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
Well the first day of principle photography is almost upon us. James and Pob spent a lot of the day refining dialogue to reid the script of Americanisms (James is a YankeeDoodleMofo) and to fill it with Geordie lingo.
Meanwhile, I had s quick Skype meeting with Jennifer (AD) and Jen (Production Designer) spoke to two of my location contacts and continued with cast contracts... Contracts are so tedious but are also a necessity.
Monday will bring the PANIC especially as I don't envisage solving the twin problems of transport and catering before then. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!
In other news hopefully the cast is finally locked.
Phew! What a day it's been today... such is the rollercoaster of microbudget filmmaking. It really started last night when of my actors said "Saturday, that's the only problem day" - RED FLAG ALERT...
I kept my cool and decided to wait and see what he came back with - you see Saturday is Day 1 on principle photography and the AD and I had spent considerable time front loading the schedule to ease the pressure of a fubar at the end of the week. At teatime tonight I spoke to him and he couldn't get out of his previous commitment.
Anyway once the alarm bells had been set off last night, I had been planning for the worst and had a tremendous idea as to who could play the role. So I hung up from the call, briefed James on the situation and suggested my suggestion for a replacement. James agreed instantly but didn't think he'd be available. I made the call, he said he'd check his schedule and get back to me...
Anyway I got a phonecall 90 minutes ago to say he was in! WOOT - a great little victory!
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.