Jul 2, 2015

‘MUTE’ Production – Week One

It’s been a hell of a week. It’s arguably been the best first week of filming I’ve ever had, though not without a few minor bumps along the way.
We started on a Friday over a week ago, before the shoot started proper, to get some preliminary footage. It left me an exhausted wreck and I didn’t feel we had done very well for a first day. In fact I’d say it was the most stressful first day of a shoot I’ve ever had. We had delays, sound issues due to the studio we were using not being as sound-proofed as we had hoped, and unfortunately we left the day a scene behind, which we have to pick up later in the shoot. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that we were filming with Quandary regular Charles Cromwell, and he was delivering his best monologue yet. Upon reviewing the footage later that night I was comforted, as it all looked great. I realised it would be no big deal to reschedule that missed scene and we should just get on with it.
Starting Monday morning, we went straight in to the heavy stuff. Liam Blundell (playing lead character Charlie) was dropped in the deep end, having to tackle the emotional ending scenes first. Luckily we’d picked the right cast and he nailed it in the first take. So far so good; what could go wrong after that? Well frankly, not much. The biggest issue we have faced so far is paying close attention to sound when shooting outside, to ensure no distant voices can be heard. To tackle this we chose remote locations and have appropriately timed how long we have to work on each scene to ensure we aren’t ruined by delays. So the first day of the week was a huge success, and we got right in to the flow of it (something that is always a worry). The whole day was entirely Liam’s character as the focus; with minimal interaction with other actors throughout. That said, it was still a full day. We finished at midnight, and were ready for another day…
Tuesday came, and we had the longest, fullest day of shooting. Up at 7am. Finished at Midnight (after minimal sleep the night before analysing dailies, copying footage, backing it up and organising the behind the scenes footage) it was beyond exhausting. We started the day shooting Tom Bridger and Shaun Woodgates’ final scenes of the film – as perfect a double act as ever. The more humorous scenes of the film woke me up and got us going as we had hoped. Then we moved to the outside world…
Now bear in mind that this was the start of the recent heatwave, and I’d made the mistake of picking locations over half an hour walk away; with the majority of it being filmed on our new DJI Ronin. Something became abundantly clear from the get-go: my arms aren’t going to last very long during this shoot. Holding up 15kg or so in front of you for several hours a day gets tiring very quickly. The only thing keeping me going was how good the footage was looking (seriously can’t get over how amazing this all looks – very proud). Nikki Mclusky joined us on this day too, and proved to be an asset to the whole setup. Helping out with keeping an eye on the details before camera, as well as delivering a heart-on-sleeve performance. At the end of the exhausting day we all packed up and prepared for the final day of the scheduled week. A later finish than the Monday, and once it was all finished with I was just in bed by 2am.
Up at 7am, bleary-eyed and feeling all the pain (thanks Ronin); we went straight in to some ‘Spectrum’ office scenes. It took me a while to feel human; but I’m lucky enough to have the best cast and crew around to support the process. We shot my personal favourite funny moment of the film. Considering how important audio is to this film; I almost ruined several shots by corpsing behind the camera. Once we were done with the fun stuff we moved on to shoot one of the hardest sections of the film. A big part of ‘MUTE’’ is spent in underground speakeasy clubs where people speak out against their oppressors. We’ve been lucky enough to get permission to film at local club Lola Lo, by my good friend James Claffey (Jimbo for short). These scenes are set to be some of the most important and also hardest to achieve of the film. We have a very tight time frame to film there each week before it opens as a club, and there’s a lot of setups each time. Added to that it’s where some of the most emotionally charged moments of the film occur, requiring the most precise direction of the shoot. But the first week went without a hiccup. It was unbelievably hot but we captured one of the best two shots of the film. I can’t reveal too much obviously but both Nikki and Liam blew me away with their depth and subtlety (they’re constantly instilling me with confidence for this film).
We then packed up and had a brief break. It was too hot. I was so fatigued I was falling asleep and we had one more scene to shoot before they both had to get trains back to their hometowns at 7pm. You’d think that rushing in this manner would produce weaker content, however it didn’t. It’s by far my favourite sequence we’ve shot so far – a romantic dialogue-free moment full of immense tragedy and beauty.
Did I have any doubts before the shoot? Sure. Do I now? No. This is by far the best thing we’ve ever made, and it’s a huge step ahead from our previous work. I’m unbelievably excited for more!