Poster image designed by Lindsey Crummett
On our first day of shooting in daylight hours on Friday morning, we found ourselves standing in Karori Park unsure whether the rain was going to stay or go. After deciding to try shooting in the hope the showers were just periodic, we ended up getting caught in a downpour that didn’t seem like it was going to let up and we decided to call it a day there and head to shoot our wet weather scenes indoors.
This meant we had to completely rearrange our original shooting schedule which was all a bit exciting for a while there! However, it was doable and this did mean that we spent most of the afternoon shooting some of the most important scenes of the entire film with some pretty amazing results. The performances were exactly how I envisaged them in my head when I’d written the script and the lighting setup we have for that scene has some wonderfully visual elements about it that have ended up surpassing my expectations.
It was during this scene that our lead actor Rhys delivered probably what I’ve come to regard as the pivotal line in the script, it’s a major turning point in the story for every main character involved and I was always feeling confident he’d be able to deliver. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was quite how well he would because when he did, it was laced with so much vulnerability and disappointment complete with an almost quivering lip and cracked voice that it caught me off-guard. As we cut from that particular take, I found myself having to wipe my eyes and cheeks as I’d managed to unwittingly burst into tears during the take. I think you know you’ve got something special on camera when a raw take moves you like that.
By the end of day 2, although we’d been going at a fairly slower pace due to the weather issues and location move in the morning, in the end I feel it was necessary to really buy us enough time to spend on getting that pivotal scene right. Given the subject matter of the film, it was hugely important so it seems fate knew that and threw us a sidewinder
Bring on Day 3!
Every night before a shooting day feels like Christmas Eve to me, I definitely felt like that on Tuesday after I finished work. I just wanted the day to arrive, and arrive it did. Wellington very kindly switched on a gloriously sunny and clear day for us to get all the equipment up to the clearing we filmed in before sundown.
After some initial teething problems with getting power sorted out, we got rolling and even though we had auditioned, workshopped and rehearsed our two 12 year old lead actors they still managed to completely surprise and delight me. I remember at one point I forgot I was directing and got lost in the performance on a take and found myself tearing up. I think that’s when you know you got your casting right!
As a result, my favourite moment of the night was when my Executive Producer Lance was standing next to me at the monitor and leaned into me after a take. He said, “you found annoyingly good actors!”, and naturally I agree. For two 12 year olds to be up late at night outside in the woods waiting for complex lighting setups and still maintaining happy smiles and just generally being fun to be around I’d happily say they’re the most professional talent I’ve worked with. What was that rule about working with children again?
There’s always something that goes wrong though and although the weather smiled on us when we needed it to, and the wind was nice and low the night’s biggest drama was certainly discovering that our generator cabling wasn’t right for the connection. Thankfully, Glenn in our lighting team had a mate who had the right connectors and totally saved the day! Legend!
Theo from our art department was stationed down the rise with the smoke machine most of the night to woft the smoke our way to create the illusion of fog. However, sometimes a gust of wind sent a breeze our way that caused smoke issues and it went the wrong way or flew up the path right into camera. The phrase “Woft this Way” has grown strangely familiar, I think Aerosmith need to re-record their song and change the lyrics now. “More wofting please!” has also been popular.
It was quite exciting to be in the forest after dark with lights on and smoke machines standing in for fog to create an eerie mist, it all felt rather E.T. although I’m kind of glad the way it looks doesn’t get too close to a mimic of that. I remember standing by the monitor during the wide shots grinning from ear to ear and after the cut saying “That smoke looks so awesome!”. I know what you’re thinking, I’m still a 12 year old inside. That’s kind of mandatory to make a film told from a child’s point of view though!
We have a day to recover from the night shoot and then back into it with day 2 on Friday!
Just 3 sleeps left until we start shooting and I have to say that tonight is the first time I’ve been able to get truly excited about production.
While others were out enjoying a lovely sunny day in Wellington, we were in an underground theatre with our cast trying on costumes and then had to run up to the other end of town for a production meeting with all of our HODs (heads of department). That was the first time we’d had them all in a room together and it was really great to sort out all our final outstanding issues and give everyone an update on where the various departments are at. And mostly, everyone knew what they were doing and had everything under control which is an incredibly encouraging thing to get confirmation of.
It was all looking rather scary earlier when we realised we would need someone to be our generator supervisor on the day but within a few hours our 1st Assistant Director Elliot had called to say he’d found someone who was qualified to do it for us. Once that was sorted, the stress just seemed to melt away and now I have that tingle of excitement in my stomach.
This film began its life on the evening of June 13th 2011 and the images have been swimming around in my head and scrambling to get out for the last 10 months. So it’s moments like attending a costume fitting and seeing the actors in costume for the first time that really touches a nerve with me, I found myself thinking “S#%t just got real”.
I think as a filmmaker, there’s really no greater feeling than seeing the images in your head finally coming to life in front of you in the form of a living breathing character. And quite often, this happens in a form that is even greater and beyond what you first envisaged. Over the next few days we just have a few final chores, pieces of equipment to pick up and catering preparations to be made and then it’s going to be all systems go!
It’s going to be a rollercoaster, but I’m sure by the time we reach the end we won’t want to get off
“If you can dream it, you can do it” ~ Walt Disney
Well, it’s Friday night and I am at home preparing myself for a weekend of film-related madness as we approach the final hurdles of pre-production.
At the start of this week, all hope seemed lost as we heard the price tag for the equipment insurance for the gear we are going to be using on this film. The camera we are using is the RED Epic camera, which means nothing to most people I’m sure but to put it in perspective it’s the same camera they are using to shoot “The Hobbit” and “Prometheus” in 3D on. No, we’re not shooting in 3D – thankfully! But it is going to look rather splendid nonetheless
After managing to overcome that hurdle and find a way to afford the cost of the insurance without sacrificing other areas of the budget we pressed on. Then came the news that PJ was making some film and he needed our Gaffer next week (RUDE!). That’s the head of the electrical/lighting department if you don’t know what a Gaffer is, and when shooting in the forest with generators and the like it’s a pretty important cog in the wheel. Not to worry though, our DoP Matt Sharp had it in hand and already had a back up plan for a back up plan.
This weekend we have costume fittings with various cast members and a major production meeting happening as we approach the final days of preparation. Shooting begins on Wednesday 25th April and goes through to Sunday 29th April. So far, the weather forecast says we are likely to have dry weather all the way up until the Sunday when we are shooting inside all day – if that holds true, then Wellington is truly the best place on Earth to make movies!
We also have some potential catering help for our night shoot, so we’ll reveal all and rave about how awesome said eating establishment is when we have more on that!
I’m planning to try and blog during the final days of pre-production and while we are shooting too, so more soon hopefully!
Chaz Harris – Writer/Director Producer
“Pain is temporary, film is forever”