‘ ‘Tis time to part’ [days 11 + 12]

5th May 2012

Our last day, and it’s fair to say that none of us will be sad to say goodbye to Oriental City, which is where we have been filming Julius Caesar over the past fortnight. According to its Wikipedia page, Oriental City ‘was a shopping centre in Colindale [which] closed for redevelopment on 1 June 2008, but no demolition or building work has yet taken place.’ As you might expect from the name it had an Asian theme with resturants, shops, a Sega World and a casino. But now it’s a sad and delapidated shell which, during the past weeks, has all too often felt damp and cold and truly miserable. But it has been a brilliant location for us – as I’ll try to explain as I update this post during today. Meanwhile, following is a selection of images from the site. Welcome to our world… read more »

‘Well, to our work alive’ [day 10]

3rd May 2012

We are three-quarters of the way through the Julius Caesar shoot, with just three days to go. Paterson Joseph (our wonderful Brutus) reflects that, for all the cold and discomfort of the shoot, we will most definitely miss this when it’s over. It is hard to explain why, but there really is nothing like a film shoot – perhaps it is something to do with a shared sense of purpose (at least when things are going well), with satisfaction at the collective creation of something, and with the smooth playing out of comforting processes and rituals. Against all this, the rain and the temperature and dodgy loos are as nothing.

This morning we are back with Act IV Scene 3 and Brutus’ encounter with Caesar’s ghost (seen in an early nineteenth century version above). One of the frustrations of doing this blog is that I am trying not to give away much (anything?) about how we are shooting these scenes – I don’t want to spoil in any way the film for our eventual audiences. But believe me, as I watched it being filmed just now, it was a true tingle-up-the-spine moment. Instead of any details today’s post continues with the tale of a complaint to the Guardian, after which I’ll try to reflect on quite what it is that a producer does on location. read more »

‘How many ages hence…’ [day 9]

2nd May 2012

‘… Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown?’

There is a slate-grey sky over the Edgware Road this morning. But at least it’s not raining. Inside the location the sparks have hung out to dry over a scaffolding frame drapes which got soaked over the last few days. We are finished with the staircase to the Senate House, and Mark Antony has (wonderfully, thanks to Ray Fearon) cried Havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Everything that we are filming on location to the end of Act III is now complete and we have re-set at Brutus’ encampment for the two-hander that is Act IV Scene III.  Taking its cue from Cassius above, this post – written across the day – starts to consider some of the eight (!) previous BBC productions of Julius Caesar. Plus, I want to thread through this a few other thoughts about The Space which I started to consider yesterday. read more »

On first looking into The Space

1st May 2012

Day 8 of the Julius Caesar shoot, and we continue to film the assassination scene. On set it’s still really cold and outside it’s raining hard once again. What more do you need to know (apart from what’s for lunch)? So I am taking a May Day break from blogging the shoot, and turning instead to today’s launch of The Space. This is the ‘pop up’ online arts offering from Arts Council England and the BBC that went live this morning and that will run across the summer. Go here and here for background, and (in the interests of full disclosure) here and here for the story of our rejection; for the latest follow @thespacearts. Plus, Tony Ageh marks the launch on the About the BBC Blog. There is no question that this is a hugely significant and exciting initiative for arts media, and my aim is to write about it extensively as it unfolds. I would also be delighted if this blog becomes one of the key places where a critical dialogue about its successes and failures is played out. What follows are preliminary thoughts on first looking into The Space. read more »

‘The Ides of March are come’ [day 7]

30th April 2012

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. read more »

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

27th April 2012

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. read more »

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

26th April 2012

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. read more »

‘Peace. Count the clock.’ [day 3]

25th April 2012

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. read more »

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

24th April 2012

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. read more »

‘Tell us the manner of it’ [day 1]

23rd April 2012

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… read more »