End of principal photography

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We’ve just finished Day 7, which marks the end of principal photography – on time and (ahem!) on budget.

The past three days have been so exhausting that I haven’t had the time or energy to blog.

Day 5 consisted of exterior shots at the house of producer Clare. It all went pretty much to plan, but there was a lot to cram in because we had three scenes to shoot. One of these involved four people, which could have led to some complicated blocking. But I solved that by effectively pairing the actors and shooting as a series of reverses.

Setting up to shoot the first scene of the movie

Setting up to shoot the first scene of the movie

More problematic was a scene involving two characters walking to a car while (nearly) arguing. Only one needed to get into the car. It took a while to work out how they should move. I wanted to break down the scene into three sections, with the characters moving between each, so that it wouldn’t just be two people standing and talking. That wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. The final third I’d planned to shoot with one person in the car and the other looking in through the window, but the light was all wrong.

In fact, it was the light that made this scene so tricky. The occasional cloud cover of the previous days had vanished and the August sunlight was brutal. With little in the way of lighting and only a couple of reflectors, dealing with the harsh shadows proved tricky.

On Day 6, we started in a friend’s barn and got what I think are some of the best shots of the film. We were able to use the limited lighting to good, minimalist effect. By the time we broke for lunch, I was a very happy bunny.

In the barn, with Morgan (Luke) having to do yet another lying-down shot

In the barn, with Morgan (Luke) having to do yet another lying-down shot

The afternoon proved more problematic. Again, we had a scene with four adults, and this time we couldn’t break it into reverse two-shots. Planning the sequence of shots took a long time, in blazing heat. Under the circumstances, the cast & crew were phenomenally patient.

The considerable charm and wit of Ruth (playing Janice) helped kept spirits high, and I think her professionalism (because she’s the only professional in the whole production) has also helped lift our game and encouraged us to keep the faith.

Ruth (Janice) looking cool and very together at the end of a hot and tricky afternoon's shoot

Ruth (Janice) looking cool and very together at the end of a hot and tricky afternoon’s shoot

That was even truer today, Day 7. We were back to the house of a friend to shoot three scenes in the kitchen. The first – an exchange between Ruth and Mandy (as Helen) went swimmingly well, even though it contained a potential continuity nightmare – one character snapping beans. Ruth helped keep an eye on how many beans were on the table from one take to the next.

Soon, we’d broken for lunch, and then had about 45 mins to kill before the other actors were due. With the temperature about 32C, some of us sought the shade of a hedge in which to lie down, although Clare also indulged in some scary-looking yoga.

Once Morgan (as Luke) had arrived, we shot a quick insert for a bedroom scene we’d shot the week before. Then on with the next kitchen scene, which went pretty much without a hitch.

And then, finally, to the last scene of the day, the last scene of principal photography and, as it happens, the final scene of the movie. It’s supposed to be night, so we closed the shutters on the kitchen door and window. We had to hang cloth over the outside of the window shutters because they still had gaps. And another door (not in shot) was blocked with the Panelite reflector. We set up lights, which took a while, by which time the heat was building. There were nine people in that small kitchen, plus lights. And flies.

Oh god, the flies. They seemed to take a special delight in buzzing the boom mic, sometimes landing on it. We tried spraying the dead cat on the mic with fly killer, which worked a little. A couple of times a fly flew right in front of the lens. We did six takes of the establishing shot (in which we filmed the entire scene) and I don’t think there’s a single one with a clean soundtrack. So we shot reverses and an insert to give me some cutting options. We were all so glad to get out of that room.

Shutters closed, heat rising, flies buzzing

Shutters closed, heat rising, flies buzzing

Tomorrow, we have just a couple of pick-up shots to do (okay, one’s technically a re-shoot) and some off-camera dialogue to record, and we’re done.

Well, apart from a few more pick-up shots we already know we need. Some shots for the opening titles. Some recordings for sound montages. The music. And editing, editing, editing.

But still, that’s all for another day. We’re planning a modest wrap party tomorrow, and then we can all get back to real life.

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