Midway through December, I sat down for the first time with two other filmmakers at a restaurant in Chichester. Neither of us had any idea then of the colossal undertaking we were about to commit to. What followed was seven months and a week of nonstop telephone calls, emailing, script revisions, meetings and copious amounts of paracetamol and self-doubt. The project was a
The three of us had worked together before but, for all of us, this was our debut into the professional independent film industry. Thankfully, we had allocated ourselves a sensible, small-scale project; it would require only two locations, two cast members and five members of crew, ourselves included. I’m not sure if it was the Baileys talking or my benighted optimism, but I remember believing that such a small concept would be easy to realise. In actual fact, had I known how foolish such a sentiment was, I’d have probably never agreed to take part.
The project had the added challenge of being shot on 16 millimetre film which was another first for the three of us. Up ’til now, we had been sheltered by the convenient features (and lower operating costs) of digital cameras.
The first hurdle to jump was finding a location to suit Adam (the writer & director’s) vision for the story. Earlier drafts of the script called for a set of storage garages near a residential property which immediately presented an enormous logistical issue; there was the possibility of our shots being continuously interrupted by residents trying to access their garages
I found a disused car park behind my local indie cinema (how appropriate!) and arranged to have a look with Adam who afterwards made some revisions to the script to see if it would accommodate a car park. Life had given us the lemons, so we just needed to roll with them. Deciding not to use garages was one of these disguised blessings that life likes to send us; the alterations to the script made for the new location actually worked better in terms of tying the two halves of the film together. However, life decided to take away our lemonade as the location became suddenly unavailable due to construction works.
At this point, I realised that our “small” project was not going to be so stress-free. Adam had found a car park in Fareham owned by an estate agents who, after several calls and emails from myself, never got back to us. I was fairly close to giving up hope when I walked past my production office and had a (rather overdue) lightbulb moment: my office has an enormous car park. I immediately called Adam to arrange a recce and after a lengthy meeting with the landlords, we had our first location! After the rigmarole of finding one location, I was naturally dreading finding the second: an apartment. Closing off a car park on a day that nobody uses it is one thing, ousting somebody from their home and encouraging them to let you drag in a film crew, actors and an assemblage of equipment is a whole new level. Thanks to the generous nature of a close friend and the promise of a bottle of decent wine, we had our second (and thankfully final) location.
Next on the to-do list was finding the cast. Finding the right people to bring characters to life is always a precarious task; no matter how many auditions, call-backs, screen tests or readings you ask talent to do, it’s not until the camera starts rolling and those characters become real that you really see their interpretation of the role. We cast our net to local amateur dramatics groups and reached out to the agents of several established actors. Admittedly, I was absolutely terrified as my past experience of dealing with agencies had been abominable. Thankfully, I had the pleasure of working with two brilliant, very friendly and helpful agents whose respective clients we ended up casting.
Slowly, everything was falling into place. We had two brilliant locations and a wonderful cast of experienced performers. Between myself and Adam we had most the equipment we needed, less a couple of items which Adam sourced from a local University and a rental house in Brighton. The only thing left to make the day work was finding some extra bodies to add to our merry workforce. Adam and I both called in some our buddies… he had the advantage here as he could call upon his colleagues who he met at film school. Adam sourced a camera assistant and I took care of finding a sound recordist. As there was no dialog I knew I could be a bit flexible, so I gave one of my trusted filmmaking friends a crash course in production sound and before we knew it – we were ready to go!
As the day of the shoot drew closer, meetings in local boozers became more common, and the sight of sunlight less so as I became buried underneath ever-amassing paperwork. There were several occasions where the expeditious run up in the final week got too much and I almost threw it all out of the window and quit. But I didn’t. I’d never live it down if I did. Come the shoot, I was smugly proud of myself for coordinating the scheduling, transport arrangements, meals, legal agreements and the like. The day of the shoot went surprisingly smoothly.