Moving Forward (2009)

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In the run up to Blood & Roses, Benjamin Green told me about a comedy series, that he had written. It was based on his experience of working in a gym. The idea was to follow the management of this gym and the craziness that they get up to. He had the whole thing planned out. It was going to be six parts with three main characters and a whole host of supporting characters. Benjamin was going to play David, a character who is in charge of selling gym memberships. The other two characters was Millicent, the manager of the gym and Stephen, David's assistant.

The plan was to shoot the pilot, show it to a TV channel and get it commissioned. (Easy enough, right) Ben had permission to shoot in the Gym he worked at in Bishopsgate. (We would go back there to film Why I Fight!) We had the place to ourselves for the whole weekend. We just had to put together a cast and crew.

Joining us on the cast was Matt Stokes, who was playing the part of Stephen. Benjamin had written the part especially for Matt. They had met on another shoot, called Necromonger Conquest, based on the film The Chronicles of Riddick, and they stayed friends after it. Playing the part of Millicent was Catherine Adams. Catherine had auditioned for a part in Blood & Roses. (I think that's where Benjamin met her, but I'm not sure) Ben Woodiwiss agreed to play the part of Geoff. (Ben had just appeared in a film called Quantum) Etta Bell, from Blood & Roses, playing the part of Jennifer the receptionist. And finally we had Andrew Lawden, from Fire Power, in a cameo role.

Shooting in the gym

I was going to shoot it myself with my camera and lights. Joining me on the crew was Charlie Wesfield recording sound... and that was it. It was just going to be the two of us with the cast. It was actually a lot of fun doing everything and we shot fast. We shot 20 pages in 2 days. It's the fastest I have ever shot.

We shot most of the scenes with Benjamin, Matt and Catherine on the Saturday. As they had the most dialogue, we shot their stuff first. On Sunday, we had the rest of the cast. I can say that it went very smoothly. We had a few sound problems with the air conditioning. We couldn't find a way to shut it off. We had to resort to using gaffer tape to cover the vents, so to deaden the sound. It also meant that we couldn't use some of the offices.

We did have one problem going into filming and that we couldn't fill the role of a delivery man. In the end I had to step in and do it. I'm not a trained actor, but it was one line, so I figured I could handle it. So it was going to be my first role. I was going to need help. Benjamin offered me advice on delivering my lines. He was also learing to do a Christopher Walken impression. I mention this, as he would say my lines as Christopher Walken and I would copy him.

My first time on camera

Sunday moving we going to shoot my scene first. Benjamin and Matt got into their sumo suits, and we moved out to the street. We picked to shoot it on the corner of John Carpenter Street. (Great name for a street) So I set up the camera, wide shot, and I called action and I walked out in front of the lens and said my line. I opened my mouth and my version of Christopher Walken came out. We all laughed. I couldn't use that. So I stopped the camera. I needed a moment to clear my head. To get rid of Walken. Once I was ready, I rolled the camera again and this time nailed it. I was very happy.

I can report that the rest of the day went well. Andrew turned up first, did his role, hung around, and then finally left. Ben turned up next. His scene had a lot of dialogue, but we breezed through it. Etta was the last one to turn up. We shot her scene and that was it. We were done. It was a very enjoyable shoot. We had a great cast that didn't miss a line and was a laugh in between takes.

I was able to put the edit together very quickly. I altenated between this and Blood & Roses. Stephen Cartwright did the music, including the main theme, and the sound effects. The shoot was in January and I finished it in April. We submitted the pilot to a few broadcasters, but they weren't interested. Benjamin didn't want to give up. We had planned to shoot the next episode ourselves, but then disaster struck. Matt Stokes was diagnosed with cancer.

When Matt was 19 he had be diagnosed with a brain tumor. Through treatment they were able to stop it's growth and he had been living with it up to this point. In July, Matt was told that tumor was back. He was in and out of hospital for the rest of the year. My hope was that he would pull through. If anybody could of done it, Matt could of.

Alas, Matt passed away on the 15th February 2009. (Just over a year later from shooting) Matt's funeral was a celebration of his life. A lot of his friends and family got up and told stories about him. It was a very good service.

As for Moving Forward, Benjamin didn't have the heart to continue on without Matt. We talked about replacing him or replacing the character of Stephen, but we couldn't do it. So we never made the other episodes. I think it would of been a fun, crazy series. The seeds of that you can see in the pilot.