This time both train and sun did their jobs properly, and I spent a productive afternoon hiking all over Malvern getting nice shots of the hills, and candid shots of Malverners walking their dogs, skateboarding, etc. These will be used in the film to reiterate the fact that they are all in grave danger, because in the rough cut only the heroes seem to be in jeopardy. I hung around for a bit, forced to eat in Chicago Pizza (tip – their nuggets and fries are crap; almost as bad as Burger King’s) since Burger Star had tragically ceased trading. (Does this mean the end of the entire franchise? As we all know – especially Hitler – seven is the magic number, and now there are only six Burger Star restaurants.) I couldn’t get a sunset shot, because the sun dodged right at the last moment and missed the hills completely, but I did get good shots of the moon, the hills in twilight, and some trains going past in the dark.
Since it was such a lovely day today, I decided to go back to Malvern and shoot the GVs (general views). I needed a sunset shot, so I left it till late in the afternoon, and chose to go to Worcester first in order to get a nice distant shot of the hills with the city’s many spires in the foreground. That was the plan. The train was cancelled, and replaced with a bus which arrived in Worcester an hour late. I just about had time to scurry up to the top of Crowngate car park and film a rather lame shot of the hills – the sunshine of earlier having dissolved into an all-pervading blueygreyness – before I had to go back to the station and get the train to Malvern – a later one than I had intended, meaning that by the time it arrived the sun had already set. Pants. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.
A strange feeling of deja vous today, climbing the Malverns with Dave and Jason, to pick up some missed cutaways, and background plates for some special effects. It was knackering enough getting to the summit of the Beacon with just the camera. How the hell did we ever cart all that other stuff up there? I wanted to get some nice wide shots of the hills to sprinkle through the film for pacing, but the weather was so vile and grey that I decided to leave them for another day. We hung about till dark, and filmed a couple of trains departing Malvern Link station. A couple of people have asked me if I’m going to make any changes to The Beacon or delay its release in the wake of the events in America. The answer is no.
I showed the rough cut to my friends Chris and James. It’s also my first opportunity to see the whole thing from beginning to end. (Mind you, it’s annoying that I’ve made a film long enough to warrant a toilet break in the middle of it. Either that or I’m getting old. I’m sure my bladder used to hold up longer than 75 minutes…) For those of you not familiar with film-making, let me share with you one of my poncier allegories. It’s like producing a jigsaw. (Wait, it gets more original, honest…) You start off by drawing the picture on the box – ie. your script. You then have to go about making all the little pieces – the shots and scenes. Each bit takes a lot of time and effort, and whilst you’re working on them, you’re so focused that you lose sight of the bigger picture, in fact you completely forget about it. Which is why it takes you completely by surprise when you put all the pieces together and find that they match the picture on the box. Okay, the film will never follow the script completely, especially amid the compromises of a low budget shoot, but to see your plot there (and my god, on watching it, The Beacon does even appear to have one of those) and your characters developing, and your jokes getting laughed at (I don’t even remember writing any jokes) is pretty cool. Anyhoo, James and Chris made some very useful suggestions, mostly little things – rest assured there will be an “alternate scenes” section on the DVD – but the main topic of conversation was the graveyard scene. Another bizarre aspect to film-making is that something you conceived whilst walking through a graveyard almost 3 years ago, which in your mind makes such good sense and which looks cool with some music from The Rock slapped over it, can actually just confuse the hell out of everyone except you. James came up with a few extra shots I could shoot to sort it out, and I’ll run these by a few other people before filming them.
I can’t be bothered going into the anal details – see Dave’s site if you’re really that interested – but suffice to say we did film the scene of the hostages getting recaptured in the end, though with limited hostages, and an alternate bad guy, who shall remain unidentified, save to say that his newly shaven facial area had to be masked by an M-16. And so ends principle photography. Sniff. Sob.
We were up at 5:30am (well, most of us), and had recovered from the previous day’s hilarious stall by about noon. As it got dark, we removed the sacking that we’d been using to black out the windows, and filmed some scenes outside the carriages. Finally it was up onto the roof for some cliched-but-fun action, with AJ on his injured leg, Josh and his fear of heights, and LJ and her rational realisation that running about on recently rained-on curved roofs in the dark is not a very safe thing to do. We left the site at midnight.
The train weekend at Coventry Railway Centre begins. We did not start on time. “We’ll look back on this day and laugh,” Rick, our sound recordist for the weekend says cheerfully. “We’ll go, ‘Remember the day we started at 4:00pm?'” (Call time: 9am.) The reason? A late train, ironically. The guardian of the holy generators finally arrived and set us up with some power for our overly-blue-gelled redheads, and filming went extremely smoothly and fairly quickly after that. Richard Moreby joined the cast as randomly-appearing-bad-guy, filling in for Phil Smart (Sly) who had sadly had to drop out. Forseeing nightmares with the generators, combined with a simple case of having too much to do in too short a time, I had taken steps the previous week to hasten the filming this weekend. Firstly, I decided to shoot everything handheld. This also added a handy train-in-motion sway to the footage. Secondly, I drew floor plans of all the lighting set-ups. Anyway, shortly after 10pm we decided that some attendance at a public house was in order, and took a break from filming. We then came back from the pub and went to bed (in another train).