What’s the secret to getting through a huge script on limited resources?

‘If you are going through hell, keep going…’ That’s what Winston Churchill said at any rate.
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And hell is what I was going through last Tuesday.

Not because of a catastrophe on set or difficult actors, or even a crew that was making mistakes. On the contrary, everyone both in front on the camera and behind the camera delivered world class results and offered a 101% professional attitude.

It was hell simply because we had SO much to shoot in one day.

When I spoke with Gary last night (our editor) he was stunned at both how much we shot and how good it looked. He has worked on many other productions of this scale before but had never experienced getting both this much quantity while maintaining quality. He genuinely couldn’t figure out how we did it.

So how and why did we do it and why did it happen?

First, the script is set to music. There is no scripted dialogue. And so even thought it’s only eight pages long, it was essentially eight pages of action. Had it been fleshed out with dialogue, it would have probably been 25 or 20 pages long. I knew this going into the project so had braced myself, but looking at our schedule, I knew Tuesday was going to be a killer shoot day.

House Second, we were able to get through it as we had limited the ten or so locations in the story to one physical location in South East London. Beauberry House is a large old house that is used for wedding repetitions and we took it over for two days. This is classic guerilla film tactics. Find a location where you can create all your story spaces without moving the crew (we had a wedding reception, disco, hotel balconies, bedrooms, hospital wards…) Plus the venue had catering, loos and enough space to offer storage areas, green rooms, make-up, wardrobe, parking and the like. We left the location once to drive a skeleton crew down the road 500 yards to a house front door for one scene (which the production team found and negotiated free on the day).  This approach allowed us to focus on shooting, shooting and shooting and not on logistics where we are NOT shooting.

Third, the story was set over one ‘story day’ and so no cast needed to change costume. This was a huge time saver for cast, makeup and costume.

Simon Cox Fourth, second unit. As with Gone Fishing, I knew the value and importance of an active second unit. Simon Cox stepped into the breach and for three days, ran around picking up shots I dropped, stealing new angles from main unit while I just covered the main story boarded shots. He eventually ended up picking up entire scenes where we simply couldn’t get through the script in time. I fought hard for second unit in pre production as not everyone believed we needed one, but all I could remember was just how valuable it was on Gone Fishing (where again I fought for it) and the fact we had an eight page script of action.

Finally, we were only able to get through the shoot because we had such an amazing crew. I don’t want to get all misty eyed and say ‘gosh everyone was so wonderful to work with…’ They were. I know it and they know it. But I do want to acknowledge two things.

Costume Producer Stephen Follows, with very little resources, assembled a terrific crew who got together before the shoot for prep. That crew worked together during the shoot like a genuinely well oiled machine. They had thought of everything, and so I rarely had to ask for anything, it just appeared as if by magic when needed (of course, no magic, just planning and experience).

I will discuss the crew in coming blogs, especially design, costume and makeup (who ensure EVERYTHING in front of the camera looks amazing), but to me at least, getting a crew that works efficiently, politely and professionally… and just keeps going without complaint, is the secret to getting through hell on difficult days.

PS – Only a few tickets are left now for The Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass 2 day workshop, June 4th and 5th (London), £60 with my discount code CHRISJONESBLOG, for blog readers)

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
My movies www.LivingSpiritGroup.com
My Facebook www.Facebook.com/ChrisJonesFilmmaker
My Twitter @LivingSpiritPix


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One Response to What’s the secret to getting through a huge script on limited resources?

  1. Michael in Cannes February 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Great advice. Consider yourself RTed.

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