The Making Of The Amazing Healing Machine
(Or What The Hell Did I let Myself In For?)
A personal account of the OVFM Coaching Evenings film project
Part One – A Hard Day’s Night
On January 23rd 2012, members of OVFM descended upon the Garden Rooms at St Augustine’s Church, Petts Wood to make a short film entitled “The Amazing Healing Machine” as a part of the Coaching Evenings Project. This is a look at what happened during the two days of the film’s production from the perspective of the only person gullible enough and insane enough to put himself forward for the role of director:
(click on thumbails for larger picture)
As many of you should already be aware the Coaching Evenings Project was the brainchild of Ian Menage in conjunction with the OVFM Committee (aka The Legion Of Doom), with the aim to teach us noobs and ignorami a thing or two about film making then we go on and make a short film ourselves with this new found knowledge. The script came from an outline submitted by Colin Jones and transformed by yours truly. Because I write in such a way that I envisage everything as a finished product in my head then transcribe that into words on paper/computer screen, I was therefore found myself to be somewhat parochial and nominated myself as director for this film which remarkably went uncontested by the rest of the group who had already taken the cushier production jobs for themselves.
I won’t lie to you: I was nervous heading into that first day and hadn’t slept much the night before. This was beyond the usual reservations of whether people would turn up or forget to bring their equipment or if something drastic went wrong. It had been almost two years since I made my multi-award winning opus “Writers Block” and I was having serious doubts as to whether I could pull off the directing job a second time (the two other films I have made since, “The Miracle” and “Looking For Dave”, were much smaller affairs I can’t consider them to be in the same league). It didn’t occur to me at the time but a few days later it hit me that the number of cast members alone for this film was greater than the entire cast and crew combined for “Writers Block”. I’m not entirely sure why I was so oblivious to this fact but it was probably just as well because I may have crumbled under the pressure had I thought about the fact that so many people were looking to me for guidance and order but the reality probably was I simply just didn’t have time to think about it.
We began the day with an empty room needing to be turned into a workable film set and in a true community spirit, people you wouldn’t normally see fraternising together during club tea breaks bandied together to help set the workspace up, be it setting up the cameras, lights, curtains, blocking out windows or putting out chairs. Eventually everything was set up and it was time for rehearsals after we stopped for a quick tea break. Our leading man Roarke Alexander led the charge for the cast for a quick read through of the script. Not only was it interesting to see the script come to life but it also revealed just who hadn’t learned their lines!
I am ashamed to admit that I began to fear that this might not come together as I envisioned it and if I had sufficient directorial clout to guide our mostly non-professional cast through the forest of hardship to the promised land of a watchable film. Naturally I hid my concerns but the turning point came when we had a few minutes to get the first shots which were of the poster on the wall outside. Somehow, just saying the magic words “Action”, even with just four of us outside in the freezing cold dusky forecourt, I felt a lot of the anxieties ebb away, as though putting the proverbial director’s hat on for the first time in a long while acted as a sedative for the nerves and doubts swilling around inside of me. After a few takes I felt a very small surge of confidence but I knew at the same time I couldn’t get cocky as I have found in the past that whenever I get supremely confident or excited something it all goes horribly wrong, which probably explains my permanently dour demeanour. After all, a pessimist is never disappointed.
It was starting to get late but around 6:00pm we finally got down to the main bulk of filming for this first day following the arrival of our second guest performer, Sue Ward’s daughter Fiona, who brought her own baby bump with her! I learned the next day that Fiona was actually a little under the weather as well as heavily pregnant which made me feel guilty as we overran when trying to set up the final shot with her character, something which was proving to be a source of frustration for me but I knew I couldn’t let it defeat me since I was the man in charge. But we got there in the end al though it is kind of ironic that with all the filmmakers in the room it was Roarke who came up with the eventual solution! I have to say that Fiona did very well in her role; I don’t know the extent of her acting experience prior to this but she delivered everything I asked from her and did so with good spirits despite her discomfort.
Having run so long we had to rush a little to get the final scene of the night shot which involved Mike Shaw and Basil Doody. The sense of relief from the remainder of the cast was palpable as they were excused and couldn’t wait to get their coats and head for home, which was a little disparaging as we still trying to film! I couldn’t really blame them though as I was running on auto pilot by this point myself but the onus was on my shoulders so I had to soldier on and with everyone’s cooperation we got the shot done fairly quickly and the first day of filming was brought to a close.
It was almost 9:00pm before we shut up shop that night but it felt much later. Six hours may not seem like a long working day by being inside a room with artificial and manipulated lighting, with little fresh air (remember it was freezing outside) and you’re working non-stop barely getting to sit down, time becomes distorted, almost a redundant concept, something I am sure most of us have experienced at one time or another on a film shoot of this nature. I can’t really lament this since it comes with the territory and is a by product of the director’s responsibility of the director to keep everything moving. No wonder nobody else volunteered for the role!
So that was the first day over with. Although I didn’t feel it myself, I did receive some kind words from a few people remarking on how much we got done that day. Unfortunately I couldn’t see past the length of time spent on the setting up of the shots and the general dwindling of energy towards the end so I had to take their word for it. There was a small part of me that was relieved it was over for the day but this was quickly replaced with the dread of the realisation that it was not over and we had to come back to do it all again the next day….
Photos courtesy of Simon “Snapper” Earwicker