It’s a day late but worth the wait! Take it away Harry…
It’s 6:45 on the morning of Bank Holiday Monday, and we’re just about to pack-up after an arduous night’s filming in North Bar, Leeds’ famous purveyor of strong Northern European beer. The three scenes we came here to shoot have just been wrapped, the cling-film on the customary sandwiches unwrapped. I have that prickly-skin ‘up-all-night’ feeling, and my mind and body is in disagreement about whether it is day or night. Another part of me feels as if I have been the victim of some kind of sick joke; as if a sober and interminable night on these premises is some kind of ironic penance for the countless English pounds I have handed over the bar in the past decade.
On any given days shoot in our primary location, the house, there are a plethora of potential issues: lighting, camera, costume, sound recording, make up, set design and continuity. These are by no means containable – an issue in one department will always have a knock-on effect in another – but the highest price to pay in this context is a delayed wrap time. In contrast, this morning’s bar scenes not only had to be captured in a miserly 8-hour timescale, but shooting them brought a deluge of more surreal and less tractable obstacles: in short, Leeds’ night-life. Anyone who lives in Leeds will know that Bank Holiday Sunday night is like Saturday night multiplied, and as a result, this shoot had to contend with a representative sample of the city’s revellers, brawlers and gawpers (my favourite three quotes from the passing public: “what are you shootin’, is it Emmerdale?” “I’m an angel from outa heaven”; “I will f**king bang ‘er out”), not to mention the irrepressible noise from the two adjacent clubs, rendering the sound recording all but futile.
I’m feeling the need to take my metaphorical hat off to the crew and cast, who – in the face of the above mentioned adversity, in a sleep-deprived state – kept to their prescribed roles with an almost alarming degree of calmness and efficiency. In such conditions, it would have been understandable for tempers to fray, but there was no such tumult, and I am constantly impressed by the persistent quality of the cast who, in re-shooting the same scenes over and over again, never compromise on quality in their performance. Yes, the script is superb, but the writing is not enough on its own. This shoot confirmed to me that the psychological complexity of the characters is being skilfully represented by actors of the highest calibre. The make-up and costume departments, unavoidably reactive to the needs of cast and demands of the crew, were unflappable and stepped up to the mark in difficult conditions, and as a result the pictures look terrific.
So the balance sheet reads: 9 days down, 5 to go. With a change and a rest (Monday was the sole day off), it is hoped that any house-related cabin-fever has been banished, and the cast and crew can return to the house and summon the gusto required to finish the film. There is undoubtedly a feeling amongst the team that we are on top of the hill, and about to embark on the descent to the finish line. Alongside this feeling, however, will arise an increased anxiety with regard to time pressure. Besides the scenes yet to be shot, there is a cumulative collection of ‘pick-ups’ (in places perhaps where it is acknowledged that the shot wasn’t as good as it could have been, for any number of reasons – lighting, background noise, continuity) which can no longer be deferred to the second week, because we are in the second week. The psychological cushion of time has been taken away, and any action that needs to be included in the film must be committed to camera before Sunday.
In my time so far on set, I have seen enough to confirm that the uncompromising ambition and determination of the director and producer has been at least matched by their indefatigable work on set, and reflected by the cast and crew they have selected to work on this film. If my limited time looking over the editor’s shoulder is anything to go by, the work already undertaken has put us well on the way to bringing a sensational script and bunch of characters to life, or indeed, to death.