Late March was upon us and with that meant the final stages of shooting in Devon. We rented a cottage on the outskirts of Tiverton, saving us some money as we were there for 5 nights. The Saturday and Sunday were scheduled for the dance sequence meaning we had Thursday and Friday to capture everything else. On top of the bridge, bus and roundabout shots that we failed to get last time, we needed a panoramic shot of the town, some establishing shots of Tiverton and some inserts in Kay’s bedroom.
New-Hall-Floor-Plan (Of Building, Not for Director)
Thursday and Friday went pretty smoothly. We now had permission to get on the bus so had 15 minutes to get the shot that I wanted. Sam, Kay and I got on the 55 bus to Exeter and quickly got as many shots as possible whilst Emily and Jess followed in the car behind. It was a sunny day so perfect for the bridge shot. The terrain wasn’t immaculately level so we had to buy some lengths of baton to shore the tracks up. Getting the shot was challenging but after dozens of takes, were happy that we had the shot. We shot with various focal lengths to give us options. The roundabout shot took a little bodging to get but we managed it. We had to set the tripod up on top of some garden chairs from Kay’s to match the angle and frame that we had from the turntable (the shot from which this one would transition) We managed this using a still from the shoot of the turntable. Off screen I was spinning Kay around on the roundabout, trying various speeds. There was obviously a limit to how many times this was possible and Kay wasn’t having much fun being constantly spun.
We had hired a large concert hall in the centre of town for the dance sequence at a huge cost. We paid in the region of £400 for half a day on Saturday and the whole day on Sunday. We brought all of the equipment along on the Saturday and intended to use the time testing camera movements with the choreography and farming the set ups I had drawn up on the floorpan. This day was, probably, the darkest day of the whole production. Kay and the majorettes were due to arrive at 12pm to start rehearsing but none of them were. Kay had been out drinking the previous night and was one of the last there at around 1pm. His sister, Kelly, who was featuring largely in the dance, ended up arriving around 3pm. Two dancers didn’t turn up at all. Even worse, despite constant reassurance from Kay, it was clear that no real efforts had been made to develop the dance any further than where it was by the time we left in January. The track that Kay had had for months, was suddenly not structurally sound for the way he wanted the choreo to go. To his credit this was true but only became apparent to us whilst there. Kay should and could have known weeks ago. Emily and I had to re-cut the music on set and managed to make an edit 2 minutes long that featured a mixture of the moods within the original.
Kay was under a lot of pressure to guide the majorettes through their own competitions, as well as his own media work, nevertheless this was unacceptable. Kay is of the impression that he is capable of doing everything at the last minute and planning is unnecessary. We had stressed exactly what our plans were and exactly what was expected of him, but still, he saw fit to do it his own way. I was furious and hid myself away. If I had of acted on my emotions at that time, it was entirely possible that I may have said something that could have compromised the whole production. Emily called a break and walked with Kay to the shop and have a diplomatic chat with him. Diplomacy is a great strength of Emily’s and she was far better suited to that conversation than I. Sam pulled me to one side and made it clear that this could not happen on Sunday. I agreed and took some time to calm down and think of my approach.
The day was a write off for the crew. Only within the last 30 minutes was there a completed dance routine that could be filmed. All that was achieved was getting things to the level they should have been on arrival. I was massively deflated and felt extremely anxious about how tomorrow might go. Would they turn up on time? At all? Even if they did, what would the gimbal shots turn out like that we had planned but not tested?
Kay and the dancers were due at 8am sharp. They all arrived at 8:30 although had contacted us to inform us. We wanted to start the cameras rolling by 9:30 to give us time to set up and the girls to get dressed and in make up. What actually transpired is the first shots being captured at 11am. We had the hall until 4pm and had to factor in breaks so the pressure was on. Shooting 3 positions at the same time: A wide master on the GH4 and the two raised altar positions, we ran the performance through 5 or 6 times before breaking. The dance is pretty explosive and energy consuming so regular water breaks were necessary. With each take the dance got better and better. After 11 0r 12 consecutive takes, with Sam moving between each position, we definitely had the whole performance covered between the 3 set ups so we stopped for lunch.
The crew and I felt a lot more positive at this stage but still had to get the shots on the stage using the gimbal and in front of the stage using the dolly – all in 3 hours. The dancers were becoming a little fatigued and their knees were beginning to sore. Fortunately the gimbal shots would be the last shots requiring the dance to be performed from start to finish with the rest being fragmented. Sam was excellent on the gimbal. The shots were specifically planned but it took a lot of craft and intuition on his part to be able to position himself amongst the dancers and anticipate their movements. His work on the gimbal gives the performance a new dimension and places the audience right amongst the dancers – all at the perfect place in the track – something we had only minutes to plan.
Luckily for us the dancers peaked whilst we were on the gimbal. By the time we were on the dolly at the front of the stage, they were all exhausted. We got all of the remaining listed shots but by this stage, everyone had had enough. I couldn’t communicate clearly what I wanted and found myself rambling incoherently. Sam was getting frustrated, the dancers tired and the performances were suffering. We all became snappy with each other and tensions were rising. By this point the crew had spent 5 days living and eating together in the same house and working with each other every day. After a stressful day yesterday and a long day today – with no daylight listening to the same piece of music on repeat for 8 hours – it was clear we needed to wrap up. In the end, we pulled the final shots out of the bag and were wrapped by 15:30. We thanked Kay and the dancers and gave them a parting gift of some chocolate – for which they were grateful.
That evening we all felt exhausted but accomplished. The film was almost there. All that remained was the filming of the hiphop sequence, spoken word sequence and narration.