So the weekend saw Hugawookie brave the cold outdoors to shoot lots of exterior shots for our forthcoming short, Galactic Council. One of the key elements of the script is the use of flash-sideways; short vignettes that show how the main character was killed in other ‘lives’. It’s a bit of fun that developed out of some of the earlier drafts of the script. Essentially we get to film some tiny shorts, within the short, that are extreme, cruel and funny.
There are four of these scenes, three really as one of them will just be a voiceover on top of a still image. There’s one that involves a road and a truck, another exterior involving feral children and a final one that needs a kitchen. In addition there is an extra scene -which I’ve inserted at the beginning of the script and named Scene 1A- that starts in a pub and shows the main character driving to the location of Scene 1, that needs filming to complete the main run of principal photography.
There’s a lot to do and only one day to get some of it done in, so we needed to start properly with Rule #1:
Rule #1: Plan your shots
Before the day arrived we looked at the locations, props and cast that were required. We still haven’t sorted out a decent location for a good commercial kitchen so that was immediately shelved until our next shooting day. The pub scene required an interior (a pub naturally) and an exterior (car park and road) so we had to break that into those two elements because we hadn’t got permission to use a pub yet. Based on timings (best to film in a pub pre-11am) and with a watchful eye on the weather we ended up with the following shot list:
- Pub – interior
- Feral Children Woods
- Truck Road scene
- Truck Static scene
- Pub – exterior
The pub exterior, needing to match Scene 1, which is at night, was best shot at the end of the day, either because it would be dark or just because it was the least time sensitive (we’ll be swapping day for night in After Effects).
All was set. Now we move to Rule #2:
Rule #2 – Be adaptable
The day of shooting arrives and we have a few problems. The pub landlord is in Mexico and has not replied to begging requests to use his pub. Secondly the children, whilst doubtless still feral, are not available. This is a shame as the fake blood has arrived.
We have a day to fill so we need to quickly adapt. This really shows the importance of planning. Because we have not just planned to shoot scenes but know where the shots are we can quickly adapt the day to fit with the cards we’ve been dealt. By the end we will have a lot done, not necessarily complete scenes but 80% complete across the board. We’re busy guys. we have to hold down jobs, we can’t let a full day of shooting go to waste.
First, lets visit Rule #3 – There’s nothing wrong with asking
We’re down a pub to shoot in. We already know which pub we want to shoot the exteriors of, we just need a nice interior. Our producer Matthew shows his credentials by suggesting we just hit a local hostelry and cheekily ask if we can film. Even better, he says, drag the kit in with us, they can’t turn us down then. And so it was. The kind landlord agreed to let us take over one of his rooms and steal some of his electricity in exchange for a couple of pints and a game of darts. 20 minutes of setup and we nail three takes in two minutes.
Whilst we’re on a roll -we did have those drinks after all- we head down to the next pub and ask their permission to film in their car park. Again happy agreement, followed by interest and offers of extras.
Important point here. If you’re filming on someone else’s property, ask permission, it’s the right and decent thing to do. From what we’ve seen, people are more than happy to accommodate. Reassure them that any identifying marks or logos won’t show on the final footage, if that is a concern. If it’s a commercial shoot then obviously you probably want to start to get location releases signed. External footage of a building doesn’t require permission -though you can be on dodgy ground if showing someone’s building in a way that brings it into disrepute- but why not ask anyway?
So far, so good. We’re 90 minutes into the day and Scene 1A is in the can.
Next, the feral children. Now the children in question only appear in the final shot of this scene so, after a bit of planning and thinking, we reckon we can shoot the rest as we are. The woods we decide -as we are actually in a completely different part of Cheshire than we originally planned- to ditch in favour of a canal path and a motorway flyover – feel the production value! This whole piece involves yours truly dressed in a stupid jogging outfit being chased down the formers and then collapsing under the latter. Tired, bruised and muddy, we head back to the car where -quick change- we decide to nail the first part of the truck sequence, outside a newsagent’s on a main road. I pretend to be distractedly reading a paper and step into the road to meet my doom.
Final stop a distribution centre where we have full permission to mess about with trucks. We shoot a shoot the back of an articulated lorry with my greasy and bloodied hand shakily imploring the driver to help me in the foreground. The fake blood is impressive; it looks real but also strangely seems to give off static electric shocks. NOTE: it also stains clothing.
And that was it. We had a good five hours of shooting and, by thinking flexibly and taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves, have completed two scenes and done all but one shot of another.
Next we just need to find that commercial kitchen and then film that one shot of two kids ripping me apart…