Soul Searcher: September 11th 2004

Another year. Another kitchen. Another crisis meeting.

Your attention please on platform one. We’re sorry, but the Hades Express service to Hell has been delayed by approximately six days. Hades Express apologises for this delay and any inconvenience it may cause you.

My first concern when I got up yesterday was the weather. After two weeks of brilliant sunshine, I had picked the day when the heavens opened to spend all night outdoors shooting. Getting horribly lost on the way to location was a relatively minor inconvenience. Jon rung me every few hours to say he would be later than expected arriving with the train. Something about the wheels.

I had just taken up a shovel to begin digging the 25 metre embankment required for the train to run along when Jon rung again. If it were possible for a dead man to speak, this is what it would sound like. He had not slept for five days. Never in my days have I heard such a wretched voice. The wheel, that most ancient of human inventions, had defeated him. Failed moulds, materials too brittle and a slight misalignment which would completely derail the vehicle.

So I found myself sat at a kitchen table, sipping a hot beverage and wondering how the hell I was going to reschedule everything. Sound familiar?

We also managed to dent the hire van and get it stuck turning into a small lane. As Toby trudged up the lane with me after pushing the van back onto the road, he said, “It’s not always this bad on Soul Searcher, is it?”

“Yes,” I replied.

Various dates were bandied about, some of them towards the end of October. Suddenly I was struck by a vision of seeing in 2005 with Soul Searcher unfinished.

But in the end there was only one viable solution. We were already scheduled to blow up the miniatures on Thursday next week. We would simply have to shoot everything else that night as well.

Hollie Swain continued putting together the buildings and other paraphenalia she had made to go alongside the railway line. As well as office blocks and other earthly institutions, there were some spiky red rock formations – one of which looked like a giant Venus Fly Trap – for the Helllish section of the train’s journey. They were a really good match for James Parkes’ stop motion moat set.

So that our journey was not wasted, we spent the rest of the afternoon building the embankment. The soil was mostly clay and rocks, which made the going difficult, but as darkness fell we had completed our task. I was astonished at how readily the crew – Beth, Toby, Colin and behind-the-scenes cameraman Tom Hewett – got stuck into the digging, despite the rain. I asked Colin why he kept coming back for more punishment. “This is pushing it,” he muttered, forcing his spade into the unyielding earth.

I must confess that after that I was very glad we did not have to do eight hours of shooting.

Soul Searcher: September 11th 2004