Let’s just say it was a long night for Harrison and Mark in the end – or a short one if we are talking in matter of sleep. It therefore comes as no surprise that after four pathetic attempts at blogging, Harrison has temporarily given up on it for the duration of the shoot. In typical Director fashion, he has “got someone else to do it for him”.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Karen and I am the Producer of the Electronic Press Kit that will be accompanying the release of Weaverfish. My job will be to document everything that is going on on set and keep all followers updated. This will come in the form of text, photos and video.
So where do we begin?
After a good breakfast and shower, last night’s late end seemed less hindering, even if the wake up call was 7am. The first morning de-briefing went smoothly, with everyone squeezing around the kitchen table, munching on cereal and toast whilst Harrison briefed today’s scenes.
One of the film’s opening scenes was first on the agenda – numerous cycling shots of the character Matt (played by Joshua Ockenden) swerving along the roads of the quaint Hamble village (known in the film as the fictional town of Huxley Wells). In an attempt to capture the cyling motion in the best possible style, Harrison and Mark arranged to film from the back or a car, with Josh in tow. They wanted to demonstrate early on that this indie film was going to go the extra mile to captivate its audiences by placing them within the action.
Shane O’Meara (who plays Reece) soon joined to cycle alongside Josh. You may question the contrasting clothing from the image, which was used by head of Makeup & Wardrobe Naomi to visually reflect the contrasting nature of the characters; Reece being more shy and conservative; and Matt being more self-confident. Fortunately for Shane, he got the warmer outfit for a day that did not scream July through its weather.
The car’s boot was secured open for the duration of the shoot and the seats were mostly removed to allow for the camera and tripod, which with it’s added lens adapter left little space for the camera operators. The Sony EX3 performed well with the new Flash XDR unit, recording at the higher bit rate of 180Mb/s in order to meet the broadcast standard. The camera was operated by Tom, the DOP, whose team are schedule to arrive later this weekend. Not one for paperwork, Mark ditched the Producer stereotype by getting stuck straight in on the technical side of things, keeping all of the equipment in good check and backing up the footage from the Compact Flash Card.
Unfortunately after a few good takes, the Flash Unit stopped working and we had to divert back to base camp. Mark soon identified the cause as a faulty battery. It was one of the smoke alarm batteries that were being used to save on budget, however, this was immediately replaced, and off on the roads again we went again. With problem solving out of the way, we were able to go on and produce some high quality images that helped set the mood and tone of the film.
Equipment is one of the most expensive assets to a film budget, and with Weaverfish on a tight leash of under £10k, the crew needed to think creatively. Today a crane was needed to establish Reece’s house, and Tom had just the answer. He had built a fully working crane out of a sailing mast, allowing for the swift and smooth movement Harrison wanted in the shot. It even connected to a remote control to pan and tilt the camera as needed as it rose to follow Josh cycle past the house.
The one downfall, however, was the setup time. Operating such complex devices is something that is never going to fit into the schedule of a two week shoot. The Dollhouse team were effectively aiming to shoot 6-7 pages of script a day. When you consider that a crane is being used just for one shot, and that it took around three hours to shoot this, you may question their decision to use it in the first place. However, the answer is simply production value. Even if this provides just one large-scale shot in the opening scene, it immediately encourages the audience to take the film seriously. As a big Spielberg fan, Harrison always wants to create a sense of wonder for his viewers to experience. Whether or not this shot will fulfil what he had in mind is another question. We can afford to be critical at this stage.
And more critical we became. As the end of daylight drew nearer, and the production became slower, so did the morale drop. Having had little sleep the night before the first day of principal photography probably didn’t help matters, but mainly the crew were still learning to work as a team. And set ups were becoming more and more tricky.
So where do the chickens come in? In the afternoon the crew set up in the back garden to film the first reveal of Shannon (played by Ripeka Templeton), casually chilling out in a hammock. A day for complicated shots, a track and dolly were needed for more flowing movements continuing from the bike scene. This one took a lot longer however, and we were running two hours behind when we finally wrapped the first shot. Now, filming chickens? Not too much of a problem. Rounding them up? That’s the hard part, and why we only had two takes. Taking the EX3 handheld, Tom tried framing all the chickens and Josh as he ran up the stairs to the house. This was the first handheld use of the camera, which as demonstrated within the photos is very heavy, especially with it’s lens adapter.
Now inside the warmth of the house, Harrison is directing a scene in Reece’s bedroom. Most of the crew have turned in for the day. The scene shows Reece developing celluloid film in a dark room, which will raise a challenge for Tom as the actors still have to be clearly visible – especially with this being Reece’s first appearance in the film. Here, we have our first dialogue of the two week shoot, where Shane, from Scotland, and Josh, from Australia, will both be out of their comfort zones talking in English accents. The whole crew is confident in their abilities though, as they have proven themselves in rehearsals and auditions.
Did the day go to plan? Apart from the ambitious schedule and the need for more lighting stands, Harrison and Mark were happy with the footage they obtained, and the equipment (both rented and made) shone in it’s creative uses.
Saying that, Harrison has just wrapped early on the scene upstairs. Tiredness, he says, is blocking his actors from performing at their best. This means that the scene will need to be rescheduled for tomorrow. Running behind on the first day. This is going to be a tough few weeks.
Tomorrow brings the first scenes by the water, down by the jetty and involves more characters being introduced. Let’s hope for better weather and a quicker turnaround!