all done. And we wanted the best for him. Let’s do it!
I was tired and it was hard to follow all of the Italian, and sometimes multiple conversations, but bless Lorenzo for translating much of it for us. We learned that we were being divided into teams. Darwin would be with Alessandro and I would be with Lorenzo the following day – like the 2nd Unit. There was some discussion about what I would be shooting in the team with Lorenzo the following day, perhaps using a gymbal / stabiliser for the first time? And was I doing that? But I half-wondered if they thought I’d brought a stabiliser with me??? and again wished I brought the GH5 as backup… but mainly was realising that there may be some mis-communication going on; and I still hadn’t seen any lights. And would there be power? I’d asked and was told that there would be, so I really hoped so…. but I got the feeling that my question was not actually understood. Everyone clearly wanted to help, but it’s hard to see into one’s brain and be sure you’re both talking about the same things…
After the meeting, I sent a quick message to wish Suss goodnight, drank more fluids to stay hydrated and crashed, meditating with the huge ceiling fan on in the room. And my head spinning with all the sensory stimulation of the day and thoughts of the impending shoot.
Shoot Day #1 – some trees and a hut
Amazingly, I slept last night. Awesome! It was much appreciated due to the long exhausting day of travel etc. It wasn’t so restful. But I was already expecting as much.
But I think that although I had meditated, it was the fact that I had the huge ceiling fan on, and had aired my room out to make it cool – despite the tropically-hot radiator burning all night, and the blinds really blocked out the light outside the window and the t-shirt over my head blocked the light from the hallway and emergency lighting, so hopefully all that counted. But still, it could have just been sheer exhaustion. I didn’t appreciate the slamming doors and noises that woke us all up far too early.
But I felt pretty good, although in need of more bed rest, before I got up to stretch, shower, dress and prep for the day ahead. Don’t underestimate the need to stretch before a shoot.
We learned that we were going to have breakfast at the beach today. It was at a placed called GIGIs, and it was a lovely sunny day and we enjoyed taking shots of the beach before eventually everyone arrived. But Darwin and I were kind of surprised that there was no real food for breakfast in Italy. We had a pastry and a tea, but this was not food. We ate it to fit in, but wondered what the deal was with no actual food to fuel the day ahead? – “an army marches on its stomach” and all that. We really appreciate that our producer was picking up the tab, but we both craved food… Also… why were we burning so much day light chatting? Scenes could be prepped and blocked out in advance, rehearsals could be performed… but this was all just valuable man hours and glorious daylight to shoot in that was being wasted. We did get to glimpse the storyboards, but mostly saw pics of trees. Not enough to get a sense of the context of how it all fit together to edit.
We went to the location, after grabbing the gear from the hotel, and were driven by Alessandro. We got there I think for 12. Although Alessandro’s car did not like carrying me and Darwin and the gear, so we got out and walked the last bit to save the undercarriage of the car. Even a good tractor or 4×4 would find it a bumpy ride. We then helped Alessandro to put the Gazebo together. Gathered some chairs and a table to try and make a basecamp. Then I prepped and assembled the camera rig, trying to do it on a rickety wooden table, on a tilt, overlooking a hill and the lovely coastline. Not my smoothest first introduction to the set. But cooler than the sweltering bar and lack of space on LTMY.
There were cakes. Nice for the sugar lovers. But would there be food?
We met Leo the sound guy and he proceeded to take a rickety fishing pole and tape it together to form a boom pole and tape the mic mount onto the end of it… and there was no blimp or dead cat for the mic here after all… oh well. A bit low-fi / ropey a solution. But it was all we had. Let’s hope it worked – when everyone later checks the files.
There was a lot of waiting. I don’t mean to go on, but Darwin and I are unused to a lot of hanging around. I know we burned time on LTMY, but that was because of the lack of pre-production / advance time to prep the set. And we’d learned from it. But what was it with this 2pm start??? I really questioned this when I found out that there was no power on set and soon it would be dark… There was a generator that eventually arrived in a pickup, although no one provided any cabling for us to use to hook the camera up to, to run the power-hungry BMPCC4K off mains and save batteries for the wood shots. There wasn’t enough extensions either. And a generator meant sound and that usually ruined audio takes, so then it had to be repeatedly shut off. And all of this was stressful when thinking about how many batteries would I need – luckily I had enough. Just; if I was frugal each day and shut the camera off frequently, and charged all every night, it would get me through.
Also, where were the tripods we’d requested with fluid heads? There were no tripods. WTF?! None except the ones everyone brought for themselves and all mostly unusable for anything but static shots or photography. I used my own smaller travel tripod that I’d brought, as my main tripod was too big to bring with me without incurring special baggage fees. Good thing I brought mine, as I would have been screwed without it. It had a ropey fluid head, but better than nothing.
There were no lights really to speak of and yes we were filming in a field, with no practical lighting on set / worklights or anything – so surely we’d not be doing any night shoots? right? – There were just two large and heavy lights with us, that Alessandro brought along, that didn’t convincingly throw off enough light, although they had an impressively long battery life. But they did throw a constant flicker… My two tiny portable lights threw off more light. I am not joking and were flicker free. I used my lights to prove a point – and mine at least were adjustable in both the amount of light and colour of the output, although sadly only carry an hour of light without a power source. If i’d known I could have brought more light with me. Again I should have listened to my instincts. But I think these lights were actually more for working on set and not to actually light a set with. There were no film quality LED lights, fresnels with barn doors or Kinos, C-stands etc. And people needed light at the base camp and around the location – luckily everyone had phones to light their way with and car headlights!
Eventually people arrived, after we had prepped the site – pulling down fences and fence posts to give us the look we needed, and after being divided into two units, we all then walked the locations and discussed the shots – including scouting out the woods with Carlo and Lorenzo.
We were eventually ready to shoot. We had some actors – I got to meet Aurora the heroine of the film and some Nazis, including Andrea and Michele. The uniforms looked amazing and so did the guns, which were provided by the two armourers. I later found out that it was their availability that restricted us to shooting after 2pm. But this was crazy to allow that to hold the shoot back. Surely replanning to deal with it or getting them to provide cover would work?
I think we, Lorenzo’s team, finally got our first shots in the woods, with Carlo the DOP helping us, and Leo on a time-clock, after we had created some smoke and much explanation and rehearsal was conducted to brief Aurora on what was needed. Why wasn’t this done before 2pm on this day? In the morning or another day prior??? Nevertheless, with Lorenzo’s guidance I think we did get some good shots and I used the old 70-200 vintage lens I’d picked up from my local second-hand store, for that vintage look. We even shot it handheld, with me being physically guided across the uneven ground and past trees by Lorenzo, for safety, to get some cool looking shots. But I didn’t get to use the 100-300… would I?
We’d been facing some pressure there. We had to try and create the smoke using an old iron bucket. There was some barbecue coal in it, but no fire lighters, only a lighter. We tried repeatedly and it wasn’t until Monica came along to show us better how it was done, were we able to get some smoke going. Meanwhile I’m standing over the thing waving my hand to create smoke and move it around, and breathing too much in. Alessia stepped in to take over. What a star! Luckily it killed time while Lorenzo briefed and planned the shot. But my lungs were ruined for the next few days afterwards.
….My memory of the rest of the shoot day was a bit hazy. I don’t really feel that I got that many good shots over all. But it was more that maybe I was too self-conscious of all of the limitations and burning time changing lenses, but also not having the right lenses – seeing that the hut was too small and that a 50mm was not going to cut it – and yet that was what I’d been told to bring…. but Claudio saved the day with a 28mm.
I think we then shot the scenes of Alessandro’s Partisan arrival at the hut, with him shooting at Nazis and also another scene where a girl partisan is shot. Before later shooting the interior of the hut. With the great lowlight capability of the BMPCC4K we obviously could film there with the meagre lights we had, supplemented by my portable lights, but it wasn’t ideal. It was a bit flat. And it was cramped, with three cameras going at some points.
Then the day was over. Somehow, I’d not had any food or drink since the cakes and breakfast. I’d had a sandwich waved at me by Alessia, but we were in the midst of shooting and I didn’t get anything else to eat until after the shoot. I never did see that sandwich again. And I’d been too busy to drink enough water, so by the time we were done I was hungry, thirsty, had a pounding head and was at a bit of a low ebb. I was going all lizard brain and just thinking of comfort at that point.
I think Alessandro drove us back, after we put the hut back as it was and packed up the gear etc. It was not fun trying to tear down the rig in the hut with little light to work with and dust everywhere. – by this I mean I was nervous about getting dust in the camera / on the sensor etc. And it was all a bit fiddly and clumsy.
Back in San Marinella, Alessandro dropped us off, so it was upstairs to pee, drink water, wash up and then we headed for food. And back to the Monkey pub again. Ok. This time I wanted two burgers and a huge beer stat. I got it, and was happy. And hunger-rage averted.
There, Alessandro went to back up all of the footage, before handing over the reins to Leticia and Sara. It was at this point, that an excellent day of getting to know everyone better and bonding through adversity on a tough shoot, went awry. I normally do all the backing up on our films. My stuff is all Mac formatted. Alessandro had an old Windows laptop. At the point where I handed the SSD drive over to him and he connected it, suddenly we’d lost all of the footage. The drive was empty… ok!?! WTF!?!?
I knew I had an SD card in the camera too and so maybe the footage was recorded onto that, although I doubted it. But I went back to the room after the pub to check. Darwin and Lorenzo came in. They kept me from jumping out the window when I realised what had happened. – There were a few takes on the SD card, but loads of shots were missing. These were shots that I had taken and shown to others. They had existed somewhere. How had this all disappeared? – we’d reviewed a lot of the takes after shooting each shot! They had been there before!
After using a Data recovery tool to scan the SSD, Darwin saw that there had indeed been many files on the drive that had been wiped. We don’t know how. I know it wasn’t me. But why hadn’t I backed-up first??? it was out of character for me. Too trusting by half. But was it possible to recover them?… maybe… although the scan was still running on Darwin’s machine… and for a price? We didn’t know – but it looked like it was going to cost us (EDIT: it did).
Finally, although freaked out, I begin to calm down, around midnight, thinking it might be sorted. Until Darwin messaged me to say that his computer had died, as he didn’t bring a power adapter for the plugs in Italy, and the scan had been aborted – hopefully it hadn’t fucked the data on the disc further… and wouldn’t take too long to redo…
This was a terrible dark night. My brain was racing…
Shoot Day #2 – multi-cam chaos and more trees
I slept. Not great. But enough. – I relate this only for its surreal almost Hollywood Dream Sequence qualities… – but weirdly I’d dreamed a totally unerotic dream of a beautiful woman on horse back, naked save for hold-up stockings, riding through the set past the Partisans and the Nazis and ruining the takes by blocking the camera. “get this f*cking horse off the set!” I shouted at her, in my dream and woke up – wondering WTF!?! Where did that come from? – maybe just strange filmmaking stress dream… maybe…
I got up and did a stretch workout. Yes I’m old lol. I unkinked my back and shoulders from filming and lugging gear around and foam rolled my feet, to get rid of yesterday’s ache. But a hot shower helped some more and then, I prepped the gear and packed it (after charging over night) for more filming fun.
However, all was not rosy at first. I was angered by Darwin’s message to the group that morning, changing the time we’d agreed to meet earlier for breakfast, and demanding we meet him much earlier, until I realised he was messing with us. He was up to his old tricks of winding up Lorenzo and Alessandro. And I was too quick to judge.
We did go and meet everyone to have breakfast. I didn’t bring a jacket and welcomed the chill after the heat of my room. And this time I had an actual sandwich. It was something better than a cake to start the day. However, after a lot more of sitting around, although enjoying listening to them chat and loving the sound of happy Italian chatter, I was wishing I was being more productive. And I soon regretted forgetting my jacket upon feeling the first rain of the day begin, just as we got in the car to go there.
We got to the location, by the same bone-breaking bumpy dirt roads, and undercarriage scrapes of the cars and saw that after a night of wind and rain, the gazebo had been trashed and we now had to put it back together. Anything that had been left inside was wet.
I started setting up, at first raring to go and start shooting already, and Darwin was also eager too – after yesterday’s delays and we did what we could to gee everyone up and we really weren’t trying to cause stress – but then we still had to wait for hours for the guns and actors to arrive. So it was all for nought.
The difference today was that there was great food from the catering team, and people kept forcing me to go for drinks to make sure I was hydrated. Thank you! All of you. You saved the rest of the team from an angry ginger who needs fluids and food. And it was real food and it was great. I wolfed it down like I stole it and didn’t worry about how I looked while scarfing it down, but just focussed on getting something inside me between takes – and I was chased-off to go and shoot more each time, as I’d suspected, when daylight started fading and tempers were fraying. But then Alessia lent me her jacket to borrow and I looked suitably ridiculous. 🙂
We shot the scenes with the Partisan rescuing, and then in the hut tending to, the injured Aurora. And we got to do the shootout with the three nazis outside the hut. However, although it was dramatic, it wasn’t without issues. The guns were jamming constantly when Alessandro was trying to do the second shot of the shootout. We could easily have done the scene without the extra gunshot, just shouting bang… But also at one point, with 5 manned cameras, there were too many camera angles. We had to sacrifice some, because it was impossible to do the master shot at the same time without catching them in the shot – so it was either don’t do a master or do it later or bin another angle. Such discussions wasted a bit of time also and inevitably only showing someone the frame, that of a prior practice take, would get the message across so a decision could be made. When planning the shot, someone should really have tested angles with people standing in position, to see where angles got crossed.
Then, when freed up, Lorenzo and I went with Aurora and her boyfriend into the woods to grab one shot we missed with her the previous day – the infamous ‘long take’, sadly with rapidly fading light and again having to do it all handheld. Even though I hate handheld and it was on a long lens, at 70mm, we got the shots. – The weird thing is that I can do handheld, but it doesn’t feel natural to me and feels too risky, in case I cock the frame up. Darwin is more comfortable that way. But it is an issue with the weight of a rig and the bigger heavier lenses. Perhaps an Easy Rig is the only way I can get better, without screwing my back up, in the near future?
Then there was more packing up in crazy circumstances – poor light and such.
We got back to the hotel, thanks to Carlo giving us a lift, after again packing up for the day and bouncing along the dirt tracks and past the barking farmyard dogs that always looked creepy in the headlight beams that sliced through the darkness. Sorry to Carlo, if we were too tired to make good conversation at that point. Once back, Darwin and I waited for the rest of the team. Then when they arrived, we stowed the gear, set things to charge and then I backed up my footage from the day; this was around the same time as Darwin managed to confirm that the data recovery of Day #1’s footage might work – but the catch was that the Software manufacturers wanted 100 euros for the privilege of recovering it! So we had to discuss what to do about it… it would be ironic if that was the case and it cancelled out the 80 euros we’d saved… (EDIT: it was ironic. I bought it. But at least I have this tool for the future now) …and then once I’d backed up, we went down and let Sara back-up the SSD for Alessandro and this time no footage went missing! She’s a star.
We discussed the shoot on the last day and Alessandro’s vision for the inevitable release / premiere. He had a bold, brave vision. In a way it is inspirational to be around him and see how he thinks, seemingly without the inner critique and doubts that plague me. And then, once he’d said his peace and we were all keen to go, like a true gent, Alessandro swept the hotel floor – after we’d all accidentally tramped farm yard mud through the lobby. How many directors would do that? Certainly this one for sure. Very admirable.
Afterwards, we went to the Irish Monkey pub again. This time I had pizza and salad and another huge beer. I was too tired to want to go elsewhere and it was a nice place. And I think a meme as born – the excitable double-clap of joy at seeing my huge beer…. Andrea, the Nazi soldier, tried to guilt me for Swedish crimes agains pizza (for my fellow Swedes treatment of their sacred dish). I think this was some stirring that Darwin had been doing – and it was all in good jest. And really helped for form a tighter team. Shared humour is essential.
We had a good laugh when I then got stuck in the pub toilet. The previous day it had been nice and fully functional. Today there was no light and no door handle on the inside. No matter what I tried, short of kicking the door to pieces, I was trapped. There was nothing for it, but either I waited for someone else to need the loo, damage the door further, or I had to call Darwin to rescue me…. I did the latter and then heard the assembled crew laughing around the dinner table as he told them where I was. Nice lol. Smooth. Would I live it down?
Back at the hotel room, rehydrated and desperate to sleep, I packed the gear (especially all the recharged batteries) for the last day shoot and tried to still my racing brain, meditate and relax… find some sleep… anything!
Shoot day #3 – the final push
I had managed to get some sleep. Not bad. Not great, due to being woken up by a weird repetitive sound around 5am. Like a blind man tapping along the walls in the hallway. Some more Valerian helped me get back to sleep, but then I paid the price by feeling out of it / slightly drugged some three hours later. So when Darwin messaged that we should all meet at 9am, I instantly assumed he was messing with us, and thought “eff-off”. But he was actually serious this time lol.
So after I had stretched, showered and quickly jotted down some bullet notes of my memories of the shoot, I raced off to meet everyone for breakfast. Soon, we were sitting outside, as the town / beach filled up with visitors / tourists, and we had breakfast, and then took a group photo on the beach. I had a tuna sandwich again. It was something.
Darwin and Lorenzo were both suffering. Both had bad stomachs in the night and Lorenzo was like a shadow of himself that morning. But some tea, his first on the trip, possibly ever, revived him a bit. Have I made a convert? The group energy was the usual third day jaded shadows of themselves, but this local crew were very much still up for it, despite fading a little. It was awesome to be around them and really helped buoy our fading spirits.
Darwin and I popped back to the hotel and then Leticia drove us back over those bumpy roads. And we apologised over each deep drop, as the car bottom hit the odd ridge – with the weight of Darwin and I and all the gear in the back. Apologies Leticia for the damage to your car…. We got there around midday I think.
After putting the gazebo back together, but this time facing the other way – up the hill, with it’s back to the sea, in the direction of the shots we’d do in that field – we discussed the shots of the day and the plan, and then I began the task of assembling the rig and kitting / prepping the BMPCC4K for the shoot. This time in a rickety lawn chair, as it was all I had to hand.
First we shot some scenes up the hill – and bear in mind after dicking around waiting for guns, all the cast, and the electricity / generator and smoke machine to work – we burned through the first 45 mins / hour of the schedule and so didn’t really take the first shot until 2.45? I think. Despite Lorenzo and Darwin’s best efforts to try and magic us into action much sooner. I think it was causing a lot of stress. Especially as it was the last day for Darwin and I. We had to get it done!
It was so bright at this point, by the way and hot enough that I needed Alex to help hold the reflector over my head, both so that I could see the shots I was taking as well as get a respite from the beating sun / stave off any sun stroke. It may sound like an over dramatisation, but I really do not suffer the sun light that well and can easily get affected by the weather… The day was fun though, despite the pounding headache I had. I was talking with Aurora and Alex about various subjects. And ironically, when we were ready to get the shot, I guessed correctly, that instead of the requested long lens, 70 and above, a 50mm was the perfect choice for the specific framing that I guessed Alessandro would want. It’s nice to know your gear enough to know what might be best. Definitely more practice is always required, but it really does help. I thoroughly recommend all Directors learn this to better communicate with their DOPs / cinematographers etc when time and budget is limited on your sets.
Today Leticia was an actress and part of the partisan group and not an assistant. So Alessia was in charge. I think they both enjoyed the break / change. Sara was put on smoke-making duty, among others. And as always the three of them were super happy and energetic, despite things like stinking like a chimney after fanning smoke and feeding a small fire for hours, only for it then not to be used.
It was great to finally meet the rest of the cast – and I’m sorry if I didn’t catch everyone’s names at the time. I was a little distracted as the sun brought on a pretty impressive headache. But there was now a sizeable amount of actors on set, and also surprisingly a lot more young actors than I’d envisaged when I’d read the script. I’d imagined a much more bedraggled, and diverse mix of partisans.
It was windy today, despite the sun, but also changeable every few seconds. When a normal bucket of burning material didn’t work to provide smoke and kept getting carried away in the wrong direction; the smoke machine also refused to heat up / get powered, so we actually solved the shot by having two people Michele (one of the soldiers) and Roberta (wardrobe and catering) vaping for their lives and their lungs beneath and to the side of the camera to provide the smoke we needed. It worked. That’s what counts. Although it would have been lovely to realise the shot that was designed. Then we finally got that shot of the group of Jewish refugees / Partisans cresting the hill and coming down towards the camera – just with strawberry scented fumes and smiles.
Later, we shot the group photo scene, for the climax of the WWII part of the film. Now, as the sun was relentless, I really needed that Variable ND I brought, as I had the BMPCC4K at the lowest ISO possible and the ND on the highest setting, to get any kind of clarity / see anything – but I’m sure that focus or skin tones might still have been an issue in some shots. But what was really bothering me was that the frame was so square, so flat and also and lacked depth. I was also sure that in the original script very few of the Partisans wanted to be in the picture or were a bit more reluctant; and that Aurora and Alessandro’s characters were in the pic and that is how we can easily know who the two characters are, as old people. Now it is confusing if more people are in the shot and they’re all happy… right? Maybe I’m just being too literal. Hopefully the edit would really sell that plot point / message.
Then we were shooting outside the hut, shooting shots of them arriving past the Germans and one of them being shot, before being rescued and taken into the hut. I think one actress, Giarda maybe, almost did her ankle in. And she wasn’t the only one. Those stones were treacherous and they really got into the action and ran quickly across them – almost hitting the tripod a few times. Here, at one point, due to long delays between calling “rolling!” and actually shooting, I had turned off the camera, only to have to turn it on suddenly as Alessandro demanded that we all suddenly spring into action – not understanding that with a BMPCC4K you can’t just piss away battery power, without a more substantial power solution. So I then turned on the camera and pressed the record button, and shouted “Rolling, for real this time” and although it was amusing to others, in fact it was not rolling…. doh! I’m am idiot! Alex nicely pointed this ‘lack of rolling’ out to me, as I had been so enjoying the action through the lens that I hadn’t noticed my mistake. I caught the last seconds of the scene. Dammit. But after two more takes we got it. I figured they’d end up using the more exciting angles anyway, but it sill burned / made me blush to cock it up like that.
Lots of kneeling, lots of lens changing, and a kind soul brought me a towel to kneel on, until eventually the rest of the shoot was primarily on the 28mm I borrowed from Claudio (thanks man!) and when I could easily have brought my own wide lenses, if properly scouted the locations beforehand. Thank you to Alex for providing me with ample shade to work with, so I could see what I was shooting.
Eventually the light was fading and it went fast. Darwin, Lorenzo and I were all so very aware of this. And it was time for the small portable Aputure lights I brought to come into use. We shot inside the hut and then outside the hut, as the partisans discussed what to do about the last Nazi. For the inside shots Carlo held the two lights up for me to provide the light on the faces (a pitiful excuse for day light – but much appreciated that he did that for us) for the faces of the heroine and her friend at the window. And we had more of the same annoying flicker from the other two cumbersome battery powered lights, that no amount of camera adjustment would fix. I think we got some nice shots, despite the flicker, until we filmed outside at night time and I had to put it on ISO 8000! for the final take. That shot was washed out and dark as hell and lacked any moonlight. I really hoped that some amazing colour grading might save it and that they could deflicker the other shots, or at least explain away the flickering as coming from the lantern. But my doubts were that it would be doomed. Fingers crossed…
One funny moment with those lights, was that shortly after handing them to Carlo he pointed out that one was missing the front magnetic piece. Much searching by torchlight etc and then I noticed that both of them were stuck on the front of the other light… oh how we laughed. 🙂
I packed the lenses away, knowing at that point that I never got to use the 100-300mm lens at all, and that lens took up enough room for 3 normal lenses or the Sigma 18-38 – lenses that I could have used throughout the film to good effect. Ho hum. It is what it is.
Then, after a brief group clap and cheer, it was quite surreal, derigging the camera and having to miss out on the post shoot chatter… and packing up and then clearing the location, and tearing down the base camp / Gazebo, picking up all the litter and all by portable or hand held phone / lights, while standing in a pitch black field in Italy. Thanks to Carlo for his help with the hand held torch.
Carlo drove us home, with a short stop via his house. It was thankfully the last time to ride the bone-shaking roads and see the farm yard dogs peering at us in the night. Once at his nice family home, he very warmly invited us inside to enjoy some spicy snacks and Prosecco. And showed us his studio. Very impressive. The guy is a real gentleman and an artist. I just wish I’d known some Italian to chat more and find out about what must have been an interesting career to date.
After that, he drove us back to dump the gear – back-up the footage – and then head to the Pub for a drink, while Lorenzo got ready for the wrap party.
Carlo drove us to the wrap party location, in the hills and we entered a large community hall where Alessandro was slaving over a hot stove, barbecuing for us and Roberta preparing more lovely food for us. She had not only provided great costumes, but also really looked after us on set. Amazing value to the production.
The cast and crew were all excitable and chatty and there was talk of visiting “The Red House”, a local haunted murder site, which sounded great – but sadly we never got to do it. It would have been a good memory to explore. But it was amazing being surrounded by such a young team that was so full of life though.
We ate well, thanks to our amazing host and drank ourselves merry. Andrea was suitably horrified by the way I eat pasta, not just for my fellow countrymen’s alleged crimes against Pizza (Kiwi or Kebab on pizza!). And afterwards, there were speeches and selfies and exchanging contacts etc. We even got to see pics of Leo’s amazing studio and music videos – and another good reminder to us that most people on set have many other talents than what you’ve requested in a casting / crew posting and getting to know your crew will open your eyes to their potential.
It was a late finish. I was glad to try and spend as much time with them as possible, but the late hour and the alcohol worked its magic and soon I was craving bed and oblivion. I was getting quite restive, but still glad of the company. Just poor at keep up my end of the conversation.
Darwin was intent on staying up all night and heading off to the airport to get his flight. I was sad to see my partner-in-film-crimes go and lose my travel buddy. But so glad I opted for Carlo to drop us off, say farewell to Darwin and then Lorenzo and I crashed.
But immediately on leaving that venue, I was missing everyone already, sad that it was ending and that we’d only have some contact online with this great team. At least until perhaps a future project or two. It would be good to see them again – any and all of them. Even the ones I didn’t get to talk much with.
It was about 1.30… or maybe 2 when I finally crashed and tried to rehydrate and meditate myself into oblivion for a few hours. Fearing the worst as the room was like a sauna, even after the window being open all day long. Or was it me?
Day 5 – the trip home
Despite my doubts, as we got to bed so late and I was over stimulated, both from booze and the shoot, I managed to get some sleep. Not great rest but enough to function.
I was up at 7am, well before my alarm, and used the time to message Suss and then to get myself ready to get on my way home. After a shower, and packing the last items, I was done and then ready for action.
I waited for Lorenzo downstairs, after first checking out and double-checking if I needed to pay or not. I didn’t. Alessandro had picked up the tab. What a gent. It was unexpected and most appreciated. As was him picking up the tab for most breakfasts etc. We were there for him, but still he looked after us. Many thanks!
Soon Lorenzo and I were buying our tickets for the train, from a small store-cum-cafe and then waiting for the train. We had a good chance to chat and enjoy the amusing messages in the WhatsApp group chat. We then had a good chat on the train and in between, with Lorenzo relayed various voice messages from Alessandro – thanking me for the shoot – in a croaky voice as he had lost his voice (from all the smoking, shouting and drinking).
I parted ways with Lorenzo, after the train guard helped me find which platform to get, and then I made it to Fiurocimo airport to get checked-in. Check-in was fine and so was boarding (re extra luggage). Nice. Once past security, I had time to eat a nice Mozarella salad, have some water, do a little editing on my test shoot footage, and then went to the gate. But lugging that gear around wasn’t fun through such a large airport.
The Munich flight left on time, with me sitting next to a large musician, who’d booked an extra seat for his instrument, I think a large horn, which was strapped in like a baby. And he was spilling over his seat as he slept, cramping my space due to his size – so every person knocked in to my shoulders as they passed in the aisle. Lovely. Luckily no spilled drinks on my laptop.
At Munich, barely had we landed before I had to race to catch a train to another terminal and to get to my gate in time, only to then wait for them to board us last. Luckily after racing, I managed to cool down and buy a water to drink. But my left ankle / achilles tendon was borked from lugging such a weight around.
The flight from Munich to Stockholm was ok. Packed, but again I got on the flight without having to organise more baggage / pay more for bringing the camera gear with me. On that flight, it was hot – or at least I felt really hot. I sat and read more, in between the cheese sandwiches, the free drinks and furiously trying to write in my journal to update the shoot diary you’re reading – something that is much easier said than done with all of the interruptions and distractions and short flights.
Back in Stockholm Arlanda and keen to get home already, I was not impressed when firstly the bags took ages to be released and with rude people pushing past to get their bags. And then when the Arlanda trains were also delayed – the message to us was that there was “someone on the tracks” but it was unclear where or if they were alive or dead etc. But essentially lots of impatient travellers trying to push on the train when it arrived – just as they’d been impatient and rude for their baggage. So by the time I got in to T-centrallen and went to get on the last subway train out of the main Stockholm central station, to get to my stop, I also wasn’t impressed at everyone pushing and squeezing on like sardines when it wasn’t rush hour! It was just that all the other trains had been stopped, possibly also for the same reasons – luckily I’d caught the last one leaving the city centre. But I was doing a lot of standing, on already sore feet, after much standing and walking during the day. And I feared for someone’s clumsiness crushing any of the gear. It wasn’t the best welcome home.
Back near home, it was chilly and windy, so I donned gloves for the first time since last Thursday and then trudged home, carrying the camera bag on me and dragging and pushing my case and the small backpack along, fighting with the stones on the paths and roads that tried to jam the wheels on the case and struggling with the gradients and the weight of the gear.
It was great to be home, to unpack a bit and shower and eat. While I ate, I took Suss through the photos of the shoot and tried to explain who people were and how it went. It was hard to focus. And hard to keep my eyes open.
Back in the living room after, I had a drink while she watched GULDBAGGE, the Swedish TV and film awards ceremony that ignored Roy Andersson for some predictable safe crap. I then tried to catch up on all the messages that I’d missed, and felt exhausted and broken. I ached everywhere but especially my feet and left ankle.
Soon I was too tired to watch anything else, even though GRÄNS was on TV. So I foam rolled my back and neck and then went to crash. Feeling a familiar itch in my throat and sinuses… Was I ill again?!?! (EDIT – yes I was).
Lessons learned / observations / areas for improvement
Guns on set require refilling, if gas powered / more ammunition. They’re also loud – yet no one received any warning about the sound or ear protection. Having one fired near your ear isn’t fun.
If filming in a field, you need power – or ample power solutions to provide everything you need. A generator is helpful, but only if it can be placed far enough away not to affect the sound recording and works 100% of the time.
Two battery powered lights is not enough lighting, if they are underpowered lights / poor throw and you cannot adjust the temperature or have no barn doors to shape the light. Do a recce. Know your gear and plan your lighting.
You cannot use 5x manned cameras on set to record an action scene if ample cover is not provided for the operators. They will screw each other’s shots and someone will be wasting their and your time.
You cannot shoot a film starting at 2 o’clock in the day, if you have an ambitious shoot and have not provided adequate power or lighting and the sunset is around 5pm. It is madness and folly and will wreak havoc with lighting continuity, unless you’re only grabbing a few quick shots. Everything takes longer to get started – so start earlier.
Block all scenes out with the cast and rehearse before the shoot – if you intend to have very short shoot days and fear losing day light and have multiple ambitious action scenes / setups.
You cannot dictate what lenses to use if you haven’t adequately recce’d – ie. measured the locations, storyboarded or tested said lenses (if you’re eye / experience isn’t good enough to gauge what lens you need depending on the frame you desire. And you can’t gauge the frame without blocking the scene. And you can’t judge lighting if you haven’t visited the location at night for a detailed recce.
You must storyboard. Pictures of some trees and a bush is not good enough. Your crew need to see a sense of the composition of the frame and have an idea about movement and enough frames to convey the entire film – if shooting under limited time / tough constraints.
If someone tells you what lenses they need you to bring and they are not an experienced camera operator / DP and haven’t measured the locations / provided plans of the shoot and a storyboard that is good enough to convey the frame, tell them to sod off, and bring what you think you will need. They will inevitably be wrong. And one of those three lenses I was told to bring took up the room of three other lenses that I could have used. When space is at a premium, work out what will bring the biggest bang to your buck.
If someone tells you they have enough light, but do not explain what lights they have and they simply tell you ‘yes,’ you will most likely have bugger all light to use on location / set and any chance of a great frame at night will be unachievable. Colour graders aren’t magicians, unless you already give them a source of magic.
Get a lighting technician / DOP that can light a set and get them to decide what is needed on said recce and to handle any technical queries if you don’t know.
You need a production manager, to manage all of the different elements, when you are going out on location etc, to make sure you have what you need when you need it.
You can’t act, produce, write and direct at this level of production, when you are the main actor and you have no production manager. Either scale it down or provide a team that can help you achieve what is needed.
Again, none of this is meant in any other way than as being constructive. Hopefully it was helpful. I know I learned a lot on the shoot and I am grateful that we could be there. And even if it was chaotic at times, overall it was good.
Thanks again to Alessandro for inviting us on this crazy filmmaking journey. So glad we got to work with him again. And to Lorenzo and the entire cast and crew and everyone we met, thank you. It was an awesome trip / experience. I can’t wait to see the finished film!
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?