Shoot Diary: LOVELY TO MEET YOU

Before you continue, know this – it was only a 3-day film shoot, but I’ve detailed the entire film production related trip to Barcelona and back, from start to finish. The reason? Hopefully it details the craziness of guerrilla filmmaking on a no-budget short horror film in another country. That and the special screening of our other films. Hopefully it helps me remember, when I later forget the details. Hopefully it helps transport anyone reading this to feel like they shared the crazy journey with us, if you care. It’s an update – but a long one. But hopefully you’ll find it enlightening along the way – with a few valuable lessons that we’ve definitely learned – and what not to do!

We had three objectives going into this trip…:

  1. Shoot LOVELY TO MEET YOU
  2. Get on TV again
  3. 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…


CLOSING THOUGHTS:

We had three objectives:

  1. Shoot LOVELY TO MEET YOU
  2. Get on TV again
  3. 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?

MEIPR – Europa

A new MEIPR track video is released – for ‘Europa – EgalitÈ’ – more ambient Industrial, Synth and cello vibes.

Europa is taken from the Alvaret Tape Rekording release EgalitÈ (ATR010) 2018.

Get EgalitÈ here: https://alvarmusic.bandcamp.com/album/galit

Meipr

  • Organics – H. Meierkord
  • Electronics – P. Josefsson

Video by EibonFilms – as in me.

An update – what’s g’wan?

Ok… so we didn’t have a premiere on Halloween…. and MR CLEAN isn’t finished yet… but that’s not strictly why….

Off to a great start… ahem….

The week of the premiere, we did have a music score… and we got all of the VFX shots… but then we suddenly didn’t have any venue. Also, we didn’t have any sound mix for MR CLEAN. But we weren’t the only ones.

Re the sound mix – Darwin also didn’t have his sound mix. In fact, our Sound mixer, the one we’re both using for the same film, went AWOL. Please note: when people are donating their time to your project, you must always respect that paid work takes time and comes first. It has to. Either pay people… or be prepared for potential delays. I totally respect that. It was just a shame with the timing.

But the venue was a separate issue. Essentially, we had two potential venues and then suddenly we didn’t have any. And I’m still none the wiser as to why that is. I mean, I’ve asked… but there are no clear reasons as to why both of them were suddenly unavailable to us.

Ignoring that fact, we now have to find a new venue and book it. And we’re no nearer to finding one. It’s just not that easy to do it over here…. we need help – if we want to hold such an event!

Then, when colour grading – I was 2.5 mins in to the film, doing my own grade and we suddenly found a colour grader! Yayy! Then I needed to spend time getting the files ready for them to take over the grading. That meant stripping all colour effects and titles away and re-rendering the project to different settings… however, I still need to finish the grading! As Darwin and I are again sharing the same colour grader and he found them first…. oh and then two of the VFX shots needed to be redone, because of minor imperfections and then the grade needed to be reissued again…

The other strange element, is that we do have a Spanish premiere booked and arranged – more details on that soon. This is a premiere for DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE, to celebrate the award success it’s had. But also SVEN GUNNAR and MR CLEAN will also be screened and a lot more going on that night too…. The only question for that premiere is will everything finally be done by then?… who knows?

But seeing as there is this event going on in Barcelona… why not shoot another film there? right? That’s what Darwin wants to do. And so we collaborated on another script – LOVELY TO MEET YOU. It’s another dark piece. And we’ll be shooting it before the end of the year. We’re currently in pre-production and we have a cast. More details on it soon…

But yeah… barely finish a thing and then you start another thing… and then so why not suddenly do 6 videos for a friend’s band, for their performance tomorrow… lol. Yes I did that too!

But now, I am back on the colour grading train, because you can’t guarantee that we’ll have anything to show in time otherwise, even though I will probably end up binning my own work for that of the professional. But needs must and I’ve got to do what I can do…. all we really need right now is that sound mix… oh and a venue in Stockholm!

So hopefully that explains what’s g’wan and when I have more info I’ll share it soon.

DFTB wins 1st award!

DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE won it’s first award last night! Darwin was there in person at the Indiewise fest in Las Vegas, to accept the award for best narrative short. Amazing!

It’s such an honour for a script that we co-wrote to be given such an award. And I hope Darwin enjoys the end of fest dinner.

Thanks to the Producers, entire cast and crew for helping make it happen.

DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE – 10th laurel and more…

It’s been a while! Not a particularly great period – but I’ll get to that in a bit – but there has been some good news:

DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE has made it into the Aasha International Film Festival India. Nice. Not only is this just great news because a film festival wants to screen our film, but it’s also the 10th laurel to date for our film!

 Don't forget to breathe film poster with laurels

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.

Anyway, enough. Back to it. Mush!

Shoot Diary: SVEN-GUNNAR – June 27 – Jul 1

The latest film from Darwin Reina Films is in the can – SVEN-GUNNAR:

Temp post for SVEN-GUNNAR

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:

  1. Film SVEN-GUNNAR.
  2. Keep my temper.
  3. 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:

  1. Get through day 2 of SVEN-GUNNAR.
  2. Get some good shots.
  3. 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:

  1. Get through day #3 of SVEN-GUNNAR.
  2. Avoid a migraine.
  3. 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:

  1. Finish shooting day #4
  2. Pack up, and get all of my gear back home.
  3. 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.