There are two types of estate. There’s the type of estate owned by some rich guy who has loads of private lands and servants and stuff, and there’s the type of estate where you find knackered cars strewn on the roadside. Today Madresfield Estate was both. The image of a small child jumping on a totalled Mark 1 Fiesta moved out of the ghetto and into the driveway of the richest family in Malvern. Yes, today was the day the teddie bears shot a car crash. Dave donned a motorcycle helmet and took a sledge hammer to the windscreen of our recently purchase Mitsubishi Colt, while Gaz Parkin’s Ford Fiesta was ramped up by the road. Not one, but two cars ripe for destruction. Gaz, who has a reckless disregard for his own safety, had been down to perform several stunts for the film, but due to a spot of post car-accident whiplash, had not been able to help out on the movie. It was in fact Dovey who stepped up to rubbish the brick-on-accelerator method of crash achievement, offering instead to drive the car to its doom himself. Twice. Once without a seatbelt. Still, he survived, which is more than can be said for the cars. Mmmm, destruction. We then filmed two hasty shots with a dummy, before sweeping up all the glass, ripping anything useful out of the cars, and zooming off to the “wrap” party. And I lost at Trivial Pursuit. Pants.
I didn’t write the scene. Until just before we started shooting. It wasn’t exactly rocket science. The van became a Jeep Cherokee – complete with US licence plate circa 1979 – and the hollow-camera-contains-gun shot had to be dropped, but I did write in a death by clapperboard, with cheesy post-homicidal quip and seventies zoom. When we arrived it was pouring with rain, but after determinedly setting up some gear, it dried up, leaving bad grey skies. I’m going to LA next month to shoot stock footage; I just hope the weather matches. We did four gunshot effects – one of which, featuring my good friend Matt Hodges, writer of Cow Trek – took three attempts to work. We also shot some very cool little fights, with Simon finally finding a martial artist who lived up to his exacting standards, in the form of David Sheppard. After being killed off as short-lived bad guy Tate, David reappeared as two entirely different US Marines, whose fates were equally terminal. The light was fading by the time we finished (NOT 6pm, as scheduled), and we ended up getting a pick-up shot dropped earlier in the day in quite obvious darkness, like yesterday. A reshoot some time, I guess. I’m so very, very tired. And tomorrow, it’s the end.
Mostly fighting. Simon Wyndham had to dress up as John for a couple of shots, which was quite amusing, but not as amusing as the dummy of John which had to be rigged up for the final sequence. We were losing the light as we attached the mannequin Scotsman to the tracking dolly, and pushed it unconvincingly towards a shed. You’ll understand why when you see the film. We were also supposed to do an explosion in the shed, but after two failed attempts, it was too dark to try again. I guess there’ll be something in the diary for next week after all. Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me as I have to go away and write tomorrow’s scene.
Well there we were at 6am. The light was lovely, the production assistants were falling asleep, and we shot the end of the car chase. We finished at 9, grabbed some breakfast from Maccy-Dohs and headed up to the quarry. The Conservators turned up to watch, but seemed satisifed we were making no mischief, and went away again, leaving us to our funky fight scene. Having cut a fight scene between bad guy AJ (Ford) and LJ, we had to bring him into this fight. Whilst recceing the quarry, Simon Wyndham had jokingly suggested having AJ come up out of the lake with a machine gun. Much to AJ’s chagrin, that’s exactly what I decided to do. Everyone was pretty tired by the time we wrapped at 7pm, especially LJ, who by all accounts got very little sleep last night. And there’s more fighting tomorrow.
That feckin’ Geraint was late again. Perhaps he was putting off the moment when John would get into his car again and start destroying it with his ludicrously reckless driving. Anyway, it meant yet more of the car chase had to be cut, since we absolutely had to finish it at midday. We almost managed that, even though we got soaked in a torrential downpour, which also rendered Geraint’s brakes useless at one point, sending him sliding over the edge of the common, down a 45 degree slope and into a bush. This, as you can imagine, was hilarious. After that it was on to the roof rack scene – lifted wholesale from a film Dave and I made three years ago. We discovered that two of our three cameras were knackered, having been caught in the rain earlier, and had to make do with just one for the next couple of hours while the other dried out. The warden drove past a couple of times, but seemed content to just watch us serruptitiously from a distance, rather than make us go away. We were forced to wrap at 6:30 since Geraint had tickets for a play, meaning we’ll have to start at 6am tomorrow to finish the car scenes, before going on to the day’s scheduled fight.
9am call time. 10:30 before everyone’s arrived. Okay, so we knew LJ and Sarah would be tardy, as they had to pick up the car. But John and Geraint both managed to oversleep. So another slow start, shooting the beginning of the car chase at a car park in Great Malvern, then moving out to Castlemorton Common (the location for Soul Searcher’s car chase, and several others from Dave’s and my earlier films). We were annoyed to find lots of sheep and cattle wandering about where we wanted to film, but at least there weren’t many members of the public about. Members of the public suck ass. As expected, once we got going the car chase started looking pretty damn good. It was particularly sweet to have a car bought especially for the film, which we could chuck about as much as we wanted. And between LJ, Geraint and and John we did just that. John also chucked Geraint’s car about quite a bit, resulting in a surely illegal thinning of the the tyres. The Castlemorton sun will set on many new skid marks tonight.
Pick-ups day. All the scenes we dropped earlier in the shoot came back to haunt us. First it was up the Beacon (for the last time, thank god) to complete the mountain board chase. Now we knew what we were doing, we were able to quickly shoot what should be a pretty cool sequence. It did rain on us a hell of a lot on that hillside, though. On the way back down, LJ got lost (just as the rain reached its heaviest, most dam-bursting monsoonity). This mishap was quickly followed by the loss of John’s rucksack, presumed stolen, which in turn had its heels heated by a blow-out on Sarah’s car. I don’t think there’s any point me expanding on this story, as it’s a fairly safe bet you can find all the details on Dave’s website. Our next scene was the SAS Command Post, filmed at some playing fields. Dovey – who we’d feared might have to be replaced by a stand-in – managed to blag some time off work and come along, and we even had some nice light as the sun set. Of course we then had to shoot the remaining daylight scene extremely quickly. To describe the scene would spoil the plot, but suffice to say that it was made by the acting, so the simplistic camerawork should do fine. By this time we were all knackered (not least LJ, who had spent the previous night driving over from London, rather than sleeping as is the tradition), but with two more scenes to do we headed back to Malvern. A brief shoot in the bushes of Malvern Link Common, then we moved over the road to the station, where we proceeded to film a dialogue-on-the-run scene, watched by a dodgy man who was probably hoping to nick Dave’s car while we weren’t looking. Goodnight.
In a week’s time, it will all be over. It’s a very liberal use of the word “all”, but hell, it works for me. To be honest, I just want pre-production to be over. It never ends. If it’s not cars being gazzumped, or Dudley blokes going on holiday and leaving unhelpful marketing managers in charge, or Landrovers just being god-damned cursed vehicles, it’s grassy slopes needing finding, or cardboard boxes gathering, or dingies borrowed. But just one week. One week and I can sleep till midday every day, and drink coffee in Doodies every night. No batteries to charge, no insurance claims, no carrying heavy metal items up hills. Shit, it’s going to be boring.
Started editing yesterday – definitely my favourite part of the process so far. No rushing, no compromises. All the time in the world to get it right. Okay, so the 14 minutes of scenes I’ve rough cut so far are a million miles from a watchable, finished film, but it’s good to know that, as insane as I must have appeared to the cast and crew on location, I really did know what I was doing. This morning I went a-recceing with Simon Wyndham, to lock down the locations for the final fight. We want to up the spectacularity stakes, and have decided that something must blow up. But I couldn’t possibly divulge what at this stage. It looks like we may have to forget shooting more mountain board chase and severely cut down another scene, due to the fact that next Tuesday is the only day we can possibly pick-up our dropped scenes, other than a weekend at the start of September which will now have to host the train sequence, due to Coventry Railway Centre unfortunately being able to restore the train on time for tomorrow and Sunday’s scheduled shoot. By the way, I will put more stills up soon, honest.
A much more relaxed, practically crewless, day. Dave and I had slept at Mark’s, where we were shooting today. Since it was just the three of us, we had a lie-in and shot the Home Secretary’s office scene at a leisurely pace, before filming the Prime Minister being woken up by a cameoing Dave-shaped silhouette. We now have seven days off. Mmmmmmm, sleep.