‘The Ides of March are come’ [day 7]

‘The Ides of March are come’ [day 7]

There is a blue, blue sky as I come out of the underground station at 6.20. The best weather of the shoot so far. But Saturday night saw thunder and rain of tempest-level force. So I’m truly worried as I walk towards the location about whether we have lost any more of the ceiling. In particular, what will be the state of the set where we are scheduled today to shoot the assassination scene. But all’s well, and although there have been further leaks through the roof (including in the production office) the set is dry and undisturbed. By 7.30 there is much art department scurrying around, a lot of last-minute cleaning and a good deal of activity with lamps. For the killing itself we need sun streaming down a staircase from a skylight above. And for that we have really big lamps on the roof under a tent – so it’s just as well there seems only to be a light wind and, by 9.15, just a few small clouds.
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‘Good words are better than bad strokes’ [days 5 + 6]

‘Good words are better than bad strokes’ [days 5 + 6]

As I noted earlier, Friday is a really, really busy day. But, on balance, a good one. Closing in on the halfway point of our twelve day schedule, we are perhaps two shots behind. Not bad, really not bad. There are times when the schedule, which determines whether or not we’ll get to the end with all the shots in the can, can seem like the most important thing on a shoot. Sometimes even the only thing. But of course you need to feel confident that what you are achieving on screen is, at some level, good. Which I do, especially after having watched the assembly of 45 minutes of cut scenes from days 1 to 4. This is definitely beginning to come together. So with that sense of confidence (and I hope not complacency) let me offer some thoughts – posted in pieces  - at this stage of the game.
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‘Whoever knew the heavens menace so?’ [day 4]

‘Whoever knew the heavens menace so?’ [day 4]

There was bright sunshine when I stepped out of the tube this morning (at 6.20, thanks for asking). But pretty soon the dark clouds were gathering, and not long after that there was the first of several bursts of torrential rain. There’s a respite now – early afternoon – but today we also have intentional rain inside. We have moved on from Brutus’ orchard and now we’re in a rather grim alleyway just off the market (that’s a detail above from one of the boarded-up shop fronts). It’s night-time and, yes, it’s raining. Although it wasn’t this morning when we shot Act III, Scene 3, the murder by the mob of Cinna the poet.
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‘Peace. Count the clock.’ [day 3]

‘Peace. Count the clock.’ [day 3]

In front of camera, it’s a sweltering night in our nameless African city, some time after a thunderstorm has passed. The thunderstorm, however, seems to have taken up residence in the real world just above our location. It’s day 3 on the film shoot for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar – and it’s pouring with rain. Just dropping down. This has a number of consequences. One is that there’s a slight malaise that settles around everyone – no-one is quite as cheerful as they have been at other times (and this includes me). Then it’s an issue for the audio recording, because there is a distant patter of raindrops on the iron roof above where we are filming. But that’s one of those problems to which the time-honoured response can be given: ‘we can fix it in post’. Less easily sorted is the large hole in the ceiling right above where we want to film Caesar’s assassination. That, and the water that is pouring though.
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‘When it is lighted, come and call me here’ [day 2]

‘When it is lighted, come and call me here’ [day 2]

Above is the clapperboard at the end of day 1. Somehow it’s reassuring that, even when all the other camera stuff is high end digital, we still need one of these totally traditional objects. Last night the digital rushes were packaged up and sent off to the editing room, where the sound and pictures were married together (‘synced’) over night. The clapperboard is used both to identify each shot and to provide an exact ‘mark’ to align the audio and pictures. Today our editor Trevor Waite will start assembling the elements we recorded yesterday. By this evening we may even have a rough version of how the final scene will play.
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‘Tell us the manner of it’ [day 1]

‘Tell us the manner of it’ [day 1]

So… here we go.
05.05: leaving the house to catch the first tube heading north on the Northern Line. At least it’s not raining.

07:35: First AD Kristian Dench gathers everyone for some brief house-keeping notes, including the fire alarm procedures – and then we’re into a first walk-through of Act I Scene 2 with Paterson Joseph (Brutus) and Cyril Nri (Cassius).

07:55: This is the first big performance film for a decade that I’m making without my friend and colleague Seb Grant. He is off working with a.n.other company on a big reality show – and, at more or less the same time, having a baby with his wife Jules. (Congratulations and best wishes for that – especially as the due date is Thursday!) Last night he sent us some welcome advice…
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The week’s links 22-28/4

The week’s links 22-28/4

Marc Karlin was a major filmmaker and a good man. He was a colleague and we worked together on two of his films for television. I appreciated his imaginative and rigorously intellectual yet poetic approach to working with images and sounds. I admired his organising energy, his passion and his political commitment. And I’m grateful that he took me to my first professional football game, at his beloved Highbury. He died in 1999 – and my obituary for The Independent, written in great sadness, is here. Picture This in Bristol, in conjunction with the In the Spirit of Marc Karlin research project, has just hosted an exhibition of his work, together with a weekend of screenings at Arnolfini (only Julius Caesar preparations prvented me from going). And there was a roundtable discussion of his legacy, an audio recording of which can – wonderfully – is available for download here. More links for the week, with the expectation of additions across the coming days, can be found across the jump. [Updated: 07:45 on Thursday.]
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‘Their battles are at hand’

‘Their battles are at hand’

The last weekend. On Monday – Shakespeare’s birthday, in case you hadn’t noticed – we turn over on our BBC film of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar. Director Greg Doran finished the fourth week of rehearsals on Friday with a full run-through, and everyone seems to have felt happy at the end. Today and tomorrow the art department is hard at work transforming an abandoned shopping mall in north London into the streets of a post-colonial African city (that’s art director Matilda Wainwright’s location plan above). There are props and costumes and camera gear and much more on site. And something like an uneasy calm before the (controlled) storm that is any major shoot.
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Hollis, I hardly know you

Hollis, I hardly know you

Tuesday sees the release (in the States only) of a DVD and Blu-ray for which, it is only slightly hyperbolic to say, I have been waiting for all my life. The great and good Criterion Collection have collated A Hollis Frampton Odyssey with twenty-four films made by the avant-garde artist between 1966 and 1979. I have seen just two of these, in large part because almost all of Frampton’s films have for the last three decades been all but inaccessible – at least legally. Yet the two films that I know, Zorn’s Lemma (1970) and (nostalgia) (1971), would be close to the top of my desert island essentials list (and I’ve also read a good deal about the films). So you can imagine how keen I am on a journey through another twenty-two (a clip of one of which is included below).
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‘A very pleasing night to honest men’

‘A very pleasing night to honest men’

If it’s Monday, it must mean there’s a week to go. Seven days from now we start shooting Julius Caesar. At lunchtime, with our First AD Kristian Dench, I head up the Northern Line to the location. As I have indicated before (and, no, I haven’t said where it is) the building in which we are filming is pretty much a ruin (above) – but a resonant one. And now it’s a clean ruin. Or at least, a good deal cleaner, with much of the pigeon poo gone, the floors washed and random debris carted away. We have a generator, working lights and a production office complete with a tiny dachshund. This afternoon’s task is a technical recce – and then tonight we are bringing everyone together for a pre-shoot production meeting.
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