Making Get Well Soon – Part 9

1-2 May – Second Weekend of Filming.

The week in between both weekends of filming was pretty chaotic. Ian’s son was still critically ill.  We realised we needed to get on and produce a shot list based on his notes, and that we might also have to cut some corners in relation to coverage. Time management had been tricky on the first weekend, and we had ended up with a very busy schedule for the first of May. Jack would need to direct all the sequences for the second weekend.

We consolidated all the shots – when filming, we would only be changing setups when there were no more shots to film in that specific context. This would mean costume and make up changes perhaps to get a reverse angle of one line of dialogue if it needed to be shot using the same piece of technology as some other shots. Ultimately meant we would be saving time. I appreciated scenes would be shot out of context, but shooting individual shots within scenes out of context was disorienting.

On the Friday, I hired what turned out to be the most totally broken van in London to transport the hired equipment for the second weekend. One of our runners, poor Beth Aynsley turned up on Saturday in a creaking, crippled van with no working lock. Amazingly it had stayed in one piece during its limp across London and we unloaded all the kit. We were soon underway.

By necessity, a lot of shots were simplified. We shed pages from the script – we had to be brutal in order to produce something that had narrative shape. Scenes that were blocked to be several shots were whittled down to one on the fly.

Additionally, Jack and I ran through a last-minute idea that had been injected into the script. This was a rather miserable dream sequence where an incapacitated Theodore is fed pill after pill by a malevolent alter-ego Janet. This was an idea we came up with on the day, and it was very energising to shoot this despite the bleak subject matter. It was also a really interesting learning experience for me about the actual length of set-ups, and what would be demanded technically to achieve what I had conceptualised as a fairly simple shot.

I remember talking to Gregory about how the shot might work in one, with the camera on a fig-rig being quite mobile. It didn’t occur to me that the act of ‘zooming in’ might reasonably need to be served by putting down some dolly track, or breaking up the action to get different shots and change lenses. Because my knowledge of experimenting with film relied purely on the using autofocus on a cheap DV camera, I had no real understanding of the minute attention to detail required to make each shot look perfect.

There was a strange energy on set after we filmed this sequence. I could sense that despite the morbid tone, people were excited about what we had shot. My first thoughts were that I’d wished Ian could have been there to see it – but also, while filming this sequence, I had received a text message from him which said that things were ‘very bad’ and that there should be ‘no phone calls’. In my own mind, I had basically concluded that his son had died. All we could do was keep going and hope for the best.

We had spent lot of money by the end of the second weekend – van hire, consumables, expenses, travel, things breaking (including one of the camera’s batteries and a toilet macerater engine!) It was all the little things that rolled together to produce cost, and those things that we projected might be very expensive that ended up being less so.

I hadn’t slept much over the weekend, and by the time we finished, I was rather shell shocked.

Exhaustion kicked in after one beer. I stumbled home to bed.

Michael Woodman:
This blog is also updated on the Punchdrunk in Matalan blog.

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