Paradis Production

Day 1

We started off at the church. The week on the run up to the shoot we struggled to fill this location with extras and unfortunately on the day we were very light on numbers. This required some of us to street pitch, which also was unsuccessful. In the end we had three extras along with the cast, which wasn’t enough but we did our best with the resources we had.

Performing the songs was one of the biggest challenges as the extras had to learn them on the spot. First day of shooting takes getting used too, but thankfully things gelled quickly. The DOP (Satinder Gill) had all his own equipment and the camera was the amazing Sony A7s DSLR (a first for me and I am now a believer). We used his gimbal to shoot the song sequences which was a fantastic experience.

I was able to achieve dolly shots I envisioned in my mind in this scene with the gimbal, and because Satinder had his own equipment, I was able to achieve ALOT more techniques I was limited too on my previous films. It was the progression I needed and what was due.

What the cast and crew learnt throughout the entire shoot was time and how we basically worked double the hours estimated on the call sheets. The essence of time on a film shoot is the difference between top quality productions and the opposite, therefore Paradis being a 5 day shoot should really have been 10. At the church we rolled over two hours later than agreed in the contract. Thankfully the owners were co-operative, but it cost me an extra charge. Also the fact there was a children’s play group directly next door was a nightmare for our sound, but we got through it best we could.

 Day 2

The next day we were at my house to film Dominique’s house scenes. It was another example of on paper what looked a reasonable schedule and finish time, we ended up running hours over and even having to drop scenes because I couldn’t keep the team further. There were more extras that day and they worked with Dominique’s character (played by Sebastian Badarau) and we started with their scenes first. We used the slider (camera equipment) a lot and Satinder and I were creative with these shots.

We moved onto a scene with Avril (played by Laura Menendez) and Dominique. I had a specific shot in mind for this scene which I achieved. The thing I loved about working with Satinder is he got my vision and views and he co-operated to making them happen, likewise I was the same with him – we clicked. There were things we both wanted to try with this scene and which came to fruition. I also really liked working with Laura and I love the character Avril. As a couple I think Sebastian and Laura were cute and worked well. This scene is one of my favourites in the film.

As mentioned, we ran out of time to complete the final two scenes on the schedule, so we had to move them to the forth day of shooting.

Day 3

At the halfway point of the shoot we were in North London at a house I rented for the day. The occupant of the property was a friend of the Producer (Oliver Woodward) and he was terrific for allowing us to use the entire house at a very reasonable rate. That day by far was going to be the longest and I had already scheduled for it. There were approximately ten scenes to do. In the script the scenes were set in different locations, but the advantage of having an entire house to shoot is you can split the property up to make the scenes look like they are in different places.

We started with Avril’s scene where she receives Dominique’s manuscript. I had a specific shot in mind for this scene which I achieved. As the film developed, Laura became one of my ‘projects’ as Avril is a cute and important character to the films humour. However I felt she was underused so I lengthened her screen time, and what started as a nice and innocent character turned out to be a slightly zany one, a side to Avril I didn’t know existed, which was great. I always developed for her a secret bonus shot you will see when the film is complete. This idea popped into my head right before shooting and it was a gem.

Next were the two scenes with Dominique and his Therapist and we shot them back to back because they were in the same location. The only things which needed to change was the wardrobe and art department. Therapist (played by Alister Albert) I had worked with before on Set Point. He played a supporting character as a tennis player and I wanted to give him a bigger role when the time came. So he auditioned for Therapist and got it.

These scenes were supposed to be humor driven. As Sebastian and Alister worked together through rehearsals they just got better and better. We had a mix of camera techniques when shooting these scenes, Satinder wanted to break the rules which I needed convincing. A nod to the Art Department too for dressing the set well.

Unfortunately but not surprisingly we were running well behind schedule. Lizette (played by Solveig Haugen) and Merak (played by Paolo Coruzzi) weren’t best pleased to be waiting a few hours after their call time. It was a pleasure to shoot these challenging scenes, but I won’t go into too much detail because of spoilers, however some of the shots looked like portraits and easily ranked as some of the best frames in the film.

To end the day (which was just after 10pm) we finished with various small scenes. I won’t go into detail with these either due to spoilers other than some of them were shot very quickly due to time constraints, however some suited the mood and tension perfectly. There were very  key moments that had to be captured in order to bring the story together, which we accomplished.

Day 4

We were only supposed to be at the pub location on day four, but due to missing scenes on day two we did them first. It worked well because we had the pub from 12pm and the scenes we missed were short, so a skeleton crew did them at my house then went to the pub. These scenes showed Dominique going through his rituals and writing his manuscript in ‘before and after’ mode; one represented him struggling where the other showed him flying. Capturing his expressions was key and we filmed an exquisite shot of Dominique performing his ritual. I think the art department did a great job creating the props too.

At the pub the schedule was to shoot four scenes.  I was grateful to have the place as I held auditions there in the past, and we had the entire top floor to ourselves until they closed. There were a few hazards such our space being next to the kitchen so we had to work with the chef regarding sound issues, but he was also very co-operative. Next we had very limited space to shoot the bar scenes due to how the place was designed, but we worked around it. Time constraints was another factor again with some of the artists needing to leave at specific times. We were light on extra numbers again. And finally natural daylight affected continuity because some scenes took a lot longer than expected, so in some cases we had to fake natural light with our lights.

As I mentioned in then pre production post, it was great to be working with Alexander Devrient (playing Restaurant Manager) again. To repeat, Alex is the ultimate professional. He had just come off filming The Danish Girl with Eddie Redmayne and this made the crew eager to meet him.

I had Alex in mind to play Dominique when I finished the script, but I felt he was a bit too powerful for the role. Restaurant Manager was hard to cast and had to changed the character to a female because I had no choice. The decision turned out to be a very quirky twist, plus the actress who took on the role was a tremendous performer whom I will work with again. But due to circumstances with filming dates I lost Claire (actress) which was a massive shame. However once another advert went live for the role again and the character went back to male, Alex arrived and auditioned.

Watching Alex and Sebastian perform together was a treat. They are both tall and have a strong screen presence. They can speak fluent French so they contributed towards strengthening the dialogue (as to how French people would speak) which helped my script. Finally Alex delivered the comedy of his character really well (as Restaurant Manager is a bit of a dirty guy) and the scenes were hilarious. My next goal for Alex in my films is to not typecast him!

A long dialogue scene between Dominique and Lizette (which is becoming a signature trait to my style of film making) is in the run in for scene of the film. It was dressed perfectly and the dim lighting connected the feel, it also contrasted the previous scene which was daylight and now the story was evening time. Because the scene is a five pager of dialogue, there are a range of emotions the characters go through. It took plenty of rehearsals to see this develop and it was exciting to see it happen on the day. I am a fan of one shot scenes (but it has to be done right and necessary) and we had no choice but to apply that here because of time constraints. However it was a blessing that was meant to happen because the scene is magnificent and a scene stealer to the whole film. I can’t wait to see it finished.

Day 5

It was the last day in Warwick Avenue, West London and it was about capturing where the story was set by shooting all exterior footage. We worked with a skeleton crew all day to stay within the Westminster filming permit laws as I didn’t have the budget to get one. To do this we had no more than a five man crew at all times on set and we used a handheld steady cam all day. Parking was an annoyance too. Satinder, Pablo (1st assistant camera) and I started early by shooting exterior footage of the area to use as establishing shots. As I mentioned in the Pre Production post, Warwick Avenue and Little Venice have beautiful landscapes and I wanted to capture them. An element of the film is bringing tribute to the area but the trick was to not make the film an advertisement of it.

After the establishing shots, we went to the house where most of the action was going to take place that day. In pre production I had to do door to door selling to find a house whom would allow us to use their front garden. Approximately four scenes were to be shot there and all of them included extras. Pleasingly all of the extras turned up except one, but that was easily rectified as we doubled up another.

We were constantly battling against the weather all day. It did rain a few times which affected the continuity a lot. Also, as we were running out of time the day became darker and the street lights came on which affected the continuity too. I was very happy with the teams professionalism however, especially the extras who waited and performed in the cold. The shots of Dominique at his house were beautiful, especially ‘the money shot’ which you will see when the film is complete.

To finish the day we shot a small scene with Dominique on his phone somewhere in the area. Regarding having all local businesses shop fronts that were going to be on screen, I had to ask for their permission on the day and ninety five percent were happy to comply. By this time we were really losing natural light, so we had to over expose the camera which wasn’t ideal, but that is what the tool is there for. And when we did completely lose natural light we shot all the night time exteriors which took about forty five minutes.


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