Monday, August 17, 2009
It just happened that the last day of filming coincided with my birthday! What a wonderful way to finish what has been one of the most amazing experiences. Working together with such an incredible cast and crew has been a dream come true. When Geoff and I started writing this project together we had no idea that we would end up in Tunisia but now I can't imagine it having been shot anywhere else. As it's the last day I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone for all their incredible hard work. It has been a privelege to work with such a talented group of artists. Will Humphris, you rock. Henry Forsyth, you are a beast. Ali we couldn't have done it without you. Thanks to Christopher Granier Deferre for putting it all together, the actors, the amazing crew, the Gang at Sinbad and most of all my co-writer who couldn't make the shoot but was here in spirit, Geoffrey Gunn.
Tereza flew out this morning after doing a couple of shots in the woods. Goodbye Tereza, look forward to seeing you in London. It is all coming to an end far too quickly but everyone is getting exhausted and talk of home is in the air. We had few more scenes to finish up in the forest and then we drove back out to the original beach to shoot the last scene. There had been some confusion about the last shots, basically I hadn't communicated to them exactly what I had in mind and we were stuck. I was thrilled that Henry and Christopher were able to schedule a reshoot on the beach. Over the last 22 days, we haven't missed a shot. Henry rules! We are amongst the gods. I don't want this magic to end.
Another day in the magic forest with a slight setback. After lunch Will told me that our location for Silka’s Marco seduction had been burnt down. We had found a lovely hill with tall golden grass that we had scheduled to shoot at magic hour. The grass was going to be backlit and our goddess would stand glowing and majestic as the lowly Marco grovels towards her. Now the patch of grass was blackened and stubbly. It was a total drag but there was no time to wallow. After a quick drive around the park we had no other choice but to make it work. The light was fantastic and an errant bee gave us a moment of complete hilarity. As Anthony edged up towards Tereza, a bee started buzzing around his head. Suddenly he freaked out and started waving his hands in the air as Tereza, unflinching, unamused, a true goddess. It was picture wrap on Anthony today. And we toasted him with some Tunisian bubbly which is surprisingly good. Thanks dude see you back in London. It’s been a blast, we'll have to put the out take on the dvd!
A new day, and a new forest in the center of Tunis and another Ma sa Allah moment. We had originally scouted a forest near Gammarth in preproduction but when we went back closer to production our sound man detected an odd industrial noise that made it impossible to shoot. Venturing further up the mountain where we were given yet another gift. A flash fire had spread through some parts of the woods creating an incredible black forest set. The ground was charcoal grey, the trees blackened and defoliated leaving eerie gnarly branches poking up out of a ghostly lunar surface. It was an amazing discovery and perfect setting for Ken’s disappearance.
We started the day with Anthony’s ‘it’ monologue. Anthony took a deep breath and though I was feeling confident that he was going to nail it, I was thrilled when it all came together. We spent the rest of the day trudging, running, being lost and then ended with a cool scene of Rachel losing Ken in the black forest. Lots of mud and dust. Anna’s little white dress really working the Grimm’s fairy tale angle, well done Allison, our London based costume designer! Another great day in the can. Thanks to everyone for being so incredibly cool. Tunisia rocks!
On our first series of location scouts back in July, Moez, took Christopher took us on a two and a half day whirlwind driving tour. I had done some research on google earth and was surprised when there were no files of location images awaiting us before we set out. Instead we hit the wild and very narrow roads of Tunisia, a truly jaw clenching experience. If it was meant to be, we would find our locations and if not, well, that was the way it was. C, explained to me that it was a cultural thing. On our last day, we head out to see a beach at Cap Seurat. It was a very long drive through beautiful rolling valleys. I’d never seen someone drive quite like Moez. Instead of veering away from oncoming vehicles he would slowly drift towards them. It was a continuous game of high speed chicken. Moez would assert himself over the other driver in an attempt to get them to swerve onto the shoulder. Apart from the large lorries that no car could intimidate, it did seem to work. After a couple of hours of this I stopped worrying about it. If we were going to die in twisted molten heap, then there was not a lot I could do about it. Finally after two and a half hours we drifted through sleepier and sleepier villages, occasionally asking directions to the elusive beach to which, everyone replied, 12 km. Another 12 km would pass and again the same answer, just another 12 km. It was surreal. Finally we caught a glimpse of the coast. It felt like we’d found a hidden world. As we nudged the car through a herd of sleepy sheep on a small bridge we saw it. A meandering river, lined with blossoming pink flowers. It was as if we had landed in some kind of opium dream. I shouted out. Stop the car! We hadn’t found the beach but we had a location for Bruno’s death!
Cap Seurat was our extended day because to the two hour drive. We woke early and clutching our pillows, stumbled to the vans. I was afraid that there might not be anything left in the small river. I was relieved too see a glint of water when we arrived. We began with some shots of Anthony splashing along the stream and then got into his death with Tereza, then Oien’s discovery of Bruno. With the sun slowly sinking we raced to get Anna’s collapse at the stream quickly shooting a very elegant one shot before packing up and waving goodbye to our dreamy Arcadian paradise.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
We woke up a little bleary Sunday morning from our pre-wrap beach the night before to discover several of the actors and many of the crew members had come down with a mystery rash. After a few consultations it turned out our enchanted forest was a little more malevolent than we'd supposed. Not wanting to tempt fate we shuffled a few scenes around and minimized our risks by shooting the solo scenes with Oien in the woods, who didn't seem too bothered by the itchy rash. So, loaded with coritizon cremes and pills, we started our second day under the canopy. It was muggy, fast, furious and quite itchy but we made our day! Happy to be out of our once beloved woods and on to the pink flowery stream location tomorrow.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Today was the first day in our new location at the edge of a large forest with an incredible view of the ocean. It's great to be under the shade for a change and the stillness is a real pleasure after the wind and sand at the beach. As we begin our day, a group of cows saunter onto our set sniffing at the life jackets we've placed in the sand. A few minutes later a herd of goats come trailing down the hill, bells chiming, very bucolic and ancient. It has a completely different vibe here, a sense of time standing still. The forest is open enough to give a sense of depth an endless, vista of trees and canopy. We can feel the ghosts. Noureddinne, our fabulous art director had hauled a fishing boat up from the harbour to dress into the wonderful boat graveyard set. And we spend the day running around in our little enchanted forest. It's like a fairy tale.
We ended our previous days work by running the climactic ending all the way in one long master and shot as the sun was slowly setting. It was a euphoric moment and provided us with an amazing magic hour master full of energy. Today we finished off some of the first half of the scene and then had to wait for half an hour for the sun to set in order to match the previous days light. It made Henry a little twitchy but we were able to run over to the digital tent and have a look at it all together to try and match what the performers had done the night before. As the clock struck 4:30 we began to put it all together splashing about in our little tidal pool. At the very end of the day we jumped out and ran the entire scene from the very beginning in very wide lens that made the actors look tiny against the massive backdrop of the sea and hulking wreck. It was an incredible end to another amazing week of shooting. The team on this film is mind blowing. Each day makes me realize how lucky I am to be working with such and incredible and dedicated group of film makers.
Friday, August 7, 2009
We started at the new beach location at Rimmel, close to Bizerte in front of some spectacular shipwrecks that we had found on our first surveys back in July. It was calm and clear and the stillness was a welcome relief after the blasts of wind at the previous beach. We were set up on a large dune right in front of a military firing range after lugging our equipment a long way from the base camp. We had shot a couple of large masters of Oien and Anna running the last stretch to the water when the phone call came. The owner of the wrecks had somehow heard about us shooting in front of his boat and was threatening to call the police to have us evicted. It was impossible to believe. After being so excited about these stunning wrecks for so long, it was hearbreaking that they were being taken away from us. If there was ever a moment for a tantrum, it was now. It soon became clear however, that tantrum or not, we had to move. There had been an arrangement made with the owner which gave him control over the area of beach just in front of the boat and there was nothing we could do but move over to the other smaller section of a boat that was further along. In the ongoing series of Ma sa Allah moments the strangest thing happened. We hadn't actually looked at the other location as it was a little rocky and harder to get to. While waiting for the frantic negotiations over the original locations to give us an answere, we went down to check the other option it became apparent quite quickly that it was a better location. There was an enormous tidal pool in front of us that gave us the water, to play in all day, waves cresting on the breakers in front of us and the spectaclar tilted half of a freighter as a backdrop with the open sea beyond. We had somehow been given yet another gift.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
With the wind showing no signs of letting up we started our last day on the beach with Anna's dream sequence. We had organized someone to come in for the underwater shot but the surf was too big to shoot at the beach. After finishing up the rest of the land scenes, after lunch, we headed back to the port. A motor-boat was standing by for the penultimate shot of the jocks arrival at the end of the film. I clambered aboard for my cameo with Nick and Thomas and we did a few circles outside of the port for the camera, instantly regretting being in front of the camera instead of behind. I think it's less to do with control issues than the fact that I hadn't fully prepared for my role as the preppy jock. I had forgotten my ray bans! With an hour to left in our day, we raced back to shore and jumped into the water for the hands coming out of the water shot. Henry held our diver's head under while Ali, grabbed her feet, and Anna straddled her. It seemed like an impossible shot to achieve but to our surprise, we managed to pull it off. It looked like some kind of weird performance art and, as they came out of the water, a spontaneous round of applause broke out from the crew and the large assembly of onlookers from the roadway above. Another great day in
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The first day we discovered the location for the beach had been a tease. The sea was dead calm and glassy which created an eerie silence for the scene where the stranger comes on on board. Since then it has been fairly windy which has worked perfectly for the scenes in terms of the visual effect. The girls hair whipping around in the breeze added a lovely quality to the tempestous fight scene between Silka and Ken. It's amazing how the wind can wear one down. At the end of the day, all our eyes were red from the wind salt and sand. Back at the hotel, a few glasses of Celtia, the local Tunisan beer, helped sooth our parched lips.
Had to include another shot of the donkey! Here is from left to right, Saafa, continuity, Henry, first AD, and Will our intrepid cinematographer.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Night two on the beach started slow, everyone a little groggy from the schedule flip. We soon got up to speed and found our groove. Being a saturday the beach was a little busier with lots of curious onlookers. It's an interesting feeling shooting a film like this in a foreign country. You find yourself wondering what they make of us invading their beach. Everyone has been incredibly friendly and welcoming here. There had been discussion early in the pre production about being careful not to offend Tunisian sensibilities. I was cautioned that Tunisia was a somewhat conservative Muslim country. Happily it seems like that hasn't really been an issue. I have found myself incredibly charmed by this country. It has a gentle vibe and there seems to be a genial sense of togetherness of the people, something, that seems to be a little out of reach of us in the more developed countries. In the flurry of shooting, the bustle of London is a distant memory. We are now past the halfway mark and part of me already feels the tinge of melancholy as the reality that this amazing experience will eventually come to an end- but hey, the schedule is still half full so on we go.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
It's four thirty on saturday afternoon. I just woke up after working an incredible night on the beach. We started with Teraza singing her song and then went into the water for the skinny dipping scene. Lots of tricky choreography of getting the actors in and out of the water with Will Humphris, the human steadicam, holding it together. We had an audience of curious beach denizons watching with rapt attention from the shadows until they eventually realized how boring it is to watch the practicalities of film making. As the sun started to rise we raced to get the day all of us exhausted the father of the family camped beside our set was up early and off to work with his donkey. Looking forward to another fun night.
Friday, July 31, 2009
I had been talking with one of the actors the night before about a monologue he was preparing for later in the shoot. It occurs when one of the characters loses his mind in the woods. We touched on ideas of enlightenment and the notion coming face to face with the void. The thrill of that instance but also the dread and terror of coming face to face with a Goddess who is ultimately the angel of death. Heavy and cool stuff but hard to get a handle on. The next morning as we drove to the location I was listening to some Brian Jonestown Massacre and a song started that seemed to touch on everything We'd talked about. I gave Anthony my ipod and asked him to spend a little time listening to this very cool psychedelic song 'It's inside you'( think that's the title). It was another one of those interesting coincidences that keep occuring.
Today was the last day on the boat so it was a mad scramble to get everything before Tom, Adi and David sail the Santa Paula back to Sardinia. Yes there was blood, smoke and definitely a lot of sweat as we bashed out some of the frantic scary scenes inside the Persephone. David had done a bunch of experiments with various materials for the hot knife scene. After trying hennah, tobacco and various others, we ended up using a crystalized pine resin, that worked quite well. I had to add this photo of me on the Jesus chair. They shoot a lot of religious movies down here in Tunisia. Looking forward to a break from the sun as we shift into nights on the beach for a couple of days.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
We had a first day at the beach today to shoot the scenes that required the boat moored in the background. Leaving the the confines of our interior it was a little difficult at first, having to cope with a blowing wind and the wide open space but soon got into the groove. Lots of splashing around in the waves followed by a grim burial. After lunch we headed back to the port to shoot the amputation scene with Abdel Kadir, one of our outstanding Tunisian actors. Shooting night required the windows to be covered which quickly turned the set into a sauna. By the end of the day everyone was soaked but glowing with their own inner radiance, clean pores clear skin, our own little spa. It was another lovely day on set. Thanks to all for making it rock!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Another day shooting inside the Santa Paul moored at the Port of Cap Zbib. We're loosing the boat on Thursday so the race is on to get everything we need before Tom, Adi and David sail back to start another job in Sardinia. Our plans to build the bedroom set changed midway through the shoot so Henry has managed to squeeze in those shots into the week which has turned out to be the best thing but has meant a faster work schedule in the tight confines of the interior. With the sun and the lights beating down through the skylights it's felt a little like a sauna.
With most of the major boat dialogue scenes out of the way it was a wonderful change to work on the more visual narrative moments and scare beats. The combination of the actors performances and Will's lighting is keeping me in a state of complete euphoria. I managed to get some air as I started to hover a little closer to the monitor on the dock with sound and makeup.
We ended our day with a quick survey or our new beach across from the port. We arrived just as the sun was setting after driving through the bustling little town of Ras Jemel. Everyone heading back from the fields and sea as we ventured out to the desolate stretch of rock and sand. Barren yet very beautiful the view out to the open water is exhilerating. As I walked over the scrubby rock I was reminded of where we had originally planned to shoot the film, up in the rocky and windswept landscape of Georgian Bay. I found myself overwhelmed with the uncanny sense that somehow it was meant to be, yet another example of the everpresent sense of ma sa Allah.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
It's Sunday and I'm having a slow and lazy beginning of my first day off after finishing our first six incredible days of shooting. Looking back at the week it all seems like a dream. In fact at one point when we were filming on the boat I felt like I was in a movie not directing one. Moments after Henry, our assistant Director called lunch one the crew jumped off the boat. Surfacing, we grinned at each other marvelling at the water, the beach, the beautiful lines of the fiberglass hulled 55 foot sailboat, renamed Persophone for the film, bobbing in the azure water. It was such a relief to finally get into the water and escape the scorching Tunisian sun.
One of my dear friends reminded me before the shoot to make sure that in the maelstrom of production I would from time to time, take a moment and try and enjoy the experience. It was good advice and part of that is creating a blog to share some of the images and excitement of the shoot.