Friday, 28 August 2009

I just heard the CrimeFighters trailer music... Hayley and Sam. I now have goosebumps that won't go away. Here's a cool picture to go with those goosebumps, courtesy of Matt Dobson of Eyland Images.

Good god I have talented friends. Tony and I will be working on the trailer in the week. Can't wait to give people a glimpse of what's to come...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Aftermath (2)

It's very weird after focusing on one big film project for most of the year then suddenly finding myself at the end of principal photography. I mean, I have so much more to do and arrange - a good 4 or 5 months of work still to do on CrimeFighters - which is great, but there's still that feeling of being dumped onto the shores of reality after riding the... waves of... uh... thing.

I'm good at metaphors.

Having spent much of this year writing, planning and rehearsing for something that we're now three quarters through, I have mixed emotions from relief, to anxiety that it all works out, to joy at seeing Tony's rough cut so far which confirms that we are making something pretty special.

Having spent two very intense weeks with a cast and crew who became a kind of weird family, and who now have all dispersed, leaves me with a strange bereaved feeling. I'm so glad we're all having a break and coming back to finish the film in a few weeks, because everyone feels the same way; that this is an adventure that isn't yet finished.

So what to do in the interim, apart from making sure pickups week is well organised for October? Well, I shall be supervising the rough cut with Tony, going out with Dan to record foley (sound effects) and work out what scenes need looping (re-recorded dialogue, which averages well over 50% of the sound in most films). Making a website with Jonic that will initially hold the trailer but expand nearer the film's release to include 'Making Of' things, music, images and lots of other fun stuff. I shall also be watching lots of film 'Making Of's that I find inspiring, from Joss Whedon to Stanley Kubrick, Spielberg and Lucas, to remind me of why I got into all this in the first place.

The weirdest thing is going to be returning to everyday work. In some ways it's a relief to be back in a steady job that allows me room to breathe, and a cinema environment is sometimes quite nurturing - well, once the schools are back, that is. Having more of a measured routine of editing sessions and planning time is going to be great as well, and as December rolls around it's going to be very exciting looking forward to the film's release.

The other weird thing is just how practical you have to be, to be a dreamer. I know that sounds like movie dialogue but when your head's in the clouds and your feet are on the ground, you sometimes... get backache.

See, I'm good at metaphors.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Aftermath.

I can't believe we did it.

When you look at the big To Do list as the months ticked past, and then at the production schedule, it's amazing that we got 80% of the film shot in 2 weeks, and to such a professional standard. It's amazing that the weather was awful for the whole of July and then sunny for practically the whole shoot. It's amazing that the cast and crew surpassed themselves and that the whole of York banded together to help us make the film. So many stories, so many heroes and this is beginning to sound like a film trailer...

Speaking of which, Tony and I are working on the first CrimeFighters teaser trailer over the next couple of weeks and will throw it your way as soon as possible. We're also working out the logistics of the Zomblog finale, which, although it will be pretty insane, is going to seem like a walk in the park (possibly with chicken drumsticks taped to our legs) compared to the CrimeFighters shoot. I can't wait to get into Z-blog mode again and make the last two episodes of Season 2. The blood-drenched finale will premiere at City Screen on Hallowe'en, and we'll be whoring that event very soon.

Post-production has begun on CrimeFighters, which includes Tony and I doing a rough edit of the film, creating sound effects, a music score from The Sorry Kisses, and getting the pickups shoot sessions planned. I reckon it will be 4 days in October; 1 in the pub, 1 in the church hideout, 1 by the Minster, and 1 of daytime scenes around York. It'll be great to have a few weeks off then get back to making the rest of CrimeFighters when we're all fresh and rested.

Now that we've wrapped principal photography on CrimeFighters, I can honestly say that it was the most daunting, amazing, rewarding, terrifying, stressful, tiring and FUN experience of my life so far, and worth every damn second. And the real journey is actually only about to begin...

There we go with trailer talk again...

In the city... you've got to fight to surviiiiiive...

Trailer coming soon...

Day 15: Wrap Day.

Well, we did it. So the answer to the question 'Can you shoot a micro-budget feature film in 2 weeks?' is 'Nearly'. We have about 80% of the film in the can and are returning to shoot pickups (stuff we didn't get) for a few days in October.

We started the morning very rushed at Borders, then had the day off to return to the pub to film a scene in the courtyard. It was weird being in the pub but not using the bar area.

We got a nice long scene in the pub at quite a leisurely pace, which was perfect because I don't think anyone was physical or mentally capable of much else at this stage, speaking for myself anyway.

As usual we had some loyal crew around to be extras... although lesbians and drag queens is not quite what we had in mind.

The most surprising thing about filming overnight in the summer is how quickly night...

...becomes day.

More later. Sleep now. It's been real.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Days 12-14: Basements, Bookshops and Cop Shops

Well forgiiiiiiiiiiiiiive meeeeeeeeeee for not updating the blog these past few days, we've had some crammed days of filming, so here's an update.

On Day 12 we started shooting in the basement of City Screen which we thought would take 2 days but actually took 3. The results however; a long denouement scene where characters intertwine and plots thicken, is a collection of masterfully composed shots (credit to the crew) and some funny and touching character moments from the cast. Here's a gallery of crappy phone photos of our stint in my place of employment:

On Day 13 we made a corridor look like a police station...

...and on Day 14 we filmed in Borders which was weird since I used to work there and had to deal with a customer asking if she could pay at the info desk, to which I replied, 'The tills are downstairs', out of habit. Funniest bit though was a customer asking Paul, who plays Pip, for help, and him saying, 'Er, I'm an actor'.

... and I must admit sneaking off today during a lighting setup to watch a bit of Ghostbusters upstairs in the cinema. Well, it's been such an influence on CrimeFighters and other stuff I've made that I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

My new obsession is colour coding the script to show what we've shot and what's left to do - red for done, green for not done - and I'm pleased to report that the reds are winning.

One more day!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Day 11: York Minster & More Alleys

So much of CrimeFighters takes place up dark alleys that they're starting to feel like a second home to me. Nothing says 'vigilante action movie' like a smoky alley with pools of light stretching off into the distance, and the CrimeFighters crew have become experts at lighting them for our heroes to kick ass in.

Started off the day in York Minster though, which was phenomenal to film in, an absolutely daunting and humbling experience. Thanks to Kendal for sorting that.

After squeezing some amazing shots out of the two hours we had in there, we returned to Precentor's Court next to the Minster to shoot in the alley where a mugging had taken place earlier in the film (and the shoot) and ended up taking a good 7 hours to shoot a key scene between our heroine Ella and her ex-boyfriend police officer Ethan.

It was a scene we had to get right as it carries some emotional wallop and a good snog and a hearty slap, so of course we made them do it about three thousand times. But once again, a terrific scene and one in which I really got to see what the actors could do emotionally, not to mention physically. Sorry Harry.

After the nice leisurely pace of that scene, we leapt straight into guerilla mode as we shot elements of the alley fight we'd started last week, but only had two hours in the location before we lost power for the night, so had to move fast. Look at this crazy bunch of people in an alley...

A really amazing day of filming, from guerilla to pro and back again in the course of a 16-hour shoot day. And all on 3 hours' sleep too.

Onto Days 12 and 13, and interiors for 2 days! Woo!

Day 10: Verna Fields' Swimming Pool

There are compromises on every film shoot, but once in a while a director may decide to go all out and accept that their own backyard will do for various shots, and we did exactly that today.

When Spielberg was editing Jaws with Verna Fields, he decided there should be one more scare in the film, so went out to the editor's swimming pool, poured milk in it and stuck a dummy head in a fake boat hull and got the scariest moment in the whole film.

Today, slightly exhausted by the prospect of filming on location, and realising that every alley looks pretty much like the next, we decided to film a sequence in the most verstile alley I've ever used, the one behind my house. We've used it for BandWagons, Zomblog and now CrimeFighters, and it meant we could work from home for once. That evening we shot in an alley next the theatre we've been using for rehearsals and kit storage, and with a carefully placed smoke machine and some fake rain (kudos to Tom for holding the hose up for about three hours) we got a key scene from the film.

Made the whole day more bearable, especially since we wrapped at 2am to start filming at 6am the next day... but in a very special location...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Day 9: Filming Scene 1

So tonight we shot the first ever sequence of the film, the first thing you'll see in the cinema when the lights dim. And it had to look good, so we took our time over it which of course took its toll on the rest of the night's shoot. A scene that should have been shooting by 11pm actually started more like half 1.

There was a point around 2am when tensions were fraught and we had no better option than to become slaves to the shot list and the pre-viz - the rough video version of the scene that we'd blocked out and cut together a few weeks ago - and it really got us through. We set up the shots and ticked them off one by one, and despite a few incidents, like a couple of drunken monkeys fecking with the lights and cables, we survived and have now got about 70 out of 100 shots of the mammoth final scene.

We've had room to be creative many times during this shoot, but there comes a point where you have to trust your prep work and consult the storyboards or shot lists and just get the shots, because your head was probably in a better place when you planned them.

We have to go back to the Minster in October for pickups, but this shouldn't be a problem because we have the support of the wonderful Dean Court Hotel who not only provided us with power all night, but a conference room for the cast and crew and tea and coffee. Manager David Brooks and Ian the night porter, you are saints among men. SAINTS I TELL YOU!

Once again, York comes through for the CrimeFighters.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Day 8: More Pro than Guerilla

Another night in the pub and another great scene filmed, although we did take a long time to get there what with dolly track problems and complicated lighting setups. But only because it was worth getting right. And that's what made tonight's shoot feel pro rather than guerilla; it was slow, considered, crafted, and a whole lot of fun.

We were filming the first scene in which we meet our heroes for the first time, before they become heroes. It's a snug little pub scene that introduces us to Ella, Pip and Daisy, their predicaments and their characters. And they looked and felt just right, so the meticulous lighting and framing was crucial. It gets us right into the centre of the three friends and kicks off their adventures.

During filming tonight I had another of those lovely moments where you get to sit down with the actors and soak in the fact that all those 'Making Of' film documentaries I watched when I was a child were the seed that led me to doing all this. I'm in the middle of my own movie 'Making Of'.

Earlier today we also filmed a scene in which some friends of mine played a local gang, made even more amusing by the fact that real gangs kept walking through the shot. Life passing art on the street and one not even knowing they were being parodied.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Day Seven, Filmmaking Heaven

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... yes.

Tonight was the yin to last night's yang... or is that the other way around? I dunno, I'll Wiki it later. Anyway, tonight we filmed in the beautiful Purple Haze vintage clothing shop which doubles as Daisy's shop in the film.

What a change from the night before.

No townies, no idiots, no stress, no time limit, the crew were brilliant, the actors were hilarious and occasionally moving, and the whole shoot reminded me exactly why I became a filmmaker. Some truly genius moments of comedy gold and some beautifully artistic shots, gush gush. Everyone was very quiet on the set and yet again this was a completely new experience as every day on this shoot has been. Only more so.

We're nearly halfway through the shoot and although we have a very tough week ahead of us, we have a few new members of crew and we're more than ready ready to rock and roll.

Plus, you can't beat a McDonald's breakfast at 7am after a 12 hour shoot...

And thanks to the legendary Mr. Carl Hetherington for ferrying us and the kit about. The man stayed up all night to come pick us up at 6 am, and we're eternally grateful. Kiss kiss.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Day 6: "What is it with you townie types...?"

There are two things I'm amazed by while making this film, in relation to the script I wrote.

One is that the world really is half full of people who are willing to team together to achieve something special, and have a grand sense of community and a belief in working together.

The other is that the world is also half full of people whose sole ambition in life is to get drunk as skunks and stir up shit for poor film crews trying to shoot on a Saturday night.

Last night we gathered by City Screen to get various scenes... here are the cast and crew getting ready to shoot:

...and got some hilarious vox pops on the street as passers-by commented on how the CrimeFighters were cleaning up their town, or not. Then we got some amazingly arty shots of our heroes surveying the town from a rooftop...

Wait til you see the actual shot, this snap doesn't even begin to do it justice.

We then went on to a mugging scene in the courtyard behind the cinema, and during the shoot, the following incidents occurred:

- Two hen parties wanting to be in the film and screeching 'You can't stop us'. And then getting bored and leaving at the tops of their voices.
- Two idiots pretending to crash into the light stands.
- Four men pissing in the alley we were using as a location and saying 'We can piss where we want, you're not exactly the next Tarantino". (Why is everyone obsessed with anyone being 'the next Tarantino' or indeed the next anybody?)
- Various drunken rednecks trying to get in the film or chat up/creep out the ladies on the crew.
- A team of very thick-necked, violent-eyed men dressed as lifeguards strutting around the set for about three minutes before they got bored when everyone stopped answering their questions.
- One guy walking past, clocking what we were doing, and shaking his head as he went to Orgasmic. I wonder what was going through his head; 'Look at these losers, wasting their life'. He was wearing a t-shirt that said 'Irony'. Possibly.

There were other little joys but I think I'd better forget about them because the cast and crew were wonderful and so was Helen who brought biscuits at just the right moment. Again.

There was a common thread though, that all our antagonists seemed to be obsessed with how famous this film was going to be and whether we were 'from the telly', or what the film was about. Answers the crew and I came up with varied from 'Superheroes' to 'a documentary about sailors' to 'a student film', but Dan's method was the most ingenious: when faced with a drunken retard asking you pointless questions, just text. Or pretend to. People get bored after about 20 seconds and leave. Try it.

I know the world doesn't stop and hold its breath while filmmakers make their films, I have learned that full well, and I know that we have been lucky with help, weather and a lot of other things on this shoot, but I seriously have a problem understanding this element of society, and I guess that's why I wrote the film. People who have no interest in artistic endeavours and would rather get as drunk as possible and spout off boring, conveyer-belt crap like the walking cliches they are. It has been pointed out to me that hey, I should ignore them, chill out, realise that there are just lots of different kinds of people in this world, etc... but I wonder if I'll ever understand. They are the thing that piss me off and push my button more than anything else. My Room 101 candidates.

Anyway, enough of that bitching, for the next two nights we're filming indoors again, and I can't wait. And you can quote me on this; I'm never filming in a town centre on a weekend night ever again. Unless we have a good security squad. Can someone build me the whole of York as a set please?

Synecdoche, York.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Scenes From a Professional Guerilla Film Shoot

That's what we've decided this film is. A high level of professionalism you'd associate with a Hollywood production, and a sense of chaos and serendipity that smacks of that Clerks school of filmmaking.

Day 3
saw us head to the pub (right day this time) to film a pub fight, and at first I was worried because we didn't really have enough extras to make it work, but some excellent herding work from Steve and Tony meant that suddenly about 30 people had been corralled off the street and into the pub. And my god, believe me when I tell you that you will not be disappointed by the CrimeFighters pub fight scene. Moving into the courtyard we continued the sequence...

So, this is what we see...

...and this is what the camera sees after our cinematography team work their magic.

Our tireless and dedicated crew:

Emma looking way cool.

After wrapping at 8am (yes...) we went home for a massive 5 hours sleep before meeting up again to film Day 4's scenes, which were in an alley next to Pizza Hut, so we had power and pizzas all evening. We started with a scene in a courtyard...

...then got some utterly beautiful film noir-esque shots of a fight in the alley. Pics to come soon.

Day 5 saw us head to St. Martin's Church for some of the hideout scenes, well another fight actually, and here are some highlights:

This is the deadly talented Jenni. Words fail me how completely awesome this girl is at what she does. It's thanks to her and the camera crew that every shot of this film is beautifully composed.

The formidable Tall Paul. I say formidable as in the Spanish, 'formi-DA-ble', although Ad's cautious face here says it all. You don't mess with the T-ness of P-ness.

And finally, our excellent Lead Thug Rami, who's come up from London, wrapped his scenes today with a spectacular fight scene with Emma. She can actually kick his ass. It's Joss Whedon syndrome; tiny yet powerful girl kicks shit out of burly bloke. On rollerblades, no less.

I'm not going to go all gushy yet, but this is the most tremendous film crew I've had the pleasure to work with, and so many aren't mentioned here... yet! From the runners to the sound crew to the young ladies who make the biscuits (we all know who I'm talking about here), you are awesome. More to come. Viva CrimeFighters!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Day 2: A Night of Heroes

Arrived at the location (pub) to be told we couldn't film there tonight, no way no how. Turns out the manager had got the wrong day. We could film there tomorrow though!


So, five minutes of gut-wrenching panic later, we decided to shoot the chase scene that we had slated for the day after, and essentially switch days 2 and 3 around. It was one of those classic moments in guerilla filmmaking; shock, acceptance, quick solution! And that's when the magic started happening...

First of all, a lovely lady called Gill Douglas, a local artist who lives by the road we wanted to film on, let us use her house as a power source for our lights. So, one smooth jib shot and some running extras later, we'd got our first shot of the night as the CrimeFighters shoot off towards the Minster followed by thugs.

At that point, the godlike genius that is Mr. Peter Marshall arrived in his pickup truck with some of our kit, having helped bring it to the location, and then let us use his truck to get a couple of shots of the CFs rocketing past the Minster, with us all huddled in the back:

I love moments like this, it's just pure indie filmmaking joy. Look at Tony, he's in his element.

Once that was in the bag, we decided to improvise some shots using the lamps and lights around Minster Square; not ideal, but best we could do, and then moved on to Bootham Bar to film the end of the chase and a small fight scene. The final heroes of the night were the staff of the Lamb and Lion Inn, a genuinely wonderful pub on any day of the week, but extra wonderful now since they let us use their pub as a power source for the rest of the night.

After that, we got on with getting some brilliant shots! The cast and crew were on top form and worked together to get the scene done quickly and with grand style, and the whole thing was total fun from start to finish.

I know we'll encounter more challenges and it's still early days, but the help and support of the people of York has been overwhelming, and I'm impressed by the cast and crew's ability to work professionally and solve problems as a team. I feel that even after 2 days, we're really making this film and it's going to be quite something.

Also, Zomblog are on the SFX website! Woo!