The shoot here continues to be almost farcical in many respects, but still a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve decided my next movie’s going to be made in the US. It’s so cool here, except for the fact that all the food’s coated in sugar and it’s impossible to buy clothes that fit you unless you have a waistline of equatorial proportions.
The guy I cast as Joe has had to turn the part down due to its unpaid nature, and this has led me to a big decision. If people are going to keep dropping out because there’s no payment, I’m going to end up with a sucky movie. So I’m raising the budget to a minimum of 100,000 squid. Of course it’s not going to be easy to get this, so shooting may not begin as planned in October. We’ll continue working on props, costumes, locations and all that stuff, and I’ll do everything I can to get the money together. If you see a spiky haired busker on the streets of Hereford or New York, please write a blank check (oops, been here too long: cheque) and toss it in the hat.
The first screening of The Beacon at the Courtyard. Jesus Christ, I hate this film so much now. I can’t believe I have to sit through it AGAIN tomorrow. Why did I ever think it was a good script? The audience was a decent size, and mainly consisted of cast and crew’s friends and relatives. They all found Behind The Beacon quite amusing. I’ll never top the art college screening though. Those guys totally got it. Everyone who came tonight was either too close to it, or too old to realise it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. But I guess perhaps they enjoyed it on some other level. One couple who turned up after hearing about it from a friend absolutely loved it, even buying a copy of the video and asking me to sign it. Aaah. Simon Widdos, the SAS actor who’s been promoting the film in Worcester, has made a sale of three copies to a video rental store. Hopefully he’ll be able to sell a few more before I have to sign the rights over to Subsurface.
It’s pretty sticky here in Orange County, which I guess is what you’d expect. Hot and sticky. I’m having a whale of a time. There’s about a dozen of us crew staying in a big ole house with a white porch and a screen door, cruising the interstates in a minibus on steroids, singing Cheer Up, Sleepy Jean. There’s lots of night shooting, which is great experience from a lighting point of view; I’m getting to try out stuff that I can use in Soul Searcher. Despite it being pretty intense (last night we shot 10am till 3am in order to get ourselves back on schedule), I’m managing to squeeze in some storyboarding, currently of Soul Searcher’s climax.
James – let’s not beat about the bush here – has dropped out of the project, which is obviously not good, but the show must go on. I’m trying to find a replacement producer, but it’ll probably end up being a case of getting a really good production manager and just producing it myself. So it’s funding applications, location permissions and scheduling all the way when I get back.
I write from an apartment in Brooklyn, on a dodgy laptop that seems to click randomly without me wanting it to. What a rush glimpsing Manhattan from the plane, touching down at Jeff Kaye airport, and cruising under the Brooklyn bridge in a Lincoln. Storyboarding at 40,000ft was a new experience. More soon…
My last entry from this side of the pond for a while, I guess. Well, decisions have been reached. More, perhaps, than I had anticipated from this week at the outset. We haven’t made the all important phone calls yet, so I’m obviously not going to say any more here. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of acting we saw this week, and huge thanks to everyone who took the time to come along. It takes a great weight off my mind to know that we’ve got (assuming the people in question accept the roles) the right folks for the job – it’s going to make my job a hell of a lot easier.
Finishing the last of the auditions at about 2 o’clock, James and I made our recceing way to the football stadium (via Groovy Rick’s house), where Joan the company secretary was very co-operative. She was even happy in principle for us to switch the big floodlights on when we film, and to go up one of the lighting towers for a couple of shots. I love helpful location owners.
This evening we met (in a location so predictable it’s not even worth typing) with Kat Whiteaway (quite possibly not the correct spelling), who’s interested in helping James out with the production and organisational stuff, and Jenny (er… don’t know her surname… sorry). who is now officially our art director. We spent a long time explaining the tone of the film, the locations we have in mind, the look and feel we want to give the props, costumes and characters, and kicked around various ideas along those lines. Both Jenny and Kat were excited by what we were doing.
All in the all, it feels like the whole project has moved up a level today, which is a nice way for me to leave it.
Ooh, the excitement. Start spreading the news, I’m leaving the-day-after-tomorrow, I want to be a part of it, etc…
Another fruitful day of auditions. I’m finding it a great opportunity as a director, firstly to be able to concentrate solely on peformances without having to worry lighting, camera moves and all the other guff, and secondly in trying out different ways of playing the scenes, and different tones for the characters. What I’m finding difficult is getting the awkwardness and stlited air in the early scenes between Joe and Heather, which I’m sure is due to my failing as a director rather than the actors. It’s ironic that I’ve been in that situation so many times myself, but I can’t seem to find the words to describe it to the actors. I’ll have to videotape it next time it happens to me.
Two of days auditioning down, and we’ve seen a wide range of people, some of whom we’ll definitely be seeing again. It was like a little Beacon reunion, with Geraint helping us out filming the read-throughs, and Josh and Sarah R reading parts against the auditionees. Dante was a particularly difficult character to audition, since he doesn’t have a decent run of dialogue anywhere in the film. Even using a scene from an older, more speak-heavy draft left us with the problem of the actors having to mime sword fights in the Art College room we’d hired. And James made lightsabre noises. I was also treated to the extremely rare (once every 14 years, it seems) sight of James shouting in someone’s face, as he read the Grim Reaper’s part against Joe hopefuls.
This audition process is a veritable epic compared with the rushed few hours of chats and read-throughs that constituted Beacon try-outs. What you’re always hoping for is someone to walk through the door who pretty much IS the character, without having to act that much. Failing that, you’re after someone who looks right and can take direction well enough that you can work with them to make the character what you want it to be. One thing we’ve found thusfar is that often an actor will nail one or two of the three audition scenes, but will be way off for the others. Ironically, the two people who have consistently delivered are Josh and Sarah, who sadly can’t be involved with the shoot due to university commitments.
Nonetheless, we’ll definitely have cast our Gary by the end of the week, and hopefully Joe and Heather too. The other roles may be left in limbo until after NY when further auditions can be held.
Wow. A guy from off of Eastenders sent his CV in. How weird is that?
I took a wander yesterday and shot a little recce footage of the station, Rotherwas Industrial Estate and the area around the Leisure Centre. As a result, I now know exactly where I want to film all those scenes in the script which just say “Ext. Street.Night.” Walking around Rotherwas on a Saturday afternoon was much like walking around a ghost town. I saw no-one save for a woman locking up a factory, and a couple of guys who pulled up in their car and asked if I’d seen a black and white sheepdog. I told them I’d seen a black and white cat, but that he belonged to some postman or other. (Did you, Neil? No, I said “I’m sorry, I haven’t.”)
Today I’ve been doing more storyboarding. This film actually has more dialogue in it that any film I’ve ever directed. (Since my dialogue’s always crap, I tend to use as little of it as possible.) This makes it a bit of a challenge from a camera point of view – ie. how to make the shots interesting and varied over the course of a five minute dialogue scene, without distracting the viewer from the performances. I’d like to do some really long shots in this movie, just letting the actors carry it.
So I’ve got five more days in the country. They will consist of almost constant Soul Searchering – auditioning by day, meeting crew or recceing by night. Sleep? Pah! I can sleep on the plane.
The casting call finally got into the Shooting People digest, and James found his e-mail server jammed full of interested thesps. Of course, many of these folks are from London, so their talent and suitability for the part will have to be weighed against the cost of accommodating them for the duration of the shoot, but that’s a bridge we can cross when we come to it. Incidentally, I’d like to see the bridge that you can cross before you’ve come to it. Does it have a wormhole in the middle?
This afternoon we met with one young actress (oh god, I’ve started calling everyone “young”…. I’m so fecking ancient…) who won’t be able to come to the auditions next week, but is interested in the role of Heather nonetheless. As much as I’d like to cast all the lead roles before I leave for New York – to give Simon as long as possible to get them fighting fit – the fact of the matter is that there may have to be a second wave of auditions upon my return, a month down the line. That is if I come back. People keep saying I won’t.
About an hour ago I started storyboarding. I did part of the opening scene months ago, but now that many of the locations are firmed up – at least in my desire to use them, if not in their owners’ desires for them to be used (yes) – it’s time to start turning those words into crude sketches and little 3D arrows like the ones what proper storyboarders draw.
Oh man, this keyboard is so sticky. I only went and spilt OJ on it, didn’t I? And the VCR remote, which no longer works. Yuk, yuk.
Right then, so I’ve just got back from a week camping in Cornwall – a surreal week featuring such rare sights as an aroused dolphin, a drunk woman trying to bed a gay man, and a man getting lost round the back of a portaloo. Of course I spent my spare time in the tent doing Soul Searcher sketches, brainstorming locations and sending James long e-mails from antipodean-owned cybersurf shacks with sea views. I hadn’t been back long, naturally, before I ended up at The Courtyard with a large ring binder, a cup of coffee and a pile of headshots. For whilst I’ve been away, Jim has been fixing it for wannabe actors to audition for our movie. Let’s not beat about the bush – the number of responses has been disappointing. No worse than that for The Beacon, but we were expecting more since we cast (ho ho) our net wider by posting in PCR. As ever, I guess lack of financial renumeration is putting people off. Still, thanks to everyone who has applied, and I look forward to meeting you all next week. We’re also going to try to recce a lot of locations next week so that I can begin storyboarding while I’m in New York. But of course, you journal-starers don’t know about New York…
A week on Sunday I’m off to upstate New York for three weeks, all expenses paid, to be the Director of Photography on an action thriller. Chopsy what? Jammy who? Beyond Recognition is being self-financed by London-based director Tom Muschamp, to the tune of not much more than The Beacon‘s budget, and he’s hooked up with a producer in New York, so there it shall be shot. With me doing lighting-camera. In New York. [Laughs deliriously for several minutes.] Obviously this is a big chunk out of the SS preproduction time, so we need to get things to a stage where they can tick along by themselves during that period.
Once again, the scary smallness of Hereford, um, scared us. On the way to the Courtyard, we bumped into Geraint, who just happened to have some of his cool concept sketches with him. He had some very interesting ideas. We hope to meet with the “practical” designers next week and talk about who might be able to make some of the stuff. Goodbye for now.