Right, everyone buy Dreamwatch tomorrow because my main man JC wrote one of the articles in it. Simon Wyndham put me on to some very cheap software that does some pretty cool-looking muzzle flashes. I might get it, since the ones I did by hand look a little cartoony. I used the good old UFO lamp (responsible for the Kitchen logo) for some FX yesterday, but I’m not saying what. Laziness got the better of me and I decided to use Soul Searcher as the film they’re watching in the cinema scene, to save having to film something specially. It actually works better, because it’s nice and in-jokey, and shows that even though I’m taking the piss out of Hollywood cliches with The Beacon, I admit that I’ve succumbed to them myself in the past (and present).
I’ve put the fire FX on hold, having got them looking as good as I can for the time being. They probably need some smoke to complete the illusion. The last couple of days I’ve been doing the muzzle flashes, having studied those in Airforce One closely. They work best on the train stuff, since I can also brighten up the surrounding walls to make the whole carriage flash with light. Dave’s going to have a go at the office window compositing, though I don’t think either of hold out much hope for decent results. The big rubber Reshoot finger is pointing right at me. I’ve got to stop being so lazy, just sitting around doing these FX, when I should be arranging and shooting the remaining 2nd unit photography, primarily the arial stuff, the military landrover and the film-within-the-film.
If you’ve read the Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook, you’ll know the story of low budget production company Living Spirit’s bad luck with their second feature, White Angel. The film was about a serial killer, and had the extreme misfortune of being released just as the Fred West case hit the news – and they had been shooting right next to Cromwell Street. This resulted in a lot of bad press for the film, seen as tastelessly cashing in on the real life murders. The media of course will not care less about The Beacon’s release, despite its unwittingly topical plot elements of terrorist-laden-aircraft-crashing-into-building, government air strikes and biological weapons. But it’s still quite annoying. Progress on da Beak has been slow, with the paying edit’s weekend break being filled by the shooting of eponymous journal mentionee James Clarke’s European-style art film Friendship of the Seasons on Saturday, and a relaxing-but-ineffectually-so Sunday. I’m back to work on some fire FX tonight. On Friday I showed the current cut to some mates, with a largely positive response, and one of them, sound man Chris Mayall, has composed an excellent track for the score.
Uuuuh, hurty head. And eyes. Doing 9 till 5, Monday to Friday (in itself a weird experience for me) on a paying edit, then coming home each night and working several hours on Beacon editing, does not do wonders for your general sense of well-being. I could totally afford to take a week off The Beacon, but I really don’t want to. Especially since I’m having some strong visions about the spectacular finale, and how I can make it look very very nice indeed. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil the film’s ending for everyone. The other day I went to tackle an effect involving certain keys on the GEV rocket’s control panel. Again, I don’t want to spoil it, but it was a scene where some characters execute a cunning plan (nicked from an action film I nearly made 5 years ago, called The Prey) to find out the keycode to this rocket, but upon editing it I realised the plan could – and should – be simplified. I was about to do this with some fiddly complex effects on the keypad close-ups, but instead it occurred to me that I could just reshoot those shots. I had the rocket and other props downstairs, so I set up a redhead to bounce off my living room ceiling, and filmed a very tight close-up, waving a prop about with one hand and holding the camera with the other. Looking at the edited scene (which takes place outdoors, in broad daylight), you would never know such decadent trickery had been employed.
Once again, the ability of film-making to make the moronically simple unfathomably difficult is proven. Much like when we originally filmed the “Los Angeles” scene, we arrived at Beech Business Park in the pouring rain and sat in our cars waiting for it to ease off. Unfortunately this time it didn’t so we just had to shoot in the rain. Fortunately – for his own personal safety – Simon avoided using the “C” word. James Clarke, author of the seminal students’ Spielbergography provided the requisite coolness for the short-lived character of Van Driver, whilst AJ managed to get himself wet again. What also got wet was the inside roof of Dave’s car, doubling for the unavailable jeep in carefully-framed shots. Dave foolishly agreed to let us do a gunshot effect in the car (actually his dad’s), which went mostly on the ceiling, rather than the rear view mirror as intended. Still, despite looking well dodgy on location, it all cut in fine as usual. Meanwhile I’ve been continuing to knock off the 2D FX shots: adding a moon to a night shot of the hills; sunlight glinting off a gun barrel; blood streaks on a wall, and the hills into some flat-horizoned wide shots. I continue to ponder the train crash scene, and how best to achieve it. I may well have to don some cords (sorry Dave), glasses (sorry Dave) and a badge-covered jacket (sorry… er, me) and go along to the Model Railways swap meet at the leisure centre next month. A Hornby train crash is all very well and good, but I’m hoping they might have some larger scale models.
In a dimly lit room above a Malvernian pub, my previously piratical friend Mike Hodges – best known for helming seminal camp comic book adaptation Flash Gordon – may well be working on, or at the very least contemplating, the 3D visual effects for The Beacon. Helicopters, planes and Napalm are his domain. Mine is considerably more mundane. For in the world of 2D effects, it’s all painting things out, and combining shots together (compositing). I made a start this week by trying out the office window shots. (Sarah’s office was required to have a view of the Malvern hills, but the office we shot in had only a view of a cluttered lobby, so the hills need to matted in.) The results were depressing, and I may have to reshoot the shots using a greenscreen. The following day I tried out the screen effects. Namely a cinema screen, a laptop screen and a projector screen. These are instances where we’ve filmed one of the above forms of screen, but they’ve been blank – either to speed up the shooting, or because there was too much light falling on them – so a fake display needs to be added. The results here were much more convincing, and I’ve now completed all the movie’s screen effects. In the meantime, we’re going back out to Beech Business Park on Sunday to reshoot some shots from the opening sequence (it was dark by the time we got to them in principle photography). The only problem is we don’t have the jeep…