Tomorrow feels like it will be the first day of the shoot, even though it’s only a rehearsal day. Most of the cast and crew will be present and all the attendant logistical problems will occur. There’s a hell of a lot to figure out tomorrow, but there’s no stopping it now!
A stressful day. A couple of things almost didn’t get sorted out before close of business, either of which could have left us seriously screwed. But everything’s okay now.
All the pieces of the set are in place, the 35mm stock has been delivered and Ian’s crew only have 101 things left to do before the cameras roll on Tuesday. The Swordsman watches wryly through his monocle, patiently awaiting his screen debut.
Yesterday Kate Burdette (Isabelle) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Max) had costume fittings and it was great for me to see the characters finally rise from the pages of the script. It was also exciting to go through the shots on set with Ollie and his director’s viewfinder, choosing the best lens for each angle.
How is it that my to do list gets longer as the shoot approaches, not shorter? Surely that it is contrary to all established laws of the universe.
Most of the set is now in place on the stage, although some of it is still laid flat for painting. The amount of work left to do is quite daunting, but I know Ian and his crew will get it done if it kills them.
Yesterday I was able to do some basic rehearsal of the Swordsman with two of the puppeteers, Sheila and Lois, trying out the overhead ceiling rig and the trolley which replaces the puppet’s lower portions for waist-up shots. Again the technicalities proved daunting.
My confidence was signficantly restored by the production meeting last night. The quality of crew that Ian’s artwork has attracted is very impressive. Andrew McEwan as 1st AD is the newest recruit, and along with Abbi (stunts), Ian and Ollie (DOP) we discussed some of the challenges we’re going to face next week getting sixteen set-ups every day.
I can officially confirm that Panavision is hiring us the camera kit used to shoot The Dark Knight – a ridiculously lovely 35mm package with anamorphic lenses, which will make the pilot look very slick and expensive indeed.
And Isabelle’s sword, thanks to Abbi’s efforts with a friend at Pinewood, will be none other than the rapier used by Robert Deniro in Stardust.
One week left on the set build and the pressure’s really on. Our head painter Elaine Carr started work on Monday, and has concentrated so far on turning the hardboard and MDF flats into a rusting metal airship hull. Dan has cut lots of “joining” strips and Nate has made and glued on countless rivets to aid this cinematic alchemy.
On Wednesday Col and Ian decided to treat the construction crew to a pub lunch, and a Beefeater up the road was duly converged upon. Whilst we were waiting for our food, several people in uniforms and stab vests rushed in and dragged the chef away. Apparently the Borders Agency had received a tip-off that he was an illegal immigrant. We ended up having to eat at Macky D’s.
There’s been some great – but as yet unconfirmed – news regarding camera equipment, and I’ve been meeting a few more potential crew members. And we’ve visited both The Model Unit and FBFX to see just how fantastic the live action ceiling mechanism piece and Max’s bio-suit are now they’re virtually finished. It was very exciting to see the Swordsman finally roped up to the overhead rig like the marionette he’s supposed to be.
On Friday we got our first glimpse of Isabelle’s costume. Although there are plenty of adjustments to be made, Eve Collins has done a beautiful job so far. Kate and Katie (the actress and the designer) were both very pleased.
We’re now half way through the set build period and it’s high time to pay tribute in these hallowed memoirs to the tireless construction team – in particular Ed and Emma who have worked day in day out cutting holes, sewing seat cushions and making stained glass windows. And Jon’s huge alcove, if you’ll pardon the expression, is a wondrous thing to behold.
My own contribution to the build has been more that of comic relief. Within five minutes of arriving at the workshop this morning I managed to superglue my left index finger and thumb together in a perpetual “A okay” sign. After soundly ridiculing me, and rightly too, the crew proceeded to place bets on what time my digits would finally de-bond. Warm soapy water and white spirits both failed to improve the situation. Shortly thereafter I discovered the merits of a gentle sawing action with a plastic knife and Ed promptly won the prize of a fancy dessert with his bet of 12 noon.
Humourous anecdotes aside, let it be officially recorded that the crew are all stars and their work is gradually bringing Ian’s beautiful design into awesome reality. It will be heart-wrenching to strike it at the end of shooting.
Ian Tomlinson rocks.
Twenty chairs stand ready for action in the workshop. They started life as Ikea furniture, but with a little routing and staining and the addition of cushions padded with carrier bags and edged with drawing pins, they have been transformed into Victoriana.
Most of the set flattage has been banged together, many girders have been cut and sanded and several panels have been clad. Colin has procured a large supply of free paint from various Homebase stores.
Stupidly obvious as this may sound, after looking at various models of the set for months, the real thing seems really big. Fortunately the construction crew (which includes within its ranks the inestimable Soul Searcher stalwart Colin Smith) is doing a much better job of cutting the holes out of the real girders than I did with my cardboard counterparts when I was making the storyboard model.
I’m pleased to officially announce the casting of Kate Burdette as Isabelle, and having met several DOPs today I can also reveal that Oliver Downey will be the man behind the lens on the Dark Side pilot. I love it when a plan comes together.
The first day of set building and all went well… apart from getting a bit lost on the way and Colin’s car almost overheating. Already several big flats are taking shape in the workshop under the watchful eye of construction manager Gus Wookey.