Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday 29 August - That's a Wrap!

Well, the deed is done. After 21 (working) days of shooting Mark has all the footage and takes for Right Hand Drive. The plan was to shoot a small "driving in the country" scene starting a 5pm Tuesday. That was to be followed by shooting scene 60 starting at 7pm. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and the "driving in the country" scene did not get done.

The evening was not just cool but was more like cold. Temperatures dropped to the mid 40s and there were a number of folks who did not have warm enough clothing. Of course the actors had to "act" like it was a balmy summer evening.

There were not any caterers (due to expense) so this evening was "self-catered". What that means is that Gill, Christine (Mark's wife and sister-in-law), Debbie (producer), and others made up some yummy food to feed to the hungry cast and crew.

A couple of people have noted that the going was slow and I can't help but wonder if there may have been some natural reluctance to have the shooting over and done. (Of course it could be that everyone was just plain bushed.) I mean, when this evening was finish, that is the point when everyone says goodbye and goes there own way possibly never to meet again. They finally finished at 3am (Wednesday) hugged all around and that was that.

So now it is on to the next stage of the movie... post production. I will be following the progress with lots of interest. From my observations there is some very good raw material and it will be fascinating to see how it will all edit together.

In all there were 21 days of actual shooting (x 12 hours/day = 252 hours {12 hours/day is a conservative estimate}), 129 scenes, 317 slates (or setups), over a calendar period of 26 days.

The final shoot burndown graph looks like:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Local Publicity

Jon found an article that I knew existed but had a difficult time finding. Check out Return To Wiltshire with a photo and some quotes from Mark.

I have a very similar photo which I think is better:

Liz doing Laura's lipstick with Val looking on.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oops, My Bad

The inimitable Robyn pointed out to me this evening that one could not leave anonymous comments on the blog. That was an oversight on my part. I always intended that anyone could leave a comment. I have fixed the situation and if there has been a comment that you have really wanted to leave but did not want to sign-in, now is your chance.

Sorry about that.

Up Close and Personal - Sound

Paul is the sound recordist. Paul is a quiet guy, but fascinating to talk to. He is involved in many aspect of film-making. His real love is directing and talking to him about some of the shorts he has done, I expect he is very good at it. Paul was able to enrich the Video Village experience greatly by giving us a sound feed so not only could we see but we could hear as well.

Kunle is the boom operator. Between Paul and Kunle they are responsible for all the sound from the takes.
I have to confess here that Kunle made me laugh more than anyone else on the crew. You see, because Kunle operated the boom and had a microphone, between takes he was able to communicate privately to Paul by speaking surreptitiously into the microphone. Let me tell you he took full advantage of that opportunity to practice accents (his American accent is quite good), philosophy, plot lines, etc. He would even have debates with himself. With half a dozen folks standing around listening it was hilariously entertaining.
Kunle taught me the true meaning of "Live long and prosper".

Saturday 27 August - Valiant Efforts

Well I am sure everyone is wondering how the Right Hand Drive team is fairing. Saturday was supposed to be the last day of shooting, but anyone who has been following the burndown graphs will know that Saturday was an ambitious goal. Here is the burndown graph for the end of Saturday. The team tried very hard to make it, but they missed by one scene / 3 pages.

What this means is that shooting will finish up with scene 60 next Tuesday. Scene 60 is an important confrontational scene between Evan and Sri. The reason that shooting is not continuing today or tomorrow (Sunday or Monday) is because Monday is a holiday and the cast and crew were looking forward to a nice three-day weekend. Shooting on Saturday had already spoiled a three-day weekend so taking away another day was out of the question.

Despite one scene left, there is still a wrap party tonight. I expect a good time will be had by all.

In other developments Jim arrived home safely Saturday afternoon. He brought me a hug from Nicola... sigh.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Friday 25 August - Information Starvation

It has been difficult getting in touch with my contacts in the UK. I think that these final days of shooting are taking their toll and nobody has any energy left to tell me what is going on.

I did receive an email from Mark giving me a quick glimpse of what happened on Friday. Apparently Video Village has gone mobile in the last couple of days.This is a great idea especially since there have been a number of outdoor scenes with the potential of rain. With the mobile arrangement, however, has come some down sides. Notably people keep on banging their heads on the hatch to the car. Jim banged his head hard enough to gash it open (see photo in previous post).

I have no page totals for today, but I do know that Saturday is scheduled to shoot from 2pm until 2am. All remaining scenes are scheduled to be completed by the end of the day (2am Sunday morning). I think it will be a real challenge.

Here is a nice shot of one of the recent setups of Video Village in a field. Apparently the biggest challenge there was the manure.

Jim leaves Saturday morning and Ben takes over as the Mayor of Video Village for the last day of the shoot.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Inside Information

I am sure that some of my readers may be wondering my source of information now that I am no longer "on set" (oh the ache!). Even if you are not wondering I would like to credit my informants. I am trying to touch base by phone with Jim every day after shooting. He gives me all the low-down and clues me in to the what the next day looks like. Usually, if Mark is around I will speak with him as well.

Jim nursing a banged head

Ben, documentarian extraordinaire, contemplating life, the universe, and everything

My source of photos is coming from Ben who is doing an outstanding job of keeping me supplied with photos... even to the point of filling special requests for photos of this or that.

Thanks to both of them.

Up Close and Personal - Lighting Crew

Jon is the Gaffer, he leads the lighting team. I call Jon the Gentle Giant. He is a big guy and yet very soft-spoken. He is quick to share his knowledge about lighting, electricity, and beer. All of which he seems quite familiar.

Alex is the Best Boy (second in command on the lighting team). Again, as with so many of the crew on this shoot, he seems to be a tireless worker despite the fact that I think he (along with Matt) has the physically most difficult job on the whole set. You will see him (and Matt) hauling heavy lights, heavy stands, and heavy cables (there is one cable we are using on the set which must weigh about 80 lbs).

Matt rounds out the lighting team and has been the most helpful person on the whole crew for me. He is the one who gives me power... 240 volts, 16 amps! Of course he gets power to all sorts of places on the set and the Video Village is actually insignificant among all the other equipment.

Wednesday 23 August - Sports / Action Scene

Schedule-wise today was likely one of the best days yet. Not only did they finish early for the day's shooting but they were also able to get an extra 1/8 page scene in.

The location for today was Kington St. Michael Village Hall. The scene was an action scene of Evan and Sri playing badminton and I know a scene that Mark was concerned about. Fortunately all seemed to go well.

Here is the burndown graph for today. A total of 5 3/8 pages.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tuesday 22 August - Another Day, Another Location

Today's shooting took place in two separate locations within a hotel. There was the conference room scene and the hotel room scene. Both scenes show Evan along the path of his downward spiral.

Today was another exercise in process optimization. It became clear fairly early on in the day that they were not going to be able to get to all the scenes / shots that Mark would have liked to have done. Once everyone agrees that they are not going to get everything, then comes the difficult decision as to what shots/scenes to cut. Today Mark decided to cut some of the establishing scenes (Evan arriving at the hotel and Evan leaving the hotel) and some different angles in some other scenes.

They were able to capture some good performances from several of the characters who only appear in one scene.

Rumor has it that Mark (the Director) gave an interview today. The mystery is who he gave the interview to. There is also a rumor that Variety will be doing a write-up on the movie. Speaking of publicity... for some reason IMDB will not list the movie even after a number of attempts. That's too bad.

In other news, today is Heidi's 15th birthday (she plays Kelsey and happens to be Mark's middle daughter).

I think Liz had a lot of fun doing Heidi's makeup.

Here is the burndown graph for today: a total of 5 6/8 pages. That one of the highest days so far. Saturday, 26 August looms large. That is the proposed last day of shooting. One of the biggest challenges will be working around the weather for the outdoor scenes yet to be done.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Up Close and Personal - Production Design

Nicola is the Production Designer. If I had to come up with one word to describe Nicola it would be 'complicated'. Her glasses prescription and mine are almost identical. She is shy of the camera and I found it very difficult to get a picture of her (second only to Fatima... I wonder if she knows how attractive she is?). She is strongly left brained and is an excellent person to have in charge of dressing sets, cars, and exteriors (as she herself will tell you <smile/>). I think her accent is very high-class (at least she tells me so). In any case, even if her accent is not high-class, she is a very high-class person.
This photo of Nicola with Jean is the best photo I have of her. I think that the comfort of Jean's arms gave her courage to have this photo taken.

Amy is the Artistic Director and works for Nicola. Amy (and Matt) have what seems to me mostly a thankless job. The one exception to that is Nicola praises them frequently.

Matt is pretty quiet so I do not know so much about him. I do know that he is a hard worker and rounds out the artistic team well. My first encounter with Matt was him applying a hammer with gusto to Sri's car.

Monday 21 August - Two Locations; One Day

Today's challenge was shooting at two locations. The morning location was the very important "tumble-down garage" scene where the Porsche is introduced. That was the one location that I really wanted to see and didn't have a chance to do so.

I don't think I have mentioned the art department's treatment of the Porsche. The Porsche is a rental from a classic car rental company. It is a gorgeous car. With permission from the rental company the art department has systematically dismantled, covered with dust and dirt, removed bits of trim, and otherwise uglified the Porsche to make it look as bad as possible. That is no mean task given how nice it really looks.

The Porsche's treatment is very different than the treatment for Sri's car, which, on the day before we started shooting, the art department was out with things like hammers and spray paint doing their thing.

The second location was mostly a make up location for some interior shots that we did not get earlier. All-in-all the day was pretty good having met the goal of 5 2/8 pages for the day. Some of the scenes could have used more time, but, as has been mentioned earlier, the realities of a low-budget movie are that you cannot do all the shots/scenes that you would like.

Another piece of good news is that the caterers that have been with the shoot from the beginning are still there.

The shoot is at the point were some of the actors are finished and some of the crew are moving on to other opportunities. So the inevitable goodbye's are starting. Today was Claire's (playing Auntie Ivy) last day. Along with the goodbye's there are also new folks coming on to fill in vacancies. Jim of course took over from me (RHD movie trivia... Jim was the stunt driver in the Thomas' car.) I mentioned earlier that Na had come in to take over as the 1st Camera Assistant (Focus Puller). There is also an new 'spark' to help out with the lights, Svetlana from Russia. She seems to be fitting in well and I am sure that the lighting crew welcome any additional help they can get.

A moment to relax on the set: Val (playing Sri), Liz (makeup), and Ed (playing Evan)

Here is the burndown chart for today. As is expected the two days off has put a serious crimp in the schedule and the ability to finish by Saturday.

Additional complications to a Saturday finish date is the fact that this coming weekend in the UK is a three-day weekend (Monday holiday) and I have heard that there is an expectation that everyone will have three days off. Exactly how all that play out is up in the air. I will keep you posted.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Up Close and Personal - Camera

Nick is the Director of Photography and clearly one of the single most important people on the set. It is a joy to watch Nick work. It is great to see Mark describe the effect or mood that he would like to achieve and then to watch Nick get to work figuring out shots, lighting, angles, actor positions, etc. In many ways I stand in awe of Nick because he has this natural talent for making the dramatic shot that I find so elusive. I expect there is more to that than a simple matter of experience.

Adam is the 1st Camera Assistant or Focus Puller. So much about shooting a scene of a movie is about choreographing all the action into a unified whole. This includes the obvious (actors movements and lines), the not so obvious (camera movement), and the subtle (what part of the scene to focus on at what point in the action). Focusing the camera is important enough so that there is a person specifically assigned to adjust the focus as the scene progresses. This is rehearsed just like lines and movements. Adam is friendly and kind-hearted and has used his big SUV to haul a number of things out of ditches (and ponds).

Laura is the 2nd camera assistant and operates the clapper board. She ends up on practically every take we do. Despite long hours Laura is always upbeat and has a kind word for anyone who chooses to engage her in conversation.

Ben is the grip. He is responsible for the dolly, associated track, and other camera hardware. Ben is not shy of the camera.

Sunday 20 August - Second Day Off

Today was a day off so I do not have much to say. I forgot to mention that Adam, the 1st camera assistant, who is also the focus puller, had his last day last Thursday and the new focus puller's name is Na. More on that as I learn it.

Here is the burndown for the beginning of this new week. Clearly the two days off has put a lot of stress on being able to finish the shoot by this coming Saturday. I have heard rumblings that Mark is already trying to fit another day of shooting into the schedule.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More publicity

Here is some more publicity about making "Right Hand Drive". It is too bad that the reporter didn't just try and ask someone about what was going on. They could have had a much more interesting and informative article.

Here is a photo of the deserted road that we were shooting on.

Up close and personal - Makeup

Since I have talked so much about Liz recently I thought I would do my next up close and personal about the makeup department.

Liz loves what she does and it shows in her work. Liz is quick to smile and quick to dance a jig after work. Liz is full of energy and amazingly competitive (even if she doesn’t know how to play baseball). One of the neatest things about Liz is that she is not afraid to be herself and that is beautiful to behold.

Helen helps Liz do makeup for Right Hand Drive, but in her off time is an actress herself. She is gentle spirit and it is always a pleasure to chat with her when she has a bit of free time.

Friday 18 August – Last day at Packwater Gospel Hall

Shooting today was from 11am – 11pm and it sounded like another tough day on the set. More rain, more tired people, and more crises.

The good:

  • The caterers loaned a tent so that Video Village could set up in relative luxury isolated from the elements;
  • 4 4/8 pages completed;
  • Liz back on the job with only some strained ligaments from her accident;
  • A two day break starts tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday off).

The bad:

  • It rained most of the day;
  • An outdoor scene had to be move indoors due to the rain;
  • Did not finish an important scene at the church location. They will have to come back at a later time to pick up that scene.
  • [Daily crisis] Today was the caterers last day. Apparently there was some disagreement today about catering that was severe enough that they will not be returning.

So after today there are only 6 more days of shooting. I am reminded of something that Fionn said at the very beginning of the shoot that a film shoot is like a marathon and you need to pace yourself. As the cast and crew move into the home stretch you can really see some of that fatigue setting in. Mark reports that he sees some fatigue setting in with some of the actors even. Also when I spoke with Mark it sounded like he was coming down with a cold. I am sure that the schedule and stress is wearing.

I am not sure what the contingency plans are to pick up some of the missed scenes, but I do know that Mark really does not shoot beyond next Saturday (26 August)

Here is the burndown graph for today:

Up Close and Personal - Production

Debbie is the Producer. She is talented, energetic, and positive and you will almost always find her with a smile on her face. Her job is understandably difficult, balancing the many different tensions involved in making a movie. The balance is especially acute in a low-budget (or micro-budget) film where there those tensions are exacerbated by the limited resources. Still, from my admittedly naive viewpoint, it seems like she is doing a great job; a job that one might not expect from her experience and years. She was a strong proponent of me staying on longer in England, but I think she was just being kind.

Fionn is the Production Coordinator. He is one of the most can-do guys that I have ever met. Each day presents Fionn with new challenges and he seems to magically figure our how to wade through all the various issues to find a solution. Fionn is one of the most experienced members of the team and it shows in his professionalism and competence. Out of deference to him I will not post the picture of what he does on his day off <smile/>.

Rachel is a Production Assistant. [Fortunately Ben sent me this picture since I did not have one.] Rachel was actually the first person I met from the crew when I arrived at the production office and she made me feel instantly welcome. She (along with Sian) help Fionn with the day-to-day of making a movie.

Sian is a Production Assistant. She has an effervescent personality that doesn't quit with a smile to match.

Jean is the Locations Manager. Out of all the jobs on the crew this is the one that I think I would be least predisposed to do (ok I would not do makeup or costume, but you know what I mean). Jean goes around the area, sees an attractive house or yard or building, and walks up to the door (or owner) and asks if we can bring about 30 people (strangers) and tons (literally) of equipment into their house or onto their property and film a movie! I would like to see Jean do this sometime because I can hardly believe that it is possible. Even though the job is not that glamorous he clearly has the respect of the rest of the crew and everyone seems to appreciate him. Not much seems to phase Jean, which, given what he puts up with sometimes, causes me to respect him even more.
Jean used to be an IT professional and decided that he wanted to do more than sit staring at a computer screen all day. Hmm, I'm an IT professional and I stare at a computer screen all day...

Harriet is the Assistant Locations Manager. [I don't have a picture of Harriet either, much to my dismay.] Being the assistant to the Locations Manager, as you can well image, is even an even less glamorous job. Essentially her job (along with Jean) is to clean up after the rest of the crew while we are on location. Harriet takes it all in stride with a level head and with out letting things get to her. She is one of my juggling pupils.

Thursday 17 August – On the set

Today was a tough day in the Village (and on the set in general). It was the first day that we had any serious rain. (Probably nature’s empathetic response to my own sadness at having left.) There were not many good alternatives for sheltered locations in which to set up video village so they (ah! the pang of not being able to say ‘we’) made due the best they could with some makeshift shelters. Unfortunately the wind was strong as well and was wreaking havoc with the shelter that was put up.

Today’s crisis was that Liz was in a car accident today and went to the hospital. She was not hurt but was pretty shaken up. She is expected to be back at work tomorrow making everyone looking as good as they can with her makeup magic.

5 3/8 pages today in four scenes. Here is the burn-down chart.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Man of My Word... Usually

Well I am going to renege on my previous promise of only continuing this blog up to 17 August. I have been asked by many people to continue through the end of the shoot. I guess that is good and bad news. Since I will be home and near an Internet connection on a more regular basis I will be able to give more up-to-the-minute reports. However, since I am no longer on the set my reports will not contain as much first-hand information. Jim has taken over my (meager) responsibilities and I will receive daily updates from him via via phone monitoring the day’s progress from afar. I hope to be able to get pictures as well, but that path is yet to be established.

Additionally I have a number of non-date related entries that I would like to publish as well... things that I did not have time to do while in England. Anyway for those who are not bored out of their mind at this point (I think my parents are likely the only ones to fit this category since it is their job to love everything their son does <smile/>) you can continue to read of the saga of the making of Right Hand Drive right here. After all, I have yet to write about Debbie.

Home Sweet Home

I am home!

I am home.

I am home...

Wednesday 16 August – Ken’s First Day on Set, My Last Day on Set

We were at “Packwater Gospel Hall” again today with some gorgeous weather.

One major change today was that we had a new 1st Assistant Director, Ken, working on the set. He seems like a great guy and I am sorry that I will not get to get to know him. We managed to get through about 4 3/8 pages today. We did run out of light at the end of the day as we were trying to get an exterior scene outside the church.

The field across from the church where we camped out with catering, parking, toilets, and makeup / costume facilities.


The field was a horse pasture so the Wellingtons were popular (with the women).
[By the way Liz started this fashion trend]

I guess the most notable thing about today was that it was the last day for me on set.

Let me say here, for the record, that I was completely unprepared for the intensity of being on a movie set and I was completely unprepared for the difficulty in leaving in the middle. I kind of expected that I would go over to England, work hard, learn some new stuff, and come back home. All of those things did happen, but I also met a bunch of very passionate, artistic, quirky, kind-hearted, folks who became my friend even if it is only for a short time.

Bill, a well respected English poet, once said “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Clearly this applies at any time, in any place, and with any persons. I, however, feel the truth of those words most acutely today, in this English countryside, and with all my new English “mates”. To be sure, I am looking forward to going home to my precious family. Still, I do feel like I am sundering bonds between myself and an amazing group of people that to a large extent had become like family to me over the past three weeks that I have been here. It is times like this that make me question the truth of another famous saying, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Of course, the rational side of me believes that whole-heartedly and I know that with time the sorrow of parting will fade and the joy of my summer 2006 experience will remain.
Still... drinks, hugs, and goodbyes at the Rising Sun this evening were, at once, sweet and sorrowful. I am going to miss everyone.

Here is the page burn-down chart for today.

Tuesday 15 August – Packwater Gospel Hall

We were on to our 5th location today, St Giles Church cum Packwater Gospel Hall. The first thing to note is that it is only a 5 minute commute for me from where I am staying. Just to give a bit of a sneak preview I will tell you the church is perfect for the scenes we are playing. Like Aunt Ivy's cottage, the church is one of the central locations where much of the action takes place.
There are both exterior and interior scenes that happen at this location.
Setting up Video Village was pretty straightforward although we had to move a number of times since the shots were going all over the place and there was not one spot that would be out of all the shots.
Challenges for today were normal ones associated with a new location (new setups, new facilities, etc) as well as the addition of the church congregation. It strikes me that the complexity of shooting a scene goes up with the number of people involved even if the extras don't have any lines. In the case today the extras had to sing a couple of hymns which I am pretty sure that the only person who knew the hymns was Mark (Director). Fortunately Ed (playing Evan) has some musical theatre experience and was able to be the choir master and lead all 15 or so of "the congregation" in what turned out to be quite good renditions of those old tunes. In some ways it might be too good!

Here is the page burn-down graph for today:

Monday 14 August – Hit or Miss Pub, Location number 4

We moved to The Hit or Miss Pub today, our 4th location. We are only at this location for one day. As it seems with most days it was very challenging. Today the challenges were working within the confined space of the pub (we only had a small section we could use) and we shot an outdoor night scene on the exterior of the pub. In terms of cinematography I thought today was the best day yet. Many of the shots we did were very good. Many of the performances were very funny.

Another good thing about today was that we met our goal of 5 2/8 pages for the day. Here is the burndown graph for today. Please note that I have adjusted some of the numbers and dates. In particular the graph now reflects the actual number of pages that we have (98 as opposed to 100) and the end date is now the 26th instead of the 30th. (When we delayed the beginning of the shoot I thought we were going to push the finish date back as well. That is not the case.) So in one fell swoop the graph went from looking pretty comfortable to not so comfortable.