Never ever make a verbal agreement with anybody. Especially with an overeager film-lover who offers you his personal sports hall as a location. Back in late March we were introduced to his guy who offered us his gym as a set. It was a rather large room used for his children’s training and it was not in use at the time. He said for a minimal amount that we could have it for 2 months or as long as we liked and that we could do whatever we wanted because he believed in us. What he wanted in return was for me to help him write his life story into a script. We bought in production designers, measured, created a model of the entire set, researched, met and arranged with builders to start building it all and 7 weeks before shooting he has a change of heart and tells us that he wants to make the film about his life story instead. So if I didn’t go ahead with his script there would be no studio space.!! Talking about delusion…
You can imagine our financial and time losses plus a huge blow to our morale. I didn’t want to dwell on the negative too much so I went into overdrive and start searching for locations. We scraped the idea of a built set, paid all the people that have worked so far whatever we have promised them and arranged with estate agents to look at barns around Kent. It wasn’t easy. We were looking for space, mezzanine, quiet location, a long list that would be tricky. We found some ideal ones but they were fully booked. Do we push the whole production back? Or do we settle and find something as close to what we want and turn it into our ideal set?
We went for the second option. We found a barn in Upstreet. It had many pros but it needed work. The good thing was it was in the middle of a field with no partying neighbours, but the bad thing was the place was already booked for a large wedding party for 4 days right bang in the middle of our shoot. Which meant we had to get in and out 6 times in 26 days. Which in turn means we had to repaint walls, assemble entire set, put back everything, clean and polish ( you don’t do that in holiday lets but we were overly respectful of our set ), store everything in vans, work out insurances and start the process all over again. Any set/ production designer will tell you this is worst than a nightmare, but in our case we had no other choice. Time was pressing and we had to make a deal and work around that.
In fact we were given a week to set up and get in, which at the pace and level we worked at was no short of a miracle how we manage.
Paul and I were on overdrive, I’ve never seen anybody work more efficiently and brilliantly. Paul was firing on all cylinders and the excitement was building. We were more determined than ever to get started on our planned day and now that we had all our cast and crew finalized, the only thing we had to do was build a new set – in the overall allocated time of 8 days! So back to the builders.
Ps. As a director, I felt at the time that I needed a week just to think. Just to be allowed the peace and time to visualize my shots, to create a visual language that would gel with my intentions not to rush it through at night. But this is inevitable in IF. You shoot the bulk of your story, all the shots you want and during Post you observe the first cut and realize what is missing. Then you go back and reshoot the bits and the details you have deliberately omitted during principal photography. I dream of a project where I’ll have two months to just discuss and pace my thoughts with the DOP, what a luxury that would be. Shouldn’t really complain, as I’m now in the process of creating the additional shooting list and getting the team back for some pick ups. ( yeahhh!!)