It was going to be an early start with this shoot. Up at 5.30am to leave for 6.30am and arrive at Dorking station for 8am. I was transporting most of the equipment and props in my relatively small car, and it was my first time using a sat nav, so just arriving to the meet was a some what challenge.
The cast and crew were arriving either by car or train. Thankfully everyone arrived at the correct times except for one of the extra whom gave me a fright. I was stretched for extra’s numbers as it was, so losing anymore would have been detrimental. Not only was I relying on him to be in the film, but also for the use of his car to transport some of the team to and from the location. 8.30am had come and he still hadn’t arrived, so the team had to move on and drive to the location which was 10 minutes from the station.
When we arrived, we stetted in one of the seating area tents the location provided and had breakfast. The owner of the land, Wayne, was kind enough to help by catering the breakfast which was a nice gesture. Unfortunately our make up artist had pulled out at the last minute, so the make up department was hands on between the cast. They were great for pitching in there, although it wasn’t ideal, that job was done through team work. Luckily by this time the extra and his friend was on his way. It definitely put us behind schedule, but the important thing was they were coming.
The crew had an early scout of the assault course to prepare. After that, shooting commenced. We started by shooting the final race. It was funny, when I came to view the location, the field was grass, this day it was all brown. I was later told by Wayne the field had been turned into crops, but he allowed us to shoot on it quickly because we had already started. The start of the race was a nice way to kick off, nothing too difficult, a good scene to get used to the shot styles and for the cast and crew to get relaxed. Being in a massive open field and the film being ninety five percent exterior, a continuity concern was the light. The weather had to be as much the same on each take otherwise on screen it would look too different. We did our best to tackle this, I think we pulled through. Another major hazard was we weren’t far from Gatwick airport, so the planes were frequent and affected our sound man Javi, so before we were shooting we had to make sure no planes were near. It was time consuming, but it is a common hazard to overcome when shooting a film.
The big challenge was of course the assault course itself. It was huge. After discussions, I think the ideal thing was to have the cast view it before jumping right into it on the day. It was a lot to ask from them, and if anything was to have gone wrong, then I would have had bigger problems. Luckily everyone was up for it. Some cast and extra’s were hesitant on some parts of the course, which was alright because we shot what we could, then will edit accordingly for it to fit the story. The only injuries throughout the two days were two cut fingers. Those people were troopers, because the patched themselves up and carried on.
The first obstacle were the tunnels. They looked awesome. We had the kids run down the hill (epic looking shot) and then cut to Faye and Angelique in the tunnels. We weren’t going to get them running through the mud pool for continuity reasons. After that it was the nets, which looked really cool on camera. The D.O.P Valerio was able to get into adventurous positions (the top of the net) to shoot the kids whilst Michael (2nd cameraman) shot from the ground. Unfortunately I wasn’t to know Angelique was afraid of heights so this really scared her. However she managed to pull though the fear and complete the net, which showed team player spirit.
Trenches were next, they were pretty big and a challenge not to fall into the mud pools. Some of the kids didn’t participate in it, which again was fine because we could shoot what we could and cut it accordingly in the edit. After that it was the rope. By far the most tricky obstacle of the course and the part we used most because it is in a lot of the film. It is the main character’s (Ellie) problem. It wasn’t straight forward, some of the kids fell in, I almost did when I demonstrated, but we got all we needed and the kids were excellent for being up for it, good team spirit. It was tricky to shoot this rope section, it had to involve lots of cuts, from close ups, to the swing itself and to people landing. It had to be chopped up because it wasn’t guaranteed the swings would be successful and without them getting dirty. So this section we had to be very edit friendly.
We moved onto the final parts of the assault course; another net, tyre’s and the wall. These ran smoothly and once again Valerio and Michael were able to shoot from adventurous positions. We did well to get involved in the action as much as possible, which will compliment the genre of the film – action/drama. After that we shot a cool simple scene of the kids running though the woods to show they were coming to the end of the race. Then we braked for lunch.
It was Dominos Pizza, which turned out to be a good choice. Being involved in action packed activities all day, I think heavy hot splodge was ideal for us to keep our energies up. Faye was the only person whom couldn’t have it because she is a vegan, so I prepared her a different meal.
Unfortunately for me, we were running drastically behind on schedule. To be honest, none of us really expected the demands of the assault course and how long it took to shoot each section, it took double the time I had planned. So I was panicking. After lunch we finished the end of the race scene, which didn’t take too long, but again with the planes and light issue, it was something to deal with. Once race 1 was complete, originally I planned to shoot race 2 straight after, but because we were so behind on time, we had to move race 2 to day 2 and shoot other scenes instead.
We moved on to the scene where Lawrence (played by Nicholas Anscombe) offers to help Ellie (played by Faye Sewell) It was a nice straight forward dialogue scene. The shots were clean and acted nicely. Nick and Faye were on point. It would have been better to have more extra’s, but the two we had was just as important for this scene.
I had to do a lot of re-jigging, because we were behind on schedule and I had moved it around, as the director you have to make decisions quickly. So to utilize the schedule and time I decided to keep the crew back late. We originally were going to wrap at 6pm, but there was no choice but to wrap at 8pm. I decided to make the lunch scene a dinner scene at night, which was an excellent use of time. However it was a challenge to get Wayne and his staff to stay late for us to shoot it. And also for us to use their main generators for our lights for the night scene, as this shoot is practically all outside. So there were obstacles, but Wayne was marvelous and he allowed us to stay.
So Valerio, Michael and I set up the lights in a cool inside/outside seating area , it took a little while to get right, but we worked together. It was a plus Michael and I had brought extra extension cables otherwise the lights wouldn’t have reached the generator and that would have been a problem. By this time some cast and extras were getting a bit restless because they were staying later meaning they were going to get home later, plus the men whom worked at the place were strict for us to be out at 8pm because they were working overtime for us. I really did want the the original lunch scene, but due to the late of extra’s, this dinner scene worked like a blessing because it was confined in a smaller space.
This scene looked really powerful with it being at night and sort of outside, the one on one rivalry between Ellie and Annabelle is massively emphasized. It definitely worked better because the scene was darkly lit. Faye and Angelique were pro’s for delivering and working all the way even though it was getting cold and they were staying late. The only downside to this scene was the time. We were rushed and on the clock for 8pm. The last part of the scene had a heated exchange between Lawrence and Annabelle. This possibly was the only ugly duckling scene of the film. Not down to the actors, they were terrific, but because of time. We were really rushing and only able to achieve minimal takes. We needed more takes, angles and actions for the scene to gel, but we ran out of time.
In all, the scene was worked, but more time would have made it perfect. It was a tough day anyway because of how demanding the assault course was and the time it took to shoot it. The day wasn’t completely settled because it was so new to us, but in terms of the footage, we outweighed the con’s by a factor of ten.