The first weekend in May was a somewhat daunting one for me with the arrival of the final shoot for my major PhD film production Not for Human Consumption. With a few days left to go it looked like everything was pretty much under control and that nothing could possibly go wrong. Of course I was being blindly optimistic and in true independent filmmaking fashion there was some minor last minute panic and excitement as one of my lead actors was really ill with food poisoning. Some hasty re-scheduling later and I realised I could use the extra time afforded by one late arrival to shoot additional shots for other planned scenes and generally ease the cast and crew into the shoot at a more relaxed pace. This seemed to do the job and before long we were working well together, it’s great to see people gelling and getting to grips with working with new people. The actors were also eased into the more complicated and lengthier improvised dialogue setups which were filmed on all three days in the afternoon. In all we only dropped two scenes and three setups from the first day which on reflection is nothing! One of these was picked up on the final day of the shoot and the other will be shot in the coming two weeks.
The second day of the shoot saw the arrival of Fleur Poad playing Dr. Francis Wende, Fleur was excellent to work with – she made everyone around her feel at ease and relaxed and her focus and composure was infectious to the other actors. Sam Morgan playing DI Tony Morton was equally concentrated and gave an expressive performance. Kirsty Proffitt was seriously impressive battling a nasty illness to give a brilliant performance that was moving and heartfelt.
The crew were equally impressive. DOP Chris Watts and 2nd camera Alex White worked hard on multi-camera setups getting the right angles and walking through everything sometimes rather quickly! James Kum did sterling work on sound, often fighting wide camera setups and small box rooms as well as the usual planes, trains, and other such unwanted noises. Subhadra Colley was superb to have as a runner, clapper loader, makeup artist, set designer, and medical adviser – blown away by her ingenuity. Lucy Cole was great to have on board with a brilliant laugh and on it with the clapper board and log sheets. Tamsin Graves made sure that the entire cast and crew were fed and watered with fresh home cooked tasty meals every day and well fuelled for when the cameras turned over. Thanks to Alex White for taking the stills.
In truth this film represents my first foray into the realm of fictional drama. Well almost, my second if you include a seven minute short I made nearly ten years ago. Other than that I haven’t really produced my own fictional film. I’ve filmed other people’s but not my own. For this reason ‘Not for Human Consumption’ holds a pretty special place for me, but beyond this it’s experimental and gleans much from my personal background. Personal experiences as an ‘on camera’ actor in the past have helped inspire my approach to both writing and direction. I have found writing and developing the films’ narrative through improvisation and compiling test shots to be an incredibly liberating experience in the end. Though it’s been a bumpy journey.
The single greatest lesson that I’ve learned from this production so far is to realise that one can alter one’s perceptions of problems and creative barriers and use the negative energy in a positive way. To sound less of a hippy about it – I simply mean that one must look at problems with a constructive and open mind. If something doesn’t look or feel right then it probably isn’t.
The performances and the camera and sound setups have worked for the improvised setups that were employed. Shooting multiple camera has been of real benefit – especially in the key scenes 12, 14, 16, where 3 cameras just about allowed me to capture the best moments over minimal numbers of takes. (5 takes in all for 3 scenes!)
As I write this I have a rough cut pretty much in place that requires sound mixing and basic design and a whole load more cutaways. It looks as though there will be one or two more pick up shoots to finesse the final cut – but well worth it in the end surely? Hopefully that will all happen within the next two weeks. For now the end of this week will see a rough cut go off to George Cooper, (composer) to begin work on scoring and I will be off doing some more field recording for the sound and getting to grips with the titles and a whole lot more.