The Power – Day Zero (2nd unit) – Saturday 29th July
God, that was a tough night, satanic even.
Even before it started, I discovered in a meeting just before that on the train in to London, Roger Bonnici, my director of photography, had lost all his light meters, spot meters, directors viewfinder and a host of other stuff. What a start!
Our first location was the Abney Park cemetery for scene 41aA – the filling in of the grave. Roger and I had ordered a 6 foot grave. We had agreed that it would be dug by Assistant Direction, not Art Department to ease Daniel, my Production Designer’s burden. When we arrived it was only 5 foot deep. That precipitated much perspiration to get it to 6 foot. We shot the scene despite problems with the monitor. We were an hour behind schedule when we left.
Next we had to shoot travelling car shots between locations. The driver of the minibus hadn’t been briefed properly. He needed to be convinced by Piotr, our London Production and Location Manager. We got some lovely stuff on the way but ended up 90 minutes behind schedule when we arrived at the new location thanks to a camera magazine jamming. Of course, the clapper/loader hadn’t boarded the minibus. He was in the camera van so he couldn’t sort it out en route.
When we got to the Green man Pub (scene 7) the track had been laid well by Amos the grip but somehow we didn’t have on the van the right amount of track. Someone in Production had made a stupid error. Amos hadn’t double checked it either. This meant that I had to move the track. Doing that meant the signage also had to move two feet, a real chore for Daniel Nussbaumer and Stephanie (the standby art director). Also Piotr had forgotten to get us the right parking spaces. We lost another 30 minutes. Two hours behind.
The shot we got, though, was beautiful. The last take (take 5) being the best.
Then next location was a 1 minute walk away. I thought on the way, nothing can go wrong here, can it? I climbed the stairs to the flat overlooking canary wharf. When we got to the door of the flat, one of the locks wouldn’t work. We couldn’t get in. I sent Piotr off to let the other crew members in to the building. Kneeling on the floor, I tried every key on the key ring. It was kafka-esque. None would fit. We couldn’t get in. Molly, our script supervisor started to laugh. It was so pathetic, so idiotic, so stupid and so ridiculous that I laughed too. It was a laugh that came out of sheer pain.
Soon the whole crew were waiting on the stairwell to get in. Piotr was having kittens. I asked Roger to have a go. In the past Roger has always had the magic touch. He shone a torch into the lock and discovered somehow a key had broken in it. He managed to get it out and then open the lock. I applauded him. If anyone ever gets me through something hard, it’s always Roger. Roger is a shining light (literally sometimes).
We shot the high shot. The timings worked perfectly and we did it very quickly whilst munching the now cold pizza that was meant to be our dinner two hours before. Panda, the 1st AD warned me then of the coming up of the sun. We shot POV’s out of the car on the way to the next location but yet again the camera jammed. Two jam’s in one day! That is absolutely ridiculous. On most films I’ve had one jam in a whole film – it is so unusual with modern cameras. We had it twice in one night. Fucking ridiculous! Were these magazines checked? Did the camera crew not do their kob properly? Had we been stitched up by the camera company?
At the last location the street lights turned off just as we were about to shoot. Roger compensated with an ND filter. I shot the shot but in my heart thought we will have to re-do it. At the end I told Panda to re-schedule it for Tuesday night.
What a nightmare night. The shots we filmed were great but at every location or move there had been a problem. We were 2.5 hours behind schedule at the end. If this had been a main unit day with full crew and actors it would have been catastrophic, as bad as the night on the Ring Strasse in Vienna on “The Poet”.
Now it’s 6am and I have to go to bed. I’m exhausted. I have to hope that we have now shred all our gremlins and that the next day’s shooting (on Sunday) we will get it right. Sunday is a tough day. In terms of page count it is our third biggest day. Will the gremlins go away? Will the crew finally gel then and not make silly mistakes like not measuring the depth of the grave, not forgetting to check we have the right equipment, not checking that people know exactly what they are doing, not checking that the key to a door actually works.
God, What a night|!? Another epic one. Because of the way the schedule panned out we had to swap day 1 with day 2. That meant that we started main unit photography with the second hardest day of the shoot. Only the ritual day in Norwich will be harder in terms of shots to achieve and pages to get through.
We stated with scene 2, the scene where Rowan says goodbye to Magda and Michael as they leave the party. I started with a close up of a bowl of sweets. Magda’s hand comes into shot and takes one. She then pops it into her pocket. The third shot was a close up of Magda in the mirror as she checks herself before leaving. This shot will be mirrored later in the film when she leaves the house. In this first shot she looks great. In the latter shot, she will look like shit.
When I did the first shot of Magda in the mirror it was a kind of moment of truth. I have been working with Grace for months, years even, preparing for this moment. Finally she has a shot on the film, her first moment of creative realisation. When she stepped into shot, I felt a sigh of pleasure. She was wonderful. In her next shot, though, she did something that I didn’t like. She represented something that she didn’t feel. I looked at her. She looked back. I continued looking at her. Silence. I didn’t say a word, just called for a second take. She knew what I was thinking. When I did the next take, she gave me something more truthful.
After that shot we discussed it. I said “You knew what I was thinking?”
“Yes. I could sense it”
“Good. Please don’t do that again. If you don’t feel it, do not fake it.”
“Understood” she replied.
The rest of the night was perfect. She was truthful in everything she did and for me that is absolutely necessary.
Rowan is played by Rosie Fellner, an actress that I have worked with twice before. In every shot during the night she gave me great stuff. Little ideas, pieces of dialogue, moments or things that added and embellished the scene. She was outstanding. because of teething problems we were a little behind at the end of that scene. Afterwards we set up and did a run through of shot 1, scene 1, the most complicated shot in the film. It was a bravura steadicam shot developing and tracking throughout the party. Peter our steadicam Op, did a great job. By take 4 we had something amazing. We got the shot in 6 takes.
The actor who I had cast to play Michael had a cricket injury on Saturday, that made the tango style moves a bit difficult. In the end we got something nice and organic. He did a good job. Outside on the street he did even better.
We emerged from the shop that we were shooting in, Watkins Books about a hour behind schedule. Watkins Books, is a shop that I know well. I have a loyalty card even, from the number of anthropological and esoteric books that I have bought there over the years, I even put Eitan, the owner, in the long steadicam shot. He is a lovely guy and we talked a lot in the times between takes.
After the bookstore, I went into overdrive, marshalling everything on a walky talky in amongst the chaos of Charing Cross Road, amongst all the drunks, party goers, down and outs, nutters and other characters that come out at night. Some drunk girl even started a fight at one point right next to camera. It was controlled chaos, an amazing situation that gave rise to lots of hilarity and craziness. When Michael gets on his knees in the middle of the street, the improvisations and setting were amazing, and actually quite humorous. It will be great with the inter cuts that’s for sure.
We completed the scene, the last shot taken just as the light was starting to come up. As the street lights had not come on and the cars had their headlights on, it will be gradable and will work. It was also George (Earl Ling’s) first dialogue scene.
Anyway, off to bed now. The call time later today is uncomfortably short. It’s hardly enough turnaround time.
Another mammoth day (night actually). We started on the South Bank on an amazing grassed terrace above Elizabeth II hall. It was my favourite location from the many I have recced on the South Bank. It allows me to do a transition from the grey of the cell floor to the green of the grass and with a tilt up allows me a beautiful transition (I hope!)
I had cast Jonnie Hurn who had played the lead in my last film, to play “Paul”. My estimation was that the part would be perfect for him. The whole scene is about loss and separation. Jonnie knows all about separation. His wife and child live in Carcassonne, in the South of France.
I met Jonnie first, played him a song that reminds me of Magda and then told him a story from my own life. After makeup I left him on the bench to prepare for the scene and talked to Rowan. I had to shoo some crew away who had no idea about actors preparation.
Roger was held up by flooding south of London. I thought for a while I would have to operate on the first shot but he turned up in the nick of time. The scene was beautifully cinematic with wonderful vistas in the background. I delayed Paul’s final close up to the last shot to give Jonnie as much time as possible to prepare. This was delayed further by an annoying hair in the gate on Rowan’s best Close up. It killed me to have to tell her that we were forced to go again.
Jonnie and Rosie gave me amazing stuff today, beautiful. On Jonnie’s 3rd take of his close up, I shed a little tear, it was just so touching and special. The amazing thing is that Rowan (Rosie Fellner), who has two important scenes in the film, has actually finished now. She has shot her last scene by the end of day two!
After that we went to rig the low loader, which had been called to the first location rather than the second. In my mind that was a mistake, and something that was not run by me. It lost us an hour travel time, although it did allow me to pick up a POV of Magda on the way.
Lunch was at a place called “Passing Clouds” which I had not been too since the wrap party of “Do Elephants Pray?” in 2007. For once I decided to eat. Normally I have so much adrenaline I cant eat but today I was just starving. Earlier I got art department to cut yet another hole in my belt. I have now lost probably over a stone in weight. I normally loose 2 stone per shoot but maybe on this one I will loose 3 stone.
Then I had my traditional hair cut on the sidewalk. Mailis sheered me. I now have the same haircut as Del. I put the main lock of my hair in my pocket. Someone suggested that I even nail it onto the wall in the cell area. In any event, I felt a little like a red Indian with a first scalp.
Shooting on the low loader veered between fun and hell. By shooting on a low loader you have more control artistically in terms of shots and lighting. The lighting Roger did on George’s face was wonderful with car passes etc. Magda also did a wonderful job.
The shoot went long, though, because of camera jams and emulsion scratches. It was really annoying that on Magda’s close up for scenes 6/8 I had to retake a probably perfect take? My shooting ration must currently be going through the roof. How many little problems will I face like this? It seems the Aaton camera that we are using is far more temperamental than the Arri camera’s that I normally use on my films.
In any event, we completed the scenes that must be shot on a low loader. I will pick up some inserts and a shot of Michael tomorrow.
Before the shoot I did some things that I had to do. Unlike yesterday it actually did feel like I had a couple of hours off from shooting. Yesterday it didn’t. On way to set, Jonnie Hurn texted me saying “Paul, you make the impossible, easy to achieve” which was very nice of him. He was still affected by the beauty of the scene we shot yesterday. Getting to set was epic as I had my suitcase, computer and all my clothing and stuff with me. Pages kept falling out of my book. It was ridiculous.
As I’d packed my bag to go to Norwich last week, luckily I didn’t have to pack today. I asked myself this morning, “Why do I always have car scenes in my films?” They are always so tough to do. Add to car scenes, the night scene and tonight the fact there is a fight inside the car.
Yet again, today’s scenes were mammoth day (night actually). We started by re-doing the scene 5 shot that was not perfect from day 0 due to street lights just coming on. I have two versions now. Roger also added a lens change that might yield dividends. After that we picked up the shots missing from the end of yesterday.
When I got to main set I saw for the first time, the actors and extras in full costume and makeup for ritual 1. They seemed to be enjoying the experience, although my first thought was, they have been called too early. It transpired that costume and makeup, worried about not being ready in time, asked for so much leaway the poor actors and extras were waiting around forever. Even that was less than they wanted. Some extras, needed at midnight, had been originally called at 4pm!!
The first shot of the sequence was the long tracking shot ending on the car going into the underground carpark with the shutter coming down. It was earily spooky and Jonnie Blagrove, my wonderful cinephile sound recordist talked of Kubrik as a reference due to the symmetry in the composition.
The next shot I did was of a Millwall fan closing the first gate, as we are in Docklands in the film, I have decided that the abductors are the Docklands branch of our Satanic cult. The next shot taken from inside the car was amazing. I was stuffed in the bot with Molly. The gate came down behind shot as we drove in and all hell broke loose.
The rest of the scene with the fight arranger Dan was quite tricky thanks to the blocking and the blood effects. A fight in a car!!! I saw Mailis, my makeup Designer, in tears again after it but she wouldn’t tell me why. She was in tears the previous night as well. The pressure and lack of sleep seems to be getting to her.
I then shot an enigmatic shot of Del. It is my desire that he does not meet or talk to Magda under circumstances until he actually is in a scene with Magda. The costume is amazing.
The rest of the scene was amazing. I’d conspired things such that Grace Vallorani (Magda) did not see the satanic costumes for ritual one until they appeared in her window. I’d got them changed in a different part of set and got her to close her eyes while setting up the shot. When they appeared after the “action” she went hysterical, she was so so frightened. It was truly horrific, chilling, macabre. Tears streamed down her face still minutes after the take. A shock wave went thru the crew whilst the take happened. It was like a real moment of realisation for everyone of the power of the story we are making. Basically the first ten pages are everyone’s worst nightmare.
The shots of Sally (Janan Chopra) were great. I even saw that Roger, changed up a gear when she appeared in her amazing costume for ritual one. She also had the last shot of the night. Again, though, there are a couple of inserts missing for the scene which we will have to pick up later.
Now I am on the way to Norwich with Jonny Blagrove and George (Earl Ling) to see the set as soon as possible and give Daniel last minute perfections for the cell. Earl is drinking vodka. I’ve even taken a few swigs myself as a reward for finishing the London part of shoot. Earl has barely slept for three days and is quite boisterous, grabbing Jonnie’s cock, telling stories, biting him for fun, grabbing the handbrake, pissing by the side of the road and throwing the bottle out whilst we are moving along. I’d like to sleep for a couple of hours but it’s hard with so much intensity in front of me. I cant help thinking that Earl will be amazing in the later scenes, if he just gives me a small part of what he is capable of.
Tonight is a pre-production meeting, I will also finally move into my Director’s office at the studio which will make it easier for writing the blog and preparing shot lists. We will start tomorrow on a confined and controlled set, a marked contrast from the chaos of night shooting in London.
Magda’s journey into hell has begun now. She will only emerge from it in 28 days time.
What a day that was… Our first in the studio, which is lovely in some ways as we now have total control and don’t have to fight against the elements and real life, not to mention the lack of much night, shooting night scenes in July and August.
In the morning we started with scene 13, the scene where she wakes up in the cell for the first time. The first shot was a slide in out of focus and then pull focus just as she is waking up. She then looks around and we pull back a little to see the bars for the first time. Of course, the first take was magic.
Then I cut out to a wide shot for the whole action that we had rehearsed before. She went with her feeling as I ‘d asked her too and in waves she went between anger, sadness, hurt, longing and anger again. I shot a number of takes, all giving me different things. In the end she cried out for Paul, cried out how much she loved him and how much she missed him. It was heartfelt and emotional. Profound even. I cried a couple of times. On one take I shot a whole magazine on it. Many other people were also effected. By the end of the final take she had blood oozing from her nose, real blood that is. Not fake theatrical blood. It mixed with the snot and the tears. You can’t get more real and truthful than that. It was incredible. This is the start of the process of turning the wonderful beautiful woman who appeared in scene one into a blood and dirt stained animal.
The next shot was a long slow track out leaving her in her cell. I gave her time to prepare and recapture the intensity of the earlier shot. In the final take she was so exhausted and destroyed emotionally that she feinted for a moment, that is she feinted for real, not acting.. She managed to cling on to the rail and keep going. With a later POV insert I mirrored that moment allowing me to use it in the edit.
After every take she sobbed her heart out with such intensity that I had to hold her and comfort her and bring her back to reality. It occurred to me that it is not just her that is going on this journey. I am also descending into hell with her. Of course, the difference is that it is a hell of my own making…
After lunch we shot a further insert of the face of Baphomet. It was His first appearance in the film. Then we continued in story order, shooting the scene where she explores the cell then sings a beautiful voudon song. We did a number of takes. One of which had the now obligatory camera jam. The wide shot was amazing, as she started with faltering, breaking off then starting again. It built again with volume as she directed it up towards her attackers, then came down again and became beautiful and mellifluous. I sobbed again during the best take. It was beautiful.
We finished the day by shoot the first Cockroach scene. Magda is terrified of cockroaches. Just by me saying the word she reacted hysterically. Of course, shooting on cockroaches is tough. They don’t always do what you want them to do.
At the end of the scene, I did the POV of Magda. The final cockroach did amazingly. She just walked straight into shot and even climbed the step etc. I told Daniel to save that one. She deserves it.
We started the final scene of the day but didn’t complete it. There was a lot of faffing about with what to do or not do. I decided to change the schedule now and shoot in story order no matter what. I’ve wanted to do that all along but have been too democratic.
Now I am just about to go home. I have checked the shot list for tomorrow. Hopefully Chiara can get us ahead now we are in the studio such that this chore is lessened. Magda is in the cell now. I just put her in. The live feed is up now – www.baphomet.tv. Just before she went in, she had her first meeting with the psychologist. It seemed to go well. We chatted for a while afterwards. I told her how brilliant she had been today. Afterwards I put her in the cell and closed the door. I intend to be the first one back tomorrow morning to check that she is OK.
It’s been a good day. I have the sense that finally the crew has started to bed down and that we are turning into a lean mean killing machine. Maybe tomorrow we will reach the height of efficiency that a well oiled film crew reaches.
I got up early this morning after another night where my head was spinning with different directions to give the actors tomorrow as well as shot changes and a certain amount of irrational anxiety about Grace (Magda) being in the cell. When I got to set at 6.30am she was doing well. We spent a good half hour discussing what she had felt spending the night there then I rushed off to complete today’s shot list. I have real time management issues at the moment what with 12 hours shooting, working with actors, preparing for the next day, doing interviews and doing other stuff for our website.
During breakfast (I didn’t have time to eat), I saw Diana Le Quesne, our fiery costume designer in tears. I asked her what was wrong, expecting that it was something to do with the production. She replied that she thought “the breakfast was rubbish”. My guess is that there are other issues at play.
The first scene today was the twilight scene that we did the insert on last night. Roger Bonnici is doing some wonderful stuff with the lighting. It is truly looking beautiful. The scene next scene was the one where Magda starts to hear voices from the grill. We tracked into it as well as Magda’s ear. True cinema is what I call it.
The next scene was the one where Magda finds the hair clip. Then we broke for lunch. Rather than work on my shot lists as I did yesterday, instead I had lunch with Constance Carter (Jess). I have felt that maybe I have been neglecting her with all the time I have spent with Magda. I wanted her to know that I care about her as much as I do Magda. It’s the truth. My film is a two hander, that’s for sure. I gave her some guidance and a hug. I believe on her absolutely. Discovering her was a eureka moment similar to when I found John Simm and Marc Warren for my second film “Boston Kickout”.
After lunch we shot the first meeting between Magda and Jess. I shot it in absolute story and shot order as it will appear in the edit, not covering one way then the next. I was able to do that because the lighting was set thanks to shooting in a studio. I also started the scene without Magda knowing exactly which scene we were doing. The scene was wonderful. Unlike in rehearsal, Jess, now reinforced by the experience of rehearsal was able to hold her own. It was beautiful. Both were truly in the moment. On one take Jess even hit Magda on the hand with a spoon when she poked it out of the cell.
I then breezed through a couple more scenes including the second cockroach scene. Magda had decided not to drink any water until it was time in the story order. This left her parched and dehydrated. Stupidly, the writer had written in the script that Magda was dehydrated. Magda was dehydrated for real in the scene. I was glad of the five takes I did to re-hydrate her. In the script, it had said that she didn’t go to the toilet until the second day. Magda did that for real but when it came to the moment she didn’t have it in her to do it. I don’t mean, she didn’t have it in her mentally. I mean physically – thanks to fact that she really didn’t have enough water in her body.
I am now back in the studio after checking on Magda before the start of her second night in the cell. I have just met Del (Valentine Pelka) in a local pub. Tomorrow I am skipping ahead in the story order for a couple of scenes so that I can surprise Magda when he appears. Also I hope he thus will cast his shadow over later scenes until he reappears. Valentine just gave me a couple of great ideas that I adapted into something perfect for tomorrow’s first scene.
I hope to now get some sleep. Last night I had four hours, the night before just two. I am surviving on adrenaline and passion – nothing else. I barely have time to do anything other than shoot, do meetings, write this blog and check shot lists. If it wasnt for Chiara Bove Makiedo, my assistant, I’d probably be in hospital already. Tonight I hope for 5 hours.
I managed to get 5 hours sleep, which is not bad. Hopefully tonight, as tomorrow is a day off, I will get a full night’s sleep. I got up at 6am and walked straight to the studio without even washing. I wanted to check on Magda. I’m glad I did. The night had been worse than the one before, the amount of dust in the cell made her itchy. Also as her watch had been set for the scene we had shot last night, she had no way of knowing what the time was during the night. After a few minutes talking she revived in spirits. She’s an absolute trooper, an inspiration.
We set up the scene as if we were about to shoot scene 21 but in actual fact we were prepping for scene 30 – the first scene that Del (Valentine Pelka) and Magda actually meet. I did this so it would be a complete surprise for her, so she wouldn’t expect it. I have other surprises for her down the line of course. Last night I discussed some hand movements with him that are not in the script. For me, if it’s all in the script, why make the film?
Before the scene started I took Jess into Del’s room and improvised a conversation scene between them purely to create a backstory so that Jess could report to her father what had happened in her first scene with Magda. They were perfect. I love the way Jess interacts totally different with Del than with Magda, it has a beautiful macabre touch of Daddy’s girl to it. Constance Carter is a real star of the future, mark my words. I would bet all my worldly possessions on it.
The scene began with her pissing in the bucket. I did it for real (of course). At the end of the shot I coughed loudly to get a reaction. Next, in the wider shot I had Amos (Key Grip) and Peebs (Standby Art Director) open the hatch and drop the ladder. This was a complete surprise for her. She improvised perfectly (she’s pretty much been in character for the last 48 hours) and the ruse paid dividends.
When I had Del walk into the cell, she threw a lit candle at him. I saw him flinch, move back in shot. Then Panda (1st AD) who had been a bit fractious at the beginning of the day, came up to me and said “Valentine is concerned about the hot candle wax”. I replied “Del is not afraid of hot candle wax. He is afraid of nothing.”
“It’s Valentine not Del who is afraid.”
“Then he should get into character!” I said and punched the side of set, grazing my hand.
I then went back on to set, grabbed a candle and lit it. I took it into Del’s dressing room and held it over my arm, the wax dripping on to it. I then held it over my head so the hot wax ran onto the top of my head, down my face and onto my chest. Whilst doing that I said “You are the head of an enormous all powerful Satanic cult. Magda is not afraid of the candle wax and she is just a woman! You are not afraid of anything in this world or the next. You have summoned the shimmering form of Lucifuge. You have stood on the threshold of hell and seen the talons of Nebiros unfolding.” I looked him right in the eye then walked out of the room.
The shots of Magda were great, but when I turned the camera round on to Del, he came up with some absolutely wonderful stuff, beautifully satanic even. His close up was out of this world. Absolute perfection. He improvised a wonderful half laugh at one point and as well as a beautiful tap on the cell bars. I truly can’t wait to cut this scene together. It should be amazing.
At lunch I tried to catch up with things outside of the actual shooting. At present I have so little time for anything. I haven’t had a chance to wash properly in two days I am so so busy. After lunch I shot two smaller scenes, in story order, including the scene where Magda finds the markings from previous captives. It was wonderfully touching and I shed another tear.
I could see the time was running on so I decided to change the way I worked with Panda. For the last few days Panda has given me pressure, whilst I chased magic and perfection. Instead, this afternoon I gave him pressure to achieve the afternoon. I don’t normally work this way but I wanted to change things around. It’s the way we will have to work when we shoot the ritual scenes. It’s the only way we will achieve those days. It would have worked perfectly, but that’s a later story (see below)…
Next up was the second scene of Magda and Jess. I started on Jess to give Magda some time to recover. Magda came up with a lovely little half laugh once she saw Jess’ costume. I improvised a little close up to cover this action.
Jess came up with a great moment about the wedding ring that she had taken from Magda. Two weeks ago on their rehearsal day I had started the day by taking things away from Magda. She arrived (in character) and sat down on the chair and offered me a chewing gum. I took the whole packet away and gave it to Jess. Then I took all Magda (Grace’s) food and gave it to Jess. Then I took Magda’s bag and gave it to Jess. I told her to search it whilst Magda watched. She went through every item, all her personal effects, everything. When Jess found the ring she put it on her finger. This lead to a moment in rehearsals in which Magda asked for her wedding ring to be given back. Today those improvisations manifested into a beautiful moment where Jess teasingly showed Magda the ring but put it back on her own finger. Many times blue sky improvisations mine nothing. Today they mined a beautiful diamond. Jess really did great. They both did.
During the shooting of that scene Roger Bonnici came up with a change of coverage which sparked me into a new shot also, a large wide shot through Jess’s legs. The scene played wonderfully in that wide but I did a small amount of coverage to use for the ring action and the later stages. Jonnie Blagrove also loved the wide shot.
After that was Del’s second scene with Magda. Again I did it as a surprise, by having Magda sleep and then have her wake up and turn around in shot to see Del looking at her. She was so shocked and surprised that she screamed of course (I will use this take for the reaction). Then, out of frustration, she spat at him. This took Del completely out of it. I know that if Marc Warren, Jonnie Hurn or any of the other actors I regularly work with were put in this situation, they would have laughed it off and came straight back at her but unfortunately Del didn’t. It phased him. In rehearsal improvisations he had been impeccable and breathtaking. I’d been amazed at his versatility and creativity. But somehow this phased him
Although getting nearer to wrap time (and still 3 shots to do) we went off set to talk about it. He told me that it wasn’t right for his vision of the character and how he wanted to play it. I told him that as he has seen unimaginable things routinely, children dismembered, demons manifesting, something as silly as a little bit of spit would not phase him. Despite actually doing Magda’s shot not his, I also told him that no moment of weakness will be in the finished film. He countered with his playing level and how he couldn’t play every scene at that level. I agreed and told him an extreme story of a RSC actor I had once worked with who refused to react, he only wanted to act. In my mind acting is only or the stage. I believe in being in character and re-acting, making things truthful and fecund. I don’t want Magda to pretend to be frightened etc, I want Magda to be frightened because of what Del does and says.
Once I had got him back on track I went back to the cell to find that Magda had been also put out by Del’s loss of character. She felt guilty. The rest of the scene was hard to get. It took me 5 takes to get Magda back fully into character. It wasn’t till the 3rd take on Del that he found the mood he needed, a benevolent advisor. All this was taking place against a backdrop of the crew cranking up some overtime.
In the wide shot that ends the scene, I gave Magda ad Del a certain freedom. On the last take Del came up with the absolute goods. He did a key showing action that really stole the shot. Genius. Magic.
After the wrap I introduced them in Del’s dressing room. “Valentine Pelka, this is Grace Vallorani”. It was the first moment they met, after they had shot two scenes together. This delayed meeting allowed them to explore certain things. As it happened it didn’t go perfectly smoothly as it has done many times in the past but I still stand by the decision. Every time you dig, you don’t find gold.
Panda did great today. He proved that he is a sprinter as well as a long distance runner. I really rate him now. He’s a great 1st AD. He worked in a mode this afternoon that wasn’t natural to him (nor me). He excelled. Now I know he can do it. If it wasn’t for the end problem (my problem, not his), he would have achieved the day for me within time. That is all you can ask of a 1st AD.
Tonight the crew will finally get a chance to have a night out!
After wrap on Friday, I received a lot of extra stress from Yoram Halberstam, Grace’s boyfriend. He had called Chiara twelve times in one day (!) and had texted me at 8.52pm, 9.06pm and 9.14pm with escalating concern whilst I was in a meeting. When I was free, I called him and told him it was Grace in the cell not him and that she was solid, calm and together and that he was “acting like a little girl”.
After that I made a terrible, terrible mistake, a schoolboy error. After the tough afternoon I had had, after all the things that had gone wrong for me, Yoram’s hysteria was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Instead of taking the added stress on the chin like a man, I couldn’t stop myself from showing Yoram’s overboard texts to Magda. That was a fundamental mistake on part of the first order. I deserve to be sacrificed for it.
The net result was that it created friction that was unnecessary and gave me yet another sleepless night. I have enough problems and concerns without things external to the shoot creating problems, problems that I should have just taken up the arse. Also the fresher I am, the better I can take care of her, which is my number one job..
For me, the a shadow had been cast over the crew night out – which was further exasperated by me being banned from the second pub we went in to. All the twenty five cast and crew walked in and I was banned. I cursed the bouncers. If it wasn’t for the sweet and calm voice of Constance Carter, the scene may have got worse, it may have ended in a riot.
Only this morning did I finally ‘reset’ things with Magda. It was the right time to do it. We continued this morning shooting the scenes in the cell in story order. At the end of the first scheduled scene I realised that the costume department had made a fundamental error. I rectified it with an insert but it cost me 30 minutes of shooting time. As punishment I took a whip (to be used in the ritual scene) and gave Panther and Dolphin (the costume assistants) a lash each on set. They understood that they deserved it.
Stock problems finally loomed today. Mark Forstater and Katja (Line Producer) both came up to me. It seems that with all the camera problems etc that my shooting ratio has gone off the scale. I need to somehow bring it back.
The next scene, scene 25, although just one shot became a nightmare of camera problems, both of focus and of hairs in the gate. Nine takes for a single shot. It’s killing. Never again will I shoot a film on two perf. Never again. It has too many problems.
In the afternoon we shot some beautiful stuff, not only putting the Exodus 5.1 and 5.2 passages in but also the Exodus 7.10 passage that I really love. Also, this afternoon was the time when all the research that Magda has done started bearing fruit. She twigged on something in the cell that was subtle, as to its meaning.
Then I saw the latest version of the (un)holy book. It still has two pages to go to be completed but now must be sent to the binders to be bound (in human skin). After that something amazing happened, something I could never have predicted in a million million years. Daniel Nussabaumer, the most reliable person on set (alongside maybe Roger) made an error. It means I will have to reshoot a shot from last week. I was astounded that it happened. I could barely speak when I realised and had to continually check that it was indeed his fault. It is being rectified now as I write but I guess it proves that we are all fallible, me included.
The last scene we completed was scene 28 but we started scene 29, Jess’ third appearance. Jess came up with a great and amazing idea for the end of the scene. She is absolutely excelling in the role. That idea is something that has flowered from a seed in rehearsal improvisations and now has born absolute fruit. I can’t wait to shoot the conclusion of the scene tomorrow. I can’t wait.
Tonight, Mark Forstater will finally see rushes. He said to me many weeks ago that of all the 30 films he has produced, he always knew on viewing the first rushes if they would be successful or not. Of the 30 he has made, only 5 were actually successful. Tomorrow thus, will be a big day for him and thus me. What will he say?
I got 5 hours sleep last night. I felt tired for the first part of the day. In fact, until midday I didn’t really feel one hundred percent at all despite endless amounts of caffeine. At the start of the day I heard some horrible news. One of my crew members (I can’t say who for national security reasons!) father is in Afghanistan, and went missing after the base he is in was blown up. This cloud hung over me all day, despite me only telling Panda, Chiara and Mark Forstater about what had happened.
The crew member soldiered on all day, taking moments to cry away from set. When I heard the news, I had immediately released her from set but just like I would have done, she decided to work through. She said “If you send me home, what will I do? Just cry all day. I just need to man up and get on with it!”
What a girl, what a woman!
The first big scene of the day was between Jess and Magda of course. It was the infamous sweet scene where Magda grabs Jess. I now have on my wall a list of all the cuts, bruises and abrasions that Magda has received during the filming. After the sweet scene earlier, I could now add a couple for Jess. The dragonfly pendant she wears gave her a couple of cuts. I am glad that this scene is the last of this type we are doing. There has been more than enough sacrificial blood sacrificed.
At the conclusion of the scene, I took Magda and Jess aside and praised them for the wonderful work they did in the sweet scene. My first inclination was that it was the best scene I had shot so far on the film. But maybe the later one topped it!
Part of the way through the scene I discovered that Magda’s watch had been forgotten. I came up with a quick insert for the start of the scene that covered this but brought Dolphin and Panther (Costume assistants) to set for a quick lash each (with a whip that will be used in the ritual scene) as punishment. Dolphin felt she deserved more than one lash but there will be time for that if she makes another mistake.
At midday I rushed to see Mark Forstater to see what he had thought of the rushes. As he took them home last night, I expected an immediate response. The lack of response disturbed me. When I sought him out, he said that he had not had time yet but would do it in the afternoon.
At lunch there was still no news of the crew member’s father except that his mobile phone had been recovered, along with two of three MIA’s. She still held it together.
At the start of the second big scene of the day I felt that the spirit of Robert Bresson had descended on us. A shot that should have just been for the start of the scene ended up developing into a beautiful piece of pure cinema. I had Magda’s head resting against the cell with Jess coming down behind her. I expected Magda to immediately sit up, but she didn’t, she just moved her head blocking frame and called out “Jess”. It was transcendental and worked on the basis of what you don’t see as much as what you do see. The shot lasted over a minute with various actions coming in and out of frame. It was beautiful, perfect proof that rehearsals on set kill spontaneity. Sam (Focus puller) did a brilliant job. The energy was amazing, it filtered from me and Roger and throughout the entire crew. Absolute magic.
The great thing is that Robert Bresson’s masterpiece “A man escaped” is a real reference for me both in the filming and in the writing of the film. In a way, my film is “A woman escaped (or not?)”
At the end of the day I finally got a chance to speak to Mark Forstater. He had spent the afternoon watching rushes.
“What do you think?”
“They’re great. You’re doing a good job” He replied.
As I write this, there is still no concrete news from Afghanistan.
After checking Magda was OK in the cell (the floor was being repaired by Marlow) and completing the rest of my workload, I went to the pub for one drink with the crew. Most had gone. There had been talk throughout the day that there might be a riot in Norwich, police cars and vans prowled the street as I walked to the pub. In the end in sleepy Norwich, nothing happened. John, the pub landlord said to me “In Norwich everyone already has a plasma TV”. Before I had a mental picture of the Security Guards at the studio and I defending the building versus all comers, defending Magda, defending the set, defending the rushes etc.
At the pub there was just Bear (the gaffer), Little Bear (his girlfriend) and Steve “The Kid” Di Marco (Associate producer). Today The Kid has an important job to do, to make sure the next batch of film stock reaches set before we run out. He succeeded in that task.
This morning I found Magda in good spirits. She is getting used to the environment even though last night was a bit colder than normal. She’s become so sensitised that she can recognise my foot steps when I enter the studio. She also knows other members of the crew just from the sound of their footsteps, Molly MaQuirl (Script Supervisor), having the most distinctive sound.
Early on I learnt that the crew member’s father that was MIA in Afghanistan, by some miracle, managed to survive. The relief was enormous for me but obviously not as much as it was for them. Today she is transformed. Thank God!
This morning I had to wait 108 minutes for Jess to come to set from costume and makeup. I was exasperated with the wait. I used the time to shoot insert POV’s of the set. It transpired that it was Panda’s fault, he hadn’t given Mailis a call sheet last night. I had Transformers (Set Photographer) give Panda a lash.
The scene I started this morning was a long one. I decided to do simple coverage and let it play out. Magda, I know now, even though brilliant on the first take of pure improvisation scenes, actually improves with later takes on long dialogue scenes. The scene that we shot was the first where the anthropological detective stuff could come out. It was very gratifying to see it work so well.
In the middle of the scene Peebs came up to me distraught. She had just realised that she had made a mistake in terms of prop continuity. She always looks so sensitive but in this incident, she was genuinely upset. I had a big think and came up with a solution. Peebs has been perfect since day one so I wasn’t angry with her.
Today Mark Forstater asked to see me about the film stock. I met him whilst Magda was with the psychologist for her assessment. So far we have shot a third of the film but have shot nearly half the stock. This is because of the camera problems, the jams, the hairs in the gates etc but I suppose also because my main concern is to get then performances perfect. Most horror films don’t care about such things.
The next scene with Magda and Jess began with a flourish. We did a beautiful overhead shot that had a small tilt up. This allowed me to cut down the line to a shot of Jess coming in with concern. This concern stemmed from an excellent idea from Constance that the cell door might actually be open. She is giving me great great ideas at the moment, thinking all time. I love it. From this I improvised another hand held shot that should cut together excellently in terms of movement with the two before. After that we were back on track with the shot list. At the climax of Jess close up she voiced concern that it wasn’t perfect, just good. I explained to her that a film is made up of pieces and what I had from her was more than enough. She wants everything to be brilliant, perfect. As I will only cut to her shot at certain times, I have it, more than have it. She felt pressure where she didn’t need to feel it. I tried to explain to her how I will use her shot and how the framing and lighting will do a lot of the work. In any event, Jonny Blagrove singled her shot out as something wonderful.
On the penultimate shot, Roger discovered another design problem. We rectified it and the final shot was actually the best. Daniel took the blame again. He has done a brilliant job and feels the pain but there is no problem. It was rectified at the cost of (just) 200 feet of film stock.
Panda asked for an extra half an hour from the crew. I didn’t really want to do it. I would have broke the crew on time. We went late because of the delay in makeup this morning and for the visit of the psychologist. Not because of me. I honestly believe that. But I am the one.
The new thing at the end of the day was that crew now have to sign for call sheets at the end of it. Panda has instigated this so that we don’t have a repeat of this morning. Now I have a prop parade meeting and want to see more rushes. It’s hard at the moment to find any spare time. The moment I leave set there is a torrent of questions. I think I will have to do at least a couple of meetings this Sunday just to be on top of things.
At the start of the day I walked with Jess to the studio. That gave me a chance to speak to her and talk about the scenes we are shooting today. I hope it happens every day as it is a nice beginning. With the improvisations and ideas that my wonderful actors are coming up with those chats are constantly needed. Whilst I was shooting the first scenes I also popped into makeup to give her some more ideas.
When I found Magda in the cell, she seemed fine. She’d had a good night and had slept right through. Now she has a real sense of ownership of the space. The psychologist told us this would happen and it has. Magda has now developed a little shelf for her personal things, the bangle she had left from the abduction, the yellow toothbrush that Jess gave her, the candle. It’s astounding the change that has taken over her since her incarceration (for real).
We started the day with the transition shots of the night she decided fervently to try and scrape away at the bottom rail. Whilst doing it she reads Joshua 6.1 to Joshua 6.20. As it builds to a crescendo we will dissolve to the later shots, where the task seems almost impossible. This idea, to give a contrast between earlier and later in the task, came to me whilst shooting. I cut the camera silently but let the sound run. It’s one of my special tricks but it’s the first time I have done it on this film.
After that Magda started to feel a little ill. I’m not sure if it was the food or just a small bug. Panda felt ill a couple of days ago and Chiara was ill two nights ago. As an immediate precaution, I have decided that all of Magda’s meals will be now be cooked by Chiara personally. Katja (Line Producer) re-assured me that it couldn’t be the food but I have done it anyway.
The next scene was planned with quite elaborate set ups but (opposite to yesterday) I started with a beautiful Bressonian close up of the plates being exchanged as the start of the scene then went round on to Magda. The first take was absolute magic. Perfection. I go to ridiculous lengths to keep things real and some times they don’t quite work. This time it worked. I had prepared things with Magda and Jess separately. They effectively had different scripts, different ideas and secret motivations. After “action” it all came out. It was full of absolute gems, moments of pure truth and immediacy. My methodology may be unorthodox but this morning it mined gold. Jess had come up with an idea last night where she pretends she can’t read properly, then reveals she not only can read, she knows the passage by heart. Magda came up with a reference to her earlier scene with Del and also an expansion of the quote in the film from Tsun Tzu. It worked amazingly. As Sam (Focus Puller) checked the gate, I prayed for the gate to be good, for there to be no hair or no dirt in it. When the “good gate” rang out I was relieved. I did a second take for safety but take one was perfection.
I swung around on to Jess. At the start of the take it was evident she could feel the pressure. She recovered midway through but I broke the set for 10 minutes and took her off set. Because Magda is doing such a good job she is putting pressure on herself that she doesn’t need to do. I told her a story about a guy called Pete Cohen, who had been Ronnie O’Sullivan’s sports psychologist in 2002 when he won the world championship (Marc Warren and I were there to see it). I thought the story would relieve the pressure. It did. Her second take was profound. I shed a tear during it. I rushed off set afterwards and hugged her. She wiped the tear from my eye. She said “Are you sure you’re not lying?”
“How can I lie? You can see my tears. I can’t act that. I’m not a good actor. But you are a great one.”
On the second take (where the Leviticus reading was even better) Sam (focus puller), shed a tear, Roger was also moved. What a great scene! If I keep getting stuff like this, this film may be my best to date, better than “Do Elephants Pray?”, better than “Boston Kickout”. Let’s see what happens.
At lunch I got the worst news any film director can ever get. I learnt from Roger that some of the footage from yesterday was fogged. It transpired a little later that the reason was that our cans of broken down Fuji 500T film stock (we are shooting the film on Fuji) had somehow been swapped with Kodak 160D. That meant that two whole rolls of yesterday’s rushes were under exposed to the point of being fogged. I tried to call the head of the lab but I couldn’t get through. I was in an absolute rage. He continued to not answer his phone. I wanted to rip the guy’s heart out. If he was standing in front of me I would have dismembered him. Luckily he was not.
Of course, then I had to come back to set and complete the scene I was shooting. Fortunately it was just hand inserts. I say “just” of course, as my film is very Bressonian, the inserts are actually as important as the main action. Of course Magda and Jess sensed a subtle change in energy. I made it clear to them that it was nothing to do with them.
I then went on to the second big scene of the day. As I was midway through the first shot, finally the head of the lab called me back. I walked straight off set and into the street so we could have a ‘talk’. He said he had not called me back until he had got the facts. Amongst other things he said that it was James (our Clapper/Loader’s) fault. He also seemed as angry as I was – which was quite an achievement. I will try to get to the bottom of it tomorrow.
Later in the afternoon I discovered that although some great stuff is fogged, I do have alternative takes. That is good reason and indeed proof to Mark Forstater why you should ALWAYS do a second good take for insurance purposes. Mark had asked if it was necessary the other day. It is! The head of the lab promised to do everything he could to repair things digitally. I will be able to evaluate things properly tomorrow. Then we will have another discussion.
I then went back to the scene I had started. The scene had begun with a little skip in from Jess. We had come up with an idea that she was going to a party that night and thus was happy and a little dressed up. This worked great in the scene. I have started to be conscious of the exterior life of the people who come into the cell. This came from a conversation I had with Valentine.
The rest of the scene lived up to our ridiculously high standards. We are raising the bar continually now. Jess improvised some lovely pirouette’s whilst Magda cried and screamed against her. My favourite improvisation was about Jess’ horse (we never see it in the film). It is at that point that I decided to cut into a closer shot on her. It is like an arrow of humanity that can barely fail to find a target.
At the end of the day Panda was unhappy. I’m not quite sure why but I will try and get to the bottom of that also tomorrow. I suspect it is friction with Mailis still bubbling along over the 2 hour delay yesterday. I didn’t see it but allegedly he was too off with her today.
Last night I managed to finish work before everyone left the pub. It was nice to have some time with the crew, although Diana managed to grab me for one of two meetings she needs to have with me. I scheduled the other for Sunday. Also, as I went straight to sleep, I got a good 6.5 hours, which made me feel refreshed this morning. I walked with Jess to the studio again which was lovely. I really enjoy that walk in. She is a bit worried about her cuts so I arranged for her to go to see a doctor later today to double check that they are healing fine.
I started the day with the final shot of yesterday’s scene. Magda, after hearing of Michael’s death, decides to put his name on the wall. It’s great addition. Then I moved forward in story order to her waking from the first dream. I spent time talking Magda through what had happened between scenes and getting her in the mood. It took a couple of takes to warm into things but eventually she was right in the zone. On take 7 she absolutely nailed it, coming up with a horrendous naked foetal position racked with sobs. It shocked everyone by it’s power. After cut I shouted for Space Invaders (Camera Trainee) to throw the blanket over her. He was still in shock and looked utterly dumbfounded (it was his first full day on a Paul Hills film). In the end I rushed in myself, threw the blanket over her and cleared the set.
I shot the rest of the scene as closed set and got some absolute magic. Magda did perfectly, gave everything, as she has done for the last ten days. The final track out was beautiful in its timing. It will be a poignant moment in the film. At the end of it we locked off the camera (as discussed before with Roger) and changed the lighting from night to early morning. That will allow me to do a perfect dissolve as a time transition. I did another closer shot before the two hundredth slate which was Daniel’s. He passed the baton on to Roger on camera. I could see that if he had spoken any longer he would have shed a tear. His proper “Swissness” stopped him saying any more. I would have kept on going of course.
Before lunch we shot another shot but at lunch I realised that I was a bit behind. I have so many things to do, as soon as I step off set I am inundated with questions and requests for meetings. Adrian (2nd AD) has been waiting to have a meeting with me for the last 7 days. I decided to motor afterwards. Panda, so far, hasn’t had a perfect day in terms of what we have done. I decided to try and give him that.
During lunch I discovered that Mailis also came down ill today and was throwing up. Is it the food or is it a bug that is going round? In any event Panda didn’t put pressure on her today. I asked him not to. I didn’t hire him to be a “shouter”. I hired him to be a “problem solver”.
After lunch we motored shooting a beautiful long lens shot with apt focus pulls. Again it had a Bressonian touch to it, what we didn’t show was as important as what we did show. Then we did the trademark Paul Hills double slow track in on two characters. It was a case of more anthropological detective work. They both did great. I loved the improvisations on camera as they showed that both actresses know their characters so well, that whatever the situation they will talk perfectly within it.
As a final gift from God, Roger came up with an astoundingly simple shot that looked the absolute business. Jess plays with her feet in close up and we pull focus back to Magda in the cell. Wonderful.
After completing the big dialogue scene we powered through the main montage in the film. The great thing about montages is that apart from a few specifics it’s an absolute blank cheque for the actors. Jess showed Magda some ballet moves in one. In another Magda scratched away at her bars industriously. We nearly shot everything scheduled, nearly but no cigar… I’m not behind in the schedule though, by the end of tomorrow I will have shot half the page count of the film in only two fifths of the time.
On wrap Mark Forstater wanted to speak to me about the stock. Bothy of knew it was a cliché conversation but we had it anyway. Basically, I’ve not been able to make up for the problems we’ve had with hairs in the gate, emulsion damage etc but I am still trying.
This morning I took the walk to the studio with Chiara. I had woken up at about 4.30am with my heart racing overtime. I was thinking about what I would have to do today, the scenes I will shoot and of Magda in the cell. It was surprising that I awoke so early as last night I had the first chance of a proper 7 hours sleep. I’d hoped to sleep through to the 6am alarm.
Anyway, I’d planned for today a special scene, scene 44A. Many years ago whilst writing the script, I had thought about having a scene where Paul appears in the cell, a manifestation of her desire and longing, but had never written it. On the 30th July, the day off between the second unit day and the first day of main unit, I had driven with Paul (Jonnie Hurn), who had played the lead in my last film, to the Googleheads Film Festival in Reading. On that journey, Jonnie had suggested the same thing to me. I took it immediately and arranged for him to come last night so we could shoot an un-scripted scene.
When I got into the cell, Magda was in an unusual mood. It transpired that at about 4.20am she had had a transcendental moment, a moment of insight as Buddhist’s would call it. She had heard sounds and noises from far off and was incredibly conscious of her heartbeat. She could hear it absolutely clearly and loudly and felt herself kind of empty except for good energy. I told her about my first such revelatory moment. She was pleased that it was not so unusual. Of course, what this meant was that she was perfectly ready for scene 44A.
Last night I told Steve Di Marco, only a couple of hours before Paul arrived. He had to pick him up at the station and keep him away from the crew. He did the job perfectly. Last night I had warned Roger and Panda also about what would happen. But no-one else knew. Mailis knew about 5 minutes before he turned up for makeup. She did an excellent job getting him ready quick. Of course she has done an excellent job all film, getting people ready whilst nursing illnesses, spider bites and lack of sleep.
On the first take I had told Magda to sleep and to open her eyes when I told her to. Then I brought Paul in and positioned him next to her. The scene worked beautifully, although contrasting to the previous scene where Del appeared, again almost like magic. I turned over the camera and as discussed, Paul whispered to Magda “Good morning my darling.” She awoke slowly and looked up. She knew it was Paul’s voice instantly but could barely believe it. She turned to him, spoke to him tenderly and tearfully but unlike other scenes in the film, the tears were of joy not pain. On the third take I did the same again but when Magda awoke, Paul was not there, he had gone. In this take she again cried, a mixture of love and loss. When I cut the two together along with the reverse and the insert of Paul’s Seahorse tattoo, it may well be the most heartfelt, the most profound scene in the film.
After that we started on scene 45, the longest scene in the film and the most important in terms of Jess’ story line. Whilst doing the run through of opening moves, Jess started crying and broke down. She walked out of the cell area, off set, out of the studio, across the busy street in the path of oncoming traffic. Desperate to look after her, I was by her side all the time.
Even though it was lightly raining, we sat on the floor together and I held her hand. It was the moment where the feelings of the scene were compounded with things external to the actual filming. The morning had yielded undue pressure from one department. That stress filtered out and affected other departments. Through transference, it was now hurting my cast. I was upset that it had happened. It is my job to shield my cast from ALL stress and I had failed.
As Jess and I sat on the concrete in the rain, I told her I didn’t care how long we sat there and that we would only go back once we were both ready and that I didn’t care how long that would take. I told her some stories from my own life. Soon she was much better and agreed to ignore things that other people do or say.
We went back to the scene and shot some breathtaking stuff. When I went off set between setups, I found the makeup and standby art department crew in tears. It was all so touching and sweet. I used a series of long takes and slow zooms (a Hills/Bonnici speciality). Jess lived up to the potential she had shown from the first meeting. The final track out was more of a flourish (I’ve used it a lot). Magda improvised some amazing stuff at that point.
I then went on to scene 40, the rat scene. The rat handlers had been there all day waiting. Panda had wanted me to shoot scene 40 before scene 45 but Magda and I didn’t want to break the moment. I overruled Panda. Of course, the rats hardly performed. All animals are nightmare, even with experienced handlers. It burnt yet more stock to get something out of them. In the end the rats walked the film, the ratwoman (as she is now called) saying “They’re my babies… They’re my babies…” and her husband saying far worse.
It was the end of week two. We are now at the half way point in the film, about 50 minutes in. I know that dramatically as I have just shot the middle of act two turning point, the mid point of the film. Strangely, today I had a conversation with Katja (Line Prducer) about film stock. She thought that I was at minute 35 in the film, which would put my shooting ratio at 28:1. She said that it was “irresponsible and unprofessional to shoot a film at 28:1” Rather than argue with her, I slumped to the floor. She is so misguided (possibly by wrong information from our fresh Scipt Supervisor) about the stock. I brought in Roger Bonnici to explain to her how much stock had been wasted on hairs in the gates, camera jams and other problems. If you factor in the correct minute we are at in the film we are only 20:1. If you factor in the camera problems it is probably 15:1. I agreed 12:1, if I shoot the rest of the film at 9:1, I will be keep my promise.
Even though Steve Di Marco did good today, last week he came on set to congratulate everyone on an excellent take that he saw on a monitor off set. Today after a very long take he asked “Can I comment?”
“Sure” I replied. “Did you see a boom shadow?”
“No about the performances..”
As he has no idea what shot comes before, what shot it cuts with, how can he comment? How can he?
On every film there is someone who decides to make themselves the most hated member of the crew. Before I came to Norwich, due to reports I’d received, I thought it was going to be Steve Di Marco. Luckily for him, it is not.
The problems I had behind the scenes today stemmed from an event earlier. I needed Jess in costume. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t in costume. I found Panther and Dolphin cowering outside Diana’s door. They repeatedly said “don’t go in.” Stupidly, I ignored them and went inside. I shouldn’t have. It was a cardinal error. Diana was not in a fit state to talk to anyone. She was irate and irrational at best and said something that I found deeply unpalatable. We had a very serious altercation. I left immediately. Diana is creatively an absolute genius. Her designs are brilliant but mentally she is not bullet proof and is affected by things exterior to the process.
Roger (who never reads the blog, never gets involved in politics or intrigue, never worries about anything external to the process) is the opposite. He has no worries, no stress and is just serene. He has the second hardest job on this film but he excels on a daily basis. He focuses purely on what is ‘in the frame’ not what is outside it. Daniel is the same. He creates no stress.
I walked back on to set after the hiatus and decided to play some music, like actors do, to get me back on track. I was looking for a Jimmy Cliff song but couldn’t find it on my phone. Instead I scrolled through two hundred albums before deciding to play Peter Tosh’s “Bush Doctor”. Daniel walked by at that moment. He looked at me and said “Peter Tosh?” How did he know? Telepathy?
At midday I wanted to sack Diana. She had said some terrible things to me and me to her. I told her “Leave now and only come back when your head is right.” I couldn’t have anything negative going on while I shot as it becomes insidious. Mark Forstater asked me to sleep on it. I agreed and later decided to have a heart to heart meeting on Monday. I hope that sorts things out.
On wrap Saturday night I had the extras meeting with Adrian (2nd AD). It had been postponed by me endlessly since I got here just purely because I don’t have the time. The moment I come off set I have questions to answer, things to do. Most days I have been working 16+ hours a day – starting at least 1 hour before call time and ending at least 3 hours afterwards.
I went through all the extras with Adrian, who is doing a great job. His positivism and enthusiasm are wonderful. He still needs to find an extra to play the “old guy with the dog”. I set him that challenge for the coming week. By the time I got to Grant’s (Art Department Runner)’s gig at The Stanley pub, it was the last song. Afterwards, despite being exhausted, I went out with the cast and crew in Norwich. I cut out early not long after finally being allowed in to Delaney’s, the pub I had been banned from the previous Saturday. Constance took a picture of us both inside as proof.
That night I had a wonderful sleep, awaking at 10.39am in time to have a long slow bath whilst reading a book. When I awoke I awoke with an idea for a shot to complete scene 40, the rats scene. At midday Steve “Lofty” Lofthouse (Location Manager) came for some location recces. I was thinking of him in the bath. The door went, Chiara answered it and it was him. It was similar to the day I had met him on my second trip to Norwich. I was sitting in the café at epic interviewing prospective crew and he just walked past. I caught the Egyptian hieroglyphics on his shirt and asked for a translation. From this a conversation started. I discovered his knowledge of esoteria, his amazing life story and his love of film-making. Like when Molly MaQuirl had appeared the trip before, I instantly hired him, even though he had just been passing by. I always trust myself to be able to make intuitive decisions about people, to be able to judge them immediately. 99% of the time I am absolutely right. For instance, when Sam Riley (focus puller) arrived on set first day in Norwich, I knew he was good – and more importantly – that he cared.
Steve did a brilliant job in pre-production, stepping up to the plate, sorting things, finding locations, talking and negotiating with people but all the location photos he’d shown me of Magda’s flat, were not good. Yesterday, though, he came up with the goods. The flat he has found for Paul and Magda’s flat is absolutely perfect. Brilliant. I absolutely love it. Wooden floors, white walls, antiquarian books, prints and paintings.
“I knew you would come good in the end” I told him.
After that we looked for a location for the wrap party. Steve took us to the Adam and Eve pub, the most haunted pub in Norwich and one of the ten most haunted pubs in the UK. Even in the bright sunshine, as I stepped into it I felt something. When I spoke to the Landlady, she confirmed my feeling. I hope at the end of the shoot I can talk to her some more.
On the walk to the studio I thought of Katja and her comments on Saturday. As I got to the door of the studio she appeared (of course). She started with “I wasn’t saying you were unprofessional. I meant the perceived ratio.” I asked her to give me my ratio specifically for Saturday (we only had one camera problems that day but two boom shadows).
I walked in to the studio alone this morning. I’d managed to get a good night’s sleep last night but still awoke at about 5.48am thinking of what we have to shoot today. Firstly we shot the last three montage scenes. The last of which was the scene where Magda starts to realise that she might be pregnant. The hand acting for her POV took a number of takes due to focus difficulties but I managed to refresh Magda enough at the end such that, a la Polanski, even those inserts are perfect for performance. God is in the details as Cezanne said.
As I walked back on to set from one of my excursions to the makeup room, I saw Steph (“Peebs”) looking slightly distraught. It turned out that Rachel, our wonderful art department assistant, had just had a seizure. I love Rachel because, like me, she doesn’t give a shit about what people think. She’s a real kindred spirit in that. We went to see her immediately but Katja, a first aider was there on the scene with a St. John’s Ambulance man and she shoooeed us away.
Steve Di Marco appeared then and said “Too much pressure from above.”
I looked up at the ceiling, thinking of God and wondering.
Steve instead put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. His intimation was that I was the “above”!
Of course, this was completely inappropriate. Firstly, she’s epileptic not stressed. Secondly she works for Daniel, not for me. Thirdly, why share hearsay with someone who doesn’t need to hear it.
At lunch, Keys (Production Runner) took Daniel and I to an Esoteric shop in Norwich. We were looking for props for Del’s house. It was a ten minute walk there and ten minute walk back so that gave us twenty five minutes in the shop. I spotted a number of cool things that could be used for Jess’ altar in her room.
On the way back to the studio, we passed by a beautiful antiquarian bookshop, my guilty pleasure. It’s a shop that I have walked past before but always either at night or on a Sunday. As Keys’ mother, by chance, worked there, I decided to steal another 5 minutes of free time and pop in. I was directed to the history section (my predilection). In about 90 seconds I found 3 books that I wanted. I grabbed them off the shelf and headed to the counter. Being the sociable chap that I am (!), I introduced myself to the owner. As we shook hands, the ring on my finger broke and fell to the counter in 3 pieces. It was a ring that I got in South Africa. For me everything has symbolism. Why did the ring break?
The first big scene was the one with the dead rat. Jess did a nice squeaking improvisation at the start of the scene and it played it nice and chatty. That will be a good contrast to all the deeper and more disturbing scenes in the film. Magda related a dream she had for real in the scene, another life/art synchronisation.
The last scene of the day was the scene where Magda wakes up from the branding scene. Magda came up with the idea that her dress should be ripped. I agreed so Panther, who was worried about doing it without Diana’s agreement, raced to the costume room with me in hot pursuit. She expected Diana to veto it. Diana, now as sweet as a puppy, said “I think Paul should do it” which was music to my ears. There’s nothing better than a bit of dress ripping so I duly complied.
Roger and I agreed to start with a track out. Half way through the first take I realised we should also do a track in at the end so I touched Amos and Roger and hoped that Sam would be able to counter rack through the lens. It worked beautifully with the bar slowly revealing Magda at the end of the scene. And everything was going so well that I decided that we would power through to the end of the scene using the energy that had come up. The close ups of Magda and Jess were quick and powerful. The marks on the inner thighs of Jess and Magda were macabre but also had a strange beauty.
Even though we went 30 minutes over today we still kept up the quality doing some great stuff.
My walk to the studio this morning was a lonely affair. As we wrapped an hour later yesterday, it meant a later start today. That gave everyone a chance to have an extra hour in bed this morning. Rather than waking at 5.38am, I awoke at 6.32am again with ideas running around my head.
Magda wasn’t in the cell when I got there, she had moved to my room. I was concerned that something had happened but she was in good spirits. Last night Magda had a long and elaborate dream. The wonderful thing was that not only does she think and act in character, now she dreams in character, not as Grace but as Magda. We had a long talk, as we do most mornings. I interpreted her dream and we talked more about the scenes we’d shot, the anthropological detective work she is doing. She expressed some concern that she didn’t know things that Magda should know. I told her “Magda doesn’t know everything. No-one does.” I also made her ‘promise’ to not cheat and find out things from sources she shouldn’t.
Whilst waiting for makeup I shot some more inserts and POV’s of the set so that I didn’t loose time. In the end doing this I hope will save me an insert day etc. I only have one more list of inserts to do before I am done with them.
The first scene today, although on the surface a simple one, gave me some annoyance. Roger Bonnici, the world’s best DOP, did the thing I hate him doing, he spoke in front of Magda about something technical – shining the torch across the frame for a wipe. On the first take it was horribly and disgustingly artificial, a complete waste of filmstock. After two more takes I broke the crew for 5 minutes and reset the situation. I like Roger to whisper ideas to me so I can decide to use or discard them. If I take them then I find a way of motivating them. I hate artificiality in films. Later I told Magda “The beam, looks a bit like a lighthouse searchlight” That created the same action without any artificiality.
By lunch time, I had shot just two small scenes. It was one of our worst starts. In the second scene I gave Magda some motivation off camera, gave her some thoughts that popped into her head whilst she waited for Jess.
For days and days and days I have been walking past an antique shop on the way to the studio and back home and seeing in the window a little First Empire china figurine. It’s so elegant and beautiful. I really wanted it. On the first day I’d seen it, I sent Chiara to offer the owner up to £30. Then next day £50, then £100 for it. He wouldn’t budge. He didn’t want to sell it. It was his and not for sale. At lunch time today, Chiara suggested that we go together to see him. I apologised immediately for bugging him. I told him all about the statue, as it is to do with my favourite historical era (1789-1871). He then showed me two more figurines. I was amazed at them, how beautiful they were. One was of Marechal Ney, (“The Bravest of the Brave”) – my absolute specialist subject, the subject I would choose for mastermind. I told the man all about Marechal Ney. He was so impressed that he showed me two more statues. One of which was a beautiful figurine of Jerome Napoleon. I told him about Jerome Napoleon. He was so impressed he said “Right or left?”
I said “Right”.
“It’s yours” he replied.
I looked down and saw the beautiful china figurine of Jerome Napoleon in my right hand. It was an absolute miracle. A tear ran down my cheek. I was speechless.
“I can see you will appreciate it. You know all about it and would love it” he said.
I would have offered him £300 for that figurine (I don’t really have that money, but I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself). Instead he gave it to me for free. I shook his hand. I hugged him. It was beyond words. He wouldn’t sell it for any money but instead he gave it to me as a gift. I walked back to the studio so so carefully holding the figurine and asked Chiara to get an absolute mountain of bubblewrap to pack it carefully.
In the afternoon we started the big scene. Despite some strange sound problems (Jonny was having kittens at one point), it yielded the most amazing improvisations we have yet had on the film. Beautiful stuff. The Babylonean came in again. Jess’ improvisations (about university) in rehearsal with Del came in. The back story of Magda came in and then as if by magic, Magda found within the scene a brilliant bridge between the scripted dialogue (including a reference to Marbella) and the improvised stuff regarding Africa and what it means to Magda. She went on further and further going from the Xhosas to the Masai to the Yorubas. She even described a few Orishas. This in turn provided fuel for Jess’ line about friendship. Finally, all this lead me to improvise what I can only call a transcendental wide shot that panned and pulled focus into the paintings on the wall.
All in all it was beyond belief. What a day!?? A simple 2.5 page scene which was terribly underwritten (and poorly written maybe) was transformed into what Jess told me later in the canteen was “My favourite scene so far.” I am hard pressed to disagree with her. During the scene, I also had a moment of realisation. Until today I wasn’t really sure why I was making this film, why I had to make this film. I had no idea, apart from my fascination with religious cults and an interest in satanic ritual abuse. Now I know.
While I was shooting the big scene, Panda had a huge amount of stress. Scheduling problems with Valentine Pelka. Valentine has another film shooting in Romania that starts two days before the end of our shoot. At the end of play today it doesn’t look good for Valentine but I hope it resolves itself soon.
My walk to the studio this morning was with Magda. She told me her dream from last night again as well as telling me a joke. As she now has developed a friendship with Jess, we both feel that now is the right time to take her out of actual captivity. She has been in the cell for a total of 11 days. That is more than enough time. I will keep her in there whilst we are actually shooting though. She still can’t have a lunch break.
After the delays yesterday, we had to shoot two extras scenes this morning. They were the scenes with the walls having come in, where we shrink the main cell. It’s an idea of mine that hopefully will be subtle. Of course it is far from original. Polanski did it demonstrably in “Repulsion”. Hopefully my use of it will be subtler than in Polanski’s masterpiece.
After resetting the set walls, we got on to the escape scene. Before lunch we shot the first setup of the scene. That left us another 42 after lunch! Initially Panda was quite stressed about the number of setups that it will take to shoot the scene. Of course, I don’t send out a shot list before the start of the day. Why should I? He started to run set with a bit of fire until I damped him down a bit. I keep telling him “there’s no need to sprint until the end of the race”.
I stole a few minutes with Katja again this morning. She gave me a bit of grief about yesterday’ s shooting ratio but yet again she hadn’t got the correct information from Molly. She only had the page count from the script, not from the actual scene shot.
At lunch I saw the far wall of the set, the part that no-one has seen yet. Marlow had been doing some wonderful artwork on it. I gave her descriptions of 50 demons and she painted all of them in the scene.
Daniel also had some beautiful props delivered to set today. I saw Del’s rod of power and also the sacred knife now replete with beautiful Babylonean proto-cuneiform. In fact it was quite a day for our Babylonean as Chiara had to translate a couple of spells for use later in the film.
Whilst staging and filming the start of the escape, Magda, true to form, picked up a few more cuts and bruises. She also managed to break two planks of wood with brute strength and nearly did in Sam’s finger as well whilst bashing the bars with her feet.
The 300th slate was the shot where Magda finally got out of the cell. The slate was called in Babylonean – which I loved of course. When Magda finally emerged from the cell and I called cut, the crew spontaneously gave her a heartfelt round of applause. It was magical. As it was a milestone slate, we had champagne. I had the 100, Daniel the 200 and so then Roger’s was the 300. It was the first milestone slate that Magda had been able to fully participate in. She was out of the cell and able to drink champagne with the crew. It was sweet.
When Magda stood up in the next shot and started to walk up the corridor she got frightened for real. She cried and thought of Sarah and other children in captivity around the world. In a way, it was a profound moment. I expected a moment like that but not quite so immediately. Later, when Magda creeps up the corridor and thus saw for the first time Marlow’s beautiful Demonic painting, she jumped and screamed for real again. It was such a shock that she even ran back into the store room. Roger and Sam got it. It was beautiful. Then we shot the middle part of the escape scene where Magda gets to the bricked up arch. Amazingly (but also brilliantly), Magda didn’t know what was behind the bricks. She hadn’t read that scene in the script properly. Some people may think that makes her a less diligent actress. Not me. Not at all. That makes her a perfect actress in my mind. Just like Marc Warren is a perfect actor for me (he doesn’t read the script at all). He signs on blind as an act of pure faith.
Anyway, when Magda pushed away the bricks, behind them she saw a skeleton. This time, she was so shocked that she fell to the floor and out of shot. In a strange counter intuitive way, Roger, instead of tilting down, just held the frame. My first instinct was for him to tilt but he didn’t and he was right as she creeped back into it. By holding the frame, he held the tension. Sometimes Roger Bonnici is a genius. Without him, I’d be only half what I am. That shot was one of those tell tale moments.
The end was a bit of a rush – because the skeleton is booked on another job tomorrow! The art department were taxed but ended up performing well. I wish they’d been a bit more ahead of the game but they made up for that in energy and zeal. Steph (“Peebs”) and Rachel can have a place on my film set any day of the week. They are great.
My walk to the studio this morning was with Magda and Chiara. The first time the three of us have made the short walk together. I could have had an astounding 7.5 hours today but again I awoke at 5.48am thinking of today’s scenes and shots.
We started the day where we left off yesterday, half way through the escape sequence. I started with hand inserts and other details (especially the torch illuminating the demons) in between shooting on the skeleton before he was due to leave. As we had to finish the escape and shoot the first scene with Malcolm, Panda was feeling the pressure. Of course I told him to relax but by 10am, Amos had been a bit too jocular and got Panda’s wrath because of it.
The morning was nothing short of calamitous, our worst so far. A disgusting, agonising and torturous process. Ridiculous lighting continuity problems catapulted us into endless art department resets on a brick that needed to be cemented into a wall. We have been carrying a two hour delay for a number of days that came about because of day 12’s hysteria and other delays. This morning we lost another 2 hours. Added to the original two hours, we are nearly half a day behind. At lunch I was absolutely suicidal. But I went out of the studio for 20 minutes, put Peter Tosh on my stereo and thought about things. Then I had a chat with Roger and then I felt more positive.
After lunch though I had more delays. I couldn’t resolve it during the working day. Instead I decided to address it at the end of the day. Rather than compromise on the “money scene” I ploughed on regardless. Magda improvised beautifully on the way to the end of the corridor as she went along the paintings there. Beforehand she kept saying “If I get it wrong, can you cut it out? I’m not sure I’m smart enough to get it all. I’m not as smart as Magda.”
“Just use your intuition” I told her.
By the fourth take, she had completely analysed all the paintings on the wall. She had decoded things that were probably in most people’s minds impossible to decode. What a woman Magda Montaine is! What a woman!! When she decoded “the black eve” as “Lilith” it was beautiful. When she said “Jerusalem” whilst running her hands across the depicted ruins of King Solomon’s temple, I could barely believe it. When she talked of feet of clay and of Daniel whilst stroking the picture of Nebuchadnezzar II, I knew she was only one step away from getting it all. It was incredible. When I related things to Chiara she said with moist eyes “You’re an inspiration Paul. Now I know why you do all this.”
Of all the actresses in the world, living or dead, only Grace Vallorani could play this part. In my heart I have known that for a long time of course. Now I also know it cerebrally.
Mid afternoon I was faced with a very hard decision. Do I break cast that have been called since midday and decide to do the second scene tomorrow? That would formally put me in the position of being a full half day behind schedule, a demon I didn’t really want to face and a situation I have never really been in before on any of my films. I decided to defer the decision until after the wide shot of her assembling a ziggurat of stuff to climb up over. That shot happened at 4pm. It was a five and half minute take that I know Caroline (the editor) will probably use to jump cut and dissolve through telescoping the time. She finally mentioned the name “Nebuchadnezzar” at the beginning of that shot. For me it was like an Angel singing. After the assembling shot I decided to wrap Del and Malcolm. I went into their dressing room. To my surprise they were quite relieved as it gave them more time to practise their Babylonean.
By a superhuman manifestation of strength, Magda on take one of the climbing action managed to climb the shaky shelf, pull herself up and get out of the corridor. The crew gave her another spontaneous round of applause. Panda was having absolute kittens in terms of health and safety but she did it safely as I’d asked her to.
After shooting a closer side shot I did some inserts to build up the tension then ended with an overhead shot. I’d shot an amazing sequence but at the cost of a lot of time and a truly terrible 33:1 shooting ratio. It was the longest scene I’d ever shot, even longer than the nightclub sequence in Boston Kickout. 18 hours shooting on one scene. Of course, the ritual at the end of the film will take even longer.
Today was the last day for Vicky (“Keys”). She has been an absolute revelation, the best runner on the film by far. She has continually helped and offered assistance to everyone on the film. She left me a little present on my desk when she left. On wrap we all sang happy birthday to Rachel. Then I went into my meeting with Mailis and Panda.
My walk to the studio this morning was just with Magda. We talked about the up and coming “rape scene”. Most actresses would be worried about the blocking and how I will approach it. She wasn’t. We talked about the emotions and the energy of it.
At the start of the day I discovered that the other actors had been called too late. That gave me some time to shoot more inserts but t didn’t help me to catch up time-wise. This time I did some transition shots of the small window (Roger’s idea) and also a pan from one eye to another of Baphomet’s picture on the wall. After that, I did a close up of the candle dying (with rat drawing in background) to cut with the master from a couple of days ago. That shot had come to me this morning when I awoke at 5.48am again.
All through the inserts I didn’t feel well. After my second coffee of the morning, I felt my ‘normal’ chest palpitations. I drank far too much coffee yesterday. Far too much. Maybe thirty cups. At one point I said “Bring me a double espresso every 30 minutes until either I die or I complete the scene.“ In the end I completed the scene before dying. After paying the piper this morning, I switched to camomile tea. It took a good 2 hours to regain some natural energy. I whispered to Chiara my problem. She made me promise not to drink coffee all day. At our first meeting I had told her “Your most important job is to make sure I actually survive the film as whilst in the moment I will not worry about that.” When I am shooting I don’t care about anything apart from the film. My own personal health and safety are mere triffles, mere annoyances. I literally don’t give a shit if I live or die.
I started the big scene with Malcolm (Ian Dickinson) coming down firstly on Magda. She was a bit cautious at the start but once Malcolm starting improvising “Magda, Magda, It’s alright darling. Everything’s gonna be fine. It’s the police darling. Paul’s outside” in a beautiful Cornish accent. Then the scene took it’s wonderfully sick course. Del comes down out of focus behind. Her hope is snatched away.
At lunch today we had Chinese food thanks to Bianca (“Games”), our caterer. When she came to set last week and asked people what they wanted, no-one said a word. I said “A different country each day.” Yesterday was Thailand. I hope we get to the Basque country some time but that is probably a dream. At lunch I bumped into kindly owner of the antique shop and gave him a tour of the studio and the set. I even introduced him to Magda, something I wouldn’t do for hardly anyone.
After lunch we continued with the scene. Again we started to fall behind and things started to get fractious. At one point whilst Panda was hurrying up Roger, he was told “Leave the set so I can finish lighting in peace”. I wasn’t on set at that time so I didn’t actually see it. Instead I found Panda in the corridor. I could see in his eyes something had happened. I had heard earlier that he had sacked a floor runner. That’s his call and nothing to do with me. I don’t interfere in other departments but this was something new.
“You’ve broken me today. I am a broken man.” He said.
“Some people on this film may like to see you broken, they may even want you to leave but I don’t care about that. I don’t want you broken. I want you rebuilt. I believe in you and we will finish this film together.”
I went to Roger to get to the bottom of things. He explained to me that he had been asked the same question three times and that being asked repeatedly didn’t speed things up. I told Panda and Roger that we would sort the problem out at the end of the day after completing the scene. The other stress on Panda was that we were not in any shape or form clawing back the time lost yesterday or on day 12. This was my fault, not anyone else’s and certainly not Panda’s. I took him aside and promised him we would look at the schedule together and find a solution together. I also asked him to now, finally, to stop trying to use 1st AD artifice on me (Having 1st-ed myself I’m immune to it) and instead be an equal partner in our ‘marriage’. He asked me in return to deal him some more cards. Liking the metaphor, I unreservedly agreed to do that.
The end of the “rape” was difficult but brilliant. Malcolm (Ian Dickinson) in his first scene in the film did an absolutely outstanding job. He was pure genius at times. After the first shot I knew in my heart that he truly belonged on set of a “Paul Hills film”. I would love to put him in a scene with Marc Warren for instance.
Malcolm said “I absolutely love the way you work.” and lay at my feet mimic-ing the way he lays at Del’s feet in the scene. I touched him on both shoulders, but also on the top of the head as a sign of esoteric approval. At the end of the scene his improvisations were sublime, he came out with fluent Babylonean and even managed to climax in the archaic language. When he asked Del to turn the voltage on during the fellatio I almost lost it with giggles, something wonderful in a scene so macabre.
For most actresses I have worked with, this scene would have been the hardest in the film. For Magda, that was not the case. She was brilliant, grabbing Malcolm’s hat early on, rushing at the bars at one point, incorporating the falseness of the taser voltage seamlessly. At times I had to shout and cue her and Del (the thing I resort to as a last resort) but it should be a great scene when cut together. Jonny Blagrove (the best sound recordist I have worked with since Simon Kaye) whispered in my ear on wrap “Very tastefully done. Well done.” I was glad of that comment as I pride myself on my sex scenes. Not that a “rape scene” is strictly speaking a “sex scene”. It isn’t. They are very different. Unlike most directors, I would much rather shoot a sex scene than an action scene. I like the simple intimacy of them. Also, unlike some directors, I genuinely love actors and prefer them to “toys” (camera equipment). Actors breath life into your film, they are like the river of life that the story sails down.
In the penultimate shot Del got his chance to say a Babylonean spell. Take two was absolutely brilliant, now free from the confines of the script (in my mind a gilded cage), he incarnated and gave us something disturbing, transcendental and sublime. I absolutely loved it. It was beautiful. As Del (Valentine Pelka) is the most experienced actor on this film (by far) I sometimes forget that he is human and needs my support. I will try and do better by him in the next scenes. It is my job and I have probably spent too much time with Jess and Magda.
After wrap on Saturday I had to get Chiara to go through the schedule for the last three days in the studio and compile my shot lists so I could evaluate what I have to do. She was half way out the door when I asked and it pained me to do it. She had better things to do of course (who doesn’t?). At that moment I had to do some other things and I couldn’t take the risk of not having the right information. Unfortunately, as the director of a film NEVER gets a day off, his assistant has the same problem.
Yesterday morning I awoke at 5.28am. I’d only had a couple of brandies the night before with Del, Malcolm, Jess, Magda, Steve, Ian “Sane Man” Manson, Paul Hamer and “Keys” with me sitting at the juncture of the two groups. Whilst telling an anecdote I managed to silence the whole pub and knock over a couple of drinks. Magda was a little embarrassed but it was a good ice breaker, the rape scene had obviously had a psychological effect on her as well as on me. We both needed some ‘life’ to erase the darkness.
After my standard early morning awakening, I went back to bed and managed to sleep until 10.15am. After that I went for breakfast then went back to my cell (“room”) to evaluate the shot lists and do detailed floor plans. I now know I have to shoot 4 days worth of scenes in 3 days without compromise. Mark Forstater has already suggested (via a text in the middle of the shooting day!!!!!) that I cut the Violet scenes but there is no way I am doing that. It is me and me alone that knows what has been shot and what needs to be shot. As I am the keeper of that sacred arcane knowledge and it is me who must solve the problem.
Whilst the cast and crew went back to their lives and loved ones, explored Norwich, rested and recuperated I worked all afternoon on the scenes that still have to be shot in the studio. I rewrote some things and adapted some others for ease of shooting. I also trimmed my shot list, in a particular I added with a flourish, a powerful sequence shot for scene 63.
In the evening, I chatted with Magda about the scene today and how in a way, it is the complete and utter death of hope. It’s a dark scene. Terrible really. Then I went to a meeting about the ritual with Adrian (2nd AD), Panda and Diana. When Diana arrived she was with a Chinese guy. She didn’t explain why he was there. He just sat quietly for the first 30 minutes until we learnt that he was her new assistant. Anyway, the meeting was productive organisationally.
This morning I walked to the studio with Magda. I’d not been able to sleep much but I managed to sleep until my alarm went off at 6.40am. Magda had to go to that dark place whilst we came to set and apart from my in camera directions we barely spoke. Instead I talked to Del and the workmen. The workmen were two extras who had never been in front of camera before. Incredibly, Del decided to bond with them and tell them stories rather than assume the role he has in the film with them. Marc Warren would never have done that. To make up for this gaff, I had to terrorise them and frighten them. Before take 3 I told them “I haven’t slept for 3 days as I have been up on crack cocaine. I am ready to sacrifice anyone, even myself if Del says the word. Look in my eyes!” I looked at them with sheer madness in my eyes, drew the sacred knife (that props had given me for the purpose) from its scabbard and ran it across my throat. It worked a treat.
When we got to Del’s first close up, he gave me something beautiful. The first take had a wonderful build to it. I added in a sip from his martini glass. On the last take he did a great job on the “..pumping heart of Baphomet” line. The fire in Del’s eyes was truly wonderful. I loved it. Also Del came up with throwing the photos all over the cell rather than dropping them on her lap as per the script which was great addition. On a couple of takes they went right through camera.
Amazingly, for the second time on this film, Magda had not read the script to the degree that she knew Del would throw photographs at her. She improvised beautifully. The third take made me sob. I don’t think I have ever been effected by the scenes I’ve shot as much as I have on this film. I remember crying during the Ray/Phil scene at the end of “Boston Kickout”. I remember doing it a couple of times on “The Poet” and on “Do Elephants Pray?” but on this film it seems to be nearly every day that it effects me. I hope that this transfers to the audience who watch the film and that it effects them as much it has myself and the cast and crew on this film. My next film will definitely be a comedy. It has to be.
After lunch we completed the darkest scene in the darkest film.
Last night we had a production meeting about the ritual scene. It was productive but long. After that I barely had time for a quick drink with the camera crew before going to bed. This morning on the walk to the studio with Magda and Chiara I felt the pressure of the number of scenes I have to shoot today. I’ve never shot more than 9 scenes in a day. Today I had to shoot 11 scenes. Most of the scenes are one shot but still it’s a considerable amount. On the way to the studio things got worse. Magda asked me when we would shoot scene 71. It turned out that somehow it had been dropped from the schedule. Scene 71 is nearly 4 pages long!
After I told Panda he was horrified by his error. Just after he had realised the implications he then transferred the stress back to me. At that moment Chiara said something I didn’t like. Unfortunately, the pressure got to me and I snapped at her saying “I am alone on this film. I am alone on this film. ALONE!!!” I was referring to the fact that Chiara has been shielding me from things rather than telling me of them. She is doing that with my best interests at heart but for me it is not ideal, I read her pain and would rather know things than let my imagination run riot.
After sorting out the things that needed to be done to re-jig the day to accommodate scene 71, I found her in tears and apologised for being so mean. I also begged her to stop taking the pressure and instead share things with me. I hope she will do this from now onwards.
Amazingly scene 71 went beautifully and it was shot in just 3 hours. The problem was, though, that it meant all the time I had regained yesterday had been lost. During 71, Del did some wonderful stuff. I said after one take “I love you in this scene. Love you in this scene.” I had thought early on that he would sit in a chair (that Daniel found last minute) but instead he went with the moment and walked back and forth in the scene. Sam did a great job pulling focus. When Del arrived at the bars near the end it was a profound moment. It’s one of those scenes you cannot wait to cut together.
Roger did a beautiful job lighting Magda’s reverses. The bars in the cell acting as a gobo and the Alcaine style eye light worked a treat. I kept on banging in down the line as things progressed. It was simple but effective.
On the second scene before lunch, Magda related her dream to Jess, the one where Baphomet visits her for the first time. She used an actual real dream that she had in the cell, not a made up one like in the script. Amazingly for Jess and I, she related a dream of a sufi master who was both female and male. Baphomet is also female and male but there is no way Magda can know this. No-one has told her. It is pure arcane knowledge.
At lunch time we went for a location recce to the hospital nearby. It was a distraction that I didn’t want but it had to be done. The man showing us around didn’t have the right keys and because of that we were 15 minutes late from lunch.
Straight after lunch I started on the long series of montage scenes that are left over in the studio. The first one of which I started our slow motion montage idea, together with the theological and theosophical debates that Magda and Del are having. The first one had Del walking backwards and forwards in front of Magda, the second a huge messianic close up of Del with even bigger slow motion close ups of his mouth and eyes. Del improvised an amazing line at the end. “Boo!” When it happened I knew it would be in the film. Later I realised it might even be in the trailer.
During that scene I noticed some tension with Magda. She wouldn’t tell me what it was and said “I’m being professional” I went into her room and told her “We are not shooting another frame until you tell me what is wrong.” Eventually after begging her, she told me. It was a mere trifle but I had to sort it out before I could shoot. We had some big scenes and I can’t fake things. They have to be 100 percent or nothing.
The next scene was scene 85, the moment where she decides to pretend to convert. I used a double zoom in that scene. I love zooms. I hope to intercut between the zoom in on Magda and the zoom in one Baphomet’s 3rd eye. Charlie “Tall Guy” (our new runner) delivered the zoom to set form Take Two in London just in time for the shot.
The next scene I decided to do in a 2-shot with a pan in and an exit from Del. It was the scene of the kiss. It had real tension to it. Magda and Del did brilliantly, Take one was amazing but the shackle may have taken a bit too long to come off. I will only know in the edit. The 2nd take probably was the best. By no rehearsal and no prep, the scene was real in its sexual tension. When Del threw the chains on the floor I could feel the reverberation. In that take Roger added the shadow of Del on the wall for the last line (Val Lewton would approve) and Magda added a ring action that I tilted down for. After that take I walked out onto the studio floor and shouted elated “What a scene! What a scene!!”. It’s so simple but actually it’s one of the best we’ve done on the film.
After that I wanted to shoot scene 94A. Jess was already in costume for it and Magda was ready chronology-wise for it but George (Earl Ling) who had been called at 2pm was putting pressure on Panda to shoot his scene. Panda decided to shoot 96 rather than 94A. I’d rather he hadn’t but out of respect I let him make the change. Of course, in my mind was echoing the words of a famous general “Never change your plans in the face of the enemy.”
I had decided in rehearsals that Scene 96 was the scene where Jess and Sally come back from a rare treat – a night at the opera (to see Faust!)- and find Del in the cell with Magda. Jess is full of joy but Sally is full of dark forbodings. It took 20 minutes to set up. It was a difficult shot for co-ordination in terms of a track, a pan, a reveal and 5 characters within it doing different moves. It was much more difficult than 94A would have been. It took a while for George to hit his marks but when it worked, it worked beautifully, especially with Jess running out of frame and Sally (Janan Chopra) striding up to the doorway. I Sally she looked a bit like Lana Turner with the backlight and her moves.
I was just about to shoot the last two shots of the scene and Panda walked on to set and said “That’s the end. We don’t have the time.” As it happened we were already half an hour over wrap time.
I looked him dead in the eye and said “I’m shooting this scene because you wanted me to. I wanted to shoot 94A. You know that. Now that I am shooting it, I WILL finish it.”
I held his gaze as my rage boiled.
He walked away but came back a little later saying he’d sent the crew home but they had all decided to stay. The crew are great on this film. Solid. Wonderful. Sometimes Panda puts himself through more stress than he needs to.
We finished the scene. Everyone seemed jubilant. Jess and Magda even went to the pub together in character and improvised for the next couple of hours. Finally we got to the moment when they become friends and can interact absolutely fully. It was a special moment, beautiful.
I shot nearly 7 pages today but because of the additional scene first thing, technically I didn’t make the day!! Tomorrow will be even harder!!
DAY TWENTY ONE
Last night at the pub Magda and Jess improvised in character. We’ve reached that stage of the film where they are best friends. Magda has pretended successfully that she has been converted and thus we now have a new family dynamic with Sally a bit displaced.
On the walk back to our house, Jess and Magda lay down in the road and acted out the scene where the workmen in the cell had to lie at Del’s feet. It was hilarious. Unfortunately such sisterly love and companionship had to be cut short this morning as we go back in story order to shoot scenes 61, 62 and 63. Those scenes are Violet’s scenes, the scenes that Mark Forstater suggested we cut.
I awoke at 6.32am which is pretty good for me. Magda was tired this morning. She also felt the pressure of going back in story order, going back into the cell. Me, I felt the pressure of how much there is to do today. On the walk in I told Chiara and Magda a sufi story, the one about the valley and the contaminated water and how whoever tastes it goes insane. Eventually there is only one sane man left until he has to taste the water. It is a story that Jeff Gross, the brilliant American-Parisian writer related to me way back in 1998 but that I have never forgotten. Its relevance to the final scene we shot last night is enormous.
First thing was the pickup shot of the rat. Apart from the fact they were white, the rat “Daisy” did a really good job, much better than the previous ones. Then we got on to scene 61, a large scene. After two weeks of camera and hair in the gate gremlins, having abated, we now at the wrong time started to have serious problems, endless hair in the gate. I already had serious problems today exasperated and inflamed by the fact that George (Earl Ling) had to leave the set by 3pm. He had a film premier in London. Of course, that means that we should have shot the scenes involving him yesterday rather than today but hindsight is a good thing. As a solution I decided to extend the bravura tracking shot that I had planned from off set down the corridor into a huge Peter Greenway style tracking shot from off the set, through all the walls and finally into the cell.
At 2pm we still weren’t ready to turn over. Dan, our fight arranger had done a run through of the fight stuff. Potentially it was amazing but I had nothing. Everyone felt the tension and apprehension of what would happen. Molly said “It will look amazing”
“I hope so” I replied.
By 2.45pm I had two takes in the can but neither was perfect. I had to persuade George to stay a little longer so that we could get a third. The film I am shooting is very macabre, but my continuous tracking shot on a bag lady being brought in wrapped in a carpet was one of the darkest. Samantha (Makeup Assistant) was in tears during it. After the third take George left.
As I played back the three takes with Roger at lunch I invited Magda to watch. She is hardly in the shot, just her voice pervades at certain moments. I then made another stupid error. She asked if she could see something else. I asked her to choose a random number. That corresponding I believe no director should ever show an actor rushes. Magda didn’t like seeing herself. In the early afternoon it took me a couple of hours to get her out of extraneous thoughts. But true to form (Jack Walitzer would be proud) she did a brilliant job of using those feelings in scene 62, the intimate scene with Violet (Abigail Hamilton). The only downside was that during the scene she could barely ‘hear’ me communication-wise whilst normally I can just look at her and she knows my thoughts.
After the scene Panda called a ten minute tea break. During that period I managed to talk to her and told her almost the same thing that I had told Steve DiMarco a few days before of having no idea of the context of any particular shot or moment. It was my mistake and a stupid one.
After that we flew and scene 63 was an absolute dream. It was a complete change in momentum and feel. I did a handheld tracking shot from one end of the set to the other as Malcolm and Del “bag” Violet and Magda ready for what we call “ritual two”. The final shot was a POV of Malcolm who again did a wonderfully disturbing job. I cut things there as we were already a couple of hours over schedule and decided to shift the remaining shorts scenes (including 94A) into the upstairs house or on to the insert day.
After that we celebrated the 400th slate, Costume’s slate. Diana raised her glass and said “Lets make lost of money..” Although there was not photograph this time it was another pivotal moment. It was the final day in the studio. We have shot here for 18 days. That is a very long time on one location. At the end I felt some sadness. Later, in the nearby pub, I felt a lot of sadness. A lot. With the end of our key location I got a presentiment of the end of the film. We only have 9 days left and it will all be over, the circus will have left town…
In the pub, whilst some cast and crew were dancing behind, Amos (“Breathless”) said to me “I want to get a Baphomet brand. Can you do it for me at the wrap party?” I tried to talk him out of it of course but Amos’ comment is symptomatic of the fervent belief and indeed strength of our wonderful crew. They are all titans – especially the camera crew (Roger, Sam, James (“Cricket”), Stu and Amos) and Art Department (Daniel, Peebs, Rachel and Marlow). Amos went on to say “I’m not sure I’ll ever work with a director like you again.”
“You probably won’t mate but do you mean someone as insane as me?” I replied
“Maybe…” he said enigmatically.
We hugged. I love the guy. He’s relentless (and “Breathless”).
DAY TWENTY TWO
I woke up on Wednesday morning with serenity and a feeling of absolute bliss. I hadn’t had a full 7 or 8 hours sleep but what I had was pure peace. After the sadness of last night I now feel great. I was looking forward to the third part of the shoot. The almost final hurdle to overcome. Chiara and Jess both commented that I looked different and that my face had changed, the stress had departed. When will it come back? Will it come back?
Yesterday I went into the office at 11am for a meeting with Roger to refine the shot list for Saturday and Sunday’s scene (ritual 3). He was delayed by rigging in the church scenes and soon I got pulled into various questions from other departments and other meetings. Roger and I only had a chance to do a 30 minute discussion before he was pulled away to check the rigging again so I took the time to go and visit Del, Malcolm and Sally in their house. I’ve spent so much time with Magda and Jess that I felt I needed to go see the ‘Satanists’. Every time I’ve had a scene with Sally (Janan Chopra) it becomes the last scene of the day and also her close ups have both times been the last shot of the day. I’ve barely seen her off set despite her having two whole scenes. Del and Malcolm were in good spirits also. We had lots of laughs and fun. We joked about the Babylonean amongst other things.
After that I rushed back to my house to continue the meeting with Roger. Chiara had made some nice pasta for us and it was amongst a backdrop of great hilarity that Roger and I continued our meeting. By 11pm we only got to half way through so we agreed to continue later tonight (after wrap).
This morning I awoke calm and happy despite the fact it was pouring with rain. When I got to location, it was a bit like the Somme. No proper provision for rain had been made. It was a bit of an oversight. I also learnt that Bear (Gaffer) and Ducky (best boy) had worked tirelessly yesterday to rig the church on their day off. It had further been assumed that they would work on their next day off de-rigging. I told Steve Di Marco this wasn’t acceptable and tht he should find someone else to allow them some down time.
When I arrived, I tried to rally the troops but our envisioned 8am start turned into 9am and then 10am. Panda kept throwing in solutions but the truth was that we were under prepared. Luckily the day was not too hard and despite feeling tired, I was calm that we could achieve all we needed to do. Then it turned into 10.30am and I learnt that I lost another hour from the end of the day. I had lost 3 hours and still no-one was ready for me to start doing my job. Then it got worse. Last minute makeup adjustments and then I realised art department was not actually ready. It transpired that Mark Forstater in a cost saving exercise had reassigned the art department van. More tweaks took me up to 11.30am, then after a final rehearsal it was 11.30am and still I hadn’t shot one frame of film. The problem was that the shot I was doing was the second hardest in the film, having to have a contiguos shot on Magda for the whole 3 minute scene.
I was finally ready to do take one at 12.10pm and half way through the shot George froze, his punch had not been perfect and he was put out by that. The freeze forced me to cut and heralded a 40 minute makeup and art department reset which brought me up to 12.50pm. I didn’t have anything. Nothing whatsoever. Nothing. I was having absolute kittens. It was our worse day by far. Terrible. I was beyond suicidal.
I did a second take and this time the punch from George was lame. I continued the shot until its conclusion in the hope that I could get something out of it. The third take was fantastic except that this time George didn’t bring the branding iron into shot enough. I was calling higher. Roger was calling higher but still he didn’t bring it in. I was destroyed. Afterwards I sat on the step outside. Panda, stupidly sat down beside me and started to suggest compromises. It was the wrong time. He didn’t need to do that. He should have let me be. I turned to him and said “I was four hours late turning over. That was your fault.” He went mental and stormed off blaming Daniel for the art department delays. Chiara ran after him as he stormed down the road.
I tried to follow him but it was impossible. I went back to set and decided to AD it myself until he calmed down. Finally the fourth take was usable even though George’s slap wasn’t perfect. I reset for a 5th take and finally I got it. Jesus. What a nightmare – the second worst 6 hours on set I have ever had! Every take magda was doing great, I was worried I wouldn’t get it but in the end I did.
It was lunch. I was 5 hours behind. It was an absolute nightmare. The second worse shooting start of my life. I powered on after lunch doing the insert of the actual brand. Malcolm was great in the back of shot. Roger did the business with the actual branding.
After that I shot on Violet’s death. Her first close up was beautiful. She gave everything even incorporating Bruce into it. She gave everything on that take and was in tears.
Then I shot her final shot and her POV as Del came in with the chainsaw. Peebs saved the day by painting it black at the last minute. It had turned up yellow. The only colour I’d asked Daniel for it not to be! Daniel had such a bad day. I felt for him. The chainsaw shot was hilarious. Smoke was coming off it. It made such a racket and with smoke coming off it and I was at the bottom of shot throwing in blood. At the end Del, George, me and the camera were covered in blood. When I got back to the house later, Jess thought I’d been in an accident.
I then shot some eliptical shots into a moving reflector board of Sally, Del, George and Sally’s Sister (Eva Norin). They looked wonderful and demonic. I’ve used this effect many times before in pop promos but never in a feature film. I didn’t have time to finish scene 11 so went on to the death of Michael. I reduced it to three shots and did them in about 30 minutes. It was hectic as the local residents wanted to cut the power supply. Mark was of no use at the end of the day. In the end Diana Le Quesne saved the day by convincing the most hostile resident that we should have an extension. She was great all day. Earlier, when I saw it was raining I’d said to Chiara. “Today we will see who has character today.” Diana showed me she had character today.
The end was carnage, me shouting out shots and flinging in different departments to make the day. In the end we just about got it. From 5 hours behind, we came through to almost complete. It was meant to be the easy day in the shoot but it ended up being a nightmare. I got through. Earlier I had told Mark “As the art department van fuck up is your fault, you shouldn’t say a word. If I make the day now I should be deified.” In the end I almost made it. But no cigar. I will have to pick up the other eliptical shots at the end of Sunday.
DAY TWENTY THREE
Last night I raced off set so that I could finish today’s shot list and clean Violet’s blood off me. It transpired that I had left my computer cable on set and couldn’t finish the shot list. People had been asking for it for days but I had only got half way with Roger the other day because of all the interruptions.
So I raced to set first thing this morning in order to finish it off. It’s a total of 57 setups, most of which were on two cameras. The next two days we shoot on two cameras. That should speed things up.
At the start of the day, Daniel looked really stressed again. These days are big days for him. The focus has definitely been pulled on to him now that we have left the studio. He couldn’t get in to the church this morning early enough because he couldn’t find the key! He started telling me his problems but I had my own not least of all the lack of shot list. I could see it all in his eyes. I had to walk away.
When I arrived on set I saw that the whole area outside of location was absolutely flooded] with water. It was like the Somme. I went round trying to motivate people especially Mailis and Diana. In fact they did brilliantly. They were triumphant against adversity even if it did take most of the day to get through all the extras and actors.
In the end the shot list was out on time along with the dialogue for the extras. In my mythos document overview, I’d decided to make the cult depicted Pantheistic. What that means is that I have different initiates at different levels. Today, the first ones I had were the initiates of Baphomet. They turned up quickly and we started shooting on them immediately. I did loads of coverage on them and on the initiates of Ashur and Satan but the other initiates were not forthcoming. It took ages and ages. By lunch time I still did not have everyone that I needed.
At lunch I laid down on the floor of the set and went to sleep. It was a beautiful profound sleep, only woken by Magda when she returned. I then had a great conversation with Rachel Manson. She told me with heartfelt emotion “Working on this film has been the greatest experience of my life except maybe my wedding day.” It was a wonderful thing to say. It touched me deeply. I really like Rachel, she’s one of my favourite members of crew. She really cares. We are kindred spirits. She doesn’t give a shit what people think. She can have a job on my set any day of the week.
But I kept on shooting. After lunch I had all the extras but still no main cast! I kept shooting the refrains and the crowd reaction. By 4pm finally I had all my cast and was able to shoot the beginning of the scene. It had taken 7 hours. The doorman wasn’t perfect so I had to do a few takes on him. The shots of coming in looked wonderful especially the track in over Magda’s body as she came up into shot. It was amazing. When Del offered his hand and she stood up, she had an amazing serenity and humility to her. It was profound. The shot where she kneels at Del’s feet and he stands in front of the whole congregation was a big big “wow” moment. It looked absolutely brilliant, incredible, amazing.
We ended the day with the live cats and then the swinging of the cats. The first take of the swinging was absolutely atrocious but by the second one I’d improved the action greatly. On that final shot (we went 45 minutes over again), Jonny Blagrove said “It happens quite regularly” and Chiara said “Someone should ask the crew if they want to stay.” I couldn’t respond. I didn’t want to stop the momentum and make things go longer and I certainly didn’t want any more friction between Panda and myself like yesterday. Also I felt annoyed that I had to carry to can for the delays in the morning. Surely they are down to locations and production not direction?
Ironically, today was meant to be the hardest day but we completed for the first time (45 minutes late). Yesterday was meant to be easy but we didn’t complete. Madness. It was a great day. If we can do the same again tomorrow then we will have an amazing sequence. Tomorrow we will shoot the other way round, main cast first and extras second.
DAY TWENTY FOUR
When I awoke at 6.45am I had 29 texts from set waiting for me. Production had really let the costume and makeup people down. There was no hot water, no food, nothing on set. There was also no power and no heat. They were in desperate straights. I texted Steve Di Marco and Mark Forstater to get on to it immediately. The urgency was paramount.
When I got to the set at 7.15am, I discovered that Mailis, who yesterday had her makeup supplies nearly exhausted, was on her last legs with the airbrush. I told Mark this problem and he said “What do I do?”
“Find a solution. Call every makeup artist in Norwich, then Norfolk, then Suffolk, then Cambridge, then the UK, then the world. Beg for one. That’s what I would do. Do you want me to stop directing, come off set and start producing. If you don’t sort this problem out we will not complete today. It’s up to you. You’re choice even.”
An hour later nothing had happened.
I shot a POV of Magda first as it had no cast in it, just swirling smoke in which Baphomet’s visage will manifest itself. That allowed us to turn over within 30 minutes, our best day so far in that regard. Everyone laughed a beautiful satanic laugh near the end of shot for effect. But then things started to fuck up badly. The first shot on cast was meant to have the handmaidens of Lucifer in it but they were not ready. I had to change the shot to frame them out. I was in a rage, at the edge of tears. It was hateful. The shots we did were great but it should have been better. We tracked out from Del’s hand for the main part of the scene.
Sally, who had been called at 6.15am was not ready either, she should have been on set at 8am but by 11am she still was not ready – all due to lack of an airbrush. I had to change the order and shoot shots that were from different parts of the scene. I went to the shot on Magda next. In the off lines of the previous take she was outstanding. I couldn’t wait to come round on her. When I did, she didn’t disappoint.
I then shot a low wide angle shot on Del matched with a high long lens shot on Magda. She was wonderful, he was amazing. By the end of that shot, as Del pointed out, I was 6 pages in to a 9 page scene. Still one third to go. But I still had the shots on Sally, Malcolm, George and the Priest of Lucifer to go. How long would Sally take? It was killing me.
I shot the drummers action whilst still waiting for Sally. It was 12pm. In the final take, as a surprise, I sprayed them with blood to mimic cat death action. Sally finally arrived on set at 12.30pm. That was 4 and a half hours after she was due. Steve Di Marco had sorted out a replacement airbrush but fate decreed that it wouldn’t work. In the end Diana managed to help repair the airbrush partially and thus saved the day again. Panda was having kittens again but he and I are closer now after Friday’s hiatus.
At 1pm I finally completed the first set up with Sally. That shot was a 4 shot with a Priest of Lucifer on the left hand side. On action he froze. The extra who played him is a lead singer in a rock band. I thought he would be fine as he is used to performing. Malcolm, George and Del gave so much gusto he couldn’t compete. I had to do 4 takes to finally get it from him. At this point we were 6 hours behind schedule.
At lunch I slept on set like I had done the previous two days. I had a deep deep sleep and it helped recharge my batteries. I only awoke when Sam (Focus Puller) came back to check things. I’m not really eating at the moment (another notch on the belt) but I didn’t miss anything. Apparently it was just a cold pie with some nuked broccoli. Today is production’s worst day – a catalogue of errors. It really hurts me, that today, on our hardest day, things have not been stepped up.
After lunch I finished off on Malcolm, Sally, George, his slave and the Priest of Lucifer. It brought me up to the end of the second part of the scene. Just two more parts to complete. I was certain at that point that it was impossible to make up the lost time but I did my best. I told Mark Forstater that it was impossible to complete. I told Jonnie Blagrove also after his remark yesterday. But Roger was a tower of strength as usual. Panda managed to rise above the stress also and excelled. They both knew I was fighting against a tsunami of adversity.
Then I did the final goodbye between Jess and Magda. Jess’ improvisations in Babylonean were amazing for me as by chance, I knew what they meant immediately. Also, their costumes looked brilliant together. Diana has done a perfect job in costumes for this scene. As they cried the final words, I sobbed at the monitor. Chiara put her hand on my shoulder. We exchanged a look. It was beautifully heartfelt and sincere. I improvised a couple more shots to bridge a gap in coverage then we got onto prosthetics. We were 5 hours later than we should have been.
We were at 7pm and the power to the set was due to be turned off in 30 minutes. I decided to barely go outside the building, to just plough on regardless, to fight to the end, to shoot and shoot until fate intervened. The prosthetics took a while. I know Mailis wasn’t happy but I’m sure it will work.
After that, like on day one in Charing Cross Road, I went into complete overdrive, marshalling the two cameras. Sometimes splitting them apart and rehearsing one shot and shooting another, sometimes putting them back together. For most crew members things became a blur, but I couldn’t explain, just give orders. There wasn’t time. At times it seemed impossible to complete but I just kept going.
The track out with Magda on the track through the smoke was chaos with extras fumbling and groping her body, smoke filling the room. At one point a crew member was convinced they could see the face of Baphomet in the smoke, the real face! I didn’t care. I just wanted to complete the scene.
Malcolm writhing on the floor was amazing. He did an excellent job of it. The final take of the Police coming in was excellent also. It took a lot of smoke co-ordinating, that I took over for speed..
When I finally popped my head off set I found Ian Manson at the door. In an act of “Roorke’s Drift” style espirit du corps he had placed himself at the door to stop anyone coming on set to close us down. I hugged him. At that moment he showed himself as a real star, a solid, reliable companion in arms.
I then discovered that my laptop had been broken somehow today. Maybe someone kicked it over, but it didn’t work. I’d lost my phone yesterday when it fell to the floor. I’d lost my camera last week when it fell in a bowl of soup. What will I be left with at the end of this film??
Eventually I completed the scene, 4 hours behind schedule. The last shot was Del’s reaction to being caught. In it, he gave me something absolutely priceless. We were lucky to complete. The first 6 pages of the big scene are perfect, bullet proof. I had so much time on extras yesterday that I have coverage aplenty. On the last 3 pages of the scene I do not have as much coverage but what I have is absolutely amazing. Magda, Jess and Del were brilliant today. Brilliant.
DAY TWENTY FIVE
Yesterday was a day off for most people but not for camera, lighting, production as we had to de-rig from the big scene that we shot on Saturday and Sunday. I spent the morning in bed and was able to get about 8 hours sleep which was a miracle. It hasn’t stopped me being tired now, though.
After awaking I discovered that my laptop computer had been broken at the ritual. The blogs for days 23 and 24 were locked inside it’s hard drive. Ian Manson and Paul Hamer tried to get them off but to no avail. They are amazing blogs so I hope they will be recovered some time.
Late morning I had breakfast with Jess, Magda and Chiara. By chance Valentine came into the coffee shop. He told me that he had written a haiku for me after my turning up at the house the other day. I look forward to reading it. We also discussed his enigmatic smile in the final shot of the big scene and what it meant. It is quite a discussion piece. Does Del get away with it or not? The answer (I know) I cannot reveal now.
Earlier I found out something that I kind of suspected before. Mysteriously our 30 days of main unit shooting is actually only 28. I’ve added an insert half day, though, so it is now 28.5 days. That is the reason that the end of the cell shoot was so frantic. It is also the reason why technically I have barely ‘completed’ any studio shooting day. We condensed 30 days into 28. That’s 24 hours less shooting time. If we hadn’t have done this (the budget is for 30 days), then we wouldn’t have had to thrash the crew to the extent we have done. When I asked Panda why this happened he said “I thought we had to finish by the 3rd”
“No. We had to finish in Norwich by the 3rd.”
We could have shot the final days in London or somewhere else. The fact we don’t have accommodation in Norwich beyond the 3rd is the real culprit. It seems that because Mark Forstater told Panda this, the crew and I have been in an infernal situation. Anyway, everything is for a reason. I’m just not sure what the reason is now. As today is a light day I hope to pick up the inserts missing from London. On the day after the wrap party I hope to pick up the inserts missing from the cell.
On wrap on Sunday night I promised that there would be drinks last night on Production. I thought it would be the least I could do. I was late getting to the pub because an hour before I left Magda started to feel ill. She had a fever. I went to the pub but my heart was not in it. When I sat down in front of Sally and Jess, they could sense my lack of energy. Unfortunately, Sally misread my energy and incorrectly thought it was about her and the scenes she has shot. I have to correct that.
Roger arrived late in the pub. Half way through I discovered that Emily (Prosthetics) had gone back to Oxford without dropping off to Mailis the prosthetic eye piece. I had to make a snap decision and decided to send Steve Di Marco as the knight in shining armour to collect it. It’s a 6 hours round trip. Today that has meant that there is one person less in Production. Mark Forstater is angry with me and probably rightly so.
When I got back from the pub, Magda was worse, she had a terrible fever, hot then cold. She suspected a re-occurrence of the malaria she caught in Tanzania when she was 10. Jess and I laid blankets over her and held her hand. After a couple of hours, the whiskey took effect and I fell asleep. I awoke at 7.24am and immediately checked on Magda. She was feeling a little better and we talked at length. About 11.30am she felt worse again. I texted production and Adrian (2ND AD) to update them. I also asked Steve “Lofty” Lofthouse to check on her the moment she arrived on set. Lofty is not only our Location Manager, Local fixer, martial artist and guru, he is a first aider and a magician. I hoped that he would be able to perform some magic. Luckily, today the first set was a hospital. All she has to do is lie in the bed and look ill. That she will have no problem with. The second scene, though, is outside the church as she runs out into the arms of Paul. At 11.30am I wasn’t sure if she would be able to do it.
I left Magda with Chiara and Jess and went to the production office to see if I could help with anything, complete my shot list and have a discussion about the last 3 shooting days after today. I then printed off the shot list as I’d asked Chiara to stick with Magda today.
Just before I left for set, I bumped into Neil Harris, one of our Exec Producer’s delivering George’s car. He looked well sun tanned from his holiday. He looked at me with a sigh, he could see how tired I was, how much weight I’d lost.
We eventually started the scenes in the hospital, a kind of alternative reality sequence. Steve Di Marco had done great delivering the prosphetic to set but Mailis was not happy with it. In any event Paul and Magda were excellent in the first scene. Thanks to Steve Lofthouse, Magda was starting to recover. At the end of the first scene, Mark Forstater came up to me and said “The receptionist needs to go home.”
“Send her home then.” I said.
“I can’t she needs to lock up.”
“You are joking” I replied, “I’ve only had my actors for 30 minutes and in that time I have shot 2 setups. We never wait for actors on this film. We have another scene to shoot that needs a makeup reset.”
The second scene was very sweet. We broke for lunch in the middle of it. The food at the ritual scene was particularly poor in many crew members minds so that there was much speculation as to what would be served today. In the end it was chicken, rice and potatoes. The chicken was lovely which was a great improvement on the cold meat pies we’d been served on Sunday.
When we came back Emily Souders, whom I’d chosen from a photograph to play “The Nurse” (an extra) did an amazing job. She asked shyly if she could improvise and of course I said “Yes.” Her patter was sublime and gave a fantastic colour to the scene (which was terribly underwritten) such that Magda improvised “I think she likes you” to Paul after she left. After Emily completed her final shot I took her hand and said “I thought I chose an extra but I was wrong, I chose an actress and a great one.” Then I got the crew to give her a round of applause. She started today as a lowly extra, but ended up stealing her scene. Most directors wouldn’t be up for that, but for me it was wonderful. If I can, I will use her again.
I then shot one more shot before heading “down the road” to shoot the only proper crane shot in the film. Also it was our only night shoot here in Norwich. It had taken Steve Lofthouse many weeks to sort out the permissions from the police and council to close the road etc. It took a couple of hours to set up the crane, the tower, position all the vehicles and the extras. Amos was buzzing, all the camera crew were full of excitement. I was tired. I didn’t gain any adrenaline until half way through the shot and that was for other reasons.
The first couple of takes were poor for timings. A crane shot is always difficult to do. With all the extras and elements involved it was especially true. Magda started to feel ill again. I sent in Steve Lofthouse to weave his magic. Chiara came to me and said I couldn’t continue. Her belief that she knew better than I, stressed and distracted me. I’d been checking on Magda after every take and knew far better than her what condition Magda was in. I’ve worked with her for months on this role, I know her every gesture.
Due to the distraction, on the next take I forgot the cue for the background action. I hated myself for such stupidity. It cost me more time and made me have to do an extra take. Chiara refused to talk to me then. She just walked away. There was no way I could abandon a scene that had taken 5 weeks and thousands of pounds to prepare but that is what she wanted me to do. Take 9 was wonderful. All the timings were perfect. As it happened Roger and I clenched our fists in joy and said “Yes!” jointly.
Misreading the reason for my stress, Magda kept saying “I can do it better. What should I do?” After the crane shot I sent her off to rest while we rigged for the last two shots of the scene. Paul was wonderful throughout. Panther did a great job at the end keeping Magda warm between takes. The two close ups needed to complete the scene went through without much problem. Steve Lofthouse had weaved his magic again. We completed at 3.30am, just half an hour late.
Chiara went straight to bed without wanting to discuss what had happened.
DAY TWENTY SIX
Last night I slept pretty damn good, despite not getting to bed until 4am. I awoke at 9.26am and then went for breakfast with Jess and Magda. Then I went to my office, did some admin and then popped home for another nap. I had a text exchange with Chiara. I was really glad for it because the worse thing for me is stress between me and my Assistant. Soon we were back on track and embraced in the corridor.
Today is an insert day. It should have been a day off but Panda came up with the idea of doing inserts today rather than the day after the wrap party. As the latter scenario is recurrent on all my films I jumped at the chance. The inserts that we needed to do are those left over from the end of the cell scenes. Many of the crew have volunteered to come in on what is a day off. We have the full camera and lighting department, Peebs and Panda.
For once, we started on time. Magda did some good action with the chains and trying to put a final scratch on the wall. She did her own makeup. Roger came up with an amazing focus pull from the scratches to Magda’s eye on a 200mm lens. Bear is here again, he has worked nearly 3 weeks solid without a day off. He is a real pillar of strength.
At the start of the Norwich shoot I came up with the idea of giving crew members grades of initiation and governing deities for things they have done. I always like to have the world of the crew somehow mirror the world of the film I am shooting. I don’t give levels for things that are strictly their job but things that are additional, like thinking ahead or something beyond their responsibility.
With only three days to go we are nearly at the end of the race. The leaders are Roger, Bear, Panda, and then Sam Riley, Peebs and Lofty. Peebs would be leading now if it wasn’t for a fuck up in the ritual, forgetting to put Del’s pouch in his sporran during a ritual take. I am not sure yet who will win the race. The winner will have a page written about them by me on the website and will also get a special prize at the wrap party. Some people couldn’t care less. Roger and Diana couldn’t care less for different reasons. Panda is desperate to win. Peebs and Sam are most people’s favourites. In the pub people have even placed small bets on the outcome.
Steve Di Marco was used for the hands of Del for a short insert. He performed well on the second take. In the end we made the day without going over. It was a good moment. Then I shot the last scene in the cell, a clothes moving scene ending with Magda’s hand on her stomach. Both Magda and I enjoyed a return to the cell. It felt safe and pleasant to be back in the scene of so much of the film.
After wrap I went home. Most of the crew went out for drinks but I was too tired. The last couple of days had taken their toll and I needed to recharge my batteries for the final slog to the end. Jess had made a nice stir fry. I had a quiet night in chatting and laughing with Jess and Magda. It was lovely.
DAY TWENTY SEVEN
Last night was a good relaxing sleep (5 hours) apart from being woken by Mark Forstater a full hour and ten minutes before pickup time. Adrian had given him the wrong pick up time. I’ve heard this story from actors before but today I have experienced it myself.
I slept in the back of the car on the way to set. Today and tomorrow we are shooting in Fincham, a village forty minutes outside of Norwich. It is a manor house owned by the kindly Hugh, that Molly MaQuirl found us a couple of months ago. As I slept in the back of the car, I dreamt a beautiful dream, strangely it included my own funeral. I could see all the people who were there. When I awoke I had tears streaming down my face but a feeling of absolute serenity. I told Magda of the dream as we pulled up at the location. Like her spiritual insight in the cell, this was mine. As we were early we took Chiara off set to get some coffee and found a nice Kurdish café. As I live in Stoke Newington in London, I felt at home.
The first scene that we shot was Malcolm’s and Violet’s final scene. It also allowed Sally to do some great improvisations which were derived from the London rehearsals. The POV shot at the beginning of it allowed another good moment for Malcolm looking right into camera. He has stolen every scene he has been in so far and I love him for that.
The next scene was the on the unholy book. It was quite an improvisation. Roger was not happy with the design of the book, which annoyed me as I have spent more time and energy on that than any other prop in the film. I told Daniel three months ago that it was the most important prop in the film. For Roger not to be pleased with the final version gives me sorrow. As it happens, now the most important prop is the Owl feather that Magda find in the cell. And tomorrow drops by the gate.
The sun was good for people. Whilst shooting Magda and Jess in the bathroom scene I could see many of the crew outside sunbathing. In fact at times I called for things to happen and saw them from my perch at the window being played out in slow motion as people pulled themselves from chatting, applying and sunbathing. Calling Panther to set to check costumes was one such thing. I ended up running scenes 94 and 94A together with Jess brining in the clothes as Magda still sat in the bath. At one point between takes I playing a speed game of trivial pursuits with Chiara. The final answer was “Grapefruit” for me to take the win.
We then shot scene 98, the scene where Del shows Magda the ceremonial dagger. We were back to the sexual tension that had come out during the chains taking off in the cell. Magda sat there submissively while Del answered questions and talked of Surrey. Both actors were in perfect sync in terms of improvisations. It was the opposite of their first scene when Magda had spontaneously thrown a candle at Del’s head. When he went back to the drawer, the tension was most visceral. It was sublime. It occurred to me to swap scene 99 with 98 in story order in the edit. We will see if that happens.
We started scene 99 with Magda’s POV of the gate and of George washing the sports car and Sally coming home from a liaison in the village. George and I are really getting on well now and we had a great laugh after I delayed my cut until two minutes after I’d silently cut the camera. In the main part of the scene we only got to shot two inside in the octagonal room I’d chosen for Jess before the light started to die. We’d shot all the additional scenes but just failed to complete the original scenes. I picked up a few other things but basically it was the end of the day.
DAY TWENTY EIGHT
Today was meant to be the last day in Fincham but nothing is ever that simple. We started the morning with scene 99. The scene we had only got halfway through yesterday. It transpired that Panther had taken Magda’s costume back to Norwich rather than leaving it on set. I was incredulous. What a really annoying start to the day! It could have meant that we would loose 2 hours filming. I shouted at Diana when she tried to start an argument. In the end it meant that we lost about an hour. Diana and Magda came up with a solution. I embraced Diana after. I’m close to Diana now. I know the reason for her stress on day 12. It was influenced by another crew member. Not strictly her fault.
The 2-shot that ended the main action of the scene was beautiful and had Jess and Magda hugging each other. Then I went on to insert action. The number of separate inserts was enormous. Each one of the baby photos in the altar. A candle, her sister. It was a huge number in a tiny room with a very humid atmosphere. It may be the most unique way I have covered a scene so far.
Before lunch we started the second part of the escape scene. Peebs had forgotten to tell Daniel about the use of the candlestick meaning that she dropped out of the race for highest ranked crew member. Then disaster struck, on the 3rd take, Magda ended up hurting herself on something totally innocuous. She jumped back from a spider onto the corner of the trap door. Compared to the other stuff that she has done on this film like climbing up rickety pieces of furniture, fight scenes, being pulled to the ground, and others it was silly. She’s been covered in bruises for a long while but this was one final injury. Maybe it was for a reason.
Magda’s injury was exasperated by the fact Steve Lofthouse was not on set. It took a while to get hold of him. During that wait Magda was crying with pain. She also couldn’t move her leg or back properly. Jess (fight arranger) and I sat with her, put her in the recovery position. After a while she was able to walk and was lead out onto the grass. She wanted to shoot the scene but we were worried that she might have hurt her kidneys.
Panda decided for health and safety reasons that we couldn’t continue on her until Steve Lofthouse had checked her out. I thus decided to switch scenes and shoot Del in the bath. That required some rigging but I didn’t want to loose any time. Cinematically it was wonderful with Del’s mellifluous voice and a great reflection shot from Roger’s brain to end the scene.
Just as we were about to shoot the bath scene Steve Lofthouse arrived and weaved his eternal magic. She was improved but still in pain. She wanted to continue but I had already rigged for another scene and the two hours we had lost was critical. We were in a bad way. It was a guaranteed insurance claim.
After shooting the bath scene I proposed that we should shoot an extra day at Fincham Hall. The HOD’d all agreed that was the best course of action. I then decided my priority was tpo shoot Del out of the film so he could get his train tomorrow. I went forward in the escape scene and shot the huge track as she runs out. I had Martin Testar (as Roger goes on holiday tomorrow, Martin is here to get used to the shoot) on second camera on a 300mm lens for cover. The tracking shot was bravura and breathtaking. Amos did a great job. The only blemish was that George damaged his leg on take 1. He was in an enormous amount of pain. I had to change the action to use more of Del. It ended up being an inspired decision as he was so fit, fast and sleek of foot such that afterwards many crew members started calling him “Ninja”.
During the tracking shot, Vicki “Shark Nose” (Video Assist) had an asthma attack. Steve Lofthouse had to fly in to action again. Shark Nose has been a revelation. When she first turned up she was quiet as a mouse, now she humps cables with the force of a huge bull. Also she shouts “Video running” with ever increasing vigour!!
After the tracking shot I shot Jess and Sally’s insert at the window then came inside for the second mirror shot of the film, the one that mimics the third shot of scene 2. Magda is just at the threshold of escaping. There is a mirror. She hasn’t seen her reflection for 3 months. How can she avoid looking at herself?
Del’s voice was profound, of course. Just like his first line in the underground car park 25 shooting days before. Roger and others started mimicking it immediately. It was a fitting last shot for Roger. He has to go on a motorcycling holiday tomorrow morning. It has been booked for years.
We all said goodbye to him outside. I lay at his feet like the lower grade initiates lay at Del’s feet. There was no other fitting tribute that I could have given him. He put his hands on my shoulders and I got up and we embraced tenderly. Roger is perfection. The best DoP I have ever known or met. It is a grave oversight that he is not already a BSC. I hope he gets that accolade for this film. He deserves it.
I’m not sure at the moment if we will shoot both day 29 and 30 in Norwich or if day 30 will have to be done in London before we do the final beach scene. Paul is about to arrive in Norwich and I’m not sure if he will be even used. Tomorrow we are completing the Fincham Hall scenes. We start tomorrow with the end of the escape.
In any event, my job is to make sure we complete wonderful scenes, not half complete mediocre ones.
DAY TWENTY NINE
We were back at Fincham Hall for what became the last day of our shoot in Norwich. We started with the end of the escape scene. It was like a picnic. Crew members were lying on the grass. It had a “last day at school” feel. Simon Testar did a great job in the morning. We skated around each other at first like in all beginning relationships. He kept on offering me the finder as if I didn’t know exactly what a 24mm lens would look like or what it would see within its frame… He kept looking surprised when I suggested things or when I refused to rehearse. He responded well with all that but was he well aware of course that he could never be more than a mistress as Roger is sometimes called “my wife.”
We did two tracks in and a deep wide angle shot with the dog walker walking behind. The latter role was played by Hugh, the owner of the house. It was lovely to put him in the film. Del did a great job chloroforming Magda. It was suitably macabre. I added a shot of the feather, something that had become a key prop from it’s beginnings as a subtle piece of set dressing. I dressed in the right stone for the shot, another piece of detail needed.
At the gate of the house, we had the 500th slate followed shortly afterwards by the last shot of Del (Valentine Pelka). Mark Forstater quipped that “He liked doing the 500th slate here but didn’t want to do the 600th”. Hugh, the owner of the house, said how much he loved us all being there. I toasted him and the house.
As we were doing well then I got an extra wide shot of the house next. I did it as a track across from a bush to reveal. It was like a “Brideshead Revisited” shot but it looked wonderful with a great shaft of light in front of the building.
Before lunch we started setting up the first shot in the cellar after Magda had hurt herself. We had to complete the beginning of the upstairs escape before getting to the final scene, scene 100/101. It took a while. I told Magda “He’s gone Storraro”. She didn’t know what that meant so she texted Roger. He replied from France saying “Bless him.”
Whilst the crew ate lamb with mint sauce in the garden, I blissfully blogged in the living room. It was peaceful as I could only hear the distant voices of the crew, now harmonious. I was happy and confident of how things would go.
After lunch we did the start of the escape sequence. Things went slowly. I missed Roger so much. At one point Simon said “It keeps changing” referring to the action. I replied “Of course it does. Thank God it does. That’s the point” Things slowed down further as Simon’s operating wasn’t as good as Roger’s and before I knew it we had done just 5 shots in 5 hours. With Roger it would have taken just half that time. I completed the inside stuff of the escape sequence and had one more shot left. We had all but lost the light.
I got the final shot of the scene in an unprecedented 12 takes. The biggest before that was just 9 takes on the crane. How did we do 12 takes on a simple M/C/U to C/U focus pull? I’m not sure. On the last shot I stood in the place where George should have been for eye line. Panda had been there before. Magda knew I would be there. She told Mini Panda before the take. It’s hard to surprise someone who has a psychic link with you.
By the time I completed the escape (Scenes 75-79), I didn’t have the light to shoot scene 100/101. I discussed with Simon turning the evening scene to a night scene but he said it wouldn’t look very good. We didn’t have enough lights left to shoot a night scene. It was horrendous telling Jess and Sally. The latter I had put in many more scenes at the house that were not scripted but still I felt sad. So the last shot of main unit in Norwich was a shot of Magda emerging from the house. We still have to shoot another day in London and of course the second unit beach scene, but those will be in October now. In the end the shoot will be the 30 days of main unit and 2 days of second unit that were originally estimated.
Another shame of not shooting scene 100/101 is that we won’t see Diana’s costumes for that scene. All the women would have been dressed in funeral black. After our hiatus on day 12, I now have a very good working relationship with her. She is a great designer, as good as Roger is a DoP. I just hope if we work together again she will be less influenced from outside hysteria.
After final wrap was called, Panda made announcements and thanked each department. As it started Mailis walked away. That was a sad thing to see. I wish she hadn’t. Everyone got a round of applause apart from Bianca, the caterer. I didn’t say a word, I just applauded our wonderful cast and crew members, thinking that I would give Panda his moment and save all I had to say for the wrap party. So ends the only film I have made without sacking anyone. Of course, that says a lot about how good our crew has been!
As we were wrapping and I was blogging, Magda had her hair de-rigged. Out of makeup, Grace Vallorani appeared. I hadn’t properly seen Grace since the second day of rehearsals nearly 6 weeks before. Ian and Paul did a heartfelt interview with the both of us. I imagine it was the profoundest and rawest of all they have done on the film. At one point she said “He believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.”
“I was right.” I chipped in. We could have talked for hours but they only had 22 minutes of tape remaining!
As everyone was leaving, I said goodbye to Hugh. I thanked him fervently for letting us shoot in his beautiful house and promised that I would see him at the Norwich Premier if not before. Like me, he his is a huge Formula One fan. He had been at Spa last weekend (Neil Harris and I would have been there if I hadn’t been shooting The Power) and would be a Monza next week (Neil and I were there two years ago). I told Hugh he should come to Monaco next year and that we should meet there. He seemed to like the idea.
Mark had decided that the crew should call in at McDonalds on the way back to Norwich for supper. I couldn’t eat there for ideological reasons so I waited outside with Grace. Constance (Jess) seemed to enjoy the change but the sadness permeating everything was palpable. Chiara crumbled first and started to cry. Grace and I comforted her. She couldn’t articulate her feelings at all.
When the four of us got back to Norwich it was 11.30pm. We were all exhausted beyond belief. Unnecessarily I said “It’s our duty to go to the wrap party, say goodbye to everyone and share tears with them.” We all got changed and struggled to the Satanic (666 666) taxi company. I was carrying the crew presents that Chiara had done for me on the last two days.
The club chosen for the wrap party was completely wrong. Earl Ling had sorted it but at Mark’s insistence it was the VIP part of a nightclub. We should have had it in the Adam and Eve pub that I had found with Lofty. The music was so loud there was no chance that I could give a speech. I talked to individual crew members instead.
I told Bear that he was runner up in the crew initiation level contest (He gets the unholy artefact) and thanked him profusely. I told Peebs she was in 4th place but she didn’t believe me. Without the lamp and pouch mistakes she would have been in Bear’s place. I told Panda that for his age and experience he had done a great job. He replied “I can never thank you enough for what you have done for me.” He had tears in his little black eyes.
Jonny Blagrove said “You’re a damn good director. You need a better team behind you.”
Earl Ling said “I’ve never been pushed so hard. I love it. You’ve taught me so much.”
Jess (Fight Arranger) said “You’ve been amazing to work with. I’ve never had so much fun on a film before.”
Molly said “You gave me such an amazing opportunity.”
Many people said other things either with words or with their eyes. It was special.
At the end I gave out stone tablets, my personal cast and crew present. On the front they had Baphomet’s sigil (from the branding iron) and “The Power” in Babylonean. I scratched private words to each crew member on the back. The ones I gave to Daniel and to Jonnie Hurn (Paul) were most heartfelt. Peebs tried to eat hers, thinking it was chocolate.
We walked out of the night club slowly following Earl to a second club. I’d only had two drinks in 2 hours. I was very sober as well as sad. Some people left at this point but they shouldn’t have. The second club was small and breezy. It was easy to get in and out. It had a great atmosphere. I told Steve Lofthouse that he had reached level 7 on the final day thanks to sorting some gloves and a vehicle as quick as you could say abracadabra. His nickname should be “The Magician” not “Lofty”. I told him to collect from me the next day the branding iron (used on all the clay tablets) as his prize. Amazingly, I later learnt some other things that he had done for us that I didn’t know about. He truly became the most brilliant crew member on the film. And he hadn’t even come for an interview!
Soon we were in a third club. Outside Amos and I were screaming madly. Inside Chris (“Cuddles”) got the DJ to announce our arrival. He played “the Power” also over and over. The club was light, well laid out and not over crowded. Most of the crew danced whilst I chatted to different individuals, thanking them for what they had done. I told mini Bear how great her man had been on the film. I only danced for one song but it was a profound one.
The final goodbyes were in the street. Rachel was given the final clay tablet of the night. Panda and Mini-Panda was moved at the end in different ways. We all were sad. Keys said goodbye last as Grace, Constance and I walked home through the quiet Norwich streets. It was 6am.
The early morning serenity was taken over by sleep hitting me like a lightning bolt. I awoke just before my alarm. It was a rush to pack up. I did it in 20 minutes, the whole of my room, all my possessions and books. I walked with Chiara to studio. The last time I would do the walk from Waterloo Road to Magdalene street. The walk I’d done so many times before but especially first thing in the morning to check if Magda was OK after a night in the cell. Of course, both streets names are significant to me.
As we got to the studio, suddenly the man who had given me the figurine appeared. For weeks the shop had been shut with a note in its window. I said “It’s over. I am leaving Norwich in two hours.”
He told me he had just got back from holiday that second and that he wanted to show me something. He took me into his shop and let me hold his prized possession, a Napoleonic artefact of pure beauty. I promised to e mail him and that I would see him at the Norwich Premier. We embraced again.
At the studio there were many people wanting to hug and say goodbye to me. The clock was ticking. I had no key to my office. I had to rush to collect it. I went back to packing up the office. I was throwing away unneeded things, carefully packing mementos, presents, DVD’s of rushes and important information. More people came to say goodbye. I could see myself missing the train. The telephone rang. It was Constance. She was outside in a taxi with our bags. I bumped into Jonnie Hurn on the way out and added him to our taxi. Diana and Panther were the last people I embraced before getting in the taxi.
As the taxi pulled up at the station, a song from my next film with Jonnie came on the stereo. I didn’t need to say a word. I have the same connection with Jonnie that I now have with Grace. Jonnie also had the code for the tickets that I didn’t have. When I got the code the other day I told him to write it down, assuming that he would be there at that moment.
After getting the tickets we waited for Grace. Then Jess (Fight arranger) arrived. The five of us took the train. It was a long trip. At Colchester we had to get on a bus for an hour long drive to Billericay. The hour went by quickly. I gave Grace her stone tablet. Constance gave us both beautiful notes. I cried much on the trip.
At Billericay station I talked with jonnie. I said “It’s like our trip back from France with the Ginger Beacon after walking out of the forest for a final time.” I felt a similar feeling to that day, to walking out of the forest. On the next train trip, Jess got out early leaving just the four of us. I gave a stone tablet to Constance. It said “When I first met you I thought you were a star. Now I know you are.” At Liverpool street station, Jonnie left us. I hugged him. He is a true friend.
The three of us remaining took a taxi to Kings Cross. Upon arrival we all exclaimed loudly “Back in civilisation! Back in civilisation! Back in civilisation!” as we looked at the cars and life rushing by. Grace and I said goodbye to Constance and we all hugged. Constance had been a huge discovery for me and had been perfection all shoot. I was most fortunate to find her, most fortunate to direct her in her first film. It will not be her last.
Then Grace and I got on the tube. At Finsbury Park I said goodbye to her. We hugged for a long time. It was a heartfelt moment. It was her conviction that I had built the whole film upon. She’d given me everything. No-one could ever have asked for more. I will never forget that. I owe her an eternal debt of gratitude. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.
Monday morning was devastating, no-one to direct, no questions to answer. The sadness was punctuated by occasional goodwill texts and visits from Daniel dropping off props.
I’ve lost nearly two stone on the shoot and am starving hungry but barely have the energy to eat anything. I presume it will take a few days to recover…
“The Power” is a voyage and return story and what I’d shot up till today was the voyage. Today we did the return. It was our first proper shooting day since leaving Fincham Hall. The crew was back up to almost full strength and I was shooting with Magda and Paul. When I arrived I had an immediate shock. Jonnie Hurn (Paul) had spoken to Panda about wrap time and had asked to be wrapped at 12.20am. My immediate response is “Absolutely impossible” as call time was 2pm. Panda wanted me to try as Jonnie’s commitment was impossible to change. I agreed but said “We have gone long on every shooting day on this film so far. What makes you think today will be an exception?” I further agreed to shoot the Christmas scene last as that doesn’t need Paul, even though it was a nightmare for Daniel and Peebs.
After a small delay with makeup, we started with coming home after the hospital scene (41d). It took a couple of takes for Magda to get back into her rhythm but when she did she was as great as ever, improvising a wonderful pushing over of her book whilst Paul watched from the doorway. Midway through the filming Chiara had to leave as she felt ill. I was sad that she would miss the end.
Then we went upstairs to shoot one of the most Hillsian scenes in the film; Paul and Magda were under the covers, the warm light coming through the sheets as they billow slightly in the breeze; an intimate tender love scene. Pavel (our new Gaffer) did well with the breeze. The sequence, I hope, will be poignant and and will play well in a Cinema. Shooting a scene like that is one of my favourite things on a film set. Shooting with a reduced crew is always a good thing in terms of the process but one so intimate is a special joy for me.
Next up was scene 12. A scene I’d discussed with Caroline right after she saw the rushes for scenes 10 and 13. Her feelings were the same as mine about it’s denouement. I’d told both Paul and Magda that things needed to be simple and that the main power of the scene was in its contrast to the ones around it. Magda gave me what I needed when her face lit up at Paul’s arrival and when she kissed his shoulder as they shared toast.
During scene 12, I could feel the pressure from Panda that he chose to exert. It was already dark and we were behind on his new daily schedule even though we were ahead on the original one. Magda quipped “Are we going to make the day?”
The final bedroom scene was 104 part 2. Roger and I had envisioned 4 setups but we tried to achieve it in one powerful long take. If we made it then that would gain us time. Whilst Magda had her makeup and hair changed by Mailis I told her things I’d been waiting months to tell her. All the stuff between the scenes, the contents of her dreams, the things that were happening on different levels, the reasons for her change.
The scene itself was hard to achieve. Pavel had problems with the timing of the lights and we experienced camera jams that had been gone from the shoot for a long while. Then we had a run out. Paul and Magda were doing great until they tried to rush to help us. That necessitated another take. Soon we were way behind schedule. We just managed to complete the scene before Jonnie had to leave. As Mark Forstater took him, I convened a HoD meeting to vote on what we do next. We decided to shoot the Xmas scene and then shoot the final scene tomorrow.
Panda felt that I’d been slow but there was no way I could have finished the final scene in time even without the camera problems. There’s NO way to rush something like that. It’s the most important scene in the film, what people will be left with at the end, the point of it if you like. I’d told him “Absolutely impossible” at the start of the day. The fault was in not telling Jonnie earlier the estimated wrap time, not in failing to achieve the undesirable.
It took a long while to be ready for scene 104 part 1, but eventually we did it, even if Daniel forgot to put something in the dressing. It’s a pity we have to come back tomorrow but like with Magda’s injury on day 28, it may well be for reason.
DAY 0.5 (2nd Unit day)
I am glad that the last few weeks are finally over. It has been a long wait until now. We are finally able to complete principal photography. I have spent the last few weeks chasing up contracts on crew members who for some reason had not signed them; on chasing up invoices that have been overcharged and reducing them; on chasing outstanding investments. Also during filming there were no proper cost reports so getting to the bottom of the final cost of the film has also taken a good while. Katja’s main focus during filming seemed to be the amount of stock shot whilst other things were not as important.
I have also spent part of the last month going to the cutting room and viewing rushing with Caroline Richards (the editor) and discussing choices of takes for different parts. We’ve not done a paper edit but it’s the first stages of what we have to do. I’d agreed before shooting to deliver a fine cut by Christmas but the recent delays may have put this back. In any event we did a 45 second teaser trailer that will be shown at the American Film buyers Market in Los Angeles next month. It’s a real snapshot, a shot in the dark even and barely shows anything of the film but it will be the first view that people see.
We were shooting today near to where I live. The day started well with Steve Di Marco (The Kid) bringing the prop car early. Tim and Amos brought the equipment van early also. Amos and I hugged manly. Daniel then came to look through my book collection for books for Paul and Magda’s house. Chiara helped sort, pack and catalogue them. When we got to call time Roger was delayed by traffic. This used the spare time we had in the day’s schedule in one go. “Nothing changes” I thought.
At the start of shooting there was much jollity, like a return from summer holidays. It was nice to be back with such familiar faces. Sam, Chiara, Molls, James, Peebs, Daniel, Panda, Roger and Rhiannon. The latter had been our London Stills photographer whom we should have taken to Norwich but didn’t. That decision I still rue.
The first insert was on the unholy book. There was something I needed to do with Del’s finger that we hadn’t had time to do on the day we shot scene 90. It went well. Then we shot on the unholy knife and some foliage to complete scene 11. At the end of which we shot slow motion shots of leaves to use a few frames of them. I know this is short scene is one that Caroline will have a lot of fun on and will really be her forte.
Finally at 7pm we went outside to shoot inserts for scene 10, something I have been trying to do since the final day of the London shoot (day 3). We started on the child lock shots, then went on to Magda’s hands on the doors, her phone falling to the floor. During these inserts, Alastair Dickson, one of our Executive Producers, turned up with his wife to watch the action. His wife, Belinda, came to stand by me at the monitor. The shot was George’s finger on the child lock button. I quipped that she had arrived just in time to see “the smallest shot in the film”. Despite that she seemed to enjoy the experience and had many interesting questions.
It was not until 10pm that I finally got to shoot the first proper scene, Paul crossing the road with the shopping, Scene 106. I put Agnieska, my polish neighbour, in the shot as an extra. As the street was live, it was a bit chaotic, like in Charing Cross Road on day 1. I got some great stuff with buss passes in frame etc. The shot will be in the film for a few seconds, its function to give a new metre to the final sequence. Although seemingly insignificant, I believe there should be nothing that doesn’t have importance in a film.
As we were setting up for the road scene, Yoram Halberstam, another of our Executive Producers appeared. I’d offered him the part of the shopkeeper as he looks suitably ethnic and loves to do a bit of acting. Also it was the second time he has had a cameo in my films, the first time being as a motor cycle courier in Do Elephants Pray? When he arrived, I immediately offered up to Yoram, one of Moll’s famous hair massages as a bonus.
After shooting the crossing of the road, we relocated to the shop at Clapton Pond. On the way I shot a couple of inserts for scene 6 that have been outstanding for 29 shooting days. At the shop we got our second major delay of the day. Apparently the equipment van had terrible trouble getting out of my drive and thus scratched the side. I asked Peebs to cover over the damage.
We only started shooting the shop scene at about midnight and people were all tired. Panda came to me to say he wanted to put the call time back for tomorrow. I told him it would lead to disaster but he was determined and I let it go. Yoram and Paul did a great job. The scene, despite being simple, was not short so I did extra coverage so that I can reduce it in the cutting room.
After wrapping in the shop, we had two more inserts to do. It was after 2am and we both wanted to go. The cast and most of the crew dispersed into the night whilst Roger, Sam and I battled on with Tim Leach standing at the ready. The first shot was an insert for scene 10 that Roger had come up with whilst filming on day 3 and that we hadn’t quite had time to do then nor since. The second one was the final insert for scene 6. Whilst we filmed, I could feel all of us (except Molls) willing the filming to a close.
We wrapped at 3am and dispersed as quickly as possible. Finally the car has been shot out of the film.
DAY 0.75 (2nd Unit day)
On Monday I met Marie (Mini Panda), Paul and Magda at St. Pancras Thameslink to go to Gatwick. I had arranged for everyone to meet at Gatwick at 3.25pm as I knew it would be a real trauma going through customs. Roger, Sam and Steve (The Kid) were there waiting for us. The amount of baggage that we had was enormous. Roger had only got the equipment down to 6 boxes rather than the 5 I’d wanted. Also there was a ceiling on the weight of specific items which forced us to rearrange things.
It took a while to negotiate and pay for the excess luggage. During this process people realised why I had set the meeting time so early. It took a good while. The overage hurt especially as I now know our budget situation – which is in an even worse state now because we had to shoot an extra half day yesterday. After that we went to customs. I’d been like an unstoppable hurricane in arranging a special hand check in for our film stock so that it didn’t have to go through the X-ray machine. In the proceeding week I’d spoken to everybody at Gatwick and had the mobile numbers of absolutely everyone concerned including the head of security and of operations.
The man we were assigned to check the film stock was kind and nervous of exposing it. That was lucky as we were running a bit late and if he had checked every can we might have missed our flight. The flight was a nice time to relax. As we were late to get on the plane we didn’t get to all sit together.
At the other end, things went smoothly. An ill tempered scouse guy picked us up. I’d decided to use a transport company when Steve had been too afraid to drive in Spain but it was for the best as it would have been hard driving to the middle of nowhere at night. Eva Norin (our local fixer and Sally’s sister in the ritual scene) met us at a roundabout outside of Estepona and took us to our beach house on Playa Paraiso. The sound of the sea pervaded. It was a beautiful setting. The house was only 10 yards from the beach and my room at the top of the house had a beautiful view across the pitch black Mediterranean. Could I glimpse Africa in the distance?
The seven of us had a late dinner in the beach house. Many toasts were made. It was amazing for me to finally get to the last part of the shoot. I said “When we started to gear up for this film at the end of May, shooting the beach scene was on the far distant horizon, almost a dream but now we are here.”
I retired to my bedroom and slept with the windows wide open so that I could be enveloped by the sound of the sea washing on the shore. It reminded me of the night I’d spent in the Saltzkammergut in Austria before shooting the lake scene in “The Poet”. That night my bedroom (chosen specifically 2 months before on the recce) was over a waterfall and I also kept all the windows open all night.
We awoke at 8am and had breakfast. There was more than enough sustenance provided by Eva. There was idle chatter about Bianca and the catering in Norwich. We even saved some for snacks later. We started shooting at 9am, all of us having split jobs. As well as directing I was also Production Manger and Sound Recordist. Mini Panda did Script Supervision, Wardrobe and Art department as well as 1st AD ing. Steve was also Boom Operator and Production Assistant.
I started with the pan down from the sky that had always been in my minds eye since writing the script. Then we did a long lens shot of Magda in C/U on a 200mm lens framed against a palm tree. At one point Magda became a little light headed from smoking the prop joint but this added to the moment. The weather was perfect, the sun beating down on us. This was all the more unusual as the days before we arrived had been stormy and the long range prediction had been for rain. Roger had lit a candle for sun the week before and I had also prayed for it. We had been blessed.
After shooting Magda’s point of view of Paul fooling around in the water, flippers flying, we had a quick sandwich break. Magda did the sandwiches. As Sam was loading as well as pulling focus, this gave the day a leisurely pace. After a small delay Magda quipped “Will we make the day?”
“Nothing is more certain” I replied.
After lunch we shot even longer lens shots of Paul and Magda in the water. The intention was to blow the background of the sea to give a feeling of timelessness and infinity. I hope that my intention is gratified. We were on a 600mm and then a 1200mm lenses. The scene (number 66!) we were shooting was Paul’s proposal of marriage. As the scenes we shot in the cell featured the wedding ring so heavily, I’d decided long ago that Paul should give her the ring in this scene. I’d taken it from Magda on Sunday so it could be a surprise for her but in my heart I knew she would expect this surprise. I’d not known exactly how Paul would give it until Jonnie came up to me on that evening with the idea that he finds it in the water. I loved it and agreed immediately. It certainly explains why the ring is so simple.
In the morning I was horrified when I discovered that the ring was broken. Hastily I got Eva to repair it with superglue. At one point during the shooting Paul truly lost it in the water and had to find it for real. At that point Magda suggested that it should be an offering for the sea. I convinced her against that idea as it is a key prop and it’s time to leave may not be yet. Then miraculously Paul found it. My guess is that there will be a time in the future to make an offering of the ring.
As we were finishing shooting one way, clouds started to appear. After a quick wait we completed that direction and moved to the other side to shoot reverses on the same lenses. We shot between the breaks in clouds. Magda again quipped “Will we make the day?” I replied the same answer.
It was enjoyable sound recording. I’d not done that job for 15 years. At the start Steve had no idea what to do and where to point the boom but by midday he was on perfect form, wading deeply into the water with Marie trying desperately to cable bash behind him.
After shooting all the reverse coverage we moved up on to a rock that Roger had carved “The Power” on to. We shot some cutaways of palm trees etc that will make the scene look more exotic. In the script it says “Beach – Dominica” and on this deserted beach (not one tourist all day) it easily could be Dominica with the way we shot it apart from the lack of white sand.
The final shot, slate 568, was an insert of the ring. Roger wanted to wait for a huge amount of cloud to lift so that it would match the other shots better. Magda thought it would never clear so they had a bet, Roger saying that the cloud would clear within 20 minutes and Magda saying that it would not. In the end it cleared on exactly 21 minutes so I declared it a draw.
In the end we wrapped an hour early. It was the very first time that had happened in 30.5 main unit and 3 second unit days on the film. Roger had joked “We’ll get it right by Christmas” since day 0 and he was almost right. Why had it taken so long? I think kit was due to the lack of preparation caused by the delays inherent in waiting endlessly for the final green light. Trying to squash a 30 day shoot into 28 days in Norwich was certainly an idiotic mistake and one I will never entertain in the future. Square pegs do not go in round holes.
Normally I would feel terribly sad at the end of a shoot but somehow I didn’t. I felt calm. As Mailis was not with us, Magda couldn’t remove the hair extensions and so she continued to look like Magda but act like Grace.
I wrapped the sound equipment whilst Roger and Sam wrapped the camera equipment and The Kid and Mini Panda tidied up. Whilst The Kid spent endless time in that bathroom, I chose what Mini Panda and Grace wore for the third wrap party – the Spanish wrap party. As I’m never someone who can’t make a decision, I get a kick out of choosing what people wear.
Eva arranged for two taxi’s to take us to the Polo House in Marbella where Nigel Goldman, our Executive producer had decided to host the party. I gave her a stone tablet, one of the few remaining crew presents, as her job was now done. I now, only have a few left.
At the party, I told Nigel that he had before him the veterans of the Old Guard, the survivors of the final battle of the campaign then at the first toast I shanghaied it and told everyone why Nigel was so important to us, how he had been the first investor to commit to the film and that his commitment was the foundations on which I had built the structure that became the power. In reality of course, it was also Grace’s early commitment which allowed me to even build.
The food was sublime and the menu had the “The Power” logo on the top of it. The napkins had “PH” for Polo House not Paul Hills as Sam thought! Nigel was an absolute consummate host. There was much joviality and hilarity. Grace wanted to be in every photo. It was a good contrast between the inexorably banging music of the Norwich wrap party and the kitchen sink simplicity of the London wrap party.
Outside I had a pleasant and heartfelt conversation with Sam. He told me I was one of the most Charismatic people he had ever met. I felt a bit humbled by that and we hugged. He’s a great guy and an excellent focus puller. I’d love to work with him again.
I went from the wrap party to Caesars to play poker with the Marbella Mob. The Kid, Grace, Mini Panda and Eva followed me. Grace won 43 euros by turning over trip Jacks, I was up just 2 euros at the end after loosing a 66% chance of being up 200 euros. Mini Panda lost 34 euros. It was a good night, especially for The Kid, even though he didn’t play a hand.
We dropped Grace at her mothers in Fuengirola (coincidentally not far from where I wrote the script) and said a heartfelt farewell before the rest of us travelled back up the coast. When we got back it was 5.10am. I set my alarm for 5.40am as the minibus was picking us up at 6am. The time in bed was delightful despite being just a few minutes. I could imagine the sea washing over me.
The next morning it was tough, getting everyone out in time. The house wasn’t cleaned enough that’s for sure. During the trip back down the coast, I slept like a baby. Time whizzed by. When we arrived at the airport I was in a jubilant mood. I laughed loudly whilst we went through the rigarmarole of getting the luggage checked in. The woman behind the desk was a nightmare but I didn’t let her break my stride.
After a quick breakfast, I ushered everyone towards customs for the bigger nightmare. As I was staying a couple of extra days to play some more poker I entrusted the rushes to Sam. I waited until they had gone through customs before leaving. Soon, I could see him and Jonnie having problems with the officials so I walked through ignoring the protestations of various jobsworths. I called for the “Grande Jefe” and explained the problem to him in imperfect Spanish. I gave him untold explanations of why the hand check had to be done. He couldn’t get a word in edgeways. When he found out that our film was a horror film, his demeanour changed. I waxed lyrically then about Spanish cinema. The Grande Jefe took us into a room and showed me a clip he had on his computer of “Dawn of the Dead”, both his and my favourite zombie film. Sam showed his assistant how to operate the changing bag. He was nervous but I kept talking until we were.
Soon Sam was through customs and was running towards the terminal with Jonnie in pursuit. Roger texted me that they had just made the plane. It was real relief – the proper end of the shoot. I walked straight out of the airport and got into taxi back up the coast. I stayed with a friend but found myself sleeping until the night and the first bit of action was commencing. For the next couple of days I played a lot of poker and backgammon. Lady luck (and the croupier) were kind and I won a little. The next day I hooked up with The Silver Fox, one of the best poker players on the coast, and the whole reason I started coming to Southern Spain originally – it was in his apartment that I wrote the script.
On the final night I played in the Torquemada Casino, a casino that has always been lucky for me and my friend Marc. Despite the constant distraction of a very loud Australian girl at the same table, at the end of the night I was up 100 euros making it 122 euros profit in total. Not a big haul by any means but at least it was a profit.
Now is the beginning of post production and the start of the third process of making a film. Although not as fulfilling as actually shooting, I am looking forward to it very much. It will initially be a time to relive the shoot but then to perfect and polish the amazing footage that I have seen come to life.