Today we filmed the government briefing scenes in the council chamber of Hereford Town Hall. It took ages to get going, as it proved extremely difficult to find a general’s uniform for the Chief of Defence Staff to wear. Then Johnny Cartwright, portraying scientific advisor Benton, had trouble with his Star Trek-challenging technobabble lines, which led to elaborate arrangements of cue cards around the room. By the time we finished the first scene of the day, we were about 2 hours behind scehdule, and we absolutely had to be out of the chamber by 6pm. Somehow – I guess the only possible explanation is my own unwavering genius – we recovered and wrapped by 5:45pm. Though it was 6:15 by the time we’d moved all the gear out.
Back at Rural Media again, this time to shoot the fight scene for near the end of the film. Simon had worked out some cool stuff involving automatic umbrellas. We also had to pick up the photocopier shots, which we ended up cheating in a ridiculous fashion using the one in the office downstairs, as I’m sure the director’s commentary on the inevitable DVD will explain. When we finally cleared out of RMC at about 10:30pm, after a 12-and-a-half hour day, we left behind a legacy in the form of a cracked window (put the blonde too close to it), a dented wall (pushed the filing cabinet back against it too hard) and a kaput light (no idea what happened to it, but it ain’t a-workin’ no mo). Sorry guys. Um, we left some ice cream in the fridge upstairs to make up for it.
It will not surprise any UK residents to learn that, whilst as previously mentioned our exterior filming days have been blighted with weather ranging from dull to horrific, the interiors that we did this weekend, in a small, lights-filled office, coincided with ludicriously high temperatures. Our location was The Rural Media Company, a regular client of mine, and employer of many a decent fellow and fellowess. We had four new additions to the cast, in the forms of Penny Platts (Lucy), Amanda Watkins (Sarah’s Boss) and two office staff extras. The day’s main scene was the longest stretch of dialogue in the film, and was accomplished fairly quickly once we’d got going. But it was only when I went through a rehearsal with the actors that I realised that the photocopier which had resided in that office for ages had disappeared. It was crucial to the scene, but RMC employee Deb revealed that they’d got rid of it the previous week. Curses! So we just pretended it was there.
It was with a certain trepidation that we approached today’s Gullet jump stunt, since the cold waters of the quarry have claimed lives in the past. But armed with a wet suit, and a swim to acclimatise himself to the water temperature, production assistant Gerraint Pounder survived his spectacular leap. The paltry three cameras which we had gathered to shoot this stunt were reduced to two, when an ill-timed query from a younger crew member distracted cameraman Dave. Still the other two angles looked good, and the joke shop wig and sock-filled wonderbra affected an apparently convincing transformation of Gerraint into LJ. As the sun continued to shine, more and more members of the public flocked to the picturesque quarry, making it increasingly difficult to film the subsequent dialogue scene, with screaming kids, splashing dogs and beer-bellied blokes hurling themselves at submerged rocks. Actually, that’s a bit of a cruel thing to say about Dave. Running as always magnificently behind schedule, we skipped some scenes and moved onto Ledbury Market Theatre, before visiting a picturesque hillside in the back end of nowhere to shoot the movie’s closing scene. There won’t be any more entries for a few days, as I’m staying in Hereford for a long weekend while we shoot there.
Today we returned to a location with which I’m extremely familiar – my mate Chris’ back garden. I say back garden, but you wouldn’t know it to stand in there. It’s a big dell, surrounded by trees, and currently with a swamp in the middle of it. This hallowed garden doubled as countless different settings in my early videos, from a simple forest clearing, to a post-apocalyptic village. Today it was the former, the site of the secondary GEV rocket, to be disarmed by our heroic trio, whilst arguing bitterly. And laughing. ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY. If it wasn’t LJ and Andrew pissing themselves at the very sight of each other, then it was the selection of cars, aeroplanes, lawnmowers and power tools that threatened to drive cast and crew insane. One sound in particular seemed to begin in response to the words “action” and “quiet please”. We finished over two hours late, my rather flimsy excuse being that we had to pick-up a scene dropped earlier in the shoot (though that only took 15 minutes).
Yes! We shot a whole hour of tape today. More to the point, we shot EVERYTHING we were supposed to shoot. It was up to the summit of the film’s namesake hill to shoot LJ disarming the rocket – presumably by entering an invalid VideoPlus code. Unfortunately my camera’s mic socket seems to be knackered, as it no longer overrides the built-in mic when you plug in an external one. That meant we couldn’t record any sound today, leaving me all the fun of the fair in post when I try to post-dub it. Though even if we had recorded sound, it would have been all screwed up by the many members of the public who cluttered the hills today, thanks to the fact that it’s now the school holidays. There may be dog-walkers to paint out of the odd shot. The rocket’s pneumatics performed beautifully when we filled up the “virus” chamber with Robinsons Summer Fruits Squash and had Dovey (Jones) blow bubbles into it. We were then scheduled to roam all round the hills, shooting montage shots of bad guys Sarah Harrison (Bay), Simon Wyndham (Cage) and Jason Russell (Harrison) taking over the Malverns, but we couldn’t really be arsed, so we shot it all within a few yards of the summit. David carved another notch in his deaths-in-The-Beacon post, after being offed in silhouette by an extremely casual Simon. I made my second cameo, as man-walking-away-from-camera-who-gets-machine-gunned-by-Jason, and realised the full extent of the pain I was putting my actors through as I made rapid contact with the rocky ground. Then all that remained was the sunset scene, in which John MacLachlan (Cameron) was to set up the Beacon rocket. The sunset was not as spectacular as I’d hoped – in fact, it was a very dull, grey day – but we got the shots anyway, some of which did have a nice strip of orange sky in the background.
Oh dear. I remember when it was all going so well, back in the first week. Now we’re lucky if we shoot 5 minutes of rushes in a day, let alone 5 minutes of screen time. After cancelling the SAS command post and related scenes last week due to the rain, I spent a frustrating couple of hours trying to find a time this week when everyone was available to shoot it. I managed to arrange one of the scenes for this afternoon, but it relied on us having an army landrover. But the guy that had said we could use his had rendered himself in communicado at some point over the weekend. Never mind, I thought, we’ll just use Mark’s (not the right colour or style, but a landrover nonetheless) and shoot it so I can replaced it with a military one in post if I can be arsed. On the way to location I got a phone call from Mark. He’d broken down on the way. This put me in one of those situations I hate, because my mind and body simply fail to operate in them – Thinking On The Spot. I got everyone set up at a clearing by the rendez-vous car park, but after trying to write a landrover-less replacement scene, and realising that it was going to be crap, I changed my mind and had us all go to the other side of town to shoot the landrover scenes in another car park… without the landrover. We successfully knocked off all the shots that we could without actually needing to see the elusive vehicle, and there was still no word from Mark. So we went back to the North Quarry Car Park, met up with the rest of the SAS actors and remounted the quarry climb shots we lost the other week. My next film is going to be about the drugs scene in Malvern Hills car parks, where all the motorbiking deadbeats go to skin up.
It was good to be doing something again, even if the weather did continue to shit all over my photography with its obstinate greyness. An hour or so at Hampton “Buckingham Palace” Court, was followed by some recce-ing of Dinmore Woods for a clearing. Then we shot a couple of odd shots of bad guys bursting into people’s houses – namely LJ’s, and LJ’s neighbour’s – before moving onto Shobdon Airfield. It was raining quite heavily and I would have called it off, if it wasn’t for the fact that some of the actors had been there for half an hour waiting for us. Still, they’d found the bar. The airfield is supposed to be in LA, and although David kept telling me that last time he went to LA it was wet and horrible, I knew it was never going to wash with the general British film-watching public (or at least the four of them that would ever see The Beacon). So I set it all indoors, in the wonderland that was the hangar, resplendent with expensive aircraft, which they very kindly let us tow about and get inside and stuff. It was almost like we had a budget. We finished at about 11pm, and were all bought beverages by a random drunk pilot.
Entirely disastrous. I was none too happy about the grey skies that greeted me this morning as I awoke, destroying my vision of a bright, sunset-graded rocket disarming scene. It began to drizzle as we hiked our gear up to the Beacon’s summit, and I became quite enthusiastic about setting the scene in a storm, with skies darkened and lightning flashes added in post. But after shooting a couple of shots of the rocket, the drizzle turned to squall and the wind turned to a gale, and I decided to call it off. Tomorrow’s shooting is also cancelled. Both days will now be done next week. On the bright side, I get to go to the King Monkey gig tonight, and can spend tomorrow cutting a trailer to bolster my flagging morale.
For the most part disastrous. You’d think, would you not, that finding somewhere on the Malvern Hills that you could slide down on a piece of cardboard would be fairly easy. But oh no. The two locations I had planned, and several others that I hadn’t, were not steep enough, or too rocky, or the grass was too long, or too short. We borrowed some unused shop window dummies from a department store for the Sarah-and-Cameron-fly-off-rocks-over-hostages stunt, but after much chin scratching and some lame dummy-chucking, we succeeded only in breaking one of the plastic people’s legs. The production assistants, Sarah, Geraint and Simon, then had the unenviable task of returning the generously-lent mannequins, and apparently witnessed a rather frightening degree of upset on the face of the shop assistant. (I understand allegations were later made as to the nature of this man’s relationship with the dummies.) It was 4pm by the time we actually got going, having hiked all round the hills filming odd shots of LJ and John MacLachlan (Cameron) sliding very short distances over unsuitable ground. We finally found a section of path steep and smooth enough to permit cardboarding, and used it over and over again in the Back To The Future stylee. Injuries were sustained when extra Leigh was assigned to dive on LJ when she reached a certain point on the path, beyond which death was probable. Leigh managed to split his lip in the dive, and kick LJ in the jaw, giving her a headache for the rest of the day. Being the tough, uncompromising director that I am (cough), I got her to repeat the slide many, many times – this time with her being responsible for her own cessation of motion. We also gaffa-taped the camera to one of the cardboard sledges and I slid down on my arse next to it to get those dynamic POVs. So it was all worth it in the end, but I should have tried it all out beforehand. I’ll probably schedule in another day to shoot more cardboard chasing.