It was early July 2009 and despite being tired, I was feeling VERY optimistic about this little £50k film we were making. Ok, the script was a bit ambitious, but it was good and I’d fix a few things as we went along. The young cast were great, the production team well organised and the HODs way more experienced than I’d originally envisaged.
By God, I done it – I’d set-up a little feature – just like I said I’d do, three months earlier. Boy, was I feeling pleasantly smug. But of course it didn’t last.
Just before we began shooting our co-producer (the only one in the production team to have ever done a feature before) got offered a high paid job and took it.
‘Oh well’, I thought, ‘we’ll cope.’ But, the truth was, we had no choice; our roller-coaster had reached the top of its creaking timber gantry.
In addition to writing an over ambitious script just days before filming, I was determined to a) shoot largely in chronological order to aid the young performers and b) only give the 14 year old actors 30 pages at a time, so as to keep them keen, since they didn’t know the full story.
Even now, I’m convinced these were good ideas, but for a production already bulging at the seams, they would prove to be yet another burden that would almost bring this monstrous creation to its knees.
Week one of shooting began well enough – though from day one I knew we were going too slowly. However, there was something much more significant I was unaware of: a major, pre-existing dispute was rumbling in the camera department between two people who hadn’t been told the other was on the job; nobody knew they were mortal enemies till they began to snarl at each other whilst obliged to work in close quarters. One of them had to go and a costly replacement was shipped in 220miles from London at short notice. And yet more money we could ill-afford began to seep away.
So, things were getting grim but there was still a major kick in the balls I had yet to endure and it was only day#4 of the shoot. A careless crew-member had left their FULL script in the kids’ dressing room, so now my big motivational idea was trashed – the kids knew the whole f***ing story and immediately lost focus. In addition, they were now mini-stars and began competing with each other to flirt with the female crewmembers.
Towards the end of week one we switched to nights (my script had a lot of night…) and things went down hill even more rapidly. The young actors struggled to stay awake, never mind keep focused; we slipped even further behind schedule and I knew some of the stuff we’d shot was lousy.
I pushed as hard as I could to put things right, but nothing made any significant difference. I began to have out of body experiences. I recall vividly (after already going into overtime by a couple of hours) being asked by the 1stAD for my opinion on how to compress everything else we had to shoot that night into some single, magical shot that would allow every bleary –eyed member of cast and crew to go home after a heavy week, with some people still needing to travel hundreds of miles that night for a brief weekend in their own bed.
I paused for a long time before answering; because in my head, I was rehearsing how best to put it (i.e with maximum sarcasm) that such a shot was unnecessary, since we’d be scrapping the whole f***ing film. Mulling those sentiments around my frazzled mind gave me some kind of perverse pleasure – in an instant I could put everyone out of their grumbling discomfort; there was satisfaction to be had in killing this monster that presumed it was going to continue to drag me in deeper.
But another part of me sensed that I was on the verge of making a rash, prima donna type statement, mostly born of frustration and petulance. The whole thing was on a knife-edge. Did I have the balls to pull the plug?
The 4am breeze chilled my burning eyes. I bit my tongue, came up with an half-arsed idea to end the night’s filming and the monster lived.