Blog Archive

Blogging the Bard

Blogging the Bard
30 June 2009 posted by John Wyver

Before the memories fade, I thought it might be useful to compose a post that includes all of the key Hamlet links to date. So that's what's in the jump. Meanwhile, yesterday was the first day of the edit's second stage. We have a full assembly of the film which runs at about 191 minutes. So it's slightly longer than the 180 minutes which we have agreed we'll deliver to the broadcasters. Director Greg Doran and editor Tony Cranstoun now have about three weeks to refine the cut, shaping and re-shaping the scenes, choosing exactly which reaction to show and for how long, and bringing it all to length. This is one of the most creative stages of the process. Meanwhile, here's the story so far...

These are the key Hamlet posts in chronological order with a line or two about each one and sometimes a note about the Comments.

Now it can be told... 29 May
Our initial announcement, just days before the shoot was due to start. 13 expressions of gratitude in the Comments.

'Suit the action to the word' 30 May
A first visit to the set and initial reactions to the news of the filming. Plus the first lively exchanges in the 24 Comments, including contributions from many of those who became regulars in the following days.

'The play's the thing' 31 May
Previous versions of Hamlet on British television.

'Look here, upon this picture' 1 June
Notes from the rehersal day, the RED camera and our director of photography Chris Seager BSC.

'What hour now?' 2 June
The morning of the first day, and the culmination of all our preparations.

'If it live in your memory, begin at this line...' 2 June
The first 8 minutes in the can, and our satisfaction at the end of the day. Plus, the picture of the first rushes case and a clip from the Hepworth Manufacturing Company's 1913 Hamlet. Congratulations and questions in the 18 Comments.

'Is not this something more than fantasy?' 3 June
Day 2: Hamlet's first soliloquy and then back to the battlements, together with our initial tweets and the Facebook Newsfeed version of the play. In the 21 Comments, the first mentions of the red T-shirt.

'Of all the days i' the year' 4 June
Blogging through the first court scene and then, at the end of the day, the debrief scene. After that, back to the cutting room to see a very first assembly. A crew rebellion over my reflection that no-one reads the call-sheets features in the 35 Comments during the day.

'Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice' 5 June
Day 4: a lost crown, part of the closet scene, 'lawful espials' and a visit from our co-producers at NHK in Japan.

'For 'tis a question left us yet to prove' 6 June
The first Saturday and the end of the opening week. Answers to some of the questions posed by respondents to the blog.

'We thank you for your well-took labour' 7 June
Just a picture of the clapperboard at the end of Saturday, showing 101 slates, a headline that was heartfelt, and 18 comments.

'Keep close within your chamber' 8 June
Filming the closet scene, but also details of how the camera team work on set: 'all very focussed and very concentrated'.

'Bring me to the test' 9 June
The busiest day of the shoot so far -- the climactic fight -- compounded by knowledge that tomorrow will be the first day of a Tube strike. Also, the announcement of our #hamlet Twitter plot challenge.

'Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens...' 10 June
'Alas, poor Yorick' and a downpour, plus how we coped with the Tube disruption.

'Too much i' the sun' 11 June
Ophelia's funeral is made the more problematic by patches of bright sunshine in the afternoon. Today was also the day of the #hamlet Twitter plot challenge.

'As this world goes' 12 June
Filming the dumbshow and The Mousetrap; my first time away from the set; and the results of the #hamlet Twitter plot challenge which attracted more than 200 entries.

'The best actors in the world' 13 June
A low-key second Saturday with lunchtime entertainment from the Fairy Band. Also, five great filmed Hamlets from the past, with YouTube clips. Which prompted a particularly good group of Comments.

'What players are they?' 14 June
Five more great Hamlets, and in the 23 Comments a good discussion of the ethics of YouTube.

'Give him this money and these notes' 15 June
Day 12, the arrival of the players together with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern coming into their own. Thoughts also on the key questions faced by any screen version of a stage play.

'To be too busy is some danger' 16 June
'Friends and family day' as we called it, because there were so many visitors. It was also really busy, with the prayer scene and the interrogation room. After filming, a meeting to look at an assembly and determine what pick-ups we needed.

'Whilst this play is playing' 17 June
Not the best of days: discovery of the theft overnight of our camera, although we manged to be up and shooting with only a half-hour's delay. Filming of 'To be or not to be'.

'...and for mine own poor part' 18 June
Seb stands-in for a day on the blog and while the set is pre-occupied with pick-ups, here everything goes crazy: 69 Comments, many of them very funny.

'Brief chronicles of the time' 19 June
Seb's second day on the blog, more pick-ups, and Hamlet acted out by action figures, including a special knitted jumper.

'Good night sweet prince' 20 June
The penultimate day of the shoot, and David Tennant's last, with a running blog through the day. The Lego challenge and 45 very nice Comments.

Life after Hamlet 22 June
A day off, but also In Our Time about revenge tragedy, along with reflections on blogging and tweeting through the production.

'The memory be green' 23 June
Blogging through the final day of the shoot, Ophelia's mad scene, plus a download of my earlier thoughts about producing drama for the screen.

'The rest is...' 24 June
More on the end of the shoot, and a note about the next steps of clearing up and the edit.

Where in the world was Elsinore? 27 June
Looking back on our location: St Joseph's College, Mill Hill. In the comments, surprise about where we were.



30 June 2009 09:58

Eleven minutes to cut at this point. I'm sure some of these cuts will seem obvious, and tiny edits to the lengths of various shots will add up - but the process of choosing what to keep and what to lose must be a fascinating and exciting process -playing about with the effect that certain changes have on a particular scene, or over the whole piece. I hope you will be able to blog a little about some of those decisions at some point - without giving too much away of course! Thanks for the list of Hamlet blogs a good reminder of where we've been with you over the last few weeks.

Karen M

30 June 2009 17:33

Thank you for putting all the blogs together in one place. Eleven minutes to cut--- there may some difficult decisions to be made but I'm sure Greg and theteam will make the right choices. Can I ask if some deleted scenes or all if posssible could be included in the extras on the DVD?

Sue Cooke

30 June 2009 18:44

Eleven minutes to me doesn't seem much, but I'm not in the film business!! Eleven minutes to you being in the film business must seem like eleven hours! Or maybe that's a bit OTT!! Tell you the truth, I certainly wouldn't like the task of having to edit a classic piece of work like Hamlet! Where would you start? Thanks John for the list of all the Hamlet blogs. What a great reminder of what we all got up to!! ;-) Will there be any out takes or extra juicy bits on the DVD at all please? You have probably already answered this, but I am a bear with very little brain!!! I bet you're well impressed with my typing skills, even though my paws are rather large, my claws come in handy!! Looking back over the previous blogs, I'm sure I have posted some sensible comments!! Hahaha! Keep smiling John. :-) All the best x.


30 June 2009 18:53

Eleven minutes isn't bad. I'm sure that could be done without any loss of real content couldn't it? Just by cutting scenes on either end, removing pauses and making shots tighter you could easily pick that up.


30 June 2009 20:18

Thanks John, good to have all the links in one place :D hope you manage to get the 11 mins down and feel satisfied with all the shots you have, really looking forward to seeing it all


30 June 2009 20:29

Eleven minutes...I would be tearing my hair out, but on the other hand, that must be very exciting, trying to be exacting in making the perfect choices.


30 June 2009 20:44

Reading through your resume of the trhee weeks was a bit like looking at holiday photos ! Everything is still reasonably fresh in the memory, but also seems like an age ago. 'Only' being 11 minutes over is pretty good (I think), but I am aware of just how long that is in filmspeak. In effect, this in the second stage of Greg having to make the various decisions regarding cuts. I don't envy him!


30 June 2009 21:35

It must be tortuous to have to take a slice from a pause, or a gaze or a movement that an actor (and/or director) has carefully considered and added for effect! Sometimes it's nice to be a "civilian"and not have to do the deed. Thank you, John, for your thoughful musings on archival theater and television. I am, I suspect, a bit older than many on the line here. Growing up in the states in the 60s and 70s there seemed to be a lot of plays and staged performances on tv. I still remember as a child watching "The Scarecrow" or "The Andersonville Trial" (still two of my favorites) and other productions on PBS. Now, at aged 11 or 12, I will say that my friends and I watched them because the actors we had crushes on were in them! And it's clear that David Tennant while amazingly talented drew some to this particular production of "Hamlet" in the same way. God bless him for it!! Does it really matter how you get to the table, as long as when you arrive the mind and soul can feast? Those plays on PBS so long ago fostered a life-long love of and appreciation for the theater in myself and my friends. It got us reading the plays we had seen, acting them out on the front porch after school, then reading other plays by the same author and history books about the times they were set in. So we learned to love to read as well, and as a result we were very good students. And now as adults we do support our local arts, because we remember that first thrill of that first act, and we still relish it. I think the theater, like the opera, suffered from a perception of snobbery--not for the masses but for the elite--in the past. With the advent of the new technology you spoke of, those days are gone. Hooray!


30 June 2009 23:30

John -- thanks so much for your blog about the Hamlet saga. It has been one of the first things I read each morning. And I shall continue popping in to view blogs from Illuminations because I'm afraid you've got me hooked.


1 July 2009 00:06

Thank you so much for putting all your Hamlet blogs in one place, John. It makes reading back so much easier. And eleven minutes... In our edit we were over by about 8 mins and we almost went mad trying to cut it down. But, we managed it in the end and the I think the final result was well worth it. Anywho, hope the editing process goes smoothly. :)

John Wyver

1 July 2009 11:37

Thanks once again to all. Perhaps I was a little misleading when I said we have to cut 11 minutes. We do, but that's not necessarily 11 minutes of the drama -- just by tightening and sharpening some of the scenes in the cut we'll save time, and without losing any lines or anything else of substance. We'll see how that process goes.

Pause Fan

1 July 2009 20:07

Just please don't lose any of the pauses during the soliloquies. They........were...................fabulous. But then, I guess Greg knows what he's doing!

Sue Cooke

1 July 2009 22:41

Arh. We knew that really John. We were just testing you!! x

Jillian Wolfenden

15 July 2009 22:00

Thanks for the blog. It has been really interesting keeping up with all the news from the filmikng...........Thanks again....

Commenting is disabled for archived blog entries.