‘This happy day’ [the days after]

7th May 2012

It takes a while to wind down and warm up after a shoot like ours for Julius Caesar. We were away from Oriental City by 6.30pm on Saturday, although there are two further days of clearing up and ‘restitution’ still to do this week. As I blogged, we wrapped ten minutes before our planned  5.30pm end of day, by which time we had seen Brutus dispatched and every scheduled scene complete. The clapperboard, presented to DOP Steve Lawes, showed that we had shot 213 slates across the twelve days – that’s a lot! There are the usual small worries about quite what we’ve got, but overall we are thrilled and delighted with the rushes. As we said goodbye to everyone the prosecco tasted pretty good.

On Tuesday the cast go back to the stage rehearsal room – and several of them have already said that they expect the performance in the theatre to be enriched by the focus that the filming has offered. Dropping a major location shoot into the midst of rehearsals really is unique, but so far no-one has suggested that it may be deleterious to the final result in the theatre. The production team turns its attention to writing thank you notes, paying bills and preparing for the next component of the filming – in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford on 1 and 2 June.

We have planned that we will shoot the opening of the play, the Forum scene and the closing lines in Stratford – and on location we recorded only the last-mentioned of these. These are the big ‘public’ scenes of a play that is otherwise largely about private exchanges, about intimacy and conspiracy and concealment. We will film two performances with an audience in the house, but we are determined to avoid the usual ‘theatre capture’ look, and so a good part of the next month will be devoted to thinking that through.

The coming month, and the one after, will also be devoted to refining the cut with which editor Trevor Waite has already made great progress. Over the weekend, director Greg Doran has been looking at an assembly of shot scenes that lasts some 95 minutes. Trevor will finish off this process this week, so that by Thursday we will have an end to end run of what we filmed. Then will start the detailed work on pacing, on emphasis, on which shots to favour and on which frames to cut.

We also have a good deal of behind-the-scenes material to work with. Cameraman Ian Serfontein and sound recordist Matt Flack were with us for five days of the twelve, recording the on-set process in detail and capturing interviews with cast (Paterson Joseph, Cyril Nri, Ray Fearon, Jeffery Kissoon, Simon Manyonda, Adjoa Andoh and Ann Ogbomo) and crew (Steve Lawes, Michal Vale, Matilda Wainwright and me) – Greg we will pick up at a later date.

This behind-the-scenes material will form the basis of six short exclusive films for the Open University as well as material for the DVD, RSC online offerings and other contexts. Our 2009 Hamlet was covered well with such material and I really regret that we did not have the budget to do something similar for the 2010 Macbeth.

There is much else to do besides: sort through the photographs taken by Ellie Kurttz, plan the marketing, worry about the budget, draft and re-draft the credits roller, consider whether we can do a public screening of the film during the summer, explore distribution possibilities and, of course, think about whether there is another Shakespeare to be made anytime soon.

We also need to stay on top of the budget, although the major elements of expenditure – and the ones that are hardest to control – are no behind us. And just what is that budget, John? Well… the total is £610,000, made up of £500,000 from BBC Television, £30,000 from The Open University to secure certain educational rights to the production, and £80,000 of deferred fees by Illuminations, the RSC and certain individuals. These will be paid out if and when we secure distribution revenues. (Deferrals are never a great idea, but in this case it was impossible to undertake a location shoot and achieve the production values we aspired to without putting them in place – I’m confident that they will pay off eventually.)

Meanwhile, other Shakespeare activities swirl around us, including the extraordinary Globe to Globe season which is presenting at Shakespeare’s Globe all 37 plays by different theatre companies from around the world. Thrillingly, it seems that each one of these is being recorded for presentation on the ACE/BBC ‘pop-up’ channel The Space, with a glorious Venus and Adonis (OK, that’s not really a play) from South Africa and a Russian Measure for Measure already available – more on these later in the week.

I’m looking forward to the showing on The Space of the Italian Julius Caesar by the I Termini company which played last week. William Ward for The Arts Desk really didn’t like the production:

The idea of a stripped-down, deconstructed Shakespeare tragedy sounds great, but not when the play’s gut’s have been replaced by an incessant overload of meaningless actions and clambering around the stage as if in a padded cells. Sound and fury, signifying… not a great deal? Afraid so.

At the excellent Blogging Shakespeare Year of Shakespeare site – which is reviewing in depth all of the Globe to Globe and World Shakespeare 2012 productions – Sonia Massai is much more enthusiastic:

Andrea Baracco and Vincenzo Manna’s adaptation of Julius Caesar has abruptly changed the mood set by the other companies who have taken part in the Globe to Globe season to date. This Giulio Cesare, which opened to critical acclaim in Italy in June 2011, made no concessions to the unique performance space offered by the Globe stage and granted none of the light relief Globe audiences are used to… Baracco and Manna’s Giulio Cesare offered the Globe audience a much more challenging, though hugely rewarding, experience.  Skillfully performed by six young actors, the play was electrifying but also exhausting to watch, at least partly because it ushers the audience into a world that is already irredeemably marred by political corruption and moral and intellectual paralysis.

Thanks to Stuart Ian Burns (@feelinglistless) I discovered another compelling Caesar this week. In his Shakespeare at the British Council blogpost, he highlighted two short films from the mid-1940s financed by the Council which have just been made available online. These Famous Scenes for Shakespeare were shot on 35mm with high production values – and the first in the series is the Forum scene from Julius Caesar, which I am happy to reproduce here in all its glory (again, I’ll return to this, and the accompanying Macbeth in a future post).

Julius Caesar (1945) from British Council Film on Vimeo.

Previously on the Julius Caesar blog:

”Tis time to part’, 5 May
‘Well, to our work alive’, 3 May
‘How many ages hence…’, 2 May
‘The Ides of March are come’, 30 April
‘Good words are better than bad strokes’, 27 April
‘Whoever knew the heavens threaten so?’, 26 April
‘Peace. Count the clock.’, 25 April
‘When it is lighted, come and call me here’, 24 April
‘Tell us the manner of it’, 23 April
‘Their battles are at hand’, 21 April
‘A very pleasing night to  honest men’, 17 April
‘Be patient till the last’, 12 April
‘Now they are almost on him’, 6 April
‘A mourning Rome, a dangerous Rome’, 2 April
‘Tell us what hath chanced today’, 30 March
‘Shakespeare’s Africa play’, 29 February
‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’, 24 November

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