The Making Of Essay
2006 is the year that I wanted to make a short film a month. I didn't quite get there, but it was a most productive year. I started the year with Post-its, and then the test commercials Jack & Jill. My third project of the year turned out to be Monologue Triptych.
I am friends with scriptwriter, Ben Woodiwiss. Ben originally got in touch with me about making another one of his scripts, called Effortless. Just after I finished filming Post-its, Ben got in touch with me about having the script back. Another production company were interested in seeing it. I wasn't making any progress on it, so I let him have it back. But I asked him if he had any other scripts I could have and he told me about the Gary Monologue scripts, Primero and Segundo.
The Gary Monologues were orginially written for a musician, funnily enough called Gary, who wanted to turn actor. I guess he didn't like the scripts or really just wasn't fully commited to becoming an actor, who knows. The thing is that I liked the scripts and I wanted to make them. Though I felt that it was missing a third story, a Tercero.
I felt that the character of Gary needed some kind of cosmic karma, that he needed to pay for his sins. The first story is about how he got away with some drugs. The second story is about an art gallery that he fucks up through arogance and a good dose of alcohol. I thought what is the worse thing that could happen to him? His kids taken away from him. Well, not just taken away, but moved all the way to the other side of the planet. I asked Ben if he could write that story and he agreed, so the Gary Monologues became Monologue Triptych.
With the three scripts in hand, I planned to shoot them in May. I started to get my team togehter. Stephen Cartwright came on board as producer. We were working on the sound of Post-its and I told him about the project. He wanted to produce it with me, so I said yes. (He also provided the bathroom and bedroom locations for Segundo) I was able to find Timothy Orman to do the production design. And I asked Benjamin Green to play the part of Gary.
Benjamin I had met while shooting Jack & Jill. The Saturday morning I shot these 2 test adverts, I went for coffee afterwards with Ashvin-Kumar Joshi and Andrew Lawden (who both were in the adverts) and Benjamin was the only one from the rest of the cast who joined us. We got on really well and I wanted to work with him again. When Monologue Triptych came up, Benjamin was the first actor I sent the script to and he said yes.
On this film I wanted to work with a DOP (Director of Photography). I wanted this one to look good. I put an advert out on Mandy and I got a lot of replies. I wittled it down to a few and I met with them. My first choice was Richard J. Wood, but he wasn't available. The dates we were filming, he was away in Cannes, so I had to go with my second choice. I didn't make a very good second choice.
My second choice was a nightmare. He questioned everything I was doing. He wanted a ton of lights, that would of cost me more than I had in the budget and there wouldn't of been much of space left in the locations for the actor. I couldn't handle the guy. I didn't know what to do. The prospect of working with this guy was horrible. I spoke to Stephen about it and he gave me the best piece of advice; delay the shoot. I was so caught up in getting ready to shoot, that I didn't even contemplate it. I spoke to Timothy and Benjamin, and they were both happy to wait. My second choice was not happy at all, but I was very relieved not to be working with him.
The new plan was to shoot in August. I got in touched with Richard to see if he was available in August and thankfully he was, so was Benjamin and Timothy. As I had more time, I was able to find Stephanie Odu (Art Director), Ben Coleman (Sound Recordist) and Ania Gastol (Makeup).
August came round very quickly and we were ready to shoot. The plan was to shoot for three days. Day one we would shoot Segundo at Stephen's place, day two we would shoot Primero and day three we would shoot Tercero, both at Keith Weir's place. Keith is a storyboard artist friend of mine and he very kindly let us film there.
On the first day of the shoot, we did start a small fire in Stephen's house. One of the bulbs on a light blew, when we were testing it. The only casuality was a carpet and that only got a few singed marks, so we got off lightly. It was the only problem we had on the shoot.
Timothy did a great job on dressing the locations. Wonderful little details that added to the character of Gary. As well as directing, I was driving people around. I drove Timothy home at the end of the first day, with all his props, when suddenly Timothy asked me to stop. He jumped out and started to dumpster dive. He pulled out a mirror, which we didn't use on the shoot, but I'm sure ended up on another shoot.
At Keith's place, we took over the kitchen, where Timothy really went to town on dressing the location. As Gary was an artist, the dining room table was covered in artist items, like artwork, paint, books and a small wooden artist model. We even dabbed paint onto Benjamin's top. On the fridge we had drawings and pictures of Gary's kids, which in Primero don't really come into play, but in Tercero are a major part of the story.
The one thing I regret from the Primero shoot that there is a shot that Benjamin doesn't address the camera and instead that he is shot from the side. This was an idea that was suggested to me by Richard. At the time, I thought it was a great idea, but when I watch the film, I hate it. It doesn't fit. It certainly a lesson to me that it's good to take suggestions, but be aware how that idea will effect the films. And, it's sometimes better to stick to your guns.
When it came to shooting Tercero, the character of Gary has to cry. Now Benjamin felt that he couldn't do it on cue. That he needed a lot of time to get into that emotional state or we had to fake it. It was suggested by Ania that we used soap and dab a bit into his eyes. I didn't want to do it, intially, as I don't want to hurt the actors I'm working with, but Benjamin was well up for it. He thought it was the best way to do it. So if he was alright with it, then I was alright with it.
So we get to the part of the script where Benjamin has to cry. How we would do it was roll the camera, roll the sound, do the clapper board and then Ania would step in with a cotton bud with soap and dab it into Benjamin's eyes. Once the tears started rolling, I called "Action!" and we would do the scene. We did that shot 7 times and not once did Benjamin complained.
These films were the first time I worked with Colourist. Rob Wickings, who has worked on films like Black Book and The Queen, very kindly offered to do the grade for me. I had to give him the films as image sequence, instead of a Quicktime file. What an image sequnece is every frame of the film as individual files, individual photos. I had to buy a big external hard drive to fit these image sequences on to and give it to Rob. It didn't take Rob long to do, and he did a great job. (We would work again on Blood + Roses and Modern Love)
We had the cast and crew screening at De Lane Lea, on Wardour Street. (De Lane Lea is well known in the industry for doing post production sound for major feature films) I was able to rent the small screening room there. It was a great night, though Benjamin did turn up with a huge bruise on his face. The day before he had a fight at his Kung-Fu class and one of the other students got a bit too over enthuastic.
Primero and Segundo did well on the festival circuit, but Tercero didn't really got seen. The reason for this was that I was trying to get permission to use a Peter Gabriel track for the end of the film. The track is called Here Comes The Flood from his Shaking The Tree Greatest Hits album. It fitted the film so well. I got in touch with Peter Gabriel's studio and we talked via email about using it, but in the end the amount of money that they wanted was too much. So Tercero now has Air On A G String playing at the end, performed by Stephen Cartwright, but that track really worked. (If you want to play the track over the end of the film, have the tracked lined up at the beginning and when the music appears in the film, hit play and there you go)