Making ‘Get Well Soon’ Part 5.
Late Feb /March 2010 – Location, funding, crew and camera
Towards the end of February, Ian and I began looking for a Location. In retrospect, this was one of the most difficult parts of the whole project, as we had very limited funding; a lot would depend on luck in finding a place that looked right, and was affordable. First port of call was friends – we looked at the Low Fidelity Disconnect, an arts space run by members of the band Djevara, (also directors of Genin Records who release Thumpermonkey).
It had a really cool aesthetic to it, albeit rather a different one to what we originally envisioned. Originally, we thought of our characters living in quite a sterile environment; a lofty open-plan warehouse flat in docklands. The LFD had a very different personality – lots of quirky details that we thought we might want to exploit rather than dress-out. The walls were covered in art, photos and stencils of band names that had played gigs there. On the second level of the warehouse, Geoff from the LFD appeared to be trying to create a super-brain out of fourteen networked computers – part of me was keen to write this into the plot somehow.
We took some photos for reference, and then did a test shoot on mini DV in March. This featured me, glumly wandering about alongside an actress / comedian friend of ours, Angela Barnes, who travelled up for the day to stand in for Janet. It was really useful to see how the environment would come across on camera, and it also gave us a chance to do a proper reconnoitre from a practical perspective. For instance:
- Was there essential 3 phase power available, that we could tap into to run the lights? Otherwise we’d have to bring in a generator.
- When booking and trying to figure out availability, was there space to load in tons of unwieldy equipment the night before, to set up a pre-light, and also to make sure that there weren’t additional space bookings that would affect this?
- The LFD was up some stairs – where could we store all this stuff? How easy would it be to carry a dolly that needed four people to lift, up into the main shooting space? I remember our grip Louisa Court, describing the dolly, (heavy enough to crush an Irish Wolfhound), as a ‘baby’. I suppose context is everything.
- The other issue was the bathroom – it was a central part of the story, but it was just too small, (considering the amount of crew we’d need to fit in there). We started entertaining the idea of building a fake bathroom on one of the days; knocking up some walls and bringing in a bath. That presented problems – filling it up without real plumbing, keeping it warm for an actress who would potentially need to be sitting in it for a while, and of course, the fact that we would need to build a set.
Meanwhile, we’d received a broadscale schedule from BRAG productions showing the level of detail and planning required – with all the scenes arranged out of sequence so that we could capitalize on lighting set ups. We also had a basic budget, which identified a £2296 investment, (roughly breaking down into £1000 on catering, £500 or so for locations, and a few hundred quid for lighting and camera rentals). We knew that various things might shift here – that equipment hire costs could be very variable. What we weren’t prepared for at this point was the scale of which costs could change. As our project continued, things that we thought would be spectacularly expensive became very cheap, but costs we hadn’t anticipated mounted up elsewhere.
By this stage, BRAG were starting to find crew who had worked on some fantastically diverse projects. We also used websites like Shooting People and Talent Circle to source additional crew. Greg’s advice at this stage, was that everything should hinge around the dates actors could commit to before factoring in other people’s involvement. Though totally undesirable, it would be possible to change key crew if their availability changed, but without the actors, we had nothing. Once we had a couple of weekends locked off, we started to think carefully about the camera we were going to use.
We discussed this with our director of photography, Rory Moles who had just finished working on Luther, and had previously worked on Spooks and The Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Originally, we had talked about shooting on the RED camera. Many of the people involved knew crew who had worked with it before; it quickly became a less popular choice.
General opinion seemed to be that the RED might overcomplicate a small, low-budget shoot. A number of the crew had seen them malfunction frequently, and suggested that having a separate technician available would be essential. Greg also suggested that we would reasonably want to be using additional lighting to get the best out of the RED, (which could result in more cramped working conditions, extra work setting up, longer set ups). This is before we even started thinking about the size of the thing, and how instrumental that would be in physically placing shots. This was still somebody’s house we were filming in, not a set.
Rory seemed keen to see how the Canon 5D would work. I couldn’t help noticing the price gap between this camera, and the RED; I was startled that you could shoot footage that looked so beautiful on a machine that was still primarily a digital SLR stills camera. Of course, the 5D’s idiosyncrasies are also well publicised – the internet was awash in solutions to the lack of an efficient focusing system while shooting. One website suggested attaching a huge geared wheel around the lens’s focusing wheel, but in the end Rory’s solution was to have a dedicated and experienced focus puller, a £20,000 remote follow focus system, a decent monitor (Marshall), and lots of focus marks.
“The 5D has very shallow depth of field” explained Rory, ‘Which is what gives us cinematic images, but this means it becomes difficult to follow actors and action around, especially when you are hand held.”
Rory’s experience of using the 5D will be be tackled in more depth in an upcoming interview – watch this space.