TUMBLE DYING – Shoot Diary

Tumble Dying poster
Coming soon! Tumble Dying

This weekend we (Hasse and I) finished shooting TUMBLE DYING, a micro short comedy horror film about “what becomes of the lost and departed socks?” I’m exhausted now, but it was worth it. I think… I’ll know for sure when I’ve reviewed the footage and gotten into the edit and I’ve recovered from the exhaustion… but it was good to get the same award-winning team from COMFORT HIM back together, to try to make another micro comedy horror short and share more filmmaking adventures.

I wrote the original script for TUMBLE DYING, but Hasse wasn’t into it. However, after some discussion, he came up with a suggestion for a better / richer ending for the movie, and something that we could both get behind, that also homaged a shared favourite film of ours – so it was nice for him to get more involved on this one and for him to take over some more production duties and especially track down some essential props. And this was the second time that I got to work with Darwin behind the camera on one of my films, assisting me with the camera work, having originally helped me shoot COMFORT HIM; and he was a much more significant contributor this time – and actually helped push me through the entire shoot to get it done. Thanks to both of you for that!

Although it was only a 2 page script, it was a miracle that we managed to get it done in two days (except for one minor pickup shot that is needed); despite the weather, ridiculously difficult green screen shoot and sickness, we did it!

Note: as with my other shoot diaries – these are written as a stream of consciousness, recounting of what happened in the production phase, mostly the entries were written the day after each shoot day – due to such long production hours, while it was fresh in my mind, and they are not meant to be overly critical, just to be constructive documentation about what happened, of where certain aspects could be taken as lessons learned to enhance the quality of future productions. But mainly to document what happened, for when the memories begin to fade….

Friday – The day before – 28th August

The tower is complete

I was woken, after a restless night, with a bizarre S&M thriller type dream, of a woman being terrorised by her Sadist boyfriend Frank and a young guy who wanted to rescue her, who was becoming tainted and enjoying the sadism like Frank, while the woman enjoyed it, but was ultimately going to abandon them both… like some twisted version of BLUE VELVET, but done Cockney style.

Obviously, I wasn’t well to have a weird dream like that. I had a bad stomach and woke up and immediately dashed across the house to worship the porcelain God. Great. Like I needed that today…

I had a busy day of work, long meetings that required lots of prep and diplomacy, some urgent scripting to do and a Tower of socks prop to finish for the film, food to cook for the shoot, all of the gear to prep and pack / arrange for filming and somehow to stop my body purging itself to see if I could even do the shoot tomorrow.

Luckily, the meetings went ok, and I even got some scripting done, despite the frequent dashes to the bathroom. I also had a call with Darwin to discuss gear to bring for TUMBLE DYING and if we needed a car etc. I had a call with the cast to check they were still coming, with Hasse to discuss logistics, discuss wardrobe etc and last minute additions to the crew to help with the sound, makeup (due to people letting us down and some unfortunate Covid-sounding illnesses) and more. And all the while, talking on the headset, I changed and charged batteries, I glued and stuck more socks on the Tower, and eventually completed it all.

Thanks to Suss buying me some pills from the pharmacy, I finally gained some control over my bodily functions. And I could try and rehydrate.

As a result, of a minor improvement, I cooked dinner for Suss and I, then cooked lunch for everyone for the day 1 shoot at mine, a huge curry and rice, and prepared breakfast etc. It was a huge undertaking, but I got it done. And all while wearing gloves, and making sure that all food hygiene rules were observed.

I then arranged laundry for props, remembering that we would lose time on the shoot if we had to wait for the laundry to actually complete a cycle, between sequences. And then I could finally look over the sequences and prepare for the mental side of the shoot… sort of. It was 9.15 pm when I finished, and then cast a look back over my notes and storyboards etc one more time. But my head wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t in the zone.

The toll, today’s illness had taken on me, was that I was at this point kind of a hollow and washed-out version of myself. And I wondered if I could rehydrate, and sleep enough to feel better over night and get through the shoot. Would it affect things?…

We had an early night. I tried meditating in bed to finish. But my brain was buzzing.

Saturday – Shoot Day #1 – Saturday 29th August

I got up sluggishly at 6.30 am, feeling like crap. Having been awake since 4.30am I think – thanks to the cat and my brain suddenly snapping wipe awake…. eventually getting up to shower. But I wasn’t feeling any better than the night before. Could I get through the day???? Should I cancel? I felt like death.

There was furniture to move, both for shooting and for people to sit on, breakfast for others to arrange, messages to answer (about where I lived, despite prior proactive messaging about it over the last two days and it being on the damn shoot schedule ffs! Always. Every film. Someone always doesn’t check), and a joke message from Darwin trying to fuck with me and tell me that he wasn’t coming, when he was outside the house already [he is a prankster], and then one by one Darwin and the others arrived; and I was trying to be a host, handle the catering / look after everyone and be the director / producer. Tricky. Too many hats. Not enough energy or limbs.

Soon when we were all there, we took the stuff down to the laundry (aka Tvättstuga in Swedish) feeling high in spirits.

The laundry was cramped, but also it had people in it other than us at first. First one of the community residents, as we waited for him to choose a laundry day which seemed to take him forever – probably because he was confused why 8 strangers lugging cameras and lights were waiting for him – and later when another woman came in and seemed sure that we shouldn’t be there! She thought it was her time to do laundry, but she had the wrong date! That could have been disastrous, if I’d cocked up the booking and we couldn’t film at all! While I was thinking I’d booked the wrong day and we’d have to abandon the shoot and vacate the location, she apologised and left. Phew!

We started outside, shooting the establishing exterior and it was sunny and pleasant. And as soon as we moved inside to do the main shoot, the heavens opened. We had heard rumours about potential rain, but after 2 weeks of zero rain, it seemed unlikely. But also the forecast was wrong. It didn’t just have a high probability of some rain, it was raining cats and dogs all day and night!

It was small in there, in my tiny laundry, so we couldn’t get all of the shots, at least not how I had imagined. And not without complex rigs to mount the camera on and plenty of time to burn to do that rigging etc. But we improvised, Mina sat on the Tumble Dryer at one point to hold the camera, and later got in the damn thing, to hold the legs, when the clamps wouldn’t! Her own suggestion I think. I certainly didn’t make her. She’s a trooper! And so talented as a filmmaker in in her own right.

I think despite us running over by two hours, we got almost every thing, save for one button push (which Hasse and I will get as a pickup shot). However, one slight issue – due to the rain being so persistent, I hoped it wouldn’t ruin the edit, to go from a sunny day, to interiors when the Gods are angry outside? And I hope it wouldn’t ruin the sound. But also, would it be like this tomorrow when the entire shoot was exteriors????

It was a day of compromises. I’d started the day with gloves on, mask etc, and the gloves kept splitting and tearing on the gear / switches etc of tripods and cameras and battery compartments etc. And the mask kept coming off. FFS. So much for corona protection. We really had tried. I bought all these masks etc. But instead, eventually we all opted for using hand spirit a lot and had to ignore the other elements. My hands ached from so much applied alcohol after that shoot…

Lunch seemed to go well and everyone seemed to like the food.

Emma had shown up around lunch, as arranged and sadly had more hanging around to do than I would have liked, and we made it a bit tough for her unfortunately by shooting her pieces largely unscripted and in reverse. Mainly because of the way we finished with Hasse’s setups, to save moving cameras and lights etc. This actually meant that she had to do everything in reverse, going from shock, to confusion and then to mild surprise… which must have been challenging. But she did really well. And even though we asked a lot of Hasse, and there was a lot of feeling our way through how to pull-off some of these shots technically due to the shots not matching our plans, he was great, patient, calm and in good humour and professional throughout. He even entertained the troops in between takes and then was ever attentive to being available when needed. What a great cast!

The fake legs worked well I think. And we were surprised, how despite not having any leaf blower and the fan I’d brought not being powerful enough to ruffle hair and clothes, like I wanted, that we actually got the fishing wire to work – although we did lose a bit of time in doing so – it looked great on camera.

Earlier in the day I had a delivery of a light that I urgently needed for the evening’s shoot. Mina’s friend Philip – who did sound recording for us during the shoot – went and picked it up for me. He also proved so very valuable to the shoot, as with Mina. We were very lucky to have them.

After everyone helped us get the stuff back to the house, it was time for most people to start to leave. Sami, Darwin and I stayed to try and get the screen sequences done. This meant unpacking the light that Philip had picked up for me, as we needed more light, whilst I backed up the day’s footage we had shot on each device, and then did numerous tests that we could check the keying, thanks to Darwin’s quick skills with After Effects. Then Hasse arrived – he had to leave, to go home and then pick up a car to return to pick up some stuff for tomorrow, and had been delayed by traffic disruptions caused by Climate change protestors versus Raggar Bilar US car fans; both blocking streets in the centre of the city and snarling traffic to a halt.

We had a problem though. No extra green screen, as I’d hoped we’d have – as the person lending it to us had gone away on holiday. Damn. So because Hasse is so tall and human arms are so long etc, we had a real problem trying to get the shots we wanted – to keep him in the shot, for masking around him – and we still had issues with getting a clean mask, as we still needed a little more light to kill any shadows; but as I’d been let down by a delivery during the week, we had one less light than we needed. Damn.

I was a bit spent, over tired, completely washed out and grumpy as hell at this point. We tried, but everyone was a bit deflated by it. Not for want of trying. And not for want of Hasse diving enthusiastically onto the ground doing his own stunts and screaming loudly and so amusingly, that it’s a miracle that the neighbours (who must have really wondered what was going on) never came to check on us or called the cops. lol. Now that would have been a story. As Hasse is an ex copper.

Eventually a call had to be made. I decided to sack it in for the day. Hasse had to go, Sami followed, taking the Tower of socks, spare socks, makeup, blood etc with them. Darwin and I then took the gear / lights down packed the gear and arranged it ready for the next day’s shoot before he left. And then I did the last prep for day #2.

Then at 9.30pm, I tried to wind down, to enjoy a drink, watch some comedy to distract myself etc.

I was in bed by 10.30pm again. I had no energy to even shower, and crashed into the mattress. However, I was over tired. It took a long time to shut my buzzing brain down and get some sleep. That and a resorb and quite a bit of water to rehydrate first. Maybe I’d be better tomorrow?….

Sunday – Shoot Day #2 – 30th August

I woke up / was woken by the cat wanting to go out and then at that point, after letting him out, I was unable to get back to sleep at 5am. I got up at 6am, once I was alert enough to realise I was one day into a shoot and had another day before me… or did I? Would rain stop play?

I showered, dressed creakily, and ate some of those leftover breakfast items from the day before, before messaging Hasse. I’d seen a break in the rain clouds and blue sky and it looked promising. Would we film / chance it? He agreed that the sky near his place, near the location, had also cleared. Let’s try to do this! Get ‘er done! … but sleep was much more what I wanted…

I rechecked my storyboards and notes, and by my estimation, I think we were only missing one shot for TUMBLE DYING – of the Tumble Dryer being turned on. Bums. But we could get that another time /later. More crucial shots awaited.

Darwin was coming to pick me and the gear up. He arrived on time. However, he again sent me another prank message, but I was already ready for it before I opened the door – both laughing as he read my reply to his text.

By 7.40 we were on the road, car packed and headed off to Hasse’s. We got there just before 8.30am, unloaded the gear and took it up to the apartment where Hasse was waiting for us. There while the others had breakfast, I rigged the camera and set up sound etc and had a look at what gear we would take with us / use. With it being an outdoor shoot, it was unlikely we’d need lights – especially if the weather held out. But we had them just in case.

We didn’t get out of there to the location as fast as I would like. Basically we didn’t get out of there until 10.30. Then Darwin, Philip and I scouted the location, Stora Skuggan, in Norra Djurgården. The fields near the car park weren’t working for me – not where we needed it to look like a deserted and lonely open field. As far as I could see, I saw lamp posts and cyclists, dog walkers and sunbathers and walkers. Damn. However, thanks to Darwin’s encouragement, we walked further and found an old open air amphitheatre on the other side of a small hill. This was perfect, because we could control the eyeline for the shot, without having to worry about runners, walkers and dogs, as long as we didn’t go too wide / pan and capture the lamp posts and paths. But we would have to contend with sheep shit, which was everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

Once Hasse (with fresh head wound applied – thanks to Mina) and co arrived, and as Dana and Emma joined us to be Shemps (aka bodies), we could finish unpacking the props and dress the set. We had distributed most of the socks before Hasse arrived, so the set was ready to receive the skeleton, limbs, skulls and the tower of socks and a crash mat. That done, we could then get onto the fall and the final scene. Suddenly, everything was getting too bright to see anything, or to think…

However, sadly, the ladder / fall scene wasn’t quite as dramatic as I’d hoped / high enough. Hasse did brilliantly with it. We were insane for even trying to pull it off in the first place, without a stunt double or dummy. But a higher ladder and bigger crash mat would have been better…. and we didn’t get to do the blood splat, with the pressure sprayer, as everyone felt that we were running of time / being behind schedule, so that would have to be CG again. More importantly, Hasse had a flight to catch – despite me telling him not to book anything after either day of the shoot! And everyone else needed to be places. Sod it… and then we had to content with double the amount of takes, with the sun now out – due to sun or clouds alternately screwing with continuity; which wasn’t helped when I then realised a sock was in the wrong part of the shot. We needed it later, to shoot Hasse hitting the ground and for the sock to land on him, to join it up with the fall. Now it needed to be reshot…. And have you every thrown a sock? They do not go to plan, and it took probably ten goes before I cast one and it seemed to land in a good location on the 2nd attempt…. and for all of this, we couldn’t really see what we were filming at all! We couldn’t see if it was in focus, due to the now punishing sunlight which made it impossible to see the brightest of camera screens / monitors, even when wearing a reflector on your head (as I do).

However, we did get everything done by around 2pm and then hastily packed away and cleared up the scene of the crime; we covered up the blood patches with sand, scooped up the socks and bones and bodies, and left it as we found it; we made sure all the props were collected for being returned, before sadly crushing the tower of socks – after 5 days of work it really did come apart in seconds, once a heavy boot was applied to it. It was sad, but we needed to get it so that it would fit in Hasse’s vehicle, with the crash mat and props etc, with real and fake bodies to be taken back to Hasse’s.

Back at Hasse’s, we ate a lovely veggie lasagne, thanks to Hasse’s culinary skills, had a nice meal together and de-rigged the cameras and better packed the gear for transport home, parted ways and got on the road. Not quite the wrap we wanted, but the best under the covid circumstances, and with everyone’s prior arrangements. I just wished I’d managed to enjoy the shoot more and goof around with the others more. But we were up against it for sure.

Thanks to Darwin, we got back to mine around 4pm. I backed up his hard drive and then said goodbye, before trying to get everything back into my office, unpack and then back-up everything; then once showered, rehydrated, I tried to fix my now zombified brain, which had crashed despite it only being a two-day shoot.

I was sore and achey. But despite the stresses and trials, I was truly grateful for the combined donations of all of the socks, for the enthusiastic time and help of the team, for the support and the love that the project has gotten. I really appreciated everyone’s contribution, collaborative efforts. And the only critique I had about myself, was that I must learn not to be so testy when I am over tired and stressed. Because I do have a problem with lack of good humour when I get that bad.

The key was to rest up… or postpone?

Lessons learned / Conclusions

  • Either don’t shoot if ill, or arrange a backup plan / don’t try to do everything yourself and learn to rely on others
  • Rest up before the shoot. Fitting everything in, like building that tower and working on it every night after work, was not ideal. Sadly due to shoddy delivery standards in Sweden, there was no alternative. Things really do take too long for items to be delivered than back home – where the dream of next day delivery is a reality.
  • Conduct a proper recce / location planning / on site, complete with diagrams etc.
  • Ensure you have all of the right gear for a location shoot e.g. a tent over the camera and operator, so you can stay out of the sun and get the shots…. or adopt an eye piece / eye loupe style viewing system.
  • Do a full test shoot. We only did a green screen test shoot, but maybe I should have done a proof-of-concept first.
  • Check over every prop and accessory – not being able to gauge the size of the crash mat or the height of the ladder from the videos / pics that I’d seen, meant it was impossible to do anything but improvise during the shoot.
  • Hire a green screen studio or create a proper one, where full body stunts can be done.

Having said all that, I think that we did pretty good considering. I know we got some good-looking shots. I just haven’t looked to see if we got all of the right shots. But it was a fun adventure, despite the issues. Thanks again to the team for carrying my tired ass and putting up with my short temper. And thanks to you all for reading.

I am as interested as your are, to see whether we can pull off something as good, if not better than COMFORT HIM, with what we shot.

Visit the official page for more information: https://eibonfilms.co.uk/tumble-dying/

Visit the TUMBLE DYING movie imdb page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13015218/?ref_=nm_flmg_prd_8