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.
Yesterday we shot the credits sequence for the film, and once again by all accounts a laugh was had by everyone on the shoot. We started out in Deep Nightclub in Whitley Bay, and really massive thanks must go to Johnny and all the people there for giving us the run of the place... Also thanks to Sarah Tennick, our second unit make up and art department queen for putting us in touch with the people at Deep. Our crew for this shoot was teensy weensy and somehow this enabled us to crack through a ton of stuff quite quickly. Tina Frank was back helping out the art and production departments, Aris handled sound-recording and Richy Reay DoP'd and op'ed which seemed to work well. Clooney (Nic Pringle) rounded off the team and was his usual versatile self. James and I made up the rest - so you can see when I say teensy weensy I'm not exaggerating in any way!
Another crap photograph by me
There's probably two things you can tell from the pictures - I am a totally crap photographer and the scenes yesterday were all about a hen do. As someone who has only every been on one hen do I had to do a far amount of asking around to help with this scene - as it happens my mate Stephanie who plays Elizabeth in the film is in her own words "the Hen Do Queen" so most of this research involved trawling through her many hen do albums on Facebook - LOL!
After Deep we had one more shot to get - of the hens outside, mid pub crawl. We decided in a rather impromptu fashion to shoot this on the Newcastle Quayside. We'd just completed the first take when two security guards asked us to move on... Who knew that the section near Malmaison and La Tasca was private property? Ho hum. We got the shot and you can't tell where it is - so that's all that matters. It's only the third time in 10 years of shooting that we've been asked to bugger off - and it's always been by private security guards! What is it with these over-zealous uniform wearers that makes them want to shunt filmmakers on? Nevermind - like I said - we got the shot!
Not by me (by Simon Herdman)
With the wrap on that sequence it means we have only one little bit of the film left to shoot - the opening of the movie - a flashback sequence. This is proving a bit of a mare to cast - I mean where the hell can I find two kids who look like Pob and Staggy as kids??? ===>
So if you know anyone who knows anyone who may have access to two kids who look like these two reprobates then please do drop us an e-mail info AT fnafilms DOT co DOT uk
In the meantime - keep coming back here for updates and if you like what you see please spread the word! We will soon be at picture lock and then comes the fun of the grade and sound mix; once these are completed we will be doing a few screenings to test the water and see if this film has any appeal beyond the North east of England.
Thanks once again to everyone who helped yesterday, especially the girls who showed up to be the hens (Jo Dutton, Sophie Blacklock and Naomi Mayfield), Therase Neve (Charlotte), Stephanie Gray (Elizabeth) and the wonderful Will Stevenson who played "the entertainment".
Finally a special thanks to Jamie at Picture Canning North and Ashley at Pinball Films.
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.