Shoot Diary – MR CLEAN

[Orignally published on 20th November 2018]

I hope that you are well Dear Reader, if in fact anyone is reading this – in that case, I really appreciate you stopping by to find out more about how our short horror film MR CLEAN is coming along.

Mr CLEAN teaser poster

MR CLEAN teaser

To bring you up to speed, we did in fact end pre-production officially on the 9th November (although some last minute rushing around to buy props and preparation was still being carried out during the down time of the shoot!) and we shot all of our scripted scenes between the 12th and 15th November. Yep, everything was shot within a 4 day period. And we are now swiftly moving into Post Production, although we may yet need minor reshoots.

The shoot was gruelling, with some dauntingly giddy highs and potentially crushing lows. I was emotionally and physically broken at the end. But, thanks to everyone who took part or helped us during the entire production, I was able to finally capture MR CLEAN on camera. Some scenes exceeded my original ideas and storyboard sketches, thanks to the creativity and improvisation of the team and some failed to quite achieve my lofty [and probably unrealistic writerly] vision. But I think that these failures were mostly down to me being behind the camera and us being up against such a tight schedule, that we had no time to double-check every shot and really push that little bit further to achieve the best that we could possibly do. Oh… And the complete lack of sleep… – with me there is always the inability to switch my brain off and sleep like normal humans. Sadly, this is truly debilitating and means that I really was burning the candle at both ends, and definitely not as focussed as I could have been. However, I am still proud of what we were able to achieve with what was available to us. And I really am impressed by how my team performed, what they pulled -off, and truly grateful for every contribution – no matter how small….

Here’s edited extracts from my journal, from those shoot days, to hopefully get across the state of my agitated brain during the shoot and hopefully accurately portray what a no-budget production is like (it was written in the evening hours after each shoot day and my head was all over the place, so apologies for any omissions):

Monday of MR CLEAN Day 1 Shoot stress (12th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep thanks to the weighted duvet I had purchased to help deal with any anxiety and quiet my twisted brain.
  2. That I was able to get through a tough first shoot day for MR CLEAN.
  3. That I was able to stretch and foam roll my sore back afterwards.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get through the first day of shooting without a major fuckup.
  2. Get shots that we can be proud of.
  3. The special effects arrived.

Thanks to

Darwin and Ranniz (aka Rinat) for their hard work and dedication, and Suss for doing most of the laundry and for putting up with the shoot. And Mike for the special effect props.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and felt wrong. The blanket had worked and I had been able to have a sweaty night of feverish sleep. But I had slept, which is always a bonus and I think that I had been able to shut most of my fevered, stressed brain down by using the blanket. It was as if the crushing weight of it takes such thoughts away…

But I was stressed, and I woke up funny, as I said. I needed to have a good stretch, before showering and then dressed and cooked and ate my breakfast.

I raced around immediately after all of that and set up lights and tripods and other essential gear around the first location and organised my shoot papers in the study etc, as I prepared for the cast and crew arriving. I took a pre-shoot instagram moment and asked people in internetland to treat us kindly. Were there any filmic Gods to call upon?

Darwin and Ranniz arrived. So then we were soon in the midst of it and with Darwin all amped up and firing questions – and then also interrupting the answers – meant that I wasn’t the best at dealing with some of it. I wasn’t the most diplomatic. I am a grump in the mornings sadly. I apologise, but can’t change that aspect. Needless to say, they were both professional, put up with me and were a huge help and helped me to get through the shoot intact. However, my back was soon ruined by the weight of the camera, Sigma 18–35mm lens and the monitor. Especially for those hand held shots. Also riding in the back of the van for some shots, and adopting weird cramped positions without any seatbelts, caused me to smack my head on the van roof and it hurt for the entire four day shoot.

It was a shame that it was so damn dark outside, and it was rainy and I was so not with it mentally. I just felt that I wasn’t getting good material at all. I felt that I was back to my old habits on my shoots and settling for less etc. I hated everything and yet I didn’t know whether it was as bad as I was thinking. But there was no time. Onwards!

We did almost get in trouble. We took advantage of the empty car park to shoot the exterior scenes with the van, and found out that they were empty for an official monthly cleaning. And any vehicle there could get a fine or get towed away. We pushed our luck and got told off by them when the people in charge of the cleaning visited to check the place out. But we assured them that we’d be gone by the time they were done and we soon were.

The special effects arrived, announced by a loud banging on the door as they were delivered at 2pmm ruining a take. I really wanted to open the boxes immediately, but waited until the shoot was done and we were packing up. It was a huge weight off my mind that they had finally arrived, and they were really quite impressive. The only disappointment was that the arm was much heavier than I had anticipated and absolutely solid, so I wouldn’t be dropping it onto any tiles some time soon. It was f@cking heavy too. But also, we would have almost no time to practice. We’d needed it all the week before.

Later, after the shoot, at 6pm, when Darwin and Ranniz left, and Suss arrived we went to do our laundry, and then go into town to buy food and more painkillers for my Shingles [and head] pain and then pick up a parcel (the poster for ‘K-WAC’ for dressing our radio studio location), but stupidly forget my wallet and ID. Luckily Suss had her wallet. Where was my head?!? It wasn’t on whatever we were doing, clearly.

Then, back at home, I was reformatting a drive to wipe it and put the dailies / shoot files onto it for Darwin to have and then that wasn’t working. That was stressful. Then I found that the footage of the largest files was unwatchable, due to the size of the VLOG files, so I needed to learn how to encode proxies and then get that working. Sadly I stupidly set off the encoding of loads of other files I didn’t need first, so everything took so long that there was no time to really watch it. I did make sure to back up all of the footage in two other places, for safety and shared a few instagram grabs of choice shots too.

I watched an episode of MAYANS to try and relax.

We had to finish the laundry and make the bed, and I finally managed to wipe that damn drive and encode all of the proxies by the time we were heading to bed.

It was sadly still raining so I could not open the window and cool the room down. I foam rolled the kinks out of my back and neck and meditated in bed with headphones on, under the new weighted blanket. And tried to wipe my mind of stress. (fat chance…)

Tuesday of MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot (13th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep, if only a few hours.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That the blood FX worked a treat.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Find the last props for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for finding me a syringe for blood FX, Terese for taking part in the film and my patient cast and crew for a great shoot day on MR CLEAN.

I managed to sleep a few hours again. This was good. I woke up feeling like ass [and remained half asleep the whole day], and had to force myself up out of bed at 7am to stretch my aching body and put it all back in the right place, as Suss got ready to leave. I dove into the shower for a quick wash and then dressed and wolfed down my breakfast, before preparing the papers and gear for the shoot.

Darwin and Ranniz were here early. So we had a quick update, with a donut and coffee for breakfast, for the guys as a treat. Then we took a look at the footage from the day before. However, although we were slow to go and start work on the shoot, it was the right thing to do, to regroup.

I even showed them the old first cut of BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR (an earlier film of mine). And they liked it.

The shoot overall seemed to go well, despite me being a little sore, tired and snappy in places. But my mood improved as the day improved, as more shots were done and they were ones that I was more proud of generally. We shot scenes 8 and 12 I think – the shot in the car park with bloody overalls, Ranniz becoming a black bin and bucket, body bag combo, decorated with some fake blood, and the Estate Agent shoot with Terese in Stureby. Both were quick and efficient.

However, I think I did trip and kick the HDMI cable from the Smart HD, poking out of the GH5 and bent it. Luckily, bending it back seemed to fix it and I was able to get through the shoot with a functioning monitor.

Darwin and I did fit in a walk into town to take Ranniz to the bus station, so he could get to Stureby before us and I could pick up the K-WAC poster.

Afterwards, Darwin and I drove back to the house, Ranniz went back with Terese, and we copied the files onto the hard drive for Darwin, and backed them up twice for me and discussed the plan for tomorrow.

Darwin then set off to go and pick up the Smoke machine and take the van back. Then I went into town. I called Suss and asked her to see if she could get me a syringe for shooting blood. She said yes. And then I went and bought a red curtain, a sign you pin letters on and lighter fluid for the Zippo. Some hurried inspirational props for the Studio segment.

Felix was his usual nosy self and really enjoyed the excitement of the shoot and constantly fussed around us and tried to get in on the action. Damn cat.

Darwin liked the quick and dirty graded shots I sent him from Day 2. We then had a catch-up planning session, before I then went to make a sign for the studio shot, and then went to watch TV for 30 mins to try and relax.

I just couldn’t relax. There were lots of messages flying around. And yet I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I foam rolled my neck to finish, and rehydrated, but my stomach wasn’t happy and I felt dehydrated, despite downing much water. That burger was dirtier than I thought…

Wednesday of Day 3 MR CLEAN shoot – armless (14th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite no sleep and a splitting headache.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to get a few more shots that I’m proud of.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Sort the black sand and use my intestines for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for the excellent blood FX syringe and pressure spray, and not freaking out at the blood covered bathroom. And to Jaba for taking part in the film and being such a great victim and my patient cast and crew for MR CLEAN.

I didn’t sleep last night, not really if at all. The magic blanket aka the weighted duvet couldn’t deal with my dodgy stomach and my restless stressing brain.

I got up, after meditating [to try and get my shit together] and started stretching my body back into position, after the weight of that duvet had reset it, and then showered, dressed, breakfasted and I prepped / moved some gear back into position for the day’s shooting when Darwin, Jaba and Ranniz arrived.

We were trying to shoot the victim scenes, this meant Jaba was being abducted from outside the house and we were then eating his intestines and then chopping his arm off in the bath and sacrificing him to the Old Ones. A normal day right? No. Sadly a good one and productive, but not all the way through as I had hoped. Felix didn’t help when crashing the scenes, so much so that Ranniz had to carry him (as pictured above). And we didn’t get to do the tentacle stuff that day. And we got to use a lot of blood….

Darwin had brought black paint for the sand, but it was quickly found after one quick test to not be working. The brown sand looked grey and it was very matt. Then he had to go and pick up the stuff I’d wanted in the first place…. Sadly, this was part of the shoot, where better communication between us during pre-production would have saved time on the shoot… Luckily, Jaba had fish and knew exactly what I needed. He and Ranniz convinced Darwin, although he was very reluctant – and then they went off to bring it back. It cost us an hour and cost us valuable daylight. But it was totally worth it!

Also, the fact that Darwin did not take part in the rehearsal, that took place before the shoot, meant that we lost valuable time blocking out the scene and explaining what we were going to do, for any scenes that did not feature in the test shoot we did previously. He did a great job when we were doing those scenes that were new to him, but then he inevitably picked the worst moments to then ask what he was doing – usually during a take, while the camera was running, so that it became impossible to keep track of the shots and so going through all the takes would not be as easy. Once we do it it will all work out. But at the time I was often just saying ‘f@ck it!’ and ignoring the need to use the clapperboard at all.

So that was an issue, but the fact that the arm was not soft and light and slightly rubbery, as I’d envisaged, and that it arrived during the previous day, meant that we had to improvise the shot as we had no time to rehearse – so no time to make it feel more natural – and that also cost us another hour.

Despite all that, I am really grateful for everything they’ve all done and Jaba was awesome. He was a real star. But it was frustrating not getting all of the shots this day. Instead we elected to keep the smoke machine an extra day and get the tentacle shots the following day. We also didn’t get much foley for the afternoon stuff. We’d need to do that another day.

There was a funny incident earlier, when choking Jaba out – when a sweet old lady walking her dog came up to us and asked if we were committing a crime. In our bad Swedish we explained it was a sort of ‘Veckans Brott’ (The week in crime) a local popular TV show that old people like, and she seemed happy with that, so we carried on choking Jaba.


Jaba and Darwin sort out their differences

They did help me clean up some of the mess, but then they left and I spent hours scrubbing as much as I could to clean the blood off the bathroom. But some of the spots of calk between the tiles were still pink. Pity. But I will work at it. Suss came home at 6pm and was very forgiving, but I felt bad nonetheless.

I backed up all of the footage, twice, created proxies and then carried on cleaning, before we ate pizza for tea and then I cleaned some more, before charing all the things and taking a few nice quick and dirty graded shots to share on social media: these were also kindly received.

I sat and watched FURY to try and relax at the end of the day. I was feeling beat up, and Darwin felt the same after an intense day. However, it didn’t work, soon I was too overtired and had to foam roll my neck and meditate in bed with the headphones to finish, to try and wipe my thoughts. (spoiler – it didn’t work)

Thursday of Day 4 MR CLEAN shoot – it’s a wrap! (15th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite little sleep and aches and paints
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 4 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to see it all through, thanks to my cast and crew.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in all of my shots.
  2. To get the tentacle and Studio and street shots that I had dreamed of.
  3. Backup my footage up in multiple places.

Thanks to

My entire cast and crew for helping bring MR CLEAN to life.

I was exhausted by the time that I needed to get up for the last day of shooting on MR CLEAN. Weirdly I had been awake most of the night, restless [and my brain full of me composing shots in the film], full of stress. And I only actually got any real sleep from 6am; a nice 1.5hrs of rest. Soon I was waking up with just half hour to get frantically showered and dressed and ready before they would arrive. Luckily Darwin and Ranniz were delayed in traffic so I could have breakfast too.

We started with doing the internal shoot for MR CLEAN, as he is leaving and taking Jaba’s watch and rings with him. We made it look like night time by taping up the windows and over the double doorway in the hall. Felix of course wanted to get in on the action.

After that we did the tentacle shot. And it was a bit of a farce, but eventually went as desired. The sensitive or movement specific stuff really required subtleties of that movement. But as we had little control or practice of it some of the movements were jerky and off. Sometimes when I was directing the shot, Darwin would sometimes be giving his own direction. So I had to stop him and I felt mean doing it. But once he listened, he understood – as we had discussed this before the shoot [only one director on set] and we soon got much better shots – and then we were no longer confusing poor Ranniz.

After that part of the shoot, poor Ranniz had to race off to drop off the smoke machine and then meet us at St Eriksplan, while I hurriedly packed up all of the gear and Darwin loaded the car. I then cooked and ate, while chatting briefly with Darwin, while trying to get my food down me.

Then we were off and driving, and I found that I couldn’t shut up. I was invigorated by the shoot, crazy with a second wind. And soon also dizzy with tiredness and knew that I needed to keep moving to stay awake.

We had to dump the car and switch the gear to the van and drive to the studio. There we met Ranniz and Sofie, who were both waiting outside the church. And Darwin and I had to find how to get into this one way street outside the studio. Luckily, I convinced Darwin to ignore his instincts to not follow the electronic map and trust me and we got there. It wasn’t easy to find. Then I had to unpack my gear from the side of a van and assemble my rig, while dodging cars coming up alongside me and then I could finally say hi to my actors and get ready for the scene, as it started raining.

First we did the scene in the street. We had no choice. The engineer, Gabriel, was not at the studio yet and we couldn’t get access to the building / get the door code. So we improvised. I set up across the road and held an umbrella and tried to set up my master shot, while Ranniz filled-in as her co-worker and Sofie walked off up the road and Darwin followed in the van.

Then we did the reversals up the street from both sides and lastly the interior of the van. This was problematic. Darwin was stressing and trying to get me to hurry things up and it was as if he was almost unintentionally trying to sabotage the shots – as crazy as that sounds. And so when I was finally almost wound down by his intensity, and I caved, he finally tried to urge me to keep going and spur me on to finally nail the shot. And just when I was recovering from the twists and turns of the emotions, and was suddenly grateful in a way, we were then going into the studio. I still don’t understand what happened. It’s like we were a functioning bipolar production team. Crazy. But it mostly worked!

Now bear in mind that we were booked from 5–7, but wanted to get in early to get started early, so when Gabriel came out and let us in early we were setting up for 3.30pm. So I hadn’t used up much time at all, and yet Darwin was really driving me mad by pressing me to crack on. Again it was confusing to my analytical brain. So when he was trying to contradict me in the shots that I had wanted to get, I had to put a hand on his shoulder to get his attention and remind him about what we had agreed and discussed, that there was only one director on set. However, once we’d dressed the set and got things set up – the only thing that was lacking was the lighting. Everything else was going well – including the curtain, poster and other props and wardrobe etc. It was mostly looking great, but a bit dark.

It was funny and touching how Gabriel was celebrating his birthday that day and then two women came in to sing him happy birthday. And we were there. I bet he felt like a celebrity.

Gabriel was up for being in the shoot, but at first he couldn’t switch off from doing the sound. So it may have looked like his quest for perfection was driving Sofie to the point of frustration and it was at risk of getting in the way of me getting my desired performance. But we got it. At least I think we got it. We certainly got nice shots. I’m not sure in hindsight about the lighting. And I didn’t like that I was being rushed. And yet, just when I thought I was about to give up, spent, Darwin spurred me on to get the money shot, the closeup of Sofie’s mouth and the microphone. Again I was confused by this. – obviously as creatives we attune ourselves to the unique qualities of the other, with more time and practice. But it was perplexing all the same.

Then, when we were in the moment of a wrap, and congratulating and thanking each other, and yet we also then had to suddenly pack up, remove all of the set dressing and props and lights and pack up the gear etc and get the hell out of there. And then we were on the street with a packed van, saying goodbye and hugging. Sofie and Ranniz walked off to the tbana, Darwin and I went to drop the van off. Gabriel went to finish his broadcast – after giving us the audio.

I had hoped to have a mini wrap party right after the shoot in a local bar, but sadly it wasn’t to be.

Back at the car park, we pulled the MR CLEAN ident from the van, and transferred the gear to the car, before we then drove back to mine – via the pizzeria, to buy burgers for both of us [a less dirty one for me]. Then we got home to have a beer, transfer the footage to the different backup drives and look at a few shots, eat and chat.

Darwin left around 8pm. I then set about cleaning up, moving the gear back into my studio or the spare room, and finding random spots of KY Jelly and blood, and trying to clean them up.

I tried to relax, showered and put red heat on my shoulders, and back and then sat and tried to watch a bit of a film to relax.

I foam rolled my neck and went straight to bed and meditated myself to sleep. But then after being disturbed, I was lying awake…

If you want to see more shots, check out my Facebook page:

Some observations / lessons learned:

Had we done some of these things I truly thing the film would be better and have gone smoother, and I think that they will be my focus for the production of MR CLEAN 2 and 3:

  • More people. We needed a larger crew. Having people around means less space and more mouths to feed and more people to direct. However, the lack of a script continuity person and a dedicated cinematographer, and a knowledgeable lighting person, meant that we were all having to perform multiple roles to fill in on the day. Believe it or not, but most of the shoot we were literally only three people.
  • More lighting gear. You can never have too many lights. We really put every light that we had to use, but we needed more. Some shots were too flat as a result.
  • Less locations. We were ambitious and creative and maximised our locations. However, the distance between them and the time to strip everything down, pack it away and then reassemble it, only to strip it back down again and move on, was a huge factor against efficiency. It’s why most horror low budgets are one-room / location efforts.
  • Our special FX props arriving far too late – this meant that there was no time to practice beforehand. Not really. So we may need to reshoot the tentacle scene.
  • Rehearsals and blocking are key – The fact that I was not able to block out scenes and rehearse with my main actor before the shoot, meant that essential time was lost communicating what I wanted and that ate into the shoot time. I will not shoot a single scene of the next films without ample rehearsal time.

Anyway, I’m sure there is always more to share. But this is already of an epic length. If you read it all, I hope it was illuminating. If you didn’t and skimmed it, I don’t blame you. Thanks again for stopping by! Just think of me, being ill, after having worn myself down through lack of sleep and stress. And I hope that if you come back in the future, you’ll think that it was all worthwhile!…

Cast and crew of MR CLEAN

That’s a wrap!

And please do think highly of my cast and crew! They’re awesome!