Fantasy creatures on film
Some shoots are challenging logistically, but you know that the end result is going to be amazing so you push through. One such shoot I recently got invited to take part in was for Hampshire based film production company Shoreditch Pictures, on a new teaser trailer they were working on called Child of Light. It is a collaboration with their long term make-up artist, Amelia Kildear, as a showcase for her work.
Let me walk you through the numbers: a 3 day shoot, 5 actors, 5 locations, an 11 person film crew, 338GB of footage shot, all for a 2 minute trailer.
And then there’s me. There to get production stills and behind the scenes stuff on location, as well as a series of studio based “hero shots” to be used for publicity.
Okay, I can do that. Turn up, let the film crew do their stuff while I’m a fly on the wall, jump in between takes and grab the production stills. Gather the actors after at the studio for hero shots. If only it were that simple…
Turns out that each actor is being filmed separately at each location with no overlap. So getting them at the studio together isn’t going to work. And their make-up takes 3-6 hours each to apply. So getting them down on other days for the promo shots isn’t going to be practical. Which all means I have to set up an identical portable studio 5 times in 3 days. Yay!
It’s not so bad, you just need to design a lighting setup that is portable, repeatable, stable and fits the style. At this stage in my career I can figure 90% of that out in my head. But I still make sure to turn up at our first location extra early so I have plenty of time to troubleshoot any problems that might arise before the talent gets there. However, all goes smoothly and we are ready to shoot.
And yet, dealing with multiple set-ups isn’t the only challenge; each location held it’s own unique challenges. Mostly relating to this wonderful thing we British love to talk endlessly about: the weather.
Over the 3 days we had to hike up steep hills under harsh sun, deal with massive crowds visiting the woodland bluebells on a beautiful bank holiday weekend, nearly get blown over by extreme winds on a cliff top, and shoot between bursts of heavy rain as we raced against the setting sun. But each time getting there early, with the right equipment (extra sandbags!), and a bit of patience we managed to get a perfect shooting window.
But now comes the ultimate challenge. And this one takes a mixture of finesse, stubbornness and quick thinking to overcome. It is the 1st AD.
The 1st Assistant Director’s job is to keep everything running to time on a film set so that we can come away with all the shots we need to make a film. And while my work is important for the marketing of the film and documenting it’s process, it isn’t actually used in the film. I find myself as the low man on the totem pole when coming up in a time crunch against the needs of the production itself.
So when the actors have to stay in make-up longer than expected, when we get delayed access to a location, and when there are 11 crew standing around waiting, a lovely young lady comes up to me and politely but firmly says things like:
“I know we said 15 minutes but can you do it in 10?”
“Looks like we can only spare a maximum of 5 minutes now.”
“Can you get it in one pose? If not, we may have to cut this.”
So what do I do? I smile, reassure them we can get the shot, and then pull it out the bag!
Thanks again to Shoreditch Pictures, and please check out the trailer for Child of Light below: