“NEVER WORK WITH CHILDREN, ANIMALS OR DINOSAURS!”
Rehearsals And The Shoot
Finally August 16th arrived once August 15th had left and the first order of the day was rehearsals which took place at my house. Hannah and her mum Alex arrived first, then David and finally Sue. I have to say that when David started reading from his script, admitting he hadn’t learned his lines, only skimmed through the dialogue my heart sank. At least I think it was my heart but it necessitated a change of underwear all the same.
After feasting on the spread my Mum provided for us, the leftovers from which was our dinner for the next six weeks, we left for Olive’s. I asked David, Sue and Hannah to travel together so they can get to know each other and hopefully create a credible family chemistry before the camera. As the end results attest this was one of my better ideas on the day.
Unfortunately arriving a little later than anticipated, the butterflies in my stomach had reproduced and beget a second set of butterflies and quite mysteriously, a dragonfly too, but I was pleased to see most of the crew had arrived and were already setting up, under the guidance of John Epton, whose contribution to this project and the personal help he gave me was invaluable.
The sun was blazing down on us but despite our best attempts we couldn’t blaze back so we got down to the small matter of filming. We had a three camera set-up which reduced the amount of takes dramatically since we could cover all angles in one go. It meant that when it came to editing I had three lots of separate footage to sort through but this is a small price to pay for the sake of expedience on the day.
For the audio, we did something that was new to me; at John’s insistence we recorded the audio separately on his digital recorder instead of through the camera – still using the boom mic – which made a tremendous difference. Again it meant trawling through many individual files to find the correct one to match the right video file, but the quality is superior with less extraneous interference and background noises to deal with in the edit.
Despite his earlier admission for not learning his lines, David Wrighton seemed to have absorbed them pretty quickly. I don’t know what happened during the car journey with Sue and Hannah and perhaps it’s better I don’t know but whatever it was it worked! By the end of the filming, I felt that David became more intuitive about his character and little direction from me was needed.
Sue was the same, having instinctively found the right nuances for her role that made Sandra the perfect foil for David’s Ron. I felt a genuine rapport between them, as though they were a legit married couple (which, I am legally obliged to point out they are not) and I could feel them bouncing off each other. Finally Hannah was the final element in this unique alchemy, again showing a flair for little touches which I liked, as well as the fire and righteous passion when Tilly finally blows her stack at her father.
By the time Chris and Dexter arrived most of the family scenes had been shot, so it was just a matter of shooting the interacting scenes with Dexter and a few incidental and solo shots. Dexter really is a magnificent beast (although his presence meant I was no longer the tallest creature on set) and we have to credit Kyle McSporran for his efforts both physically, in donning the heavy suit in such heat, and in giving Dexter the requisite personality for this project.
It seemed the cast enjoyed interacting with Dexter too. The only struggle came with the scene featuring Dexter and my pug, Penny. The (rather optimistic) idea was that they’d stare each other down from a distance then face off with Dexter roaring at Penny, who then either run away or just play friendly like she does. Instead Penny did neither, finding more interest playing with an apple on the ground that with the giant roaring beast before her. Still it makes for a fun outtake.
One of Olive’s daughters, Janice, stepped in at the last minute to play the woman who bumps into Dexter and faints. However Janice was wearing a short summer dress and when she lay on the ground it rode up and gave Andy an eye full – although this was nothing compared to when he got home and Marian gave him an earful!
As mentioned earlier, Hannah’s elder sister Beth is also an aspiring actress and agreed to the part of the lady knocked over by Dexter’s tail. Originally I wanted Dexter to knock someone off a bicycle but in a fortuitous turn of events, Alex informed me that Beth had a pair of crutches since she hurt her foot so the idea changed to that instead. But, on the day, not only was Beth still using her crutches but she had an operation on her other foot that morning.
I was a bit hesitant but Beth gamely agreed to the shot anyway and after some trial and error we settled on a relatively safe falling forward prat fall for her. So we went for a take but just as I called “Action” I realised we hadn’t put any mats or cushions down for Beth to fall onto. Before I could yell “Cut!” Beth had already taken her tumble! But it was such a good shot and Beth was unhurt that I didn’t dare ask to do it again, so the final shot of the day was the only single take of the day.
We finally wrapped just before 8:30pm and remarkably it was still light but much cooler. Fatigue was beginning to set in and spirits were on the wane (elsewhere Wayne was on the spirits) but we all felt it was a very productive day. We were well fed courtesy of Freddy and Annabelle and everyone contributed something and fulfilled their roles as promised. We were all glad to be getting home I am sure but I hope everyone felt the effort was worth it.
Missed the first part? Read it HERE
What happened after the shoot? Find out in part three coming soon.
Words: Lee Relph
Photos: Kuldip Kuar