Day Nineteen

Posted: 2020-06-06 12:00:00


6th June

Re-shoots first thing on a Saturday are clearly not the first thing people want to start their weekends doing. But circumstances forced our hand as poor Maddy had lost all her work from Tuesday- thus Stephen and Olivia were called back from their previously ‘wrapped’ state for a final fling joined by Tom all in their ‘civvies’ with Maddy dressed and made up in her 1910 belle époque finery.

Real life is battering at the edges of our fragile artifice with Olivia reporting the birth of her first nephew and Stephen heading off a big birthday bash (not his) in the rain in Wimbledon. Yet for the now they buckled down in good spirits nursing ups of steaming coffee firstly with Charlotte and then with me joining them at 11 to re-do what was previously lost. We think this time we got it and Maddy’s clips have been quietly uploading throughout the day.

The show is being launched tomorrow in a press interview before the big announcement on Monday- and much of my afternoon was spent trying to ensure press releases, websites and ticketing were all running smoothly before we let the world know what we have been up to. Again so much work happening behind the scenes by a very small team of people doing the jobs of many- little miracles happening out of sight, unnoticed on a daily basis.

As Charlotte worked with Tom and Poppy on some key scenes in Act 2, I went back and forth with Emma and Amanda our press officer ironing out the minor details and doing our best to make sure the next few days will run smoothly. When we launched our first lockdown initiative way back in late March- Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art our payment system froze on the launch night costing us thousands and nearly giving Emma and I a coronary along the way. 

Back to the filming and I was picking back up with Tom, Poppy and Chris- at the last gasp of week 2 filming as Saturday dragged on into the mid afternoon and we mustered ourselves to tackle the very final scene of the play. In some ways it’s very simple. Three pieces to camera with little to no interaction between characters and no movement. Yet of course it wasn’t simple. This was Chris’ first day filming and he burst in full of energy and had rigged up his green screen rather nicely in his front room. He hadn’t managed to get out the creases though and thus had to re-jig and then re-hang his handiwork before adding some new lighting to make sure we can impose the backgrounds digitally in the post production process.

Poppy and Tom were a little more jaded having come from two very intense scenes recorded with Charlotte. Poppy returning to filming today on very little sleep with a young family occupying her nights, mornings and afternoons. Tom has been filming all day every day since Tuesday with a night shoot on Wednesday. He’s understandably a bit exhausted. So not the ideal time to get this delicate and emotional scene done. It will be the climax of the film and audiences can’t be offered the caption, ‘Sorry but we scheduled this a bit wrong and thus the actors didn’t do their best work. Soz’. Instead you just have to park everything else to one side and make it good.

So we got on with it. 7 takes in all- gradually ramping up the emotion lying dormant beneath the surface and attempting to imagine all the post production elements that will lace in behind the performances to make it a very memorable and emotive (we hope) ending. 

You have to take your hats off to these actors- somehow keeping their daily family lives out of whatever room they happen to have built their home studio in. However tired, frustrated or apoplectic with the dodgy internet and fiddly set ups- they have produced some amazing work- so good sometimes you simply forget that its all been filmed under these crazy circumstances. It transports you- even when watched back in a single shot against a green screen. Poppy, filming from Sussex, comes in perfectly prepared every time and manages to nail her takes one after the after- despite her lack of sleep and juggling baby, child and life as a working mum. Tom has given his life over to us for the past month basically- and has gone from a self confessed techno-phone to being one of the most proficient and adept home film makers we have in our ranks. I doffed my cap to them both as they left with alacrity to what was left of their Saturday night.

A quartet or rump of 4 production team members met at our daily 5pm slot- Charlotte and David either having had enough for the week or more likely simply missing one of my hastily scrawled memos advertising it’s existence. But as we had Dom (sound) James (music) and Tristan (editor) amongst our number we spent an hour honing in on how the music is going to be used with and against Dom’s sound and then potentially underscoring scenes. 

Again we find ourselves continually asking, ‘so what is this?’ - this being our ‘zoom’ style format. Most films would use a lot of underscore to enhance the emotion in material like ours. Yet here we have a pre-existing music and sound world which have cohered very smartly over 6 years of producing the stage show. The music is all played live and in character by James- it comes from somewhere specific- it has a reason to be there. So if we add other musical elements- we must then work out what world that music is existing in. We can’t really just bang in a load of emotive music without it having some sort of impact on the rest of the musical language used in the production.

Yet- this isn’t the stage show…it’s something else. Not quite a film either. So we battled back and forth, challenging each others pre-conceptions and worked through a few scenes- talking through the music as we went. James randomly picking up one of his many accordions or violins and throwing in ideas as we went. All the while the clouds overhead loured and eventually punctuated our meeting with an epic storm scape- the amazingly good weather of May finally giving up the ghost. As 6pm loomed into view we signed off for the week, so much still to do, much to decide, but we are nearly there with the filming and I think all of us are keen to get into the next stage of beginning to put those filmed scenes to work.