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?
We’re all flawed… Very much me. Very much whatever I produce. But isn’t that what makes us unique?
I think if anyone ever consciously creates anything it usually doesn’t match what the original idea was, once executed. Even a child. I doubt anyone truly conceived the thing that has become me. It’s all one happy accident – a combination of numerous random factors and lots of added road miles and chemicals.
It’s very rare that the film you set out to make is the one you release. It’s no surprise that the editing process is often described as the third stage of the writing process – you write the film, you rewrite it in pre production and during the actual shoot (problem solving and adapting to reality) and then you rework and refine it in the edit, based on what you actually shot. Often compromise is heaped upon compromise and small changes reset the whole, as a result of the effect of collaboration with others.
This film is definitely not what I set out to make at the start. In fact it is bigger and more ambitious. Plotwise, it was a fun way to make a simple short, which could give Darwin and I something to do. Technologically, it would be a useful test of the Gh5 camera I purchased. Scopewise, it was simple – shoot it at home, mostly in a controlled environment and with a limited crew. We didn’t know anyone. We wanted to establish ourselves in Sweden as filmmakers and build a small network of likeminded collaborators. As with many endeavours, our desires overtake our ability in some ways and soon the plot became more ambitious, making the radio DJ and Studio a much more significant part of the film. Then I thought “why not throw in some FX in to the mix?”. This all impacted the Scope, the duration and the budget and the time to get it all done.
The shoot was chaotic at times, but mostly went well for our first shoot working together, despite cinematographers not showing up and not having enough people. With enthusiasm we shot stuff we hadn’t planned on getting. Brief moments became much longer scenes. And we also didn’t get stuff we planned to shoot – partly due to losing control at a few brief but significant moments. All of this added to the complexity of the edit task and once it grew beyond the script it became much tougher to reshape. But it’s all in the past now…
For my part, I inherited the edit, 4 months after having shot the film and having to start it from scratch, due to cross-compatibility issues with files across Premiere and FCP X. Mainly because I refuse to keep paying monthly fees for a buggy sluggish editing programme. Darwin had realised that our estimated 3 week edit timeline was unrealistic and then he’d begun to doubt and move on to other things and it was clear he was not moving forward with it. But I then had to pay the price of a blank slate and try and make up for lost time, when I took it all over. And in that time, the 6.5 months that followed, I had to first identify every shot I liked, then get that timeline down from 33 minutes of footage that told the story I wanted to tell, to the 6.45 mins of finished film that I have now. Constantly trimming and rearranging clip orders and trimming some more. – While also having a day job, writing a new script and shooting that film this summer…
Throughout, I’ve doubted myself constantly. Am I making the right choices? why didn’t I shoot X? How can I weave a narrative from this? Have I weaved a worthy narrative from this? Am I going insane? I must be insane to try and do this for an October 31st premiere? etc. And will anyone even care?
I’d like to think that there are less flaws with each successive project that I work on. That’s definitely what I aspire to – to improve upon everything I do. I think in many respects, this is my best film yet. But despite this, I am well aware of every flaw. How could I not be, after seeing the same shot hundreds of times and each one in a gamut of variations? And all while knowing what my original vision was for each tiny moment.
Essentially, I guess you could say that I am now in the Fine Cut stage. Which means that we have locked picture. We are now working on sound mixing and scoring and colour grading the film for its premiere screening. Is this merely like rolling a turd in sparkle and trying to make it something better than it is? I hope not. I hope the film is well received when the cast and crew see it. I hope that it doesn’t get a drudging by the critics and viewers and I hope that festivals treat it kindly. I hope for all of these things. But even if it gets a kicking from all quarters, I know that I am proud that I have seen it through this far and also will hopefully soon do so to the very end. And that is what I set out to do. I needed to finish this film. I have much more to make. And getting this film done is key to boosting my confidence to tackle more ambitious projects. It’s not perfect, but what films are? I will love it, despite its flaws. I will love it because of its flaws…
So far only a select few have seen the film in its current state. Darwin has suggested edits that have helped (especially one that revealed a continuity error) and others that sought to make the film more linear, until it then highlighted other shots we never got, that would have made that plan work. But it did highlight the fact that two shots I’d considered getting since the original shoot, were still needed to provide a more pleasing ending. As soon as Darwin came back from the US, we got the crew together again to do a fun pickup shoot and snag those shots in true guerrilla style (pics below).
The Composer (Flora) and Sound Mixer (Luca) obviously need that locked cut / edit in order to help them achieve their roles. The VFX Designer (Albin) needs them to work his magic etc. The only question for me is will I have to colour grade again or can I get some much needed professional eyes on this? Oh and the bonus question is always – will we get it done in time? The timeline is ridiculously tight. I am well aware of that. And it’s all my fault. If I had been quicker, the pressure would definitely be on me and not on others. I apologise profusely. But sh*t happens. But let’s hope that something marvellous happens under that pressure and things come together. And let’s hope that no one is broken because of the pressure of this deadline.
And regarding speed. How can you rush your way through an edit, where you essentially don’t know what the final point needs to look like – because the story you shot is more complex than the one you wrote? You can’t. Not really. And not when you have a job that has overly ambitious deadlines you also need to hit. Because. Wages… and then factor in a laptop needing a completely new keyboard and having to go away for two weeks, and software updates breaking the software – which took time to fix – and crashes, not just for me but also while Albin is rendering VFX. oh and having to edit a trailer you never knew you were expected to produce – because who puts trailers together for short films? – apparently it is a thing now. Lesson learned. All of this slows things down.
But there is always value in this process. You learn. All through the doing and failing, you learn and you improve. The lessons learned on this film helped make SVEN GUNNAR a much smoother shoot and edit I am sure. And, the way I feel about this short, is that the effort I have put in is akin to that of what working on a feature must be like. So why not tackle something bigger and more ambitious in the future? it certainly hasn’t put me off – although in the darker periods I’m sure I felt very differently about the struggle I was going through. …
In fact yes, there have been some very dark times. There has been sickness and stress, tears and self-recrimination and illness. There has also been laughter too, sometimes giddy and hysterical or drunken. And the metre has swung from abject loneliness to feeling like I belong to a tight-knit group of co-located professionals and also wondering why no one gives a shit about this epic one-man struggle of creation? Who will see anything other than a flawed, odd, film just shy of the 7-minute mark?
In the scheme of things, does any of this matter? No. Do I matter? No. You are always the only one that cares about your own movie. No one else will ever love it as much as you. And in this time of short attention spans and scrolling timelines, who can get anyone to really care anymore? So why do it? God knows. I only know that despite all the pain, it is a damn sight more interesting than the rest of my life and at the end of it I’ll have something to show to mark the time. And thanks for all the fish…
If you want to learn more about the film editing process, to understand why I’ve taken so damn long, READ MORE.
And as always, if you read all of this, thank you. But why? What makes you tick? What flaws do you obsess about?
And let me know if you want to watch this film when it’s finally done? And tune in after the 31st to find out if we made our premiere and if so, in what form?
Sometimes what we must do for love, can kill us. That’s the realization that Tim must come to if he is to stop Sven-Gunnar. Tim, a father and husband, is forced to commit the unspeakable in order to save his family; he must realise that the man holding his family hostage has done this before, if he is to stop them all becoming victims of SVEN- GUNNAR and prevent others falling victim to the same fate.
Hasse Brontén … Tim Darwin Reina … Beachgoer Johnny Vikeväkorva Johansson … Sven Gunnar Alicia Mörtsell … Julia Emma Karadottir … Anja Isabella Ahlberg … Beachgoer
Produced by Lee Bailes … producer Johnny Vikeväkorva Johansson … producer Darwin Reina … producer Rubi Rios … executive producer Julio Moran Suarez … executive producer
The keen eyed will notice that the next festival we’ve been selected for is next year, in May. So it will be awhile before we find out how we placed in that festival.
But DFTB has also been selected for potential screening, subject to contracts / agreements, on TV in Latin America. This is also great. Every bit of exposure and every new viewer is most welcome.
So that’s it for the film festival / screening news…. so what else has been going on?
… Well I’ve been editing. At a snail’s pace, it feels. But I’ve been editing. Namely I’ve been working on polishing the teaser trailer for MR CLEAN, working our excellent composer Flora Cheng, our talented sound mixer / designer Luca De Sensi, on getting the sound mix just right, struggling to get Darwin’s After Effects animations working in FCP X and then rebuilding them all the way I wanted them in Motion instead and trying my hand at colour grading – and no I am not a colour grader! But hopefully, soon, I can release the MR CLEAN teaser trailer and resume editing on the film.
I have been editing the short film of MR CLEAN as well, of course, but I’ve been facing some technical challenges, including a failing keyboard on my Macbook Pro, which resulted in the machine being taken into the shop for a replacement – which if you don’t know, is a major piece of work! And it left me with no option for editing for 2 weeks. That and a stress-related illness has meant for a fun summer I can tell you. lol. The self-imposed countdown to a premiere is approaching. We’re hoping to screen MR CLEAN on Halloween. So every minute counts. There are some VFX in progress, thanks to Albin Larsson – so I can’t wait to see them and share them with you.
But the main battle I’ve been facing is pushing on, despite doubting whether the film will even be any good? Will it be worth it? The fact that a film takes longer than you expect to produce seems to add more and more weight and expectation to the fact that it was shot as a bit of fun, to give me something to do – and has instead become a veritable burden. It is a challenge. I must complete it. But in no way is this fun. This is war.
If you’ve a little time to spare, and the inclination – feel free to read the [exhaustive] shoot diary, as best as I can recall it. This is more for my own records, but I hope you can get a taste of what it is like to shoot in a run-and-gun fashion on a no-budget horror film, and maybe learn some lessons along the way… oh and if reads a bit “Me. Me and me.” Apologies, but it is straight from my brain and details only my perspective on events:
Thursday – day #1 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Keep my temper.
Get some good shots – in focus and correct exposure.
Thanks to: Darwin for all the driving and Johnny’s family (Sven-Gunnar and Mirja) for all the excellent hospitality.
I had managed to get maybe an hour’s sleep. No way near enough. I felt out of it by the time it was time to get up.
I finished packing my bags and left everything quietly by the front door. Darwin and Johnny were running late, so I dealt with some admin as I waited. Ironically, sods law, they arrived as I suddenly needed the loo. Despite communicating to Darwin that I was in fact on the loo, he demanded that I come out to them. lol yeah right.
Once I was outside, we unlocked the garage and moved the car, and as Johnny put his stuff in the car Darwin commented on the fact that we had more stuff than the day before. There was no way any of us would have got our stuff in the car if I had not whittled down my gear – the previous day when packing – Darwin was just realising this now. It definitely makes sense to try and pack for a trip like this the day before, if you have a safe place to store it, rather than stress when you just want to get out on the road at the last minute.
Then with a smattering of light traffic we were soon driving into the archipelago / heading towards Hälsingland as Darwin fired question after question at us, often from different subject directions, preventing any of us napping :). And had one brief stop off at a petrol station outside Gävle, to eat and stretch, before the final push to our location / temporary home for the next 4 days.
We were the first ones to arrive. We got to the location at Skog, around 9.30 am, and started to unpack. I think that Johnny’s parents were next; then the rest of the cast and crew who were due that day. This gave us much needed time to unload the car, to set everything up in the barn, re starting to unpack gear, assembling the camera and lights etc and start moving things we needed into the barn for the interior shots – before questions and demands on your attention.
Johnny and Darwin went to pick up the car for the shoot. But the breaks didn’t work. Plan B was to muddy up Darwin’s car ‘a bit’…. but Darwin doesn’t do things by half.
By the time everyone arrived, at 12:30, we were in some semblance of order so had a group meeting to introduce ourselves and explain the shoot. This wasn’t really the kind of shoot pep talk I was hoping for. By the end of it no one knew the rules, had an idea about set safety (re cables and lights) how we would take shots etc. This meant that the rest of the shoot was a little chaotic – and I feel in some ways that there was still a little confusion as to what was done and when – and also allowed us in hindsight to be a little lazy when following our own rules. This is also traditionally the time for signing contracts before the shoot begins. Next time – we’ll be better next time!
Before they arrived, we went to check out the side of the barn and there was no graveyard yet. In fact, no grave, no crosses etc. There was also no set built for the fruit cellar. This would have been ideal to have been sorted prior to shooting. But with a late recce, what can you do? The original intended location for the graveyard was unsatisfactory, due to water, so we moved location and started work preparing that new site. Yes, glamour – digging holes etc. Not exactly the best way to start a shoot. But if you need a hole on a low budget shoot you best get digging… yes even the director.
As this film had makeup (prepared by the talented Isabella and Salwa) we were waiting for this to be complete before we could begin. So we had lunch, which was lovely and prepared by Johnny and his Mother Mirja. There we also met Johnny’s cousin, Jenny’s daughter Elina who would play Tim’s daughter.
We started shooting around 2.30 that afternoon, the scenes with ANJA (Emma) and TIM (Hasse Brontén) – down the road from the barn – and we were now 1.5hrs behind schedule on the first shot. There wasn’t much traffic luckily until around 5pm when we saw 4 vehicles, including a truck all at once. So we had a pretty easy shoot in what was an uncontrolled location / public highway. However, the fact that it was sunny and I couldn’t see the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s screen in the sun without holding a reflector over my head like a sun hat! meant that it was stressful to take any shot or try and keep focus. If I’d had a cage I would have mounted the Small HD monitor and used that… but this was essentially a running theme through the entire shoot; that and scrabbling around for different lenses, and trying to change them on the fly without dropping them or getting dirt in the camera or lens. And having to keep feeding batteries into the speed freak of a junkie camera, that chewed through batteries like nothing I’ve seen before was terrifying. You could not keep the camera on between takes if you wanted to get any shots. And I was so nervous about damaging the SSD / cable, and losing our shots, with the hastily jerry-rigged mobile phone holder mount and rubber band solution – that I had to use, because my rig only arrived after we’d started shooting :(. This was also the start of failing to mark each shot or to take focus and colour references or record sound for very take. Not a good way to carry on. But then think of the actors, they also were working without the benefit of rehearsals and advanced blocking, so everyone was under pressure. This was also not cool, as I had urged everyone to do rehearsals at a production meeting weeks before the shoot to avoid any on-location fuckery.
Darwin recognised that we needed more crew members. We needed at least 3 more people. We needed someone to do sound, someone to run the clapper board and mark shots / give colour / focus references, someone to mark the shots taken and note down key shot info e.g. what lens / time, whether they were good or bad takes etc – as well as lighting or continuity or a focus puller etc. Yes it is more people to feed and more hands to keep occupied etc. But they would be worth it to aid a more efficient process and ease post production later on. Darwin tried to take care of sound, in between directing and giving everyone the information they needed – but hard to do so when you need to direct and keep every informed, and Johnny tried to run the clapper board when not in a scene / shot, and give me what I needed, but basically as we were already 2 hours behind before we’d even got underway in the shoot, everything soon became sporadic, chaotic and not as professional as I prefer.
By 5.30, we were ready to shoot JULIA’s (Alicia) scenes with TIM, on another stretch of road. This presented minor problems, but mainly cost us valuable time, when things like crash pads for the stunt and necessary equipment was not with us and needed to be brought to location. And this stretch of road was a little narrower and slightly busier, with human and vehicular traffic. One dog was very keen to get in on the shot, despite its owners’ efforts to drag it away.
I’m not proud of being snippy at times. But asking questions and being ignored or talked over, triggers me every time. Tempers did get frayed as the pressure of slipping behind mounted, especially when hunger began to kick in and questions are whizzing around. Nevermind the flying vampires (aka Mosquitos) that preyed upon us, even through two layers of clothing. I looked hella stupid in my bug bucket (mosquito hat with fitted net), but it helped. The Mosquito repellent that I bathed in, did not help at all – as the next 10 bites I would get, would testify. So yes, I got snippy and I’m not proud of it. But I’m impressed that others did not, especially when the cold night air bit and when Alicia voluntarily lay face down in the dirt for one shot.
We moved on to dinner around 7.30 isn I think. And then afterwards at 9.45, it was time to resume shooting. This time it was JULIA’s escape from TIM where shots were taken from inside a bush, holding leaves in front of the camera to add visual interest / depth of frame.
We wrapped at 10.40. Way too late, nearly 2 hours behind schedule. And at the time I had not realised (and did not realise until the 3rd shoot day) that Darwin had elected to cut a scene that I was keen to keep in the film, one that crucially and efficiently tied many plot elements together. I know that he didn’t see the benefit in it, but to me it was crucial for Tim’s character arc in the eyes of the viewer. Too late now.
When questioned by Sven and Tim about how the shoot was going I was not the most positive. I was just tired and grumpy. But I was sure we would get better. First days can be tough when you take on too much and don’t allow more padding or plan for it well in advance of the shoot. And I hate starting off on the back foot, when there was no good excuse for it. We would catch up. But it was a 5 day shoot, crammed into 3.5.
Unfortunately, despite being exhausted and having no sleep that morning, I was unable to shut my brain down. The bedroom was full of mozzies, it was too hot and and I’m bad at sharing rooms. I was too conscious of disturbing Darwin, and tried not to, but the squeaky bed and stairs / door was impossible not to. And then buzz…buzzz…buzzz… smack!
I tried to meditate…
Friday – day #2 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Get through day 2 of SVEN-GUNNAR.
Get some good shots.
Enjoy the shoot.
Thanks to: Darwin for allowing us to finish earlier today.
I did not sleep – as far as I know. If I did it was no more than an hour. I felt like ass, and was utterly exhausted when I got up. So when Darwin got up early, I then followed and showered and dressed and treated my bites and got ready for the day, starting with a lovely breakfast, thanks to Mirja and Johnny.
Day#2 of SVEN-GUNNAR started with preparing the grave site. Johnny came out to show us the site, where he’d proudly cut some more of the grave. But it was only deep enough to bury a tiny baby lying on its back. So Darwin and I dug and dug, taking turns until eventually he could lie in it on his side. the real Sven was instrumental in this success, as he had a great spade that made better work than the older one we’d found. We all – Johnny, Darwin and I – then also built crosses and arranged the site, while the first makeups were being applied. It was hot and sweaty work and the bites from last night were itching.
Then at 10:30, it was off to the vampire forest, to (fight mosquitos) and film JULIA (Alicia) and SVEN (Johnny) in the woods. This was to film some running shots. It was a bit tricky to dress the scene. But we gave it a shot, dragging various fallen trees in to the scene to add some interesting visual features. Then we ran through spacious and then very tightly grouped, branch-filled woods. At one point Alicia almost did her ankle in, and I got caught across the head when I stumbled into a branch and saw stars. And we were constantly covered in insects. Darwin and I traded cameras at this point, briefly as I was filming the scenes running with the DJI Osmo on a hand held rig, and Darwin kept filming with the Pocket 4K so between us we moved swiftly and enabled him to Direct the scene as well as to get more hands-on when it was quicker to try some experimental hand-held stuff.
By 11.30 we were back at the barn and gravesite, to continue digging and rigging crucifixes, and to film ANJA (Emma) as she met her final resting place. Here we had to work out how to drop her into the grave without injuring her as the ground had hardened in the sun, since we’d left the site. She was up for trying this minor stunt herself. But Darwin bravely stood in for her and we got creative with the shots / edits and Johnny got to put the boot in for the first time :).
We broke for lunch, but then Darwin went off and filmed JULIA’s final scenes in the barn. I was gutted to miss out on it, but needed food. I was flagging in the heat but tried to keep hydrated.
Then we resumed trying to get shots around the grave site, reusing my old fake arm from MR CLEAN and the intestines. And we did the vomiting scene with TIM (Hasse) and SVEN (Johnny). And there was a lot of me lying in the dirt to get the extreme low angle shots of vomiting – beware the downdraft fragrance of fake vomited soup on a hot day! – as well as the high shots, filming with the Jib Crane setup I’d created for the DJI Osmo (fixed to the end of a 3m boom pole to simulate a sort of spacey / out of body experience). I was impressed how this turned out, but still think that a walking shot would be easier with a drone in tripod mode, or another operator to work the phone and lots and lots of takes… but we make do with what we have.
At least we try to but sometimes we have to bow out. As we headed back to the barn to film ANJA’s scenes in the barn, I suddenly had a crushing headache or potentially the start of a killer migraine and my vision was going. I stumbled groggily out of the barn, leaving the camera to a confused Darwin, and ran to the summer house to climb up into the attic and rifle through my bags looking for pills. Luckily I had a few with me. I was able to stumble back and able to continue shooting – after downing a lot of water and the pills started to kick in.
We did get the stabbing scene and this was a tricky thing to do. A nice stunt pillow, rigged up with an improvised blood bag inside a copy of the dress, and some careful framing would hopefully give us what we needed. All in all the scenes worked well, but it was stressful with the need for lots of coverage and swapping lenses and moving light setups. But Emma was a trouper, putting up with more and more blood as it dried, and everyone mucked in to make it work.
By 8pm those scenes were done. And we could all head to dinner and socialise with Sven and Mirja and the cast and crew. A little wine came out and everyone properly got to know each other. This would have been ideal on the first day, but sadly we had to wait until the 2nd day. But it was great when the ice was broken and we could all enjoy a more productive day.
Then afterwards it was Sauna time. I like to think that time to think and decompress, in 60 degrees, and with a glass of wine, helped me sleep later on.
Darwin and I sat in the kitchen and went through the dailies, not logging and capturing, but just checking if we got the shots we needed from the first day and today’s shoot. We definitely had a few great compositions, but I wasn’t sure how it would later grade, as we were in uncharted territory with the Pocket 4K and extreme ISOs.
Then it was time to get ready for bed. I opted for another bed downstairs, to leave the vind to Darwin. That way we’d both be relatively less disturbed. Then, I tried to meditate myself to sleep, and ignore the constant relay of dive bombing mosquito attacks. Buzzz… buzzz…
Saturday – day #3 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Get through day #3 of SVEN-GUNNAR.
Avoid a migraine.
Try to enjoy the shoot.
Thanks to: Jenny and Emilia for some easy shots later on, and great makeup and improvised wardrobes from our talented makeup team.
I had been bitten more in the night, despite killing three mosquitos. But even more amazingly I had gotten a few hours sleep. Although no more than 4 hrs, it was enough to help fuel me for the coming day.
I got up at 6.30 to go and shower and breakfast and get ready for the day’s shooting, treating my bites and reapplying mosquito repellent, despite it being ineffectual – in fact it was becoming a constant joke to me. I’d even been bitten between my fingers and it was right on the bone. lol.
The day started with a great, warm and friendly breakfast, aided by the social activity the evening before. Then Darwin and I left everyone to it, so we could check the frame from the night before and recreate the last setup /vscene to do another shoot outside the barn.
Around 9am, it was time to check the shotgun, and the situation re blanks, as firearms are not something to mess around with without supervision – before then shooting SVEN and TIM’s confrontation. As we’d found in the recce, the dragging of a fully grown male human was difficult. Luckily this time it had rained, and the grass was damper, so Johnny had no issue doing so, and I spent most of the morning lying on a damp crash pad, filming dutch / corpse angles.
Then we took a break while make up was being applied, to go and shoot some potential stills for a temporary poster.
At 10.30 it was time for the barbecued flesh eating scene. This was okay, until it involved macro shots. I am always stressed out by such shots especially handheld. But this time it was stressful trying to shoot into a fire, and dealing with the smoke and ash that was blinding. The flip side was that it drove the mosquitos away for a while. And despite my doubts, Darwin was right and the scene seemed to turn out fine in camera, despite not looking like I had originally envisaged when writing it. We had opted to move the location from the woods to near the barn – who cares, it is his vision and that’s what is important!
Lunch was fun, because Hasse was on form as a comedian who loves horror and sharing his love of various horror films between jokes. And explaining how he became involved in the project. What a great stroke of luck to have a true horror fan aboard this crazy project! And the girls all discovered a collective love of the THE ROOM, the classic Tommy Wiseau film “I did not do it!”.
At 13:50 we were able to start shooting TIM’s (Hasse) and SVEN’s (Johnny) scene in the barn. This was tricky as it involved moving everything around and relighting from three setups and having a gun shot / special effect. I was disappointed to find that the special effect / my pressure sprayer didn’t work as planned. But with some improv a creative solution was found – that and gaffer taping a mount and rigging the Pocket 4K from the top of the ladder! A setup that reminded me of previous shoots of old. It was also interesting to have a photographer – Piotr – come on set to shoot stills while we shot, and then disappeared again 2 hours later – God knows how we appeared to him.
There was a moment in this shot where Johnny and I had to fight with Darwin to get a shot of loading the shotgun shells. Darwin was against it, but then eventually was instrumental in helping us get the shot. And although we won’t know how it will be needed until it is needed, then it may or may not be used, it is the shotgun porn of shotgun shots and must be attempted at least – later when we went through the dailies it looked amazing.
Around 18:25 we suddenly found a second wind and ran through three shots. We shot TIM’s family scenes (Hasse, Jenny and Emilia) , then TIM and the daughter playing cards, and then the family running through a field of long grasses in a golden hour shot. This was the time to break out the crazy romantic / radioactive / vintage glass and shoot in 24p and 60p. It all seemed to go well, and even the golden hour sunlight came out when we were shooting the running scene, so a few more extra takes were in order, just to be sure. Thanks to our cast for putting up with it – and risking tick and other insect bites (no one was bitten to our knowledge).
Then at Dinner, Sven first announced that he noticed his neighbours had come to the summer house and they had a daughter that we might be able to use in the beach scene the next day. He then brought out the big guns, more wine and then some Jinn and some vodka. Big mistake. But much appreciated by all. 🙂
Darwin and I then sat and went through the dailies and unfortunately this meant it was another late one. I don’t think we crashed until around 11pm, after sauna showers were had.
I tried another mosquitoless bedroom and tried to meditate myself to sleep. But I knew that I was buzzing too much… my head buzzed…. buzzed and buzzed…
Sunday – day #4 – SVEN-GUNNAR
Three things that would be good to achieve today:
Finish shooting day #4
Pack up, and get all of my gear back home.
Back up SVEN-GUNNAR.
Thanks to: Johnny’s wonderful parents for their hospitality, and to the entire cast and crew of SVEN-GUNNAR, including the last minute local additions – for without their help the film would not have happened.
I had difficulty sleeping. I know I got a little sleep. Or at least think I must have. But mainly I was trying to meditate, to rest and trying to ignore the midsommar light telling me to get up from 3am onwards.
I got up at 6.45 just as tiredness was kicking in, to go and shower, treat my bites and get ready for the day. I had breakfast and then headed back to the house to change and then repacked my bags – gathering my laptop and assorted gear from the kitchen area, and the rooms I’d slept in, and repacked it all in the Vind / attic.
Then at 8:30 it was time to move the gear for the first internal scene of the day, the fruit cellar and barn / attic parts. I knew that if we wanted to stick to Darwin’s plan to finish everything and leave by 1pm I would need to take charge of packing gear we didn’t need, and arranging gear for this shoot and the next one down by the lake. So while Darwin and Johnny tried their hand at setting up the shots upstairs and constructing a makeshift room under the hatch, I busied about, tracking down every light, extension cable, SFX element and tripod etc – not easy to do – and sorted out what we needed and began disassembling things like the GH5 cage and packing anything that could be packed away before shooting and during breaks in shooting.
The upstairs shoot of the barn was carried out by Darwin and I. it was a tricky shot – it involved many tests and repositioning of lights etc because the ‘fruit cellar’ was not a real fruit cellar and we were shooting handheld, with the GH5, and the DJI Osmo.
I was disappointed that no actual room had been constructed for the set. It looked a bit shit and not what I had envisaged originally. But hopefully we could pull it off with the right angle / shot. The girls (Jenny and Emilia) were really good, but it did bother me that we took the quickest route to something that was a key shot of the film and should have been done correctly. Why rush it? Why not put the effort in? It’s not like we didn’t have the space and materials and know-how to pull it off. It was just like the grave all over again, it was needing others to care as much and see what you see….
The reason for using these cameras was that the Pocket 4K was not stable enough to guarantee that we would see what we wanted to see without getting other elements in the shot / that we would consistently get the right angle. Both Darwin and I shot with the GH5 and at one point, taking turns when trying to frame a shot that ended with me between Johnny’s legs and resulted in me pointing the camera down over the hole and filming the girls, as he stepped over me to get out of the way. At this point he accidentally landed a blow to the side of my head, cricking my neck and making me see stars. Luckily the camera wasn’t dropped and no one got a camera in the face. Phew! – crazy and not at all how such potentially dangerous shots should be done – better safety on future shoots I think. Eventually we got some pretty good shots also with the handheld DJI Osmo rig, rather than the Jib Crane one – the latter was better for walking shots but impossible to control and too unpredictable for pointing it down without another operator and more takes.
Once the makeup was done, we headed off down to the lake / beach, and tried to get two scenes shot out of the one location. I think we pulled it off, despite Darwin being against even attempting the 2nd shot – despite him previously agreeing to attempt it. The only thing I could figure out that was going on in his head, was the weariness of the no-budget indie film director, when you’re making it up as you’re going along and by the last day you just want it to be over already. it is exhausting. Yes we had not scripted this scene, and we might not need it, but again the reasoning was that if on later viewing people needed us to connect Tim to Sven, and explain how Sven targeted Tim – this would be a good replacement for the Restaurant scene that we did script and did not shoot and might save us a future reshoot.
The shoot by the lake was… interesting. The beach was very narrow and we needed to make a large body of water look like a sea, despite it not being wide enough – even though this was not a relevant detail for the film and no one apart from Darwin cared about that detail. With some careful positioning, Darwin got the frame he wanted and I hoped it would look good on camera, to be worth it. This involved standing on a table on grass, with the tripod, as when I tried it on sand the table proved particularly precarious – I was more worried for the camera taking a tumble than me. That and the difficulty of keeping a consistent frame on a constantly moving surface…. Then Darwin got into frame, as the father of the new family to be targeted, and Isabella (makeup) as his wife and a shy young neighbour of the real Sven-Gunner (Emma) got into frame as her daughter, and did the weirdest play in the ‘sea’ I’d ever scene. It was weird because the water was too cold / too early in the day to really swim and dunk someone etc, so there were moments of splashing and fun, but mainly just a lot of strange running around in circles. I couldn’t help but laugh. I wanted an extra take of Johnny with cigar in hand, going to light it to tie up to later scenes, just in case and had to fight to get that also. This time I was suspecting that this was Darwin’s desire to press on, as he had plagued me on the last day of MR CLEAN when there was no need for it. So I resisted and stuck to my guns.
After the reverses of Johnny, and close ups, Darwin wanted to wrap. I felt that we had to get this other scene, so I convinced him to come with me to a cafe area further down and explained how we could pull it off in two shots. He was against it. But the actors were up for it, and we still had an hour, so why not? He relented, but rather than direct, or assist. Just stood there as I quickly arranged them and knocked-off the shots we needed. The actors were all great, and Johnny was spot-on with his marks. And the mosquitos were kinder and the local girls let us hog the swings a little longer, until the shot was done. Bless.
Then it was a wrap! We took a group selfie, thanked the family for lending us their daughter and headed back to the house to pack. Such events are a blur sometimes.
Despite some false starts, where a lens cap had gone missing and was then found and we did last minute checks to ensure nothin else had been left behind. We managed to get ready to leave at 1pm – packing the car full of gear, despite the real Sven-Gunnar doubting our space management skills, and then waited for Darwin to wash the car off. Johnny and I then enjoyed a nice Sven-Gunnar shot in honour of the movie and had our own two-man wrap party; Darwin was driving so couldn’t join in sadly and many others had sadly already gone home earlier. It was a damn fine shot too. To be revisited at the premiere!
Soon we were hugging and waving goodbye to our amazing hosts and cast and crew and then on the road home. Before the post-shoot malaise set-in, Darwin drove us back, firing off his trademark questions / comments that seemed to come out of random directions. And then we dropped off Johnny and made it back through the traffic to mine with no issues – to unpack the car, and start backing up all of the footage.
It is a rule of mine, never leave a shoot without three copies. One to edit with, one for safety and another off-site backup for more safety, in case of fires etc. Always bring three drives to the film shoot party.
Sadly, there were some other personal events that evening, so sleep wasn’t forthcoming.
But thinking back on the shoot, I am glad that the only casualties were one fake severed arm – which is now minus some fingers – unless I can glue them back on – the twenty bites I received and my pride at losing my temper and my dissatisfaction with wanting to achieve a better quality result and not wanting to rush things so much. But again, as I kept telling Darwin, despite writing the film and doing the cinematography, and all of us helping in our own ways, no matter whatever gripe I might have had – this was his film. It is ours if we want it to be, but only he can get it over the finish line now. Only he can see it through the rest of its journey…. and now that it’s done. What could have been is not important, only what will now be…. I will never be satisfied, but that’s because we must keep striving beyond our means to improve and grasp at something greater than us. It’s not important whether we achieve it. It’s important just to try.
I am glad to have met and worked with and spent time with some amazing people; and to have shared a bizarre cinematic adventure in Hälsingland and to have worked with Darwin again. It was crazy, unpredictable and fun at the end of the day and I can’t wait to share the end result with you all in the near future. But now I need to rest…. and get back to MR CLEAN. And plan the next film!…
If you got this far, thanks for reading! I applaud you.