You can never do enough pre-production. It doesn't matter what type of show you're working on, it could be a short film, a corporate gig, a music video, whatever. You never get to do enough planning. This is pretty much a given in the film industry and with the Stagg Do this was also true, but it was no surprise. I was informed of this from the very beginning, the first meeting I had with James it was made perfectly clear that this was a labour of love on a shoestring budget. Fine by me, everything I've worked on to date has lacked the money to get all the toys and support one would love to have on a project. You have to make the best with what you have, and I've always been a firm believer that it doesn't matter what format you are shooting on, it's HOW you shoot and WHAT you are shooting that counts.
What stood out the most about this project was the enthusiasm and sheer ballsiness of the producer and director. It was never going to be an "easy" shoot. Not by a long shot, but damned if they were going to let that stop them. When people care that much about a project you cannot help but be swept up into it with them. I had nerves, just as any first time feature DoP would have, but confidence that what I had done up until now had made me ready for what lay ahead. Every shoot has it's challenges, like choosing a path on a climbing wall. What we had in front of us this time though, was a mountain!
And fuck me if we didn't conquer it. Other blogs have talked about the struggles and frustrations we faced on our 8 days in the summer of 2011. Other people more eloquent and, dare I say it, tactful than me have covered the dramas behind the scenes so I'm not going to go into that at all here. My own personal experience with this film was fulfilling and positive, no matter the trials we faced. It didn't matter how cold and wet it got, it didn't matter how far off the schedule things went, we knuckled down and did the work in front of us.
Tempers fray, when you are spending that much time with people you hardly know, under the cosh of the elements and when things don't go according to plan, people are going to snap. You deal with it, you move on. The only place I have really revelled in stress of any kind is on a film set. It drives you, it makes you grit your teeth and say "fuck it, let's do this" all the more, and that is exactly what we did. All of us.
Did we make mistakes? Sure for a lot of us this was our first feature. Did we get behind on schedule at times? Absolutely, but when the chips were down we rallied back. In the end we were a team, we started as a team and we finished as a team, even though there were subs along the way. Regardless of all of that I'm proud of what we did. Proud that we took the gamble, looked at the odds and went all in. It's balls like that that gets films made.
I have a lot of respect for the people I worked with on The Stagg Do. The choices that were made in bringing this film to fruition were extremely brave, from the casting of non-actors in the main roles and shooting in woods night with minimal lighting, to having a profoundly deaf production/ camera assistant. I got the opportunity to work directly with some great new people and some who I've always wanted to work with. I got the chance to support two of the most passionate filmmakers I know and help them make the film they wanted to. I'm proud to say I was the director of photography on The Stagg Do.
by Richy Reay
This was our first feature film. It was for James and I, for David (the editor) for Richy (DoP) for a few of the cast and most of the rest of the crew. As it's a self-funded micro-budget we are missing lots of positions who would be on a bigger film - and so certain things haven't been prepared correctly. Including the reels - when one department's assistant hands over to another departments assistant then things generally run smoothly. When the producer (muggins here) is both departments' assistant - and everyone else's assistant too - things go wrong. Again and again and sometimes again!
I spent 3 days re-locking the reels last week - THREE days to do an assistant's job - and I STILL got it wrong! Jeez what an embarrassment - in the end Aris had to get a mate of his to do the job… Ha, I really think this film is cursed sometimes - and the fact it hasn't driven anyone to drink or drugs yet is nothing short of a miracle!
Anyway it's not all bad - Therase, lovely Therase, who plays Charlotte has emigrated to Australia and we needed to get a few of her lines re-recorded… Clearly a trip to Rich's studio in Newcastle was out of the question! Finally after nearly a month of near misses, unreturned phone calls and scheduling SNAFUs we managed to get her into a great little studio Down Under - The Sydney Sound Brewery - check it out if you need to record an album or even just a few lines of dialogue. Tell John I sent you - hopefully that won't make him run for the hills!
Our poster is just about done and I'm currently looking at DVD and CD packaging options as well as merchandise design.
What else??? We're going into the sound mix in April - woo! AND we have our first screening booked. It won't be the first screening we have, but it's the first one booked in!!! Details here soon.
Finally we're looking at dates and venues in Newcastle for our WORLD PREMIERE… Again details here soon.
accept no substitutes.
35 months ago Pob and James went for a pint to The Cluny, there's nothing in that - at the time we were talking about working together on some comedy sketches. Anyway, when I when to pick them up, they were like a couple of kids on Christmas Eve.
"We've come up with an outline for a feature film - something we can do on NO money" they babbled. "It's Pissheads Go Camping - but it's not just a camping trip, it's a stag do. We've even got a title The Stagg Do." You see one of our characters in Pissheads is called Staggy… he'll be the one getting married in the film!
I was instantly on the hook - "yeah this is possible" I thought - it was finally an opportunity to take what we had around us and craft a story and film from that - we already had the characters, they had the plot - we had the kit… what were we waiting for?
Fastforward 3 months, and 6 drafts later, we entered principle photography… which was HELL. Proper old fashioned hell, I could go into detail - but what's the point in raking over old ground? If you're really interested, read the archives from July and August 2011 as it was all blogged about at the time.
Anyway we got through it and then some. I had my right knee reconstructed - we shot new scenes, scenes we dropped and scenes we fucked up the first time around. David (our editor) busted his balls to get us a decent cut, James and I spent hours and days shooting extra footage. Richy corralled some mates to help with a big reshoot/ shoot night and on we went. Ashleigh and The Kid (Chris) slogged their guts out on animations and visual effects, music was found and replaced, musicians were contacted.
We edited, reedited, experimented - laughed, cried, pulled our hair out and generally got stuck in… And finally in December 2012, we had "picture lock". Then we ran out of money. Literally. James and I were flat broke and everything in the house decided to die at the same time.
We had had so much momentum and then we stopped - dead.
We didn't give up though, determined to get it finished and get it out there. As much for our own sanity as anything else. Stephen at Fantomeline kept grading - we kept praying for a lottery win and then came another kick in the teeth. An Irish film - The Stag was premiering in Toronto and it sounded remarkably like our film. How was that possible? What could we do? Without money not a lot… So we cried to ourselves (swore a lot) gritted our teeth and went on with our lives. In January though we learned that The Stag was getting a UK release in March… And we decided - let's beat them. Get out before them.
But there was still too much to do. I reckoned we had 5 weeks, Aris (our sound god) said we needed 6 to sort out the sound - which of course was recorded by 3 different people! He wanted to ADR - I didn't think the lads (Pob and Staggy - non-actors) would ever be able to do it… We STILL had no money.
Anyway a load more favours were pulled in, Richy agreed to finesse Chris' VFX (he'd now moved to Leeds), Aris persuaded Rich to help us with the ADR sessions and to let us use his studio for the mix - and so the madness resumed…
We're going into the mix next month, and we'll be going for our BBFC soon after and then finally we will be ready to release the film. It's rude, it's crude, it's insanity to the max. It's experimental both in storytelling and in filmmaking - if it were a drama we wouldn't need to explain ourselves - but apparently you can't make experimental (almost arthouse) comedies if they are chockful of low brow nob gags! Who knew?
So I lied… what you gonna do about it? I really wasn’t going to do another blog about ADR, but we had so much fun earlier this week in the sessions with Si, Staggy and Pob that I just had to mention them.
Tuesday morning was Staggy - he got a bit lost on the way to the studio and rang to say he had just gone past the “Middle Club” -- took me a few seconds to remember that St Peter’s is the bottom club (ask Pob about the time they had strippers in there on a Sunday!) Anyway by the time I put 2 and 2 together Staggy and his daft big red car showed up. It’s been months since we all last saw each other - so 10 minutes of catch ups before he headed into the booth to do his lines. He had a fair chunk to redo, but he did remarkably well - after a shaky start… His first line was “I spoke to Pob today” - but he said “I spoke to Bob today” - haha!
Next up was Si - what a bloody find Si was. So glad we cast him - what a coup for a casting session in the Royal Quays! He had the least lines to redo and every one he managed in 1 or 2 takes - amazing, really. Talking to Si about the film’s release also gave us some interesting ideas about screenings - for the summer… stay tuned for more info.
Then came the main man, Pob, the next day. Pob had LOADS to do, mainly because he also has the opening voice over and what we had in place there was always temp. Also Pob has this crazy knack of not actually moving his mouth in a way that resembles what he’s saying when he talks! We really worried it might end up looking like a badly dubbed Japanese film. Plus, to further complicate things he speaks at a million miles an hour and rolls all of his sentences into one another. GREAT. Anyway we cranked through it all and managed to finish early, which is always a bonus, plus James, Rich and I were absolutely howling with laughter during the session. It was Pob and James who came up with the idea for the film you see, so in many ways it’s a part of him like it’s a part of us. We’ve come a long way since their pissed afternoon in The Cluny.
Anyway enough about ADR - seriously the end… well maybe a sentence next week when we have Ian Mac from the Suggestibles in! This week has also been full of digital delights getting WAVs (a high quality audio file) for all of the songs in the soundtrack. Got the last ones through on Thursday and I spent Friday afternoon listening to a playlist called The Stagg Do - and I LOVE it. More about the music in the next few days - it ROCKS and just goes to show how many talented musicians there are in this part of the world.
And so onto the next ADR sesh… This one was going to be way more tricky! You see Craig Conway (Radgy) isn't based up here in the North East anymore, he's now permanently Darn Sarf. He reckoned he could get into a studio in Soho and do his lines there, and as a veteran of TONS of films we knew we wouldn't have to worry about his ability to match his lines and performance.
BUT… There's always a bloody "but" isn't there? As regular readers of this blog know, we used three different sound recordists with three different sets of kit for the shoot! Poor Aris' ears are bleeding with all of the sound irregularities. Anyway, Craig has been rehearsing a theatre extravaganza at the CAST theatre in Doncaster - which is two hours south of Tha Toon. I decided it might be better for the ADR if we recorded it with Aris' special microphone which is what we're using for the rest of the sessions at Rich's East Wing Studio.
Aris was free, Craig was amenable - and so we booked in the session for Friday; Craig only had a short window but he was up for it and so we were all set. Until a pencil in Aris' diary became an official booking, and he suddenly was no longer available! Jeez this film feels cursed sometimes!!! So some frantic rescheduling took place and finally at 9:30 on Wednesday night we were finally rebooked for Thursday lunchtime.
Aris and I set off for Sunny Donny first thing in the morning made it there on time, after nearly being run off the road by some awful drivers on the A1 and then being confused by changes to the Doncaster one way system that were not on the sat-nav.
What a beautiful theatre, the CAST is - a beautiful, modern, multi-purpose space with fancy fountains outside. We hooked up with Craig, took over a meeting room and then Aris set up his portable ADR system - what a pro.
Craig was an absolute trooper - considering he's been rehearing dance numbers for 3 weeks… He even managed to wangle an extra half an hour to finish off his lines. He said watching the clips made him remember how much the lads laughed their arses off throughout the filming. We showed him a few other clips and the outtakes and then it was time to head back to Geordieland after a quick pitstop in Tesco for a sarnie and a bag of crisps.
I'd like to extend my sincere thanks to Craig and Aris for busting their balls to make sure we got the lines rerecorded and also to the staff of the CAST theatre and the people involved in Craig's show for helping us along the way.
More ADR coming soon… Including - what do you do when one of actors had emigrated to Australia???
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.