It’s been an intense week leading up to the filming of ‘Love Thy Neighbour’.
Aside from the usual production headaches just before a shoot – we had one tiny issue to resolve: the script! We loved the concept of the story but had too many script variants.
A few days before filming I had a go at streamlining the latest 16 page draft into a snappier 9 page version. I was expecting Stan to hate it but aside from a few tweaks it essentially formed our shooting script. We also wanted the actors to workshop so they could bring their own ideas and interpretations to the table. Ideally you’d do this before the shoot date but time was not on our side.
It was great to learn that Melissa Dalton (playing Kelly) and Louis Bernard (playing Rob) were traveling together on the same train. They had both bonded during the journey and had already come up with ideas and back-stories to their characters. This allowed us to hit the floor running!
Natalie Martins (playing Michelle) arrived shortly afterwards, it was lovely to be working with her again after ‘Emmi‘. We all bounced ideas around, fixing issues and occasionally adapting character motivations – it was a really productive morning! We encouraged everyone to improvise so they would react to situations at key moments (the script was more of a guideline), quite an exciting way of working!
After lunch, Daniel Epih (playing Harv) and Jacqueline Dunning (our make-up artist) turned up. We starting to doing some technical run-throughs to figure out how the camera needed to travel (and pick the camera we’d be using). We shot tests on a Canon C300 using a shoulder rig and a Panasonic GH5S on a gimbal. Personally I loved the look of the Canon more, but the Panasonic was shooting wider and seemed to be more forgiving (we settled on that).
Originally the film was going imply more than it showed, but our DOP Danny MacGregor pushed us to get more on screen. This created more headaches: additional make-up effects, costumes and props. Stan and I raced around charity shops and supermarkets sourcing items whilst our make-up artist Jacqui started getting actors ready. During the trip Stan confessed that it was madness doing this as a single shot film (oops – that might have been my idea!).
It was almost 4pm and we still weren’t quite sure if it was going to be more ‘Birdman’ (cheating by breaking the film into smaller chunks and matching the cut points) or Victoria (a true single take with absolutely no cuts). After practicing a few times without make-up effects we decided we could do it as a single take (no cheating). Maybe it was the euphoria of being on set, but it seemed to go extremely well – the only concern was it was all moving a little too quickly and we needed to slow things down. It feels somewhat alien trying to control everything in real-time when you are more accustomed to controlling the pace in an editing suite.
It took a few moments to readjust and reset after each take. The second take was better paced but it had a few technical issues. The next take was going really well until an air ambulance started hovering over us (a hazard of filming next to a hospital). When things had calmed we did another take which (wasn’t quite feeling it as we’d lost some of our momentum). We expected that one to be our last take being as light was starting to go and Jacqui had to leave to catch her train back. We decided to give it one final shot (just as well, this is the take we’ll probably use)!
I’m rather impressed with what was achieved in just a single day, the whole team was nothing short of amazing! There was a really excitable buzz on location, we all got along even though we were all being pushed outside of our normal comfort zone. Hoping the end-result will be worth it!