Pattern Maker Films is proud to announce that block 1 of Café Mirage is complete, safe and sound in the can. It was a challenging yet fun eight shooting days across Fulham, Kentish Town and Chalk Farm in London. We cannot wait to shoot block 2 in the coming months in Paris.
Due to the size and logistics of the project, having gone through numerous attempts to film everything in Paris with a Paris based cast and crew, the film ended being shot in both London and Paris. Compromises had to be made therefore all the interior scenes were to be shot in London and all the exteriors of course Paris. With a good production designer (Alessandra De Palma) and director of photography (Ariel Artur) on board this challenge was daring and fun.
With all the cast and crew attached I can confidently say this is one of the most talented teams PMF has worked with. The bulk of block 1 was filmed at the centrepiece location to the film: the café. It took a long time to scout, contact and visit the right café, overcoming many rejections. The café had to be French, obviously being the key factor, and that narrowed down the choices. But we found our home with Fulham’s Bistro Mirey, a lovely French/Japanese place with wonderfully helpful owners and chefs Gerald and Ko.
The other filming locations in block 1 were the apartment scenes, based in Chalk Farm and Kentish Town. The owners of the properties were a great help, and once more one of the main objective was making the apartments look as though they were in Paris. Luckily the properties were well chosen and supported this aim with some beautiful set pieces. Both the actors and crew created some beautiful work.
One of the most challenging yet exciting stages of production with this film was the Paris block (block 2) in September (specific dates 13th – 17th). With my very limited French I was still able to secure the production’s permit for exterior shooting and a deal with a café for a shooting location. Under such tight budget restrictions, I managed to make this happen. This section (and certainly most important) to the production was done entirely digitally. With the budget raised, Eurostar and accommodation booked for the cast and crew, everything was ready to go.
To help me with the paperwork and other things, I hired translator to bridge the gap between the French connections and myself. As a whole, the deal process went through pretty quickly. With every project I try to stretch myself and do something I didn’t do on the previous, with Café Mirage filming overseas was a necessary step and communicating with other cultures and languages is something I also enjoy.
Block 2 Paris was completed successfully, and it is always a music to ones ears when you get everything on the schedule and more. Having a permit to shoot in the city and doing everything by the book made the schedule smooth and worry free. We were only stopped once by the Paris authorities for checks, during film.
We did a few scenes at the Gare Du Nord over the 5 days. A busy location and an obvious choice when shooting in Paris, to capture the characters arriving and departing from Paris. Exterior shooting requires crowd control. The Gare Du Nord was the most challenging with this factor because of how busy and noisy it was, and we had tramps (not homeless people) – for want of a better word – intentionally ruining our takes by invading the set and being loud.
Extras was another task that we needed to tackle. Being on such a minimal budget, we took a skeleton cast and crew out for this block to accommodate the budget and stay within the rules of our permit agreement. So finding extras to be in the scenes was going to be an improvised and on the moment exercise. Thankfully we had people whom agreed but we also went through rejections and some scenes had to be dropped entirely because the shooting was feasible or manageable due to the size of the project.
Transportation was all on foot with the use of the Metro. We came to and from Paris by Eurostar and stayed in hostel accommodation at Jo&Joes in zone 5, a hostel I will recommended due to how clean and tidy it was.
Cafe Mirage block 3 completed on 23rd November 2019, which also meant the entire production has officially wrapped.
The last leg of filming was a three day schedule, starting at Stanley Halls, Norwood Junction on day 1; day 2 we shot at Nix Hairdressers and continued to Stanley Halls, all within Norwood Junction; and then the last day was around Kings Cross St Pancras. Stanley Halls provided the location for a protest scene. This was to be one of the most challenging days because there were extras and large scenes, one of which to be a pinnacle point in the story. Art department was a major factor because we had to create banners and flyers for the protesters, making this theme as real as we could – to decent effect.
I’ve mentioned previously in the PMF blog that with every project I try to stretch myself and do something I hadn’t done previously, with Cafe Mirage this was my first attempt at protest scene.
The level of acting on this film is the best PMFs has worked with, right across the board. The inclusion of the protest scenes supporting artists provided some standout gems: Natasha Radski, Billie Vee and Delly Allen. Gold can be found in the smaller roles and these artists hold testament to that. If we’re talking about the main cast, notable performances include Shamir Dawood, Victoria Malinjod Paul Higginson and Grace Hendy. As a director, I see my cast as my children, observing their different acting styles and personalities. It is a pleasure to work with acting that takes it to the next level, it raises my abilities as a director.
The hairdresser scene on day two, block 3, was all about the character Chelsea. After watching block one and two’s rushes, I decided to add more material for the character because she was terribly underused, a decision I am very happy I made. In the previous cuts, Chelsea came and went. The performance Grace brought to the character not only begged more screen time, it was a discredit to such an important character to Charlie’s backstory only to appear in two scene. So I got the pen out and started redrafting, constructing two more funny scenes for the character, adding weight to her, the story and her relationship with Charlie. The owner of the hairdressers, Nicky, was pleasant to work with, we arrived early before their start of trade, grabbed the scene and moved on at 10.30am.
A pretty big obstacle (and annoyance) to arise in the block 3 was the closing of Bistro Mirey. We needed to go back there to shoot one day, but couldn’t so I had to think on ones feet. We were to lose some of the chefs and their kitchen scenes in the process, there was no way around that, but we could keep some more important scenes and change the location from the café main floor to a new location, a storage room, which Stanley halls provided. There is always a solution to a problem, and even when you don’t see it at the time can turn out to be better overall. The sacrifice of the chef scenes is the compromise, and to think positively on the matter, may work in the overall pacing of the film. Having said all that we did experience the infamous Murphy’s Law: of all the things that could have happened with the location, the worst did, it actually shut down.
The last day of filming in block 3 was around Kings Cross St Pancras. A first for me along with shooting in a London black taxi we hired from a company that specialises in this service. Originally the plan was to shoot inside St Pancras station, however due to the unnecessarily long forms, regulations and excessive cost, it wasn’t possible to do on this size of film. Therefore schedule changes and decision-making had to be made and we moved those scenes to the street and a black taxi. We were still able to tell the same story just in a different way. The black taxi hire company I will recommend for any shoot, they were helpful, always willing to assist the shoot, good communication.
This day was mostly focusing on the “period”/flashback scenes of the movie, when the main character was a boy. Not straight forward because of the paperwork and regulations you have to go through when working with child actors. Also finding actors to play his parents convincingly is equally challenging. However the Gods were looking down on the film because our PM (Lauren Lorenzo) had friends that not only exactly fit the demographics for the parts, the boy (Joshua) looked just like Shamir Dawood, same ethnicity, even the same haircut. It was heaven sent in that department. As non actors, we thank Joshua, Mandeep and Alison for giving up their time for the project, jumping in and participating, which they did a grand job.
Despite it being a rainy morning, drizzly, we ended the entire production schedule with some nice work between Grace Hendy and Mark Cook playing out a scene in the black taxi, one of the late script additional scenes. Of all the ups and downs this film had predominantly in development due to finance set backs, and at the start of 2019 I was considering scrapping the entire project, to see principle photography in the can by the end of the year is an achievement all in itself. PMF has done this eight times now and it teaches you every film is a miracle, and you can never say never because you never know what can happen. Looking back, especially with shooting in Paris which was a career dream fulfilled for me, when there thinking “this is actually happening” from time to time, sometimes I don’t know how we did it. All in all, 2019 was a good year.