Moth | Production Diaries

Simon Corris - Director's Diary | Producer's Diary | Runner's Diary

  • Sometime in early 2002

  • Another short..?
  • Ghosthunter, our first 35mm short film, was completed in late 2000 and is now with its sales agent and on the festival circuit. Meanwhile I’ve just completed reading through various treatments from Clifton Stewart, one of the writers we’ve been developing film projects with. We’re continually on the lookout for other feature films to add to our slate. One of the scripts he’d sent us was for a short film called, “The Moth”. It was an enjoyable read but why did Clifton send it to us? He knew we weren’t looking for another short.
  • Anyway, I put it to the bottom of the pile and get on with something else.
  • Sometime in May 2002

  • I can’t get this short film out of my mind.
  • We’ve been very busy since we completed “Ghosthunter” developing several feature film projects - but it takes so much time. If we’re not careful we’ll be joining the next generation of “Cappuccino Producers”, and spend all our time talking about our pending projects without making any. Filmmakers can only call themselves filmmaker if they actually make films. We don’t have the money to make our first feature film yet so how about another short?
  • During one particularly low moment I broach the subject with Alison, “Absolutely not” she replies!
  • …but I can’t get this short film out of my mind…
  • Producer's Diary
  • Monday 12th August, 2002

  • Storyboards...
  • My first storyboarding session with Production Designer, Luke Smith. We've been meeting and discussing the production design for some time and we've finally settled on a set design for the main action of our next short film, “Moth”.
  • Throughout the year we’ve been developing “Moth” with Clifton. We all decided that it would be a great opportunity to put a short film into production that compliments the feature film projects of the same writer, producer, director team. We’ve set a date for the beginning of January and we’re currently trying to squeeze the film into a budget we can afford. Matt Twyford is also on board as Visual Effects Supervisor, he supervised all the effects for “Ghosthunter” and it feels great to be working with him again on what will be an even more challenging project.
  • It’s a bizarre process, filmmaking. Until you turnover on the first day of principal photography you don’t actually know for sure whether you’ll ever make the film. In the meantime you aim at a date, climb aboard the roller coaster and start that slow laborious climb to the top of the hill. When you finally coast over into the big drop of principal photography you’re on the ride until you climb off, dizzy at the end, with your film print clasped in your white knuckles. However, that’s what makes it all such a thrill and here we are queuing at the “4 months from this point” sign.
  • Luke has built a scale model of the main action of the film, Tommy’s bedroom, which we decide will be the backdrop to our digital storyboards. He has also managed to acquire scale figures for the two main adult characters in the film but has been unable to find a scale figure for the child character of Tommy. We decide to cut out our own 2D figure.
  • I arrive at Luke’s house for a 10am start. Luke has set up the model on a small table in his lounge. We have two angle poise lamps, a couple of torches and I've brought my laptop (to receive the digital photos when we'd finished) and a small snake light which attaches to the USB port. I thought this may be a very useful light source. I want to get a complete set of visual effects storyboards to Matt Twyford as soon as possible, so I decide to start shooting all the VFX shots of the film first.
  • In preparation for the storyboard shoot I've already gone through the film and made a complete shot list, written long hand, into the script itself. This is how I'd prepared for "Ghosthunter". I now looking forward to taking the whole process one step further with a full set of storyboards for "Moth". As this film is much more challenging than "Ghosthunter", from a directing and VFX point of view, the storyboards are extremely important to me.
  • I've never completely storyboarded a film before, so I'm looking forward to the experience. I've tried to storyboard the traditional way, by describing each shot to a storyboard artist but it felt a little like trying to communicate with a police sketch artist. The format is to roughly sketch out each shot and then let the artist flesh out each frame sometime later. I found this process frustrating as it was taking a very long time to complete individual scenes and as the artist was working for free I wasn't in a position to hasten him along. This digital route is an attempt at an alternative process.
  • What I find with today’s process is that it is immediately clear whether a shot is working; we position each figure, light the model and snap away. We'd discussed in advance how flexible each character should be and had decided to try and give ourselves as much mobility in each figure as possible. Unfortunately the scale figures we’re using are moulded plastic, so Luke has cut each figure at each joint so that we can manipulate the limbs (sticking them with black tac) in to a relevant position. This is almost successful but as the day progress the figures become more unstable and keep falling over. Perhaps we should have built each of them a model Winnebago to relax in between shots!
  • One thing that quickly becomes apparent from the shoot is how effectively we can light each set-up and experiment with the mood of each shot. I can also experiment with camera angles. By the end of the day we've taken over a 100 photographs which I download onto the laptop.
  • Tuesday 13th August, 2002

  • Following yesterday’s work, I select the photograph I want to use and crop the frame to 1.85:1 in Photoshop. I then import each frame into PageMaker where I've set up a page template for all the storyboard information, shot number, scene number, VFX notes, etc... I also find I am able to re-frame, zoom and crop within each photograph to create new shots.
  • A very quick and satisfying process. A very happy director.
  • 19th August - 4th November, 2002

  • Between the above dates over a further 5 sessions Luke and I work to complete the storyboards. In between the shoots I use Photoshop and PageMaker to gradually expand the boards into the finished set. We also get more adventurous as we learn how to handle each photo session. In advance of each shoot I tell Luke if we need anything special, one of the characters in a certain position, props that a character may use, vehicles or extras in the frame, etc. Once I arrive for the shoot everything is usually ready for us to begin. If we need anything additional as we are shooting Luke disappears upstairs to his workshop and quickly makes whatever we need.
  • We also try to light each shot with a relevant mood for each scene and gel each light source accordingly. Luke has a set of gel samples and we use whatever is appropriate, orange for the street lamp, blue for Tommy's room, etc. We also improve our characters mobility. We decide to buy another two figures for the adult characters and Luke cuts fewer joints into them. Each shoulder joint & head can be manipulated leaving the body and legs alone; this makes them much more stable. Tommy's figure also improves. In the early shots he is just a basic 2D figure, by the end of the shoot he is a fully painted character. We also add to the production design of the model. Luke adds scale pictures and posters to Tommy's bedroom wall and I make a scale lamp out of a grain of wheat bulb and a 9v battery. Now we’re just showing off!
  • We shoot 962 frames totalling 216mb of disk space over 6 days. “Moth’s” storyboards consist of 226 individual frames making up 94 separate shots.
  • I find them extremely useful. I am able to experiment with camera positions and lighting moods. I am also able to constantly reassess the shot list and make various changes as we get closer to production. The Production Office also gets a great deal of use out of them; they are able to schedule from them and prepare each day’s shot list from them. Each day they are pasted onto a large board on the sound stage. Psychologically they are also useful; as each shot is completed they are removed (rather too gleefully) from the studio board (but immensely satisfying). It is easy to see at a glance how we are doing or what still remains. Also they are very necessary for VFX. I’m able to give Matt a copy of every frame in which visual effects appears. He can see immediately how the VFX shots are intended to look and he bases all his VFX breakdowns on the storyboards.
  • Saturday 8th December, 2002

  • Auditions...
  • Today we hold our first round of auditions, looking for the 7 year old boy to play Tommy, the lead character in Moth. Alison (Producer) and I see seven boys at a local Stagecoach School. We talk long and hard about the best way to audition them. We decide that improvisation is the best way forward. This will allow me to see them in their own world. I want to see the intensity, focus and feistiness that Tommy displays throughout the film. We see them all individually and both Alison and I improvise with them. Although none of today’s boys are appropriate it is a very useful 1st audition. However we still have to find the boy to play the part - possibly the scariest thing about the whole production.
  • We also realise that we should move our provisional production dates back 6 weeks. Our original dates in January conflict with the new school term and will mean us having to provide a registered (expensive) tutor for the two boys (Tommy and his double) and tutor them for 3 hours each day. Moving production to half term in February means (big and bold note to producer) we save lots of money, (secret note to director) and buy more film stock.
  • Friday 3rd January, 2003

  • Auditions round two.

    We have enlisted the help of Laura Dickens, a casting director to help us find the boy for the film. She has had a lot of experience casting children having recently worked on the Harry Potter films and “About A Boy”. She started by passing over agents and their client lists for us to go through. Initially Alison and I choose the boys from their photographs but we soon realise that this is fruitless, how can we possible judge ability from a photo? Casting children isn't the same as casting adult actors. With adults you can make a judgement based on their CV's but as most 7 years old children haven't done much, this isn't possible. Primarily it is their character and personality which will help us to choose. We decide to see all the children whose details have been submitted to us.
  • Many of the children come from stage schools and we can go along to each school and see them there. For those boys not at a stage school we set up a round of auditions at Diorama 2, just north of the Euston Road. For these auditions we decide to structure the session more. We ask all the boys to arrive at the same time and while their parents wait we hold a 45 minute workshop. We include group improvisation and games. We then select those that impress us the most and see them individually. This is a much more productive audition than the first round. Laura is also with us and at the end of the day we feel that we have two strong possibilities for Tommy.
  • Once we get home Alison and I look at the video footage again. We want to make sure that the two boys we’re keen to see again are the right choice. It is only whilst watching the individual sessions on video that we notice a third boy, Joseph Friend. We remember that he was good during the improvisation but he didn't stand out enough against the two initial boys we liked. However, when we watch the video playback he blows us away - the intensity in his eyes, the vulnerability he displays and his excellent improvisational skills – we add him to our re-call list.
  • We now have three very strong possibilities. We are a very happy director and producer.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Wednesday 8th January. 2003

  • Anna Scher Stage School for our third round. After the success of the previous round we make minor adjustments to the workshop section of the audition. We remove exercises that we felt didn't work so well and give more focus to those that did. We decide to recall only one boy from today’s audition.
  • Thursday 9th January, 2003

  • Sylvia Young Stage School for the final round of auditions and the warmest and nicest audition room so far. We make no changes to the workshop but as we only have four boys to see here we also see them all individually. The four boys do very well - despite a member of the Sylvia Young staff re-organising her filing cabinets in the background – however we choose none for recall.
  • Saturday 18th January, 2003

  • Recalls...
  • We have four boys to see and we are confident of making our choice out of one of them. We already have a favourite boy in mind and we structure the audition to see each of them over 45 minutes. This will allow us to get to know them a little better and gives me a chance to work with them on the script. Each boy has been sent a copy of the script in advance but I ask them not to learn it as I’m concerned about them losing their natural spontaneity. We’ve arranged for an actor friend of ours, Richard Long, to come in and improvise with the boys. He will be playing Bill, Tommy's step father. Alison will improvise with them as Tommy's mother. I also want to put each boy in an improvised argument situation with both Alison and Richard to see how he will react.
  • The first two boys do very well and the recall process looks like it is working well. Yet neither displays all the qualities I am looking for. Richard, Alison and Laura feel the same. Our favourite boy is due in next. All of us are desperate for him to do well. However it isn't to be. He just can't respond the way I want and is too intimidated by Richard and Alison. All in the room are willing him on. He has such vulnerability and a lovely natural demeanour but he just needs too much work. I feel so disappointed. Alison comes back into the room having taken him back to his parents and I suspect she is hoping that she is the only one that has doubts and that I will suddenly say how perfect I think he is. Despite being a lovely actor he is simply not right for the part. This is hard to digest as up until now we’ve all associated him with the part.
  • We have one boy left to see. If we come away today with no Tommy we have to start all over again. It’s mid January; we’re due to start filming in four weeks! We also have to cast Tommy's mother and we can only do that once we cast Tommy!
  • Joseph, the last boy of the day comes in. I set up the first improvisation; Joseph sits down across the table from Richard and fixes him with a most intense stare. The moment he starts to improvise with Richard the atmosphere in the room changes. Richard, for the first time that day, doesn't have to lead the audition, Joseph gives back as good as he gets. I could have given him the job straight away. Next I ask him to improvise with Alison as his mum. In this scene he talks about his real dad. He does it beautifully, with such vulnerability and emotion. Finally I want him to have a stand up row with Richard and by the end of the improvisation Joseph is throwing the table around the room. Joseph is four foot four inches tall and eight years old, Richard is six foot four inches tall and 35 years old, yet Joseph is completely unfazed. We have found our Tommy.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Wednesday 29th January, 2003

  • Adult auditions...
  • We’ve thought long about casting Angela and now that we've cast Joseph we have an image in mind for her. We also want an established actress to play the part so rather than hold general casting sessions we ask Laura to make suggestions. We whittle her list down to 4 actresses we think could play the part. Although they all have great reputations I really want to meet them before making a choice. A short film is a unique situation and I want someone who is committed to the ethos rather than an actor who is simply filling time.
  • Alison suggests we set up meetings with them all but I don't think that their agents (or the actors themselves) would be amenable to this. Who do we think we are, after all this is simply a short film? However all but one are incredibly supportive, respond extremely well to the script and are more than happy to meet for a chat. The one actress who fails to turn up feels that she is too established and wants us to make her an outright offer.
  • I don't want to audition the actresses (their CV's make it perfectly clear they are more than capable of playing the part) it is simply an opportunity for us to meet each other and make sure we all get along. I am amazed at how easily Alison sets up the meetings but then this is exactly how a good producer works (producers note to director – OK, you get your extra film stock). The meetings go very well but neither of us feel that we’ve found the girl to play Angela.
  • Friday 31st January, 2003

  • At BAFTA again to see one actor for Bill and Julia Ford for Angela. However just before we set off for London the whole production is put in jeopardy. We receive a call from Shepperton saying we may lose the sound stage! Our entire journey into London consists of Alison and I going over every possibility to keep the production on track. We are only two weeks away, with the set build expected to start in 3 days. Shepperton Construction is expecting my call today to confirm this. Will we have to now look for a location for Tommy’s bedroom or try to approach another studio? Either way we don't have a lot of time.
  • Nonetheless our priority now is to meet the two actors. We meet Julia first and as soon as she walks in I know she's the one. I struggle to fill an appropriate amount of time before letting her go, not least because my mind is on Shepperton and whether the production may fold. I feel so depressed yet try to sell the project to Julia. The moment she leaves Alison turns to me and says, "We’ve found our Angela". She disappears to make a few calls regarding a new studio and also to Shepperton to see if anything has changed. Alison returns as I'm talking to the actor we're seeing for Bill. I try to read her face but she's giving nothing away. Once we’re alone she says that she's been unable to talk to anyone and has left messages to have her calls returned. We debate some more when her phone rings, its Simon Windsor (Production Accountant) and Alison lets him know the situation. However she asks him to keep it under his hat until we know for sure. The phone rings again and this time it's Noel Tovey, our contact at Shepperton, "I think I've found you a stage" he says. Noel has been working all day trying to juggle availability around to keep our production on track, he can’t confirm with us until next week but this call certainly takes the pressure off. We realise just how behind us Noel and Shepperton are and that he is doing all he can on our behalf. We are so relieved Alison immediately phones Julia's agent to offer her the part.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Tuesday 4th February, 2003

  • Pre-production...
  • At BAFTA again today to meet several DoP's, having gone through 2 since Oct last year to work and then family commitments. I have been busy talking to various agents who are all very enthusiastic about the project and make various suggestions to us. I have a great time talking with the prospective DoP’s today about “Moth” but it’s hard to make a decision with the uncertainty of the studio hanging over us. However we have to proceed as if all is going to plan – just in case it does.
  • Richard Dunmore (Production Manager) turns up and, in between meeting the DoP’s, he shows me photographs of three potential locations. Two of them look very interesting and Richard goes away to make the arrangements for a recce this Friday. Shepperton are still not confirmed, although they haven’t said no yet, which is a good sign. Construction is still on hold which could cause us problems later on but there is nothing we can do about this at the moment. However Julia Ford has now accepted the part and it looks like we’ve found our DoP.
  • As soon as I finish at BAFTA I dash over to north London to meet Alison for a screening of “Ghosthunter” for the Rocliffe New Film forum. After the screening there is a Q&A and we get very positive feedback. We even manage to sell a few books. It’s great to be able to forget about “Moth” for a moment and enjoy a drink in good company.
  • Wednesday 5th February, 2003

  • I phone Tim Palmer’s agent to offer him the job of DoP. His agent is delighted and I put the phone down hoping that Tim will be too. Shortly after Tim phones and I arrange to meet him tomorrow, there’s so much to go through with very little time, however Tim has a great deal of experience and I’m confident he’ll be committed to the project.
  • Still no news from Shepperton.
  • Later on in the evening we finally confirm the full cast list for “Moth” with Brett Fancy accepting the part of Bill. I have a long talk with him in the evening about the part ahead of rehearsals this weekend. He’s very enthusiastic about the whole project and delighted to be a part of it. An hour later I put down the phone and Alison phones Jess (Costume Designer) who has been chomping at the bit with only two days left to shop for Brett’s character, ahead of the costume fittings on Saturday. She has been very patient with us but is mightily relieved.
  • Thursday 6th February, 2003

  • Meeting with Tim to talk through the storyboards, equipment, lighting style, location and his camera crew. It’s a productive meeting and Tim goes away with a full set of storyboards.
  • Finally, late in the afternoon, Noel calls to confirm our stage at Shepperton. Huge relief. We’ve been moved to another stage but this suits us fine as the new stage is bigger. Alison and I debate whether we should get them to fax over the contract immediately for fear of losing it again. We decide to wait until tomorrow and I arrange to see Noel in the afternoon, after the recce of the location nearby. All of our enthusiasm for the project returns and I call Shepperton Construction immediately – start building our set!
  • Suddenly the roller coaster of the project is in full tilt. We hang on tight and hope the whole thing doesn’t come off its rails.
  • Back home and up till late updating the website, a never-ending task (a website is for life – not just for Christmas).
  • Friday 7th February, 2003

  • Location recce in the morning, Richard, Luke, Tim and I. The first location is very positive; it has a window over the kitchen door which will match the window which Luke has designed over Tommy’s bedroom door on the set. Richard has done an excellent job of the location hunt and is now doing an excellent job charming the owners. They seem very excited about the prospect of us filming there and I wonder if they know exactly what to expect. Luke busies himself with his tape measure whilst Tim starts making lots of notes. I spend my time with my DV camera photographing and videoing the location and chat to the owners about shifting all their furniture and re-arranging their hallway. They don’t know what to expect!
  • The second location is dismissed the moment we step through the door. Richard again charms the owners and I try to look interested whilst we spend the minimum amount of time in the house. Richard makes our excuses and we leave. Tim disappears to finalise the lighting and equipment lists whilst Richard, Luke and I drive to Shepperton to finalise the contract and recce the new stage.
  • First things first and it’s over to see Noel to go over the contract whilst Luke introduces himself to the construction guys and goes over the plans with them. This is as much a relief to Luke as it is to me, Luke has also had to wait patiently in the background whilst we await confirmation of the studio. Although we don’t officially move in until Monday next week, the construction guys have been allowed access to the stage and have started to prepare all the stock flattage. Noel, Richard and I go over all our requirements for production. I’m merely grateful for the stage after the recent events. Richard, unaware of the near miss, goes into overdrive, asking for phones, furniture and rooms for costume, make-up, camera, dressing rooms and production offices. I start to feel slightly uncomfortable and try to justify Richard’s request, “Well it’s only a wish list”, he replies. Noel is happy to accept his “wish list” on the understanding that it is only that and if they can help us, they will. This seems to make Richard happy and he disappears with one of Noel’s staff to recce all the rooms he’d like. I decide to quietly leave him to it. I go over the contract in the canteen, sign it and get it back to Noel as fast as I can, hopefully before Richard gets his “wish list” in. At least we’ve got the stage, everything else is a bonus. I meet Richard later and he seems very happy with his “wish list” and confident we’ll get it. We do.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Saturday 8th February, 2003

  • Rehearsals...
  • Rehearsals today at Ealing Studios. On the way into the rehearsal room I find a dead moth on the floor. I pick it up and show it to Joseph, he’s a little wary of it but after some reassurance he holds it in his hand. Erica our make-up designer is also here for the morning; she is very interested in the moth and uses it as a reference for the moth dust tests. Jess (costume designer) starts setting up her corner for all the wardrobe fittings she’ll be carrying out and Clifton (Writer) is busy taking photos which will be used on our website.
  • I meet Tom Grant and his mum Sandra for the first time. Tom will double for Joseph throughout the filming and is very excited about this. We decided we needed a double to help take the pressure off Joseph and off our schedule. Tom is a year older than Joseph and therefore allowed to film up until 7pm.
  • Once everyone is happy and has a mug of tea or coffee we settle around the table for the first read through. I love this time, up until now it has all been in my head, now the cast are assembled it starts to take on a life of its own. For the fifteen or so minutes that the read through takes I just settle back and watch and listen to the actors. I don’t like to follow the read through on the script, instead I watch the actors read and see how they respond to each other. It’s great to hear the script performed for the first time. I was slightly worried about Joseph being a little intimidated on this first day – however he’s fine and I think back to him throwing the table around the room during the recalls.
  • Clifton, Alison and I debate the script and the characters with the cast. We have a long and fruitful discussion whilst Erica and Jess work with the two Tommy’s on their costume and make-up. Just before lunch we read the script again with Tom Grant reading Tommy. The moment this read through finishes the fire alarm goes off and as it’s almost 1pm we take the hint and head off for lunch, confident (in that car alarm kind of indifference) that it’s a false alarm…
  • …it was, so the afternoon session is spent working with the three principal actors and improvising a lot of the scenes. I want to keep Joseph away from the scripted dialogue and as he is so good at improvising it’s very easy for Julia and Brett to work through each scene with him. I work with them in their respective pairs, mum & stepdad, mum & Tommy, stepdad & Tommy as well as all together. Jess shows me each character in all their costumes and finally, after a very constructive day, we head home.
  • The dead moth is left in the rehearsal room with much, “It’s a good omen” going on around it. Personally, I just think the cleaners haven’t done their job properly and that it has been lying around since last summer – or has it! (cue Twilight Zone theme).
  • Producer's Diary
  • Sunday 9th February, 2003

  • Rehearsals continue at Ealing today. The rehearsal is much more productive as the actors have had a chance to digest yesterday’s work and discussions. I also start to understand how each actor likes to work. Acting isn't as easy as it may look, regardless of what most people think, actors aren't able to just turn up and switch it on. They are not brim full of confidence; in fact most carry all sorts of insecurities around with them. Contrary to what most people think actors still find acting an incredibly intimidating experience. Imagine turning up and walking into a room full of strangers, being placed on a mark and asked to perform. From the actors point of view there are enormous distractions around them, not just the lighting, camera and crew, but that the whole focus at the point of action is on them. Add an emotional scene into the equation and you should understand that simply expecting them to turn up on time with their lines learnt isn't giving the actor much help at all. Insecurity is the actor’s enemy; the director must work very hard to keep the actors psychologically comfortable, relaxed and confident. This is why I valued the two day rehearsals we had for "Moth". It was a chance for me to work exclusively with the actors, for them to feel comfortable with me and most importantly for me to understand their needs as actors. The rehearsal doesn't solve all your problems, you can only work so far in a rehearsal room, but you can begin to understand what the scene requires and build a foundation that the actors can take away with them, removing some of the insecurities that arriving on set will throw up.
  • After lunch we run through the whole script which is probably be the last time it will be run in sequence before the first screening of the film later this year.
  • …and yes, the dead moth was still here this morning.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Monday 10th February, 2003

  • Pre-production week...
  • Today we move into our office at Shepperton Studios. Luke is the first to arrive as the set build also starts in earnest today. Alison and I arrive around 10am to find Cate Arbeid (Production Coordinator) already there.
  • Initially we have one production office which is big enough for two people to share. We ideally need two offices to accommodate our excellent production team of Alison, Cate, Richard Dunmore (Production Manager) and Simon Windsor (Production Accountant). Shepperton were juggling rooms around on our behalf and by tomorrow had promised to open up the adjoining room for us. In the meantime we set about unpacking and setting up the first office. We realise that we have to bring phone and power extensions in to divide the phones and power around the office to each desk. Alison phones Robin O'Donoghue, Head of Post Production at Shepperton and a great supporter of our work, to see if he could spare an extension lead. He brings one around almost immediately; he also brings with him a cold. I am already terrified that Joseph would get ill and am paranoid about a cold sweeping through production (so avoided kissing him). However I am also determined to keep fit and to think positively about Joseph's state of health.
  • Once we have power at our desk we set up the laptop and get on with the days work. I also start taking photos of the set build and production office for the website.
  • Tuesday 11th February, 2003

  • We manage to get to the office a little earlier but not before Cate, who again beats us to it. Shepperton have opened up the adjoining office and we set about arranging things between them. Richard and Cate share the new office and Alison and Simon Windsor share the original office. Phone lines and power extensions are distributed throughout both offices. Now we are all settled, the phones are ringing and production is in full swing.
  • I stick all the storyboards onto the wall and throughout the day discuss and arrange schedules with Toby Hefferman (1st AD), accounts with Simon Windsor and monitor set construction with Luke. The build is taking a little longer than expected. Originally we were told that it would be up by the end of yesterday, but this was before we almost lost the stage and had to hold for a few days. Subsequently it is supposed to be finished by the end of today. However no matter how hard I look this just doesn't seem possible. Therefore Luke and his team are now painting the inside of the set whilst construction continues around them.
  • Wednesday 12th February, 2003

  • Disaster strikes.
  • Determined as we are to get into the office first we leave early, only for the clutch to fail on our car as I reverse out. I am due to meet Tim Palmer (DoP) at 10:30 for a walk around the (finished?) set. We ring the breakdown service and wait 45 minutes for them to arrive. He confirms what I already know and arranges for the car to be recovered to the garage. Our breakdown cover includes a courtesy car so we are quickly on the phone to make these arrangements. Rather than wait for the car to be delivered to us (anytime in the next 12 hours!) we ask the breakdown driver to drop us at the car hire centre. We arrive with all our baggage for the day, fill out the paperwork and finally arrive at Shepperton for 11:30. Not bad, 3 hours from breakdown to arrival at the studio.
  • Tim is already there and so we go straight in to look at the set. All the walls are in place and the Art Department are hard at work painting. The plasterers are starting to prepare the brickwork for the exterior walls. Tim spots a problem almost at once - we need to extend the walls of the landing section by 3 feet, as any POV shot through the window above Tommy's door would see straight off the set - extra work for construction. Tim is also concerned at the angles I want outside the set, shooting the exterior window. If we aren't careful we'll see the studio grid so we need more drapes. This will allow us to black out the various angles we need beyond the set. Everyone in the production office start sucking in their cheeks – drapes are expensive. However I’d already been around to the drapery companies on site to try and negotiate the killer deal. I was confident we could now expand on our drapery requirements for little extra money. However I thought I’d leave this until Friday, and try to negotiate a last minute deal.
  • In the meantime the carpet fitter is booked for Friday morning (meaning all painting has to be completed by tomorrow night) and Luke calls glaziers for quotes.
  • Thursday 13th February, 2003

  • Arrive early to be beaten again by Cate; however I discover that she lives a mere 20 minutes away whereas we live 40 miles away and most of that is on the M25. I feel less guilty.
  • By now my primary task is to help out the Art Department who are a little understaffed. So I effectively become the Art Department Runner as I have access to a car and a credit card. Hence I become very familiar with Homebase and Focus DIY throughout the day. We'd been trying to find a runner who was old enough to drive a hire van but to no avail. Toby (1st AD) finally finds someone willing to do the job but he is only available for tomorrow and the production week, hence my new status as Producer/Director/Runner. The van is to be collected today and I am the obvious choice to collect and drive it, as much of the furniture that will dress the set comes from our house. Ivar (Runner/Driver) will take over the driving tomorrow and do all the prop houses and costume collections.
  • Around 6pm Alison - who is now full of Robin's cold - disappears home in our car. I stay behind with Luke and Tanya (Art Dept. Assistant) to finish painting the set prior to the carpet fitters arriving first thing tomorrow. Around 8:30 I take Tanya to the station and pick up a couple of portions of fish and chips. Luke and I sit in the deserted studio; fish and chips never tasted so good.
  • On a low budget production no one else is going to take responsibility. If it needs doing, you have to be prepared to do it yourself. This causes much hilarity in the production office, with Richard (Production Manager), Cate (Production Coordinator) and Simon Windsor (Production Accountant), all experienced professional with credits like "Die Another Day" and "The Tailor of Panama" between them. I can only imagine how these productions work and the hierarchy within them. Here Richard doubles over in hysterics whenever he thinks about the director driving the props van and painting the set!
  • We finish painting about 10:30 and leave for home. We still have to load the van with all the furniture and props from our house. By 1:30 I’m in bed, by 1:31 I’m asleep.
  • Friday 14th February. 2003

  • Up early to get the van to Shepperton, unload and get Ivar the Driver to the hire centre to get his name on the insurance documents. He then leaves to spend the day driving around London. The carpet fitters arrive and the carpet is laid, however the glaziers fail to turn up as promised. We wait all day only to be told late in the afternoon that a clerical error has meant that they can't fit the glass until tomorrow but they won't charge us for the weekend fitting, thanks! Saturday is the pre-light so although we have no other choice but to wait, having the glazier at work as Tim and the sparks try to light is an inconvenience we could do without. They promise to be with us by 8:30am to minimise disruption.
  • Set construction finally finishes late morning leaving Luke and his Art Department alone to complete all the work we'd said we'd take on ourselves. What remains is to cut the windbags (ceiling pieces) into shape, re-stretch the canvas and fit them over the set; fit all the window and door furniture, shelve the walk in cupboard, furnish and dress the set, hang all the drapes around the exterior window and have the scenic artist paint the exterior walls to look like brickwork. All this before the pre-light tomorrow. Things are getting tight.
  • Meanwhile Alison has dealt with the drapery company and negotiated all the drapes we need at a fraction of their normal price. I don’t ask how. They even deliver them all on the back of a milk float.
  • By late afternoon it’s clear we are going to be nowhere near ready. The windbags are proving to be a real handful for Luke. They are basically lightweight wooden frames with stretched canvas covering them. We need three to cover our set, one for the landing area and two for the main body of the set. The problem is they are enormous and even though they are attached to the chain hoists in the studio they require a certain amount of skill to manoeuvre. Also they have to be cut to fit the angles of our set. Eventually Alison calls Tim early evening to see if he can work without the ceiling pieces in place tomorrow, he tells us to go home and get to bed early, "don't worry about the windbags". Yet we still need to hang all the drapes. It’s now 10pm. Remaining in the studio are Luke, Tanya and Alison (who is still feeling dreadful) and myself. We get the drapes up quite quickly but by the time we finish the studio is alive with dust, thick from the drapes. We are all exhausted and filthy.
  • Saturday 15th February, 2003

  • The first thing we need to do is sort out a chippy to come in for the day and take care of the windbags and shelving. We realised last night that we needed a skilled carpenter on site to help us get the set into shape. Richard is immediately onto this and within an hour our chippy is at work. First he fits the fireplace into position and then he starts to take on the windbags - they need to be cut to fit the various angles of the set. He winches the largest one into a position that allows him to work freely around it with his power tools.
  • The lighting boys are hard at work unloading the van but still no sign of the glaziers.
  • I set to work around the set putting up shelves and fitting several double plug sockets around the room. All the plug sockets will be wired into the dimmer board for all the practical lamps in Tommy’s room. I also cut various “mouse holes” into the set behind the larger pieces of furniture, to allow the sparks cable access into the set - rather than have to feed them through the window and door.
  • Clifton Stewart (Writer) is also with us for the day. He is busy taking photos and video with his DV camera whilst helping out with a screwdriver whenever he gets the chance.
  • The glass situation is now getting desperate. We have today and tomorrow to finish the set. The windows will be in shot for the first set-up of the day on Monday. Alison and Richard are constantly on the phone to the glaziers whose excuses get more elaborate throughout the day. Yesterday it was a clerical error that stopped them fitting the glass, today their van has broken down and they are waiting for the AA. They want to come tomorrow but that simply isn’t possible.
  • Dave (chippy) spends much of the day working on the windbags and finally, late in the afternoon, the windbags are fitted over the set. I ask him to fit strips across the join between the two windbags to hide the seam. I also get him to cut a large camera hole in one side of the set and to shelve the walk in cupboard. If he can complete these jobs before he goes we’ll be back on track. He has access to the workshops at Shepperton so he can deal with all the difficult jobs quickly and much more easily.
  • Meanwhile the pre-light and rig is progressing nicely, Tim (DoP), Dave (Gaffer), Chris and Roger (Sparks) are busy throughout the day. Tony Hester (from Arri) also comes in to visit us and it’s great to finally put a face to the name we’ve been dealing with over the last two weeks. Arri have been immensely helpful to us and we owe them a great debt of thanks. They along with Shepperton have really helped make this production possible.
  • Richard appears with a glazing update, according to the glaziers the AA has declared a national security alert and therefore won’t be able to fix their van!! Richard calls their bluff and phones the AA himself. Of course there is no such emergency; the glass company has simply run out of excuses. Richard is determined not to let them off the hook. He’s like a dog with a bone and refuses to let go. Whenever I walk into the office he is involved in a ferocious argument with the glaziers. Despite the rising stress levels this battle of wills is very amusing to listen to and it’s my turn to double over in hysterics.
  • Dave the chippy has by now gone home. He was an extremely valuable pair of skilled hands to have on the set so close to production. Fortunately we’d spotted the problems early enough to do something about it.
  • Richard is now dealing with the managing director of the glass company who has promised us, no matter what, the glass will be fitted tonight. Whilst we wait we finished the last of the painting around the set. Jess (Costume Designer) is in charge of painting the brickwork of the exterior wall. This isn’t as absurd as it sounds; Jess is a fully qualified set designer, with a great deal of experience in the theatre. Scenic painting is just another of her skills and all day she’s been at work up a zip-up tower assisted by Tanya (Art Department Assistant) and Alison (Producer – more laughter from Richard). Finally, around 8:30pm, a very harassed looking glazier arrives and it takes him just over an hour to glaze the set. He then leaves to put another stressed out customer out of their misery. I figure that it’s not the last of the grief he’ll be getting tonight as all the while his girlfriend is sat in the passenger seat of his van. This isn’t the Saturday night she expected and I assume he won’t be getting the Saturday night he expected!
  • It has been another long day; however we are now back on schedule. The only thing remaining is to finish painting the exterior wall and dress the set, which we’ll do tomorrow.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Sunday 16th February, 2003

  • Although I’ve been very active with the set build throughout this last week I’ve also been trying to keep on top of my directing duties. Most of the preparation has been done in advance but throughout the week there have been various meetings with Tim (DoP), Toby (1st AD) and the production team. Alison and I were determined to set up this production even more efficiently than “Ghosthunter”. We have such a top team on “Moth” that the autonomy of the production is impressive to watch. As each member of the team becomes attached they gradually take control of their various departments. It is very satisfying (and a great relief) to hand over to the individual team members, freeing Alison and myself to concentrate on our jobs. We are confident that the production is in excellent hands.
  • We finish the set around 6:30 and get home with just enough time to relax before getting some sleep; we have an early call tomorrow. I climb into bed, my head hits the pillow and…
  • Producer's Diary
  • Production Day 1 - Monday 17th February, 2003

  • Stress Level = Medium
    Today’s Stock = 3,740 ft
    Completed Set-ups = 6
    Daily Screentime Ave = 2’20”
  • … the alarm sounds, it’s 5:30am we need to be away by 6am. The traffic is a little heavy on the M25 but we manage to be at the studio for 7am. I feel pretty good but am anxious to be on the set and filming. Toby (1st AD) has done a lot of work on the schedule and we’ve talked a lot about this first day. Ideally I like to try and plan a simple day for the first day. It gives the crew a chance to settle in and they start to build their own rhythm. However we have licensing restrictions to adhere to due to Joseph’s age, therefore the entire schedule is based around him. We have a lot to do today and the first shot is a complicated tracking shot taking in the whole of Tommy’s room. However if we achieve today’s schedule then we’ll be well placed for the rest of the week!
  • We hit problems almost immediately. I walk through the first shot with the crew and they then busy themselves setting up. Julia and Brett arrive in plenty of time and I try to make sure they’re comfortable and happy. However, Joseph is late and nobody can contact his mum on her mobile phone. We start to discuss which shots we can get on with instead but the crew are already in an advanced state with the first set-up. Finally, an hour late, they arrive. Joseph is rushed through costume and make-up and whisked onto the set. I wanted to settle Joseph in gently, walk him around the set and introduce him to the crew, now we have to throw him in the deep end. I walk him through the shot and I notice that he is a little anxious, which is not surprising as he’s been sat in the car for the last 3 hours and now has an enormous 35mm Panavision camera pointing at him. I need him to relax so I find a little plastic figure amongst the set dressing and give it to him to play with. In the film he’s just escaped from another family argument so I ask Brett and Julia to improvise this argument outside the set. Joseph starts pulling the arms and legs off the figure as Brett and Julia argue behind the bedroom door. Giving him something to focus on helps him cut out the various distractions around him, it also gives him a very concentrated look which was ideal for the situation.
  • I also find that I need to talk him through the action as the camera is rolling, which means I can’t watch the monitor. I’d brought into the studios a small video 8 player, It has a small LCD screen and can record onto video 8 camcorder tapes. With a sound and monitor feed it becomes our (note to producer) free version of video assist. We didn’t use video assist on “Ghosthunter” as I felt we didn’t need it, it can slow things down as everyone gathers around to watch it but I wanted it on this production. Robin Deacon, who was initially the camera assistant, was put in charge of our Video 8 Assist. By the time we get this first shot it is 12 noon, we complete one more set-up before breaking for lunch. There’s a lot to take in on the first day for everyone and although we’re behind at least we’re rolling.
  • Throughout the afternoon progress is again slow and by the end of the day we’ve achieved only 6 set-ups. We do, though, cover all of Joseph's action but at Brett and Julia’s expense. Once we wrap I go through the following days schedule with Toby (1st AD) and we plan to start tomorrow by picking up on some of today’s dropped shots. However, the thought of adding more to the rest of the week is a daunting task.
  • I unplug the video 8 player and take it home to review today’s work. We’ll be getting the lab rushes tomorrow but to save costs we’re not paying the lab to synchronize sound. The video 8 will be the only time I can review sync rushes until we get into the edit. I hope Brian (Sound Mixer) remembers to flick the record switch every once in a while!
  • Producer's DiaryRunner's Diary
  • Production Day 2 - Tuesday 18th February, 2003

  • Stress Level = High to Low
    Today’s Stock = 3,710 ft
    Completed Set-ups = 14
    Daily Screentime Ave = 2’25”
    Pick Ups = 4
  • I start the day feeling pretty anxious. We basically have to pickup all yesterday's dropped shots and cover all of today’s work. If we don't achieve this, I am looking at a drastic re-schedule of shots for the film. I will have to go away this evening and look at shooting the film with a much, much more simplified shot list. Out will go any camera moves, in will come the tripod and the scenes will be covered much less dynamically. We’ll see how the day progresses. I find the whole situation deeply depressing.
  • Unfortunately, by mid afternoon we’re in no better position. We now have to deal with various technical issues - sound, remote focus and magazines problems that compounded our situation. At one point (about 3pm) I turn to producer, Alison Reddihough, and say, "I think we're in big trouble".
  • Then all of a sudden, everything clicks, we work through the technical issues, the crew work very efficiently together and we start to sail through the remaining set-ups. By 7pm wrap we've picked up several shots from yesterday and cleared the whole of today’s schedule. It was one of those times that caught everyone unaware. All of a sudden we’re in very good shape - how quickly things change.
  • Producer's DiaryRunner's Diary
  • Production Day 3 - Wednesday 19th February, 2003

  • Stress Level = Low to High
    Today’s Stock = 2,960 ft
    Completed Set-ups = 16
    Daily Screentime Ave = 2’01”
    Pick Ups = 5
  • I sleep extremely well, which is just as well as today is to be our most challenging day. It involves four make-up stages for Joseph and Tom (Joseph's double), plus a camera and lighting move to outside the set, plus what has become known as "The Stunt". We are seven shots behind schedule, I’m not too worried about these shots, all but one are simple camera set-ups or POV's. We also plan to pick up some of these shots this morning. The child’s licence stipulates that a child actor under 9 years of age cannot be called before 9am - as the unit call was 7.30am this means that we can use this time for pickups. Whilst we await Joseph and Tom's arrival we pick up on Brett's shots. We complete these by 9am and are very well placed to start work on the main focus of today, the moth transformation scenes. All doesn’t go so smoothly though. Tom Grant (our Tommy double) is being made up into the first stage of the make-up, whilst we shoot the initial set-ups with Joseph. We'd planned four stages in total, alternating the stages between the two child actors, Tom in stages one and three for the cutaways and Joseph in stages two and four for the main action. However the make-up is taking much longer than anticipated and it is looking like we won't get to the final stage without a concentrated effort. As we simply don't have the people available, make-up stage 1-4 becomes stages 1-3.
  • We work very quickly throughout the morning and early afternoon but things now slow down in the afternoon. We complete the interior set-ups but still have to move outside the set for the exterior window shots and Tommy's stunt. Each camera move adds to the set-up times, include a complete lighting re-rig and suddenly it’s looking terrifyingly tight. I ask Tim if he can set-up in the time we have remaining, he says, "I doubt it". I say if we don't do it we won't have the ending for the film. There’s no way we can pick up these shots later, full body make-up, stunt coordinator, lighting & camera set-ups! Anyway, there is no time for debate and the crew kick into action. An hour later and we’re ready to shoot, yet I've planned three set-ups. I realise that there is no chance of achieving this before Joseph has to go. I’m determined to get at least two shots in before we wrap which are to be shot in slow motion.
  • I also need to get Joseph’s focus in exactly the right place. He is very excited about his stunt and has been working with his stunt coordinator Mike Cass. One problem with his action is that Joseph tends to bring his knees up to his chest as he jumps; I want him to leap fully stretched, with his arms out. Mike takes him away whilst we set-up the first shot and rehearses with him outside, by the time we are ready, Mike has corrected this and Joseph is ready.
  • Joseph wants his mum Jane (also the chaperone) to watch his jump but he keeps looking over at her. I mention this to Jane and she is only too happy to quietly disappear around the corner to watch on the monitor. Now all is set, camera rolls and it doesn't half focus your mind as you hear the sound of your film stock fizzing through the camera at 200fps. I have to shout very loudly to Joseph, so that he can hear me over the sound of the camera. We roll, he jumps, but not quite right, another take. This time all seems to go smoothly. However, with slow motion you are never sure you’ve got it until the rushes come back the next day so we go one last time just to make sure.
  • Now we have to reset for the close up. Adding to the pressure is the fact that now Tim has to try and follow Joseph's jump, panning with him whilst still shooting high speed. We rehearse. We were inching closer to Joseph’s wrap time. Tim is ready, Joseph is ready, Mike is happy with the safety arrangements, we roll and pretty much nail it first time, but again until you see the rushes, you cannot be sure. We have two more takes in the magazine, we use them both and Joseph is wrapped three minutes late.
  • After another stressful day we’ve only dropped two shots from the schedule, unfortunately these two will have to be permanently dropped. Did we get the slow motion shots? We have to wait until tomorrow.
  • Producer's DiaryRunner's Diary
  • Production Day 4 - Thursday 20th February, 2003

  • Stress Level = Medium
    Today’s Stock = 3,650 ft
    Completed Set-ups = 18
    Daily Screentime Ave = 2’00”
  • During production, and to help cut down on crew expenses, we have Luke (Production Designer), Jess (Costume Designer) and Tanya (Art Dept Assistant) staying with us. This is as many as we can fit in our car - we would have driven the whole crew in given the opportunity. We leave in the dark at 6am every morning for the 45-50 minute journey to the studio. Alison drives whilst I go over the day’s work. The three in the back are all sound asleep for most of the journey.
  • Today is fairly straightforward and I feel pretty relaxed aside from the fact that it is live butterfly day! Due to the time of year we couldn't get any live moths for the shoot. We were quoted £2000 by a company who specialise in providing livestock to the film industry. They would breed moths especially for our shoot dates, several months in advance. However they couldn't guarantee that any would actually be available for when we needed them. They also couldn’t guarantee that, should any hatch in time, they’d survive the journey into the studio!! A hell of a quote! We also approached several breeding organisations and received a long tirade by the chairman of one organisation against the whole film industry. He berated our ignorance regarding moths, climate, breeds and regions but wanted assurances about his fee and personal credit on the film. We left him to (not so quietly) simmer. Blimey, we’re only looking for advice! We weren't put off and went instead to the London Butterfly House. They were much more laid back about the whole affair. Although they couldn't provide us with moths they could provide as many butterfly look-alikes as we wanted, that have a similar colouring to moths. On the morning we needed them they would catch them and put them into cellophane envelopes (this is how they are transported). It felt a little like going to Ikea, we walk in picked the style and colour of our choice and the product will be delivered flat packed. Although moths and butterflies differ considerably a butterfly fluttering in a jar would be an appropriate substitute. I'd caught a butterfly in our house last year, put it in a large jar and filmed it fluttering around. It would work incredibly well. Most of our moths would be CG with puppets creating the shadows. A few live butterflies in jars around the room would help sell the visual effects.
  • The only other issue we have to contend with today is that this will be Joseph's final day on the set. Due to the licensing laws children can only work for 5 days out of every 7. He has to have a day off tomorrow so that we can film with him on location on Saturday.
  • We work extremely well during the morning session. We continue shooting in through the window from where we left off last night. We are also due to film through a large camera hole cut into one wall (and covered by posters on the inside) and through the back of the walk-in-cupboard. All this before lunch, then a move back into the set for the rest of Joseph's scenes.
  • We arrive at the first live butterfly shot of the day. They are brought onto the set with much excitement, the scene is set and their jar prepared. The London Butterfly House told us that as soon as they were released they would start to flutter around any light source. This was certainly my experience with the butterfly I'd caught last year; when I turned a light on it would flutter, when I turned it off it would settle. So, the camera turns, the envelopes are opened and the butterflies dropped into place - nothing, absolutely nothing! They sit at the bottom of the jar and occasionally waft their wings. Cut. Try again - nothing. Having gotten ourselves nicely back on schedule we are now struggling again. As we persist to energise the butterflies and get some life out of them Tim (DoP) turns to me and says, "When you read this script and saw children and live insects…"?
  • The butterflies go back into a specially built and warmed tent as our butterfly wranglers try to get some life into them. We break for lunch and I disappear into the production office to watch the rushes. I find that this is the only time I can spare to watch them. During lunch the office is empty, I have my lunch delivered whilst I watch the tapes. I become very fond of this time; I find it extremely relaxing and a solitary place to gather my thoughts (provided I get my pink grapefruit lucozade)! Yesterday’s high speed stuff looks great, yet I still yearn for the two shots that were dropped – I hope I don’t regret dropping them.
  • After lunch, the rest of the day progresses very smoothly, mainly because we have no more live butterflies in shot until tomorrow. Joseph is wrapped from the set to much applause. Although we have at times struggled with the schedule we haven’t once fallen behind on any of Joseph’s shots.
  • We arrive home that evening around 9.30pm. I usually drive home each evening. This was another welcome solitary experience as all in the car were asleep within minutes. (Producer’s note, NOT ME, I was only resting my eyes!)!
  • Producer's DiaryRunner's Diary
  • Production Day 5 - Friday 21st February, 2003

  • Stress Level = Low to High
    Today’s Stock = 2,460 ft
    Completed Set-ups = 23
    Daily Screentime Ave = 2’00”
    Re-shot = 2
  • We arrive just before 7am on another misty morning, why is it always misty as dawn breaks? Breakfast is a very welcome sausage bap, courtesy of the caterers at Shepperton. The sausage bap is always the popular one so you have to get in quick.
  • Today is all about pick-ups and POV's. As we have moved further into the shoot, I’m beginning to feel much more relaxed. Most of the challenges of the shoot have passed and we are getting (sometimes by the skin of our teeth) all the shots I want. The main challenge we have left to face is tomorrow’s location, but that is tomorrow. Today we have Tom (Joseph's double) for all the over the shoulder stuff and to act as an eye line for Julia and Brett. We also need various cutaways of the live butterflies fluttering in their jars. The wranglers have been working hard to warm them up and have somewhat succeeded. They are much more animated and by the end of the day I’m sure we will get material that we can use.
  • The day is pretty straightforward and the last shots are on the landing set outside Tommy's bedroom. We had thought about filming this scene on location tomorrow but felt that this would overburden an already full schedule. The scene goes very smoothly and we wrap at Shepperton. However, just as I am about to leave I notice Trevor (Focus Puller) in conversation with Tim (DoP) – there’s a problem. Tim comes over to me to explain - the negative has split in the changing bag. Charlie (Clapper/Loader) had been trying to can the film but it had ridged up so much he couldn't get the lid of the tin on. He tried to deal with it in the changing bag but the middle of the roll dropped out and 1000 feet of film was now loose in the bag. Fortunately, we had a camera truck parked outside to transport all the equipment to the location tomorrow. The camera truck had a dark room in it and so Charlie took the changing bag into it so he could deal with the problem. Unfortunately, the tangle and weight of 1000 feet of film was too much, some of the sprockets were damaged and the film split.
  • It split towards the end of the roll…
  • …round about the time we shot the landing scene.
  • We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see exactly what the damage is!
  • Producer's DiaryRunner's Diary
  • Production Day 6 - Saturday 22nd February, 2003

  • Stress Level = High to Chilled
    Today’s Stock = 3,050 ft
    Completed Set-ups = 10
    Daily Screentime Ave = 2’22”
    Re-shot = 2
  • One issue that is unique to short filmmaking is that there is little or no run in time, the crew must gel immediately. By the time the film wraps (in our case 6 days later) we are just beginning to feel that the crew are gelling - and then it's all over.
  • The final day of the shoot. I've always been apprehensive about this day. Filming on location presents its own problems. We have the house from 7.30am until 7pm. Tim and Luke anticipate a 2 hour set-up in the morning, even though the owners have agreed to help out by moving some of the large pieces of furniture before we arrive.
  • Our first stop in the morning is Shepperton where I pick up the rental van. It had been loaded last night with all the lighting equipment needed for today. I drive it to the location (again to the great amusement of Richard). As there is no one else available, there is no other option.
  • I arrive at the location to find most of the crew waiting outside - it is about 7.10am. We wait until 7.25 before Richard and I knock on the door. The owners are up and about and in we go. Immediately the crew set about rigging and dressing the location. We are to start with a slow motion shot of Tommy running down the hallway towards the stairs, pursued by Bill. This first scene of the film turns out to be the most difficult of the shoot to set up so far. It is also the most intense scene in the film from the actor’s point of view. We enter the scene as a family argument has hit its peak and Tommy bursts out of the kitchen, runs down the hallway heading up the stairs to his bedroom. Bill pursues him out of the kitchen and catches him at the foot of the stairs where the argument continues. The actors need to start the scene in full flow, the energy of the argument at the foot of the stairs needs to reflect the intensity of the argument that we imagine has happened in the kitchen behind closed doors. With all the new activity around the location this becomes a difficult scene to set up in all areas. Tim is concerned about the line. The actors are not yet comfortable with the blocking and their dialogue. As we try to set up the scene there is debate coming in from all angles, camera and tracking issues, the actors and their action and dialogue. It becomes clear that until the actors are comfortable all other debate is unnecessary. It is a tense moment, mainly because there is a great pressure to get on with it.
  • I take the actor’s off into the kitchen, shut the door and work the scene with them, away from the scrutiny of the crew. We had run this scene in rehearsals and discussed it many times but until you turn up at the actual location, all rehearsal and discussion is academic. Also it can be very intimidating for the actors to have to resolve various blocking and dialogue issues with all the crew standing around looking on. We run the dialogue several times. However, there is also a problem with one of Brett’s lines. We'd agreed during rehearsal last week to change some of his dialogue. I'd then discussed this line change with Clifton (Writer). I sent a message back to Brett to confirm the line change, but the message got confused and Brett thought I'd asked him to go back to the original dialogue. Therefore, this line constantly trips him up.
  • This final day is already a full schedule. Toby’s (1st AD) face reflects the pressure I’m feeling. To take time out at this early stage is a risk, I think, worth taking. Once I feel the actors are happy I feel we can start to shoot the scene. The drama is now in the right place and we consequently move through the set-ups quite quickly. By the time we break for lunch we've completed all but one shot for this scene.
  • Cate (Production Coordinator) is at the office in Shepperton and confirms that there is damage to the negative during slate 74 (the wide of the landing scene). We exposed 2460 feet of film yesterday, mainly mute POV's and live butterflies and where does the film split? Right through the only dialogue scene of the day consisting of 240 feet! ******! I ask for the tape of the rushes to be brought to the location so I can see just how bad the damage is. Unfortunately, the whole of slate 74 is completely trashed. The following slate (75) the close-up of Julia & Brett is OK. It means we now have to re-film slate 74 sometime today and still wrap at 7pm.
  • After lunch, we complete the outstanding shot of scene 1. The next set-up is perhaps the most complicated camera move of the film so far. A track and jib down the stairs to a position looking down the length of the hallway into the kitchen. Again, Tommy will burst out of the kitchen as another family argument rages, run down the hallway and up the stairs. Julia and Brett will play out the rest of the scene in the kitchen. I want to shoot the whole of this scene from our distant position down the hallway. The camera has a prism fitted to the front of the lens to get as low to the wooden floor as possible. The timing of track, jib and action means that this becomes one of the longest set-ups to complete. This shot takes us late into the afternoon but is a very satisfying one to achieve.
  • Two more set-ups complete all the downstairs shots and we finally move the camera upstairs. Three more set-ups (including the re-shoot) remain and it is beginning to look like we will wrap an hour early! However, one final technical glitch (a re-load of the camera) means that we manage to wrap at 6.55pm, a mere five minutes early!
  • As the crew start to wrap the location Minta (Script Supervisor) comes over to me, “You must come and look at this”. She leads me outside the house to show me a moth which has settled on the outside wall of the house, “It’s a good omen”, she declares. I hope she’s right, at least this one’s alive.
  • It has been a tough week. I always feel that filmmaking is something you enjoy retrospectively. Once you've managed to get through principal photography relatively unscathed and covered all your scenes the way you intended, then you can relax, take a deep breath and say, "we got it".
  • Deeply indebted to our cast and crew for their time, energy and commitment we collapse in the nearest pub.
  • Producer's DiaryRunner's Diary
  • Sunday 23rd February, 2003

  • Post production...
  • No lie in just yet but straight back to Shepperton first thing in the morning to start the set strike. Again due to the budget restrictions the set strike crew will consist of Luke (Production Designer), Tanya (Art Department Assistant), Robin (Video 8 Assist), Alison (Producer), Tony Hester (Lighting Services Manager from Arri Lighting) and myself. Tony is in a similar position to Alison and I. Having agreed to help out our production and to keep costs down to an absolute minimum he is faced with doing the lighting strike himself as he can't get anyone out on a Sunday. Our priority this morning is to help Tony de-rig and load the Arri Lighting truck. Once this is done, Tony finally heads home for his Sunday lunch, although he does offer to stay and help us strike the set. We feel we've imposed on him and Arri enough and send him home with our utmost thanks.
  • We work all day breaking the set down and packing the van with all the furniture and props that will be returned to our house this evening.
  • Producer's Diary
  • Monday 24th February, 2003

  • Another early start. We need to get the van back to Shepperton early so that Ivar the Driver can return the hired props back to the prop houses. He needs to be back in time for us to return the van to the hire company by 3pm.
  • We are also expecting a skip to dispose of all the rubbish in the studio. Ivar disappears with the van on his errands and the skip arrives. Unfortunately, no one has fully anticipated the amount of rubbish we'll be disposing of. Richard, keen to keep the costs down, has hired a mini skip for our use. It is the tiniest skip I've ever seen, completely dwarfed by the pile of rubbish next to it. To make matters worse the studio next door are also striking and have hired the mother of all skips for their use. This only serves to make our skip look even more ridiculous. Luke comes into the production office as we’re packing up the computer equipment, "I'm a laughing stock", he says “People are coming from all over the studio complex to look”. Richard negotiates a larger skip
  • Ivar phones in, he’s had a tyre blow out on the van. The spare is also flat so he’s had no other option but to get a local garage to fit a new front tyre. Fortunately the van hire company agree to pick up the bill. By the time he gets back to Shepperton it is well after 3pm. He also brings with him a parking ticket, which he’d picked up after stopping for directions and a bill for the repair of the fireplace which was in three pieces by the time he’d reached the prop house! We are also charged an additional weeks hire for an armchair, as the paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly. The prop house has no memory of the one-week deal we say we had in place. The compromise is to reduce the extra week to 3 days additional hire. These little additional costs to production are the most annoying as they are completely avoidable. You work so hard to get the best deals in place only for these unexpected costs to arise.
  • We get home at the much more sensible hour of 6pm. We've had a great time at Shepperton and are grateful to them for all their help and support, especially Noel who really saved our bacon with his determination to keep our production at the studios.
  • Over the next few days we'll be re-establishing the office back in East Grinstead and putting our house back together. We anticipate starting the edit towards the end of March, in the meantime we have a few days to collate all the paperwork, pay the invoices (Gulp) and get some sleep. It has been a very hectic past few months.
  • We’ve ridden the roller coaster through the most thrilling part of the ride and have only to hold on long enough through post production. The ride isn’t as dramatic but the track seems to disappear way off into the distance.
  • Producer's Diary