Production – 29th March 2013 – The Dog, Coventry

The phoenix rises from the ashes, just as a director rises to the challenge of completing his film. We managed to secure one last opportunity. We were to give it everything. Failing this we were not fit to be media producers. This was it.

The hardest and most stressful Good Friday that I have ever lived through turned out to be one of the most successful days of this projects life. Having said that it is apparent that everything that we wanted to reshoot was reshot and everything that was missing was shot. I will focus on the things that didn’t quite go to plan/things that we had to cut from doing and why, so that I can only improve in the future.

PRODUCTION STILLS FOR THE DOG CAN BE FOUND HERE:

It is very hard to describe the level of stress myself the 1st AD faced on this day. Whilst the footage may look beautiful, flow well, and tell a good story in the final edit, it does not show the amount of blood, sweat and tears that the director had to endure. Every other crew or cast member could easily relax, get their free drink, socialise or generally wait around till they were required. I was running about trying to get this whole thing shot so I had time for nothing more. After from the ‘failure’ I have honestly never felt so emotionally and physically drained after a hard day’s work. The day started poorly however, as the manager at The Dog, although agreeing to open up to us earlier than 10am did not open the place till exactly 10am – the same time it opened to the general public. I found this slightly infuriating because she agreed to see us at 9am to discuss the free drink tokens. I made the schedule state that people should get there for 9. The good thing is the majority of people do not turn up on time, but instead 30mins late. So this gave us time to wait outside whilst the club manager was busy opening up the place or whatever she was doing, again I am grateful she let us use it but what she did was not professional. Luckily the club was set dead in town so I could forward people to a Starbucks café that was a couple of seconds away. Some people are just incredibly hard to work with – I should have specifically said open to us at 9am, no later. I really should have made it far clearer to her and insisted how important this was to me (and to her).

Roger Payne gained his executive producer credit because he helped far more than anyone else did. He went to great lengths to organise 10 extras for the club scenes. If he had not done this this day might have possibly been a failure too. The good thing is I stuck in contact with him the day I met him at ClubM. I kept him updated every step of the way and he was able to secure 10 extras which was beyond fantastic. That and the little number of people we got ourselves (which we organised properly this time) added up to form what looked like a full club.

Moving on to the actual shooting on the day; everything that was shot in the ClubM’s main club room could not be used as the insides were beyond completely different in The Dog. Furthermore, the insides were now much smaller and far more manageable for us to work in and for us to fill with extras. There is a little interesting flaw however, he goes up the stairs and then down them into the club – I decided to keep this in because I thought it demonstrated the craziness of club architecture (and an artistic choice) in this town – you have to go up and then go down. Unfortunately not everyone could make it to this cast and crew re-union – the actors playing the Alpha Male and Victim were not present funnily enough, so their scenes had to be removed. Whilst this was a slight shame I somehow see this as a blessing in disguise because that scene would be far easier to do, and probably make more sense. That level of hostility may have been a tad too much and probably would have deterred Ted staying there for long; plus realistically police would have been called to remove the Alpha Male character from the premises. However it still looked good in the trailer. At the time we still thought we could use ClubM footage by working around it with clever editing BUT we decided on reshooting everything from the start, and how right we were in doing so. We had the whole day so there was no harm in re-doing everything from the box-office scenes onwards – I am glad I made this creative decision to.

The absolute fantastic and disastrous thing (at the same time) about this club was an open set. Meaning the general public can come in and buy some drinks and sit and chill. At first we thought this was awesome, hell, the more people the merrier – the club will look fuller! But the smiles on our faces were wiped off when the Coventry legion (group of football hooligans) walked in half way; a (nasty and very loud) bunch of fairly hard-looking and dangerous men. This may sound like nothing on paper, but they managed to frighten the main actor out of doing one of his scenes. I made the decision to shoot another scene not involving him (penultimate scene/kiss) but this may have angered the Cov legion even more – due to a black man kissing a white woman. However we expected them to leave but now the main actor feeling bad, he had come up with an alternative scenario in his head which he pitched to me. I liked it, so we set up the shot. And then the Cov legion left, massive sigh of relief, so we reverted back to the original shot, a little annoying but I’d rather stick true to the script.

At one point in the day I almost suffered from a breakdown, although unrelated to the above event, the sheer size, scale and complexity of this production multiplied stress levels to uncontrollable amounts. There was a brief time (30mins) where I was in a state of what felt to be complete confusion and I had to pass some more work to the 1st AD. Knowing that you cannot let anyone else direct your film (otherwise ClubM Scene 8 would happen again, it would look horrific) I had to get back to my feet as quickly as possible. Understand me, I wasn’t in a comfortable house shooting a relatively straight forward short with food and water around me, but instead in a hostile environment myself, filled with people who wanted to know exactly what they were doing. I found it very difficult because I had never in my life did something so big, but I wanted to be pushed to these kind of limits to experience it first hand before going out to the real world, unprepared. It was in fact one of the actor’s performances (Jasmine’s close-up face when she looks at Ted in offense) that brought me back to life and I was able to once again manage my set and shots. I blame my lack of experience for these issues but you have to start somewhere. I would rather start on something as big as this and live to tell the wonderful tale.

Learning from past mistakes (literally mistakes made 10 days ago) helped to make this day a successful one and not a failure like at the other club. For starters, a photographer was arranged to make some production stills and a runner was arranged to assist the project and lessen the load on me and the 1st AD. Unfortunately the runner was intimidated (like me) by the size of the production so he wasn’t the help I had hoped, instead sitting down half the time, he should have been more pro-active. At least he got the food at lunch time and was honest with the money I gave him for it. Food was a massive issue in the past in terms of failure to provide a proper meal for the crew and cast. Keeping them nourished is very important towards keeping a high standard of work throughout – food should be available on set, whatever the set.  One of the extras also doubled as a professional photographer so he too took some photos of the set and what we were doing alongside a short series of behind the scenes video clips.

Managing the set and the extras was tricky but we managed to split the roles accordingly between myself and the 1st AD. I agreed to direct the main actors and the DoP with the shots that we were going to do and when, and the 1st AD would be in charge of directing the extras as well as assist with production. However due to the stress on our hands we may have told different things to the main actors at some point leading to a mass confusion, this however, was partly due to the Cov legion coming in and intimidating us. It is very hard to avoid things like these on set, but at least we are prepared for things like these in the future. Also the fact that we had another club to rehearse half the shots only 10 days ago, made this day easier in the sense that the actors somewhat knew what was required of them – this applied to the crew members as well, they knew very well the kind of shots that we were going for. This really signifies the importance of test shots – something that I will bear in mind for the future. I was able to keep good track of the scenes and shots that were required for the day; knowing what we were doing and when allowed me to delegate tasks to the 1st AD and other crew.

We decided to cut the dialogue the Gay guy says after leaving the toilet in the edit because we felt that it slowed the place of the film down and take the seriousness off that scene. Also the very last scene (10) had to be shot differently because of the nature of the club exterior/gutter. The crew was quick to help me in this instance and we devised a smarter way of finishing the story. Ted would get thrown out; the Gay guy would swiftly follow and comfort him. Then whilst Grace and Levis walk out they do not notice this little scuffle because of the overpowering stature of the Gay man. The film cuts and abruptly ends.

Overall as a combined team of me and the 1st AD, we had secured all the important shots as well as the multiple takes that we needed, which will make editing a pleasure rather than another stress.Our strengths and weakness were apparent. I was able to direct everyone on set with regard to the exact scenes we were shooting now and next, and thus to prepare for. I had noticed that at times the 1st AD had no idea what scene we were doing or that we had failed and had to quit; I had to calm him down and re-assure him that everything would be Ok and that we were on track to completion. He was fantastic as directing the extras and did well in helping me direct the main cast. We both had in equal role as production assisstants but that was due to our very shy runner. Of course in editing there are continuity issues but these kinds of issues will appear anywhere no matter the scale of production. I felt so happy that after a complete and utter fail which I don’t even care to admit, we learned from our mistakes and experiences and were able to make this day a great success. Everyone seems to refer to this as a ‘learning curve’ and to an extent they are correct. But what most people forget that trying to do things in Coventry, let alone on your own, is far more difficult. With the right help (Roger Payne) this project turned out to be a massive success, and at the end of the day, I had succeeded as a director in getting everything completed.

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