Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Stone Unturned: Friday's Shoot

Friday was when I realised that my fifteen minutes had expired. Nick had invited the Courier to come and have a good old look around our filming efforts, and just shortly after I'd been given a lift to the Abbey Theatre, a reporter and photographer arrived. I was prepared for this, of course, feeling as I did that I was something of a veteran after 2006's little publicity epidemic. (And some of 2007 too). With CNN, the BBC, ZDF all having interviewed myself and Nick for television and a number of newspaper articles appearing at the same time, it was almost routine. (I keep all the newspaper articles in a special shrine where I go to in times of feeling sorry for myself.*)

So I made certain that along with the other camera, the script, a pen, two pounds fifty pence, chocolate, a handheld GPS (don't ask) and a thing that glows in the dark for no reason, I'd also packed my World's Greatest Director baseball cap. Nick and Lucie had brought me this back from Las vegas and it is most treasured, because it reminds me of what I'm supposed to be up to when I attend these things. So, just the same as last time, then.


It bodes well for Stone Unturned that Giles in uniform is such a draw, and having all the guys in uniform – especially one who looks like that captain bloke in the Next Generation – made for an irresistible image. Not many pictures are as eye-catching as a bunch of Trekkies poised in combat against a hasty assembly of council workers, somehow discovered spraying the paths and shanghaied in the photo-op.

But no matter how much I tugged at my cap and made pitiful mewling sounds, no-one appeared to think that I was a fit subject to appear in the article, or indeed notice. “My blog shall hear of this!” I declared to the surrounds, but to no avail. And no time to set the iPod to the “sorry for myself” playlist.

A surprisingly melancholic moment, then.

Most of Friday's scenes were set on the Intrepid Bridge, the ones that weren't probably constitutes a spoiler alert, and were shot against the greenscreen. One of the 'key' advantages (he he, I just made a digital compositing joke) of using the Abbey Theatre in Abroath is the amount of space available to put up things like greenscreen, at least in comparison with the kitchen which has slightly less than sound-stage status and is full of teapots, irons and other miscellany. We set a small record for ourselves with the amount of material draped at the back of the set.

This is good. Up until now, in Intrepid, I've been using what are called locked-off shots. In other words, the camera doesn't move when it's rolling and any scenes are made by getting another take from a different angle and cutting between them. It works pretty well, though it doesn't stack up well to the modern TV filming method of moving the camera around constantly. In our case it's been through sheer pragmatism. Steve Pasqua over the years has constantly tried to get me to pan the camera, which would be fine if I thought our tripod was up to doing it smoothly. Worse yet, we don't have the technology to move the camera against the greenscreen, since for example the 3D bridge model would have to match the motion and we can't do that... yet. Locking off the shots also means that the limited space in the kitchen can be used effectively.

You'll see some more adventurous camerawork soon, though, be sure of it!

So back in the theatre, we've enough space that – even though I'm not doing pans yet – Giles is able to walk from one side of the bridge to the other! Sounds like a minor thing, but it makes a tremendous difference. In fact there were numerous improvements over our last greenscreen shoot. Ric Forster helpfully arranged the lighting, for example, and we had enough room to illuminate the greenscreen without too many shadows. In fact everything that went smoothly seemed to be down to the extra space. When shooting a side angle on the bridge, where Caed's station is located, all we needed to do was rotate the set around ninety degrees. And since the set was a chair and a rear console, this didn't take long at all.

I can't remember the time that we got finished, sometime late in the evening. All I can remember is that I was too tired to get fish and chips. And when you're in Arbroath, that's pretty tired.

*Actually, I can't remember where I've put them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Stone Unturned

I was viciously attacked by a tick a couple of Saturdays ago when I was doing the “Mr Big Shot Director” thing again. Against all common sense,I was lying down in the grass trying to get a good dramatic (too melodramatic!) angle on a couple of the actors. That the grass was above a cave entrance and I have a fear of heights too, meant that I wasn't really doing myself any favours that weekend.

The Stone Unturned is an Intrepid script by Brian Matthews, that despite the gratuitous and unnecessary use of the word 'intergalactic', managed to combine a good old adventure story with the return of an old character from TNG. Naturally, you'd have to pay a negative amount of attention not to notice that it was in fact a certain Picard, played by Giles Aston. Coverage of the event appeared in the Dundee Courier as well as the slightly more widely viewed BBC website.

My task over the weekend was to direct the scenes with Giles in them, as we had a limited amount of time while he was in Dundee. This led to the most intensively scheduled shooting of anything we've done so far. I'll describe the three days in separate posts when I have the chance, but the important thing to note here is that we got the shots we needed and I managed not to lose it to any significant degree.

Shooting the scenes took us to many exotic locales; the magnificent hills outside Dunkeld, the ancient city of Arbroath and Nick's Kitchen. Or perhaps that should be Lucie's Kitchen, depending on which one of them actually prepares the most meals.

“Mr Big Shot Director” is what my girlfriend called me just before we started. I'm almost certain there was no sarcasm involved.