Since joining Call The Shots back in February, I have been extensively networking and getting to know all the various film makers in the group (as I’m sure such knowledge will come in handy post-graduation!). It was only a matter of time before I was able to get on board with one of the many projects that the independent film group were developing, and I got my chance in April over the Easter break.
‘Where Have All The B’zzs Gone?’ (that’s pronounced ‘bees’) is a quaint little tale about a woman reflecting on her past youth. Whether these memories were the real memories of director Rita was something we never really worked out – it added to the mystery! The relatively simple construction on the screenplay involved a woman walking around various locales in Coventry and Kenilworth, talking to herself as she remarked upon her past experiences at different places. The script was rather cryptic however, sometimes referring to romance, whilst at other times referring to satellite emissions and light beams (Twin Peaks, anyone?) The shoot took place over one weekend, with only two and a half pages being shot on day one, and the other four and a half pages on day two.
Day Two – I took photos on the first day, so typically I wasn’t in any of them! On day two I was the sound engineer, and here I am (far right) with the DoP and the actress (middle) and director Rita (far left)
The first day of filming had several problems arising early on. Rita had mentioned when pitching the idea that she had wanted to film the audio on set, meaning despite the film’s narrative premise, she wanted the audio captured on the day of the shoot with a rifle mic, and not captured separately in post-production (which would make this film styled with a voice-over narration). This was my initial idea upon reading the script, as I know from experience that voice-overs can work well, and often the sound is better. However, I also know the importance of ambience, and considering the cryptic script, I didn’t want to challenge a style I didn’t fully understand.
However, when the 1st AD turned up, he said exactly the same thing, and regardless of capturing the voice on set or not, audio capture on Kenilworth Road (one of the main roads into Coventry, and a pivotal part of the screenplay) was going to be a disaster. I was actually in the area of where I’d filmed my own FMP – I had ventured deep into one of the nearby woods specifically to avoid the noise of the freeway. The road is one of the busiest links to Coventry’s ring road – as Rita had lived in the area a long time, she must have known this.
We cancelled the Kenilworth Road shoot, and moved at nearby lane called ‘The Spinney’, where most of the day’s shoot took place. We got shots of Kenilworth Road, and captured the audio separately further down the lane, away from the traffic. We did some shots in my own FMP location Wainbody Wood, and also did a scene with a local person who was just walking her dog (we got her to sign a release form as well).
Rita and her 1st AD were suffering from creative differences throughout however, and this became more apparent as the day went on. I was brought in as a focus-puller, but the DoP was too professional to need one (if there is such a thing as that!) Much like him, I figure it best to focus your own camera on shoots – after all, ‘if you want a job doing right’…
However, this left me on photography duty, and since the location of ‘The Spinney’ didn’t change, my work was done in roughly one hour. Food and drink were in the backs of the cars, so catering was handled well (there was another team member driving supplies back and forth from the set). But at one point in the day I found myself just eating Dairylea Dunkers and sitting in the car whilst the rest got on with the film making. I know that it wasn’t any good standing around on set – I’d just be in the way and distracting people. I guess the few people who had had to stand around for ages on my own film production can consider that karma repaid the debt in full!
I did get the job of ‘lighting engineer’ a few times, using a reflector to illuminate the face of the actress. Lighting has never been my forte, but I think I did okay under the circumstances. We ended the shoot at five o clock, and finalised meeting arrangements for the next day. I was originally going to be a camera operator for this film, but was not able to do the role as I had no camera (the university is pretty much fully-booked until hand-in dates at this point). The lesson was that if I want to be a camera operator after graduation, I am going to need a camera, and a good one at that. It is now time to start thinking of investments!
Another Rainy Wood – Rita was not as lucky with the weather as I had been. Still, it was nothing that an umbrella couldn’t solve!
The second day of the shoot was a lot more productive. I switched roles with a crew member who couldn’t make it and got the role of sound engineer. This was the first project I’d used an ‘Ediroll’ on before, and I could understand how they were loads better than the Marantz 660 model which I usually used. I set the kit up and recorded the sound to the best of my ability, which shouldn’t have turned out too bad as I’ve often been complemented on my hearing as well as my sharp eye.
The shoot mostly took place in Crackley Wood, although we barely went into the area and shot most of the footage in and around the entrance. The shoot lasted several hours, with constant interference from cars, the nearby road, and people walking around (this wood was more popular than Wainbody). I did wonder why the location of Crackley Wood had been chosen instead of Wainbody Wood – I think it was to do with meadows of bluebells that should have been in bloom. On a return trip to Wainbody the very next day for my FMP ambience, I actually found lots of bluebells in Wainbody as well – unfortunate!
The weather also came into play half way through the second day – namely, it threw it down, and we only just managed to get out the woods before the storm fell on us. Rita altered the script in parts to adapt to the conditions, but luckily the sun came out not long after the rain to dry everything up (at least giving the illusion of a dry day!) Breaks were more scarce on the second day, but it was no big issue – we soldiered through, eventually grabbing the four pages of script that we needed to get done. The shoot ended at Rita’s own house in her backyard, and we finished just in time for the actress to get back home. I was given a pack of Dairylea Dunkers in the wrap party, apparently due to my large appetite!
Backyard Shoot – With less than an hour to go, and a whole page to shoot, the final shoot in Rita’s back yard had to go right first time with minor, if any, hiccups. It did.
Overall, the shoot went well. Everything got filmed, everything was done to a high degree, and a high level of professionalism was maintained throughout. I think there was a certain level of personal self-expression in the script belonging to the director, which meant the meaning of the script was lost on some of us. Better explanations and summaries of the scenes could have simplified shooting some scenes, as well as guided the actress better in her role.
Despite some tense moments on the first day, there was no major quarreling or awkward moments, meaning this was also a project that was executed smoothly. It may be ironic that the director tried to capture dialogue audio on a busy road, or that we filmed in a wood on a day littered with rain on the weather forecast (though they’re unreliable anyway), but every problem that arose was met and overcome, even at times when I was sure the shoot was going to be postponed!
I am curious to see how the finished piece turns out – it should clock in at around five minutes, and will feature our actress walking, talking, and interacting with a few things in the environment. My only worry is the script, as in a film like this it needs to be good. Any self-indulgence could be problematic – if the crew had difficulty understanding some scenes, then an audience definitely will (and I am aware that this, although unlikely, could also be a problem in my own FMP). Much like the film I made in Iceland, this film could sit better in the more ‘avant-garde’ circles of the media showcasing industry! It is, however, another key moment in my overall professional experience gained at university – the first film I’ve assisted in being a part of with an independent film group!
Neck It – Once the wrap had been called, we hit the champers. I drank a little bit more, as unbeknown to most, it was actually my 22nd birthday on this day!