Soul Searcher: June 24th 2002

Firstly, I never want to see The Beacon ever again. An eight year-old could have written a better script. Sadly though I must sit through it again tomorrow, when there’ll probably be no-one there except the ten winners of the Chicago Rock competition. Today’s turn-out was pretty good, and only three old ladies walked out, presumably because of the f**k-laden prose that passes for dialogue in the movie.

A few people offered their services for Soul Searcher, but no-one offered any money. Indeed, it seems that none of the 12 potential funders that were sent comp tickets even bothered to come. You see, this is why I used my own money to make The Beacon. Myself is extremely generous when it comes to giving money to me. Extravagant even, one might say.

Anyway, I’m off camping in Cornwall for a week the day after tomorrow – but don’t think I’m not taking my Soul Searcher file with me. Whilst I’m away, Beacon veteran Geraint Pounder will work on some concept sketches, and I’m going to do some storyboards, even if it’s still just key moments at this stage, rather than entire scenes.

Also this afternoon James and I wreaked havoc on the airwaves, diffusing our double act onto BBC Hereford & Worcester as we talked about Soul Searcher. Sadly they did not broadcast our impromptu song. All together now… “SOUL SEARCHER / HE’S SUCH A HAIRY LURCHER / HE’S GOT A SCYTHE BUT HE WON’T HURT YA…”

Soul Searcher: June 24th 2002

Soul Searcher: June 23rd 2002

An evening of hilarity after a rollercoaster couple of days. The film continues to crystallize in my head. Where before I could only see the dialogue scenes, I now have strong images of fight sequences and action set pieces. I’ve sent Simon Wyndham, the fight arranger, some notes on the emotions and styles of each fight, and am itching to begin storyboarding.

Tonight James came round so we could write a press release for the casting call. After much comic double-acting, we got this done and turned our attention to going through the script scene by scene and noting down how many days each would take to shoot. Then I totted them all up. 84.


James proceeded to list big Hollywood movies which were shot in less time than that. I went through the list and shaved some days off. I totted it up again. 79.

So we sat back on my dodgy brown sofa which always makes you gradually slide off and laughed for a bit. It’s not going to take us 79 days to shoot. Of course it’s not. The Beacon only took 28 days. Allowing for the fact that this script is 20 pages longer, it’s all set at night and the fight scenes are more complex, I reckon it should take us 60 days. Which is what we’ve been saying all along. I got out my diary and we looked at the latter part of the year. We decided to pencil in October 7th very faintly as a start date, with a wrap date of December 20th. That’s 11 weeks; 77 days. 60 days of shooting and 17 days off in between. That’s more like it.

So it’s fine, it’s all good. Except that every now and then I remember that we still need to raise UKP60,000. We reckon we can start shooting if he have UKP20,000. The Beacon screening’s tomorrow; it’ll be interesting to see if any of the funders we mailed will show up and want to support us. Please. This movie’s gonna kick ass. Seriously.

Soul Searcher: June 23rd 2002

Soul Searcher: June 20th 2002

I sat down yesterday and went through every story setting, writing possible locations next to each. This morning I went through it again and noted down the colours of light I want to use in each scene. I’ve now got quite a good idea of what this movie’s going to look like. I plan to favour big, tree-lined, American-looking streets like the one with the leisure centre on and Rotherwas Industrial Estate over city centre high streets wherever possible. I’ve always wanted to shoot on a factory site too, so hopefully we’ll set up a recce around Bulmers and Sun Valley at some point to see if we can’t film in their grounds.

As I was thinking about all this last night, something clicked in my head and action inspiration promptly formed. I have a couple of ideas now for what should be quite visually striking action scenes, reminscent of Highlander and classic 80s action movies. Blue light shining through big fans. Bring it on.

The great thing is that this action will be handled completely different to that in The Beacon. That was the kind of film where, when something blows up, the lead character walks away from the explosion in super cool slow motion, a blank look on their face. In Soul Searcher, our heroes will be stumbling away Indiana Jones-style from the explosions, dusting themselves off in disbelief at their own survival, and muttering about how much trouble they’re going to get into.

I also spent a lot of today reconfiguring the trailer over and over again, trying to find a way to get the music, visuals and voiceover to work with, rather than competing against, each other. I finally succeeded and I thnk the result is pretty cool. It will premiere at The Courtyard after The Beacon on Monday – don’t forget to buy your tickets folks (just call the box office on 01432 359252) – and then will be uploaded to this site on Tuesday.

Soul Searcher: June 20th 2002

Soul Searcher: June 18th 2002

The three amigos drove off into the sunset, towards Rotherwas and other glamorous potential locations. The third amigo was none other than multimedia personality Chris “Whitney” Mayall, who served as note taker, video documentarian and surreal commentator on our journey from Sublimesville to Ridiculous City, USA. We checked out some warehouses and factories, and a cool abandoned Nissan hut, before heading back into town to wander the streets, pointing a video camera at various buildings and going “that’s nice”. Needless to say, we ended up drinking thin cokes at The Courtyard.

To be honest, I didn’t feel like we’d achieved anything, but perhaps it was my fault for not really being in the right mindset. It’s also an unusual experience for me to be directing a script which I haven’t written entirely myself, so as a result I don’t have every word etched into my brain… yet.

It was only when I got home afterwards that I got clear in my head exactly what I want from this film’s locations. Firstly, like I always strive for in my photography, it needs to be uncluttered. Especially on video, where everything’s in focus most of the time, if you’re not careful to keep your frame fairly sparse, your subject gets lost in the background. Secondly, I like uniformity. That’s what I love about Maylord Orchards and the Left Bank Village. Everything’s been designed by one architect, so you get a visual consistency, unlike in the high street where every building is a different age, colour and design.

On the bright side, shooting at night has it’s advantages in that if you don’t like the look of a particular building, you just don’t light it. It also hit home this evening that simply the fact that our actors will be walking through the main streets in the middle of the night with no-one else around will look very eery and interesting. Like it’s a ghost town. Hardy ha ha.

Anyway, it looks like I may have to force some of the locations into the visual style of the movie by careful framing and coloured lighting. I plan to have a very stylised palette for the film; in homage to the beautifully photographed Terminator 2, I shall be adopting a Fire & Ice colour scheme – ie. pretty much every scene will be very orange or very blue. Of course this isn’t just a lighting issue – it also needs to be worked into the props, costumes and set dressing.

The problem I have at the moment is visualising it. I’ve never shot at night in an urban environment, or with the size of lights we’ll be using on Soul Searcher. I’m not entirely sure what High Town’s going to look like with a blue-gelled 5KW HMI shining on it. Still, it’ll be fun finding out.

Soul Searcher: June 18th 2002

Soul Searcher: June 17th 2002

I’ve just rewritten this paragraph since what I put originally was so surreal even I didn’t understand it. James finished the second draft of the script last week, and I spent some train journeys and other quiet moments going through it. The early scenes with Joe, Gary and Heather are working great now – really tight with potential for some great performances. We’ve also added in a new, mysterious character. As James and I were saying earlier, there’s so much in it – a lot of little subplots and some very nice character interaction. The audience are really going to be looking forward to seeing how it all pays off.

The main problem with this new draft is a large cluster of dialogue scenes about three quarters of the way into the film. The scenes in themselves are really nice, but are slowing the film down massively where they are at the moment. James is going to try moving them or getting rid of them all together. I sent the poor guy away today with a hard copy covered in scribbles and a long e-mail detailing more general issues. To be honest though, we’ve done the difficult stuff – aside from fleshing out Heather’s role a little more (taking a leaf out of Spider-Man‘s very cool book), the characters are sorted. It’s really just structural stuff, stemming from my failure to tighten up the treatment before we began the screenplay. Spider-Man, if I may return to it again briefly, also highlighted for me the importance of having the right ending, or more accurately, setting up the ending properly. Brilliant film as it was, the actions of the two leads in the movie’s closing scene seemed to fly in the face of everything that the rest of the film had told us about them. But kudos though, it was one of the best written films I’ve seen in a long time, and pretty feckin’ entertaining to boot.

I’ve sent Jim “the comic guy”, or Jamie as I guess he’d prefer to be called, as in “Jamie, clean your room!” or “Jamie, your dinner’s ready, boyo!” or “Jamie for christ’s sake put some socks on and get your arse down the Prince of Wales.” Anyway, how did that sentence start? Oh yes, I sent him the script so he can start drawing more stuff. We aim to have an art department consisting of two or three concept designers, a props master, a costume designer and a make-up artist, and we hope to recruit these people from those that have approached us after The Beacon screenings.

I can remember a time – it doesn’t seem that long ago, when the shoot for Soul Searcher was a whole two seasons away. Now it’s a trouser-browning three and a half months away. We want to have cast our actors by the end of July, so that we have two months to rehearse them, tweak the dialogue with them, and train them in the arts, martial in nature. (Hello? Martial arts? I’d like two arts, martial in nature.) This means we’ll be holding auditions on the week commencing July 22nd, which in turn means the official casting call will go out on July 8th. I remember when I sent out the casting call for The Beacon – I thought “This is it. I’ve committed myself now. I have to make this film.” It was kinda scary. This time it’s not scary, it’s great. The only question is will we get the money?

Soul Searcher: June 17th 2002

Soul Searcher: June 13th 2002

Trying to think of a way to open these journal entries is always difficult, and thankfully I’ve just gotten around that. Since the last entry, a heady three lines hence, my comic genius friend Jim (not be confused with my comic genius friend Matt, in an entirely different sense of the word comic) has produced four very cool illustrations of the lead characters. As ever, it was interested to see how someone else interpreted our ideas. One of the images in particular – of bounty hunter Luca – was exactly how we had pictured the character. Others differed more from what we had imagined, but included great ideas that we would never have though of.

Hopefully the A3 storyboard frames are coming along at the moment too. I had to provide the illustrator with very comprehensive notes, which was very strange because it was like having to direct the scenes right now, without adequate preparation. I had to specify the lighting set-ups, the costumes, the blocking. It’ll be interesting to see how those turn out.

This afternoon James and I went to the art college, where Sam and Adam, a couple of performing arts students, had kindly agreed to provide a voice-over for the teaser trailer. We spent a little time going through the brief scene over and over and refining the dialogue to make it as natural as possible – an extremely useful process which we plan to do with the whole script a little further down the line, since trying to write good dialogue in isolation is a complete nightmare. Things improved greatly once James suggested we get the two actors to swap roles, and a couple of takes later we were done.

The featurette is essentially finished now – three or four minutes of material on what we’ve done so far and what we’re hoping to do, culminating in the trailer itself. We met with Alan Jones, who composed The Beacon’s excellent score, to chat with him about music for the trailer, and also for the film itself. We put to him the idea of having an orchestra perform it, which got him really fired up. Apparently I’ve shown him the light – since doing The Beacon he’s decided that film music, not pop, is the way he wants to go.

James and I were wondering why all the musicians we know in Hereford have shaved heads. We decided they must have got fed up with the headphones messing up their hair. I know I do.

Soul Searcher: June 13th 2002