Soul Searcher: November 30th 2003

I’m depressed. It’s all over (for now) apart from a few hours’ filming this evening at Rowden Mill. Most of the actors have gone home, the crew is dispersing and I’ve got to go to work at 9 in the morning. Once again the suckiness of freelance work hits home. We’ve all made a lot of friends on this shoot and it’s going to be weird not having them around for the next month or so.

Since my last entry, we filmed at Westons on Thursday night, which proved to be the coldest night of the shoot so far. It really was fecking nasty. Lara, Chris and Ray had spent the day terrorising staff and customers at Tesco, with Ray still in his scar make-up from the sunrise scene. After Westons we had a couple of scenes to do in town outside Doodies. It was one of those nights where we had a lot to get through and there was no time to really stop and think about it, but I was pleased with the results nonetheless.

Friday night’s shooting was on the rooftop of the Courtyard Arts Centre. I had expected this to be the most unpleasant night of the shoot, exposed to arctic winds and freezing rain. Fortunately it was a relatively mild, calm and dry night. We hauled all the gear up there, including a massive HOTEL sign, and starting turning over, only to discover that my Canon XL1S’ intermittent fault had become a constant one and it was now unable to record anything. We switched to the XM1 and shot the first scene, a dialogue one.

There were two other short scenes to do, one of which was a bit of an A-Team homage involving welding, which the multi-talented Ray was able to do himself. We used the jib to get some very cool shots revealing the city skyline. I swear if you look carefully you can see the Hudson.

It was Jonny’s last night so we spent half an hour outside my flat getting some publicity photos before bidding him farewell. Then it was inside to reshoot Ray’s air guitar scene, which had originally formed part of that horrible long night at Rotherwas/Rick’s house. At this point the XM1 started playing up, and there was a terrifying moment when we played back the night’s footage and the tape appeared to be blank. There was nothing we could do, so we pressed on and shot the scene, then I rescued my TV and deck from under all the junk that had been moved to dress the set and played back the tape again. Fortunately everything from the whole night was fully in tact.

Yesterday’s schedule involved a scene in which our heroes tool up with weapons from the boot of Luca’s car, and a sequence at Hereford Railway Station. Frustratingly, we couldn’t do either of these scenes due to unfinished props and an unsorted location. So that only left publicity photos and a piss-up. John Galloway and I burned several films shooting the leads out on the golf course at the back of the new actors’ house.

We all said a few words to the behind-the-scenes camera about how the shoot had gone. Certain names were cursed more than once. I had brought along some loaded BB guns and a blown-up photograph of a certain someone. The certain someone’s photograph did not survive very long. As blood alcohol levels increased the BB guns were brought back out and Edd, Ray and AJ started employing them against one another. Edd took to lifting up his shirt and inviting the guys to take pot shots at his belly button. He still has the scars. AJ then grabbed one of the guns and shot himself in the forehead at point blank range. Frankly guys, you’re a bunch of nobs. And that bastard Edd shot me in the arse.

Soul Searcher: November 30th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 27th 2003

We tried to shoot a whole bunch of pick-ups last night but we couldn’t get locations for some of them so it was a fairly short night. First we shot outside TGS bowling – a scene where Joe passes by lots of drunkards outside a club. These were all crew members. Production designer Ian Tomlinson got to shout an uncouth remark at Ray, and AJ got to have a sly second role as Hooded Smoking Man 1. Then we grabbed a few inserts, supposedly of the chained library, in the TGS car park, before piling into the van to go to the Green Dragon car park. On the way we had to stop off at Queensway, the road we filmed on this morning, in order to show Vicky where it was so she could knock on some doors and sort us out a power supply. After a good ten minutes of driving around, with Ray and AJ bouncing about in the back amongst all the gear… “That handle just went right up my arse…” / “That’s what your mum said last night…” / “Edd, if you slam the brakes on I’m going to (*&^UKP(*&@&….”, I finally remembered where Queensway was.

At the Green Dragon we got some inserts of the new and improved scanner in the Mustang, then used a very cool old window in the building for a shot we dropped weeks ago at the blacksmith’s. We then retired to our beds.

This morning we were up at 5:30am to shoot at Queensway, as we needed it to be almost but not quite night. After various delays, mostly caused by the Mustang not starting/running out of fuel/not starting/being really fecking annoying/not starting, we got a couple of takes of the shot, one of which I may be able to use. Then it was on with haste to Ledbury Road to film the movie’s closing scene, along with our newest crew member, Richard the Recovery Guy, whose flatbed lorry was carting the Mustang about for us. The damned car managed to work long enough for us to get a take of the wide shot.

Whilst the actors were turning the car round and bringing it back for another take, I was squinting into the camera when I heard a loud bang. I looked up to see a small red car with an L plate had rammed itself into the back of a van about twenty yards from us. A teenager and his dad staggered out, shocked but unhurt, as we gawped at the car’s new concertina-style bonnet. I later exchanged a few words with the father. “It’s all your fault,” he said. “We were both turning to see what you were doing and we didn’t see the van braking.” Yeah, try keeping your eyes on the road next time, mate. So we’ve now caused a road traffic accident. The ever-expanding disaster zone of Soul Searcher.

Anyway, the Mustang came back, then promptly conked out on a side road, so we had to push it into position to get the remaining angles for the scene. This done, me, Tom and Edd headed to Ascari’s for a hard-earned breakfast. That Mustang is now pretty much everybody’s least favourite thing on this movie. It may look great, but it’s cost us a packet and we’re all fed up of pushing it about.

I’m currently debating whether to go to bed for a few hours (we have a 7pm call tonight, and it’s gonna be a long night). Although I would probably be glad of the kip later on, it would mean going through that whole waking up, feeling like shit, wanting to go back to bed thing. Mmm, the jury’s still out…

Soul Searcher: November 27th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 26th 2003

The TGS exterior on Monday night was quick and painless. Some of the crew had gone straight to Campions to set up lights for Van Beuren’s last scene so we could get it done fast because Richard needed to get the 8pm train back to London. After shooting at TGS me, John Galloway and Richard had to hang around for about half an hour due to a miscommunication before Edd came and picked us up to go to Campions. There we found that Alie and Colin hadn’t got very far with the lighting set-up because there was a homeless person sleeping under the bridge and they were scared, Edd marched under the bridge with a torch, revealing the “scary homeless person” to be a bundle of clothes. We set up the lights then found ourselves waiting around for the other actors to come over from make-up. Once everyone was finally there we were all ready to shoot when we realised Edd had gone off with the keys to the Mustang. Eventually we got the shot, quickly changed set-up for Richard’s last angle and finished with him just in time for him to get the last train.

We were able to take more time with the scene’s remaining angles, and finished at a record 8:20pm. Edd, who had gone off to get coffees, was highly surprised to get a phone call saying we’d wrapped. It was another two hours before we got home though, as we had to push the Mustang onto the flatbed which picked it up (the battery was dead), then we had to push it into the car park at the Green Dragon. Then we had to go back to Campions and wait for a second flatbed which was picking the generator up.

Last night we were back at Westons. The scene was a fight which was to take place in the rain. David Abbott had built us some rain bars, but I had been worried over the last few days that they weren’t going to do the job. Edd, Tom and Colin spent the day buying extra bits and pieces so we could extend or modify the bars. Secretly I was hoping for real rain, because I feared nothing we could do was going to produce a convincing downpour.

When we got to location we were, to say the least, a little pissed off to find that the apple pit we were supposed to be filming in, and which we had been assured many times would be emptied in time for filming, was very much still full of apples. After spouting various obscenities, I hurried around the site to find another location. This done, and a water supply secured, we hooked up the rain bars and switched them on. The effect was good, but not realistic. It was too much of a fine spray. I decided to try taking the bars off and pointing the hose up in the air. Thanks to the wonders of industrial pressure water supplies, a 50ft geyser errupted into the air and fell back to earth in a very cool Hollywood-style mini-monsoon.

We set up the gear and started shooting. Edd donned a bin liner poncho and rubber gloves in his role as rain maker, whilst Colin was on hand to wipe the rain-soaked camera lens after every take. Jonny, Ray and Simon were all absolute stars, never complaining once about fighting and jumping around on slippery concrete in the cold and the rain and the mud. It was Jonnny I felt most sorry for as he was fast asleep at 2am when Simon woke him up to swap costumes with him, and he had to put on his manky, cold, wet costume and come out and shoot his close-ups. He was shaking from the cold. I felt so evil. Maximum respect to you, guys.

David Dukes’ props took a beating. Watching the rushes this morning was very funny, After every take Simon and Ray would go to a nearby wall and hurriedly bend their scythes back into shape for the next take. But man, the rain looked good.

Soul Searcher: November 26th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 24th 2003

Last night we picked up the Doodies scenes which we dropped a couple of weeks back due to our sound recordist pulling out. Bill Dempster, a boom op from London town, came up to help us out and worked alongside Kyle, a student from the local sound college, to record the audio for the night. This was not helped by the mixer which James got them. A portable SQN? Nope, a full size mixing desk, mains powered. It was also not helped by my extremely complex shots. “Right, Bill, in this next shot I’m tracking from this end of the cafe to the other, they’re all speaking and we don’t have any radio mics. Okay – rolling to record…”

We all expected it to be one of those wrapping-as-the-sky-grows-light nights, especially since we had to pick up Kat’s close-ups from the previous day at Doodies, due to H. Lehmann Ltd. (Stoke-on-Trent) being dumb asses. Actually we wrapped at a fairly reasonable 3:30am. My favourite scene of the whole movie was shot last night – Joe teaching Heather to play air guitar. We set the camera up on a dolly outside the cafe window and shot three takes of them letting rip with the silly faces and strenuous hand motions.

Edd’s trying to get to sleep across the room. He stirs: “Don’t forget the cup of tea, leaving your producer to lug heavy objects up the stairs by himself…. If you say I’m whining I’m going to smack you in the face.” The event to which he is dozily referring is last night’s wrap when I pissed off to the actors’ house to pick up my washing, leaving him to cart my armchairs (which had been used in the Doodies scenes) back up the stairs to my flat whilst I enjoyed a cup of tea with Ray. My defense is that such director/lead bonding opportunities subtly enhancing performance and the working relationship on set. But of course that’s bollocks. Probably.

After three hours’ sleep the crew got up to shoot Van Beuren’s introductory scene at TGS Bowling. It was pretty straightforward and we finished just after 1pm. It’s now 3:10pm and in half an hour we’re going back there to shoot a nighttime exterior before moving on to Campions for another short scene.

Soul Searcher: November 24th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 23rd 2003

The second day in the nightclub was equally disastrous from the point of view of the amount of material shot. Our martial artist, David Sheppard, didn’t turn up due to an injury, meaning Chris Jones had to step in. It took a while to get him made up to look satisfactorily scary. A couple of shots into the fight we split into two units. Simon Wyndham continued shooting the fight, whilst I shot close-ups of Kat and Gary in other parts of the room, utilising the dozen or so extras that Jason, our newest crew member, had drummed up.

David Dukes’ props are not standing up well. His swords tend to fall apart as soon as they’re used in a fight – which proved very dangerous as the blade of Van Beuren’s sword detached itself from the handle whilst Simon was rehearsing the fight. AJ and Edd had to go to Gloucester yesterday to buy a replacement sword. Edd has spent many an hour glueing Luca’s guns back together with a variety of adhesives, but we may have to remake one of them from scratch.

We finished at the nightclub on Friday evening with half of the scene still left to shoot, which means two more days of pick-ups in January. Depressing as this was, I was very pleased with everything we did shoot, particularly a performance from Ray which won him a round of applause from his fellow actors.

Last night we shot Van Beuren vs. Dante – the movie’s only sword-on-sword fight. AJ (Dante) was choreographing, since Simon was not available, and he was looking forward to getting some Highlander references in. Richard Brake (Van Beuren) had never handled a sword before, but he picked it all up in an hour or two and the fight looked fantastic. We were shooting under a bridge with a bunch of graffiti on the walls and some fluorescent tubes and dust on the floor which got kicked up whenever they moved. There were also lots of needles and other dodgy things lying around – in fact, as we were packing up to leave some guy with his home in a bin liner turned up, presumably to doss down for the night. That gave us pause for thought.

Half way through the evening I realised that Richard in costume looked almost exactly like Judge Doom – Chris Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? “Arrrgggh! I’m melting!!!!!!”

Edd was astonished when he turned up just after 11pm with lunch, to discover that we had just wrapped. The night almost didn’t happen at all because our generator turned up without an ignition key. Fortunately a very kind lady in a neighbouring house let us run power from her place and the day was saved.

I had yet another dream last night that I was on set and all the crew had vanished. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Soul Searcher: November 23rd 2003

Soul Searcher: November 20th 2003

It’s 5:53pm and about an hour ago we wrapped,,, for the second time today, Last night we went to Westons again to shoot the conclusion of a chase sequence featuring Lara Croft/Greenway running about shooting things. Simon Wyndham came along to provide his unique brand of ultra-smooth Glidecam work, but there was a bit of a panic at lunchtime when we thought everything he’d shot was slightly out of focus. It turned out that only the last couple of shots were a little dodgy and they’re pretty fast moving anyway.

Towards the end of the night we shot Luca, Joe and Gary legging it away from some vats which were supposedly bound for explosion. This involved them running down a muddy bank and diving onto a skanky old mattress. This they did a good three or four times. On the last take Lara tripped and went flying. Like a true professional, as everyone rushed to help her up (well, some people did – I believe I stood around like a nonce) her first words were, “Did we get the take?” This Chris and Ray found extremely funny and all three of them had the giggles for the rest of the night.

Edd made a camero appearance as Distillery Worker no. 2, which I think he pretty much hated, but I thought it was pretty funny. We got back to Hereford at about 5am, at which point I took a quick bath then had to sit down and work out what order to shoot all the nightclub stuff in (now it had been reduced from three long days to two short ones) and how to light it. I gave up at just after 7am, went to bed for 25 minutes then got up to go to the Crystal Rooms and the shoot the fecking stuff.

Although I no longer felt tired, I clearly was since the plan of shooting double quick, possibly even employing two units with Simon shooting martial arts on one side of the club and me shooting drama on the other, went swiftly out the window. Well, slowly out the window. Nothing moved swiftly today. Pretty much no extras turned up, and the demon make-up took longer that expected, but this was good because it gave us plenty of time to shoot the scene’s hugely important closing sequence. In fact, by the time we were done with that we had only about two hours left to shoot the demons, who thanks to the two Nickys and Becka looked fantastic.

It was weird to wrap at 5pm. Scratch that, very weird.

Soul Searcher: November 20th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 19th 2003

BUNGLING FILM CREW DESTROY PRICELESS BOOK COLLECTION. World’s largest chained library ruined by low budget production team.

Cathedral officials were in shock tonight at the total destruction of Hereford’s Chained Library and its large collection of centuries-old books. Hundreds of valuable volumes were reduced to mush when shit-for-brains director Neil Oseman, 23, called for smoke in the sprinkler-equipped room. The crew’s smoke machine set off the hi-tech fire alarm system and triggered the overhead sprinklers. The fire brigade arrived promptly to shut off the system, but they were too late to save countless books from the deluge of water.

Not really of course, the power of suggestion. But almost. Fortunately, though the alarm did go off, the sprinklers did not. But there were a couple of minutes when I was told the fire brigade were on their way and I was just waiting for the sprinklers to pop and bill for millions of pounds to be handed to me.

Anyway, that particular balls-up behind us, we managed to shoot all the chained library scenes (about six, I believe) in two hours and moved on to the exterior of the Odeon Cinema, which will be transformed into The Academy nightclub via the magic of matte paintings.

Then it was back to mine to shoot Joe being approached by the Grim Reaper to be trained up, a scene which we dropped several weeks ago due to rain. We finished at about 2:30am, the only real hindrance being a bunch of drunken slags and bastards who staggered through Bastion Mews, occasionally attacking each other but mostly just shouting obscenities.

I got up at 9am again today (and oh how that hurt) and finally got the nightclub storyboards done. Now I just have to figure out how to shoot about 46 set-ups and a three stage martial arts fight in 16 hours.

Soul Searcher: November 19th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 18th 2003

Snatched from the jaws of disaster was last night. At one point in the evening it looked like the Mustang wouldn’t come because it wasn’t insured whilst it was in transit on the flatbed, we wouldn’t have a sound recordist despite it being a dialogue heavy scene….. Anyway, we got to location, the front car park of Hum-Ming Gardens Chinese takeaway, and started setting up the lights. “Right, I need these lanterns on,” I said, waving directorialy at the nice red lanterns that adorn the building’s frontage, and had been the whole reason why it was selected as a location.

“Er, do we have access to inside?” says Edd.

“We’re running power from inside, aren’t we?” asks Neil, now slightly worried.

“No, we have a generator,” says Edd, also getting worried.

“That’s for the other scene,” says Neil.

“Ah,” says Edd.

“Oh dear,” says Neil. “But didn’t someone call the owner to confirm we were coming?”

“It says ‘all sorted’ on the locations list,” says Edd. And it did, you know. Back in pre-production the Chinese takeaway had been one of many locations which I’d wound up sorting out, but although I got permission from them I’d never confirmed a date with them. My copy of the locations list made that clear. Edd’s copy had a crucial sentence missing from it. The only person who could possibly have removed it is me, though when and why I have no idea. Guess I’m just a complete tit.

“Right,” thinks Neil (still directorialy, but also a bit panickedly), “we have no sound recordist, I’m not entirely convinced we have the car, the lights that made this location so attractive can’t be switched on, we might get turfed off any minute because we don’t actually have permission and there’s a bloody great van parked right where the actors need to stand. I think we’d better call off….”

And at that very moment a Chinese couple happened by. (Oooh, I’ve always wanted to use “happen” as a verb.) In what, with hindsight, was an extremely rascist jump to conclusion, I asked them if they were anything to do with the takeaway. By some miracle they were. “We’ll get the manager for you,” they said helpfully and went a-knocking on a door just down the road. Presently the manager arrived and I politely explained my balls-up and asked if we could film on his property until midnight, switch on his lanterns and run power out of his kitchen. Being of saintly extraction (I must presume) he cheerfully obliged.

Within five minutes, Edd and Vic had located the owner of the errant van and got it moved, the Mustang had arrived on the flatbed and a student of sound recording from the local college had turned up (later joined by a friend). It was like all the bad luck we’ve had so far had been swiftly paid back.

The scene itself went very well. We had to do a lot of takes because of the traffic noise from the nearby main road, but the performances were compelling and the actors managed to keep the energy up right through to the last angle.

At about midnight we moved just down the road to do a short scene outside the Texaco garage featuring Simon “I was Joe in the original Soul Searcher, I AM HIM” Dovey as a Darth Maul-esque demon (nice one, Becky) and Nick “lead SAS guy in The Beacon” Russell as a random passer-by. Lighting it was a pain in the ass due to the fact that we couldn’t put lights on the forecourt, but finally got it done, headed back to the house for a brief production meeting, then went to bed.

I got up at 9am today in order to start storyboarding the nightclub scene, which we’ve finally confirmed a location for, but it’s now almost 11:30 and I’ve so far managed to find many other things to do instead – ordering bulbs, writing cheques, getting films developed… er, writing this extremely long journal entry. Bollocks, must go storyboard. Bye.

EDD: This is Edd here, Neil is now sitting and watching the rushes from last night and laughing at Ray’s comedy west country accident. From my AD/Producer type view point the production meeting we had last night was very helpfull, getting everyones responsibilities sorted and who’s phoning who, recently because we have had so much to do the lines have become blurred. Oopps should go Neil’s threatening to fire everyone again. Oh, and thanks to Joe Potts for his message of luck.

Soul Searcher: November 18th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 17th 2003

I finished the trailer at 6am that night, but it was worth it from the point of view of cast and crew morale. Last night we shot a critical scene from the end of the movie at Churchill Gardens. I felt like I should be doing more – getting bigger performances, or doing something more interesting with the camera. I don’t know, maybe I screwed it up. I haven’t watched the rushes yet so maybe it’s fine and I’m just worrying about nothing. Our second scene of the night was a straight forward dialogue one between Joe and Gary. We were on the clock because our sound recordist had to go at midnight, but we got it done okay. There was a slot in the night’s schedule for pick-ups, but the production team had overlooked it and not booked anything in, so it was relatively short night.

Soul Searcher: November 17th 2003

Soul Searcher: November 16th 2003

The last three nights of filming took place in and around railway wagons at Rowden Mill Station near Bromyard – a giant, privately owned trainset. Two of the days concentrated on martial arts fights between Ray and AJ, one of them on top of the roof of the wagons. Ray said he spent the whole night being scared. It’s a long way to fall.

The Thursday was to centre around Luca and Gary’s action elsewhere on the train, and was to be the first day of shooting with Jonny Lewis’ sweet ’73 Mustang. Unfortunately James smegged up the insurance and we discovered at the last minute that Lara was only insured to drive the car at location, not to or from location. It was exceedingly frustrating to have to drop yet another scene, but despite that the night overran by a good hour and a half, probably due to us all being knackered, but yet again resulted in footage which exceeded my expectations.

Thanks to the various dropped days, last week was the first time we had shot for five consecutive days and we were all feeling it by the end of Friday night. Today’s day off was extremely welcome. I slept until 4pm, went out for a nice pub meal then sat watching films with Kat and Edd for six hours. It’s now 1:21am and I’ve returned to my flat to try and finish the trailer. So I guess I’d better get on with it.

Soul Searcher: November 16th 2003