The day before the shoot begins. I don’t feel as if I’m about to start making a feature. I feel as if I’m about to do a short film, have a day off in which to pre-produce another short film, and then start making that the following day, and so on. My grand vision of having everything locked down so I didn’t have to do any producing between shooting days has dissipated. I can’t be shooting a feature tomorrow because I’m not ready. Surely I haven’t arranged anything? Oh that’s right, I did most of it weeks ago. That’s okay then. It’s going to rain. Hell, it has done for the last couple of days. Why should tomorrow be any different? This film is either going to look horribly flat and grey throughout, or have god-awful continuity as rain-soaked vistas are intercut with strong sunlight scenes. Britain sucks ass. And I have no sound man for tomorrow. So The Beacon is going to follow in the fine tradition of Soul Searcher and Cow Trek, and be yet another Neil Oseman film with shit sound. And what’s worse is that everyone else on the crew is going to say “it’s fine”, “anyone can do it”, “look, I’ll hold the boom – that’s all you need to do”. They don’t understand. They’ve not been there. Where are all the sound recordists? Curse you all for not doing my film. But I shall stop moaning now, and think about the fact that two and half years of work is about to come to fruition. The fruition of more work, followed by more post-production work, followed by an actual film. So no real fruition for half a year or so yet. Damn. But I’m looking forward to it. Honest. The guns came. Thank god.
Went to Hereford to pick up my pag light, which Hi Way had foolishly delivered to my old address, despite me telling them twice that I was moving. Got the final okay for filming in Rural Media, and for Holy Well (which is good, since we film there the day after tomorrow). The gun shop decided to tell me that the HK replicas I ordered two weeks ago will actually take 6-8 weeks to import, as there have been none in the country for the last year. After a brief but intense panic, I ordered M16s instead, throwing authenticity to the wind. There are still a few loose ends to tie but, I shall entrust these to my hopefully loyal production assistants, and just worry about directing the film from now on.
American Independence Day, so the radio keeps telling me. Still stuff is largely going right. There’s the odd little setback, but the general tide is one of rightness. Went to talk to Malvern Cinema about filming the festival scene – all seems cool. Spent an afternoon wandering around Worcester trying to buy props, and not being able to find any of the things on my list. Then went to see Evolution, which rocks. Especially the ending. Now updating website. Now finished.
A worringly large amount of stuff went right today. In fact, everything went right. First David and I took a trip down to Madresfield Estate, where we were shown the perfect location for crashing a car. Next, we secured Holy Well as our bad guys’ hide-out location. Then we went back to David’s to attempt more gunshot FX tests. The results were pretty damn lovely, as you can see on the gunshot FX page. Then I sorted out a video projector for the government briefing room and cinema scenes, then went home to find a message saying we had an army landrover and driver for the SAS command post scene. And any day now I’m going for a test flight in a microlight, to plan the arial photography. Sweet.
It was actually about noon the following day before I finished the script. We had the production meeting on Friday, to which everyone turned up (woohoo!) and seemed very enthusiastic. Mark Evans, our military consultant, said to me afterwards that he was amazed by it all – the way I was asking people completely ridiculous things – like does anyone know someone with a helicopter so we can do some aerial shots? or does anyone have a car we can crash? – and people were saying yes, and coming up with all these great options. I’ve learnt now to be open about this stuff. When I first started crewing for The Beacon, I was reluctant to send people the script because I thought they’d just laugh at its ambitiousness and think I was some nutter who didn’t know what he was doing. Can I just say to anyone out there to wants to make a feature film, but is worried that it’s too difficult, just go out there and do it. Once the ball gets rolling, it’s all surprisingly easy. Of course things do go wrong. The actor playing Conrad, for example, dropped out of the project without even telling me, leading to a panicked calling round of everyone vaguely suitable I knew, before hitting on Josh Green (already on board for a smaller role). My first paid directing job was on a two-day shoot for a community video about skateboarders. In those two days, everything that could go wrong did. Everything from bad weather, through location eviction to cast injuries. (None of it my fault, you understand. Neil wonders why none of his cast turns up for The Beacon the shoot….) I’ve done shoots that have gone like clockwork. Most importantly, I’ve done shoots where loads of things have gone wrong, but we’ve still got it all done and blown people away with the end result. (Okay, so that was entirely due to the talented helming of one Mr. Rick Goldsmith.) Anyway, it’s T minus one week, and I’m feeling pretty good. I know that there are a million things that can go wrong. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a big cast and crew, tricky locations to get to, probably boiling weather, and loads of gear to carry. But it’ll be fun. So I’m looking forward to it, as I sit here at my Apple Mac, newly relocated to The Kitchen’s ancestral seat in Malvern Link. I’m also looking forward to going up the Prince of Wales tonight, and that’s a mere four hours away! Hurrah!
Met up with Simon, the fight co-ordinator, today, to recce St. Anne’s Well cafe. It became clear that they were never going to let us film in there, so after I’d indulged in a surprisingly reasonably-priced Cornetto, we headed Wyche-ward, to look at a possible alternative to the Foot-and-Mouth-closed Gullet’s Quarry. And very nice it was, though sadly not what I need for the film. For some reason we found ourselves climbing over treacherous rocks and risking death/wetness to see if we could get out the other end of the quarry. We could not. We turned back. And didn’t die. Thankfully. Our last port of call was Holy Well, much like St. Anne’s Well, only smaller, more deserted and – as it transpired – absolutely perfect for filming in. There was the spring, in what appeared to be the bottom floor of someone’s house, with a little room next to it – ideal for keeping hostages in – and even though it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, there was no-one around. I ask you: what more could you want? Well, you could perhaps do without the constant noise of the spring trickling, but – hey – beggars can’t be choosers. And round here, film-makers are always beggars. Now you’ll have to excuse me, because it’s gone 9pm and I promised myself I’d finish the final draft of the script today. Bye bye.
Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote an entry, but I’ve just been doing all the boring producing stuff – phone calls, letters, e-mails. I need to get back in the creative groove. I can see myself scribbling storyboards the night before we shoot. Still, there’s a script meeting on Friday, so at least I’ll get a chance then to think about the script as something other than just a list of locations, props and actors to arrange. My friend Rob, who’ll be playing the Prime Minister, is in a similar situation. Only his involves several puppets and a giant lighthouse. (He’s setting up a puppet theatre company, and doing EVERYTHING himself.) Tomorrow night I’m giving a speech – yet to be written, I might add – about my short film Soul Searcher at a Rural Media event in Hereford. An excellent opportunity to plug The Beacon. I’ve spent the last couple of hours designing a funky little postcard. I’ll print some more tomorrow and leave them at the Rural Media gig for people to take away. Wow, publicity – and we haven’t even shot yet. We start on July 7th. I’m moving back in with my parents in Malvern for a couple of months, since I simply can’t take the prospect of flat hunting at the moment.
This week is insane. My landlord’s informed me I’ve got to move out because his girlfriend’s moving in, I’ve got to redo two days’ work on a paying editing job because the hard drive went down (fortunately not on my suite – phew, someone else is to blame), and a million people have rung me or e-mailed me about The Beacon. Not that I’m asking you to stop, it’s just that I always assumed that it would only be on the shoot itself that I’d run out of free time at nights in which to sleep. And – hey! – the auditions are on Saturday, today’s Wednesday, it’s 8:20pm and I’ve yet to post any script pages or audition times to anyone. Still, this guy with muchos nun chucks experience wants to be in the film. Sweet…..
A ridiculously complicated day of trying to juggle a corporate editing job with responding to the barrage of calls and e-mails that followed an article in the Worcester Evening News about my cinematic endeavours, and attempting to work out the logistics of closing off Malvern highstreet for a morning to film part of the mountain board chase. The latter was going very well, until one of the many people I had to call thought to ask what exactly the scene involved. I was forced to admit that it was basically two people chasing each other down the steep road on mountain boards. And that was the end of that. Oh well, I guess the chase will have to take place entirely on the hills and commons. Still, other locations are looking promising (though I’ve yet to get a definite “yes” on any of them). I spent last Sunday hauling my ass all over Malvern doing a recce. Miraculously, an air ambulance flew around the Beacon, and I was able to get it on video. That’ll be a tad handy for the “air ambulance flies around the Beacon” scene in the script. I’ve got a nice range of CVs coming in, from Equity actors with TV experience through to college drama students. People interested in being extras, or even just coming along to watch, have also been in touch. I’ve also got a professional make-up artist on board, and a friend of a friend who used to be in the TA has agreed to supply replica weapons and help the actors playing soldiers to get into the military mindset. It’s that scary time in pre-production when you realise that you ain’t never gonna stop that snowball now. But man, when it gets to the bottom of the hill… (The Beacon: it’s all downhill from here.)
Woohoo! The hills have been reopened, at least the ones I was planning to film on anyway. David Abbott, action vehicles co-ordinator, came round yesterday to discuss the climactic thrill ride that is to be The Beacon’s car chase. It’s gonna be the most fun bit to shoot, and to watch. It comes to something when you’re shooting a microbudget film and the car chase is the easiest bit to do…