Monday, September 30, 2019

Hokum - Filming Day 1 and 2

Hokum - Day 1 Filming

Last Thursday we kicked off Hokum with some tricky, 'risky' shots - not because of the shots themselves, but because of the production design and location. Thankfully, a look at the dailies proved to be a success. Now, the trick will be incorporating it into the movie and seeing how it looks and feels. 

It was a great night and a chance for those who weren't involved in this shoot, but in later scenes, to come along, show support and generally get a feel for what Hokum is trying to achieve.

Hokum – Day 2 Filming

The outside shoot. Always a real challenge, especially as we move into autumn in England. An early start with a few new introductions, but thankfully, preparation and previous meet ups/discussions meant that any awkward exchanges and uncertainty had already been dispensed with.  It turned out to be a brilliant day’s filming which had its fair share of jeopardy, beautifully mitigated by the spirit, determination and ‘fun’ of all involved. It’s amazing how much is accomplished by having a sense of humour about things and enduring (and hopefully imbuing) a kind of stoic calm. Of course, things can be fraught; tension rises but experience teaches you to stick to the plan and not to lose focus and control. I think we all did that and it hasn’t always happened on recent shoots. I have felt responsible for ‘dropping the ball’ in that respect. So, a definite improvement.  Sure, a few raised voices and ‘colourful’ language happened, but nobody died. Well, somebody did… 

Massive thanks to Hannah Hargraves for stepping up to the challenge and giving her all to a part, which to all intents and purposes is thankless (to play and certainly helpless), but critical.  

A constant frustration was the momentum which kept getting lost due to the weather, failing equipment, dead batteries and aerial activity. It was an intense scene to shoot and to continually stop / start and go through the gears is a real challenge which the actors thankfully worked through. Much praise goes to Jim Low (as usual) and Peter James. Special thanks goes to Ryan Clarke (our sound recordist) for some fabulous impromptu stunt work in a field which wasn’t forgiving, and didn’t provide us with the most accommodating filmic experience. Even the tripods could have done with wellies! Our newcomers, Benjamin Clarke (production assistant) was a real benefit to the team, and his enthusiasm and willingness to muck in, along with our fabulous make up artist, Annmarie Malley, made a tough day much easier. 

The attitude on set was remarkable, considering what was being thrown at us. Undiminished we ploughed through with a sense of purpose and humour. Although standard conventions were dropped for haste during the latter stages, there was always a good sense of resilience and control. A nice discipline to the preparation and my vision. So far, it looks like what I wanted to capture has been achieved. Perhaps not exactly how I imagined it, but then again, it never is and a judicial edit should lift it all. 

Big thanks to Korky Films stalwarts Damien Trent and Mark Hancock. The end of day debrief descended into hilarity (or was it hysterics?) as we concentrated less on any issues we’d encountered and more on our own idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes. What happens in Binley Woods, stays in Binley Woods… This was a good sign, as although problems existed, the general consensus was a sense of achievement. For sure, the honest appraisal of shortcomings (perceived or real) and humility shown at this ‘inquest’ only helps if you strive to improve. It’s a small team and it’s indie filmmaking. Even the most accomplished professionals could suffer in such circumstances; it’s not easy, filmmaking. It’s a battle. But today, we won and it’s prudent to ensure criticism (of self and from others) is contextualised and given some appreciative perspective. There must always be respect in the team and a willingness to support. An understanding of everything that’s being done and the magnitude of what’s being attempted. I think everybody accepts that this movie is not an easy win. 

So, onwards we go, picking up next weekend. We all need a break. The cast and crew worked hard for a solid 12 hours and gave it their all. Apart from anything else, we’ll have memories of a fun day with lots of laughs and lots of perseverance. We have momentum. Promising. Well done team.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Hokum Filming Begins and Other News

A lot of work and activity has occurred on Hokum, which is due to begin filming over 7 days, spread across three months, from today.

So far, three sets have been built out of raw materials and I am excited to see what can be created for the screen and if they work.

This is a big undertaking and as the project has gained momentum I, along with the cast and crew have been getting more and more excited. It’s tiring, so everyone’s enthusiasm has really helped on those days when I’d rather just stop, relax and do something less stressful. I’m hoping it’ll all be worth it and we have a great movie.

For now, we just need the weather to be kind, as our earlier shots all take place in exterior locations – just in time for the change in weather!

In other news, we have had a raft of festivals accept our movies The Cold Caller, Waxworks Owner Fumes at Closure and Switch. A Sort of Burial, which is, by my own admission a disappointment, was a runner-up in the Best Screenplay category at the Out of the Can Film Festival. This further proves that the writing and story was sound, but it was just the technical aspects which were lacking. Anyway, there’s no pint dwelling. Hopefully, lessons have now been learned and Hokum can be a much better, more technically accomplished movie.

Exciting times.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hokum - Donnie

Hokum officially begins filming on 23rd, although the first major scene is due to be filmed on the 26th. A tricky scene which will involve a lot of creativity and strong sound design to successfully depict the unfurling chaos and establish the movie’s main characters. From this date we are filming in order, initially, and a lot of useful character exposition will be delivered entirely by their actions in this opening scene. A great weight is being placed on the actors and I am confident I have the right mix of talent to successfully deliver the script and really convey the story. However, the first scene was never the original opening, but the story was developed, quite significantly and has benefitted from a useful back story which will take us the original starting point. Now that was an opening! So, including this scene, whilst still impactful and stark, means it must step up and hit like a sledgehammer. There will be decisions and options, and many will be made at the edit. As it stands, I have a script and a movie which is powerful, linear and unrelenting in its use of symbolism, chaos and violence, but things may be switched around. I still have the option to use the original opener and all of this excites me.

On the 23rd, it’s all the fun of the fair, with a local fair coming to town for 10 days. The script originally had a fairground location, however, the reality of securing such a location and getting it to fit into everyone’s schedule was looking unlikely, until discussions with the council and an understanding of opportunities was properly realised. It’s detail like this which will elevate the story and imagery, as I’ve struggled with these elements in previous productions.

There is no doubt that this whole world and the characters who inhabit it could be used in a feature. The script is already long, probably too long for a short intended for festivals and will run for approximately 22 to 25 minutes. However, this is a time of risks and rising to the challenge.

I met with Jim Low (Donnie) last week and his enthusiasm for the movie and his character imbues a sense of safety and galvanises confidence. I am sure I have the right man for the job, despite some slight consternation from others. Jim, ‘little big man’; a Scot, hailing from Dundee, has a seen a lot and is aware of the personal trappings, frustrations and unrelenting anger that Donnie experiences. He will draw upon his own experiences; people he’s known and will fully inhabit the character. I have no doubt about his capabilities and Jim was my only Donnie, right from the get-go.

The movie focusses heavily on the Major Arcana (Tarot) as part of its mythical conceit, with ‘The Fool’s journey’ being a loose template for Donnie’s chaotic machinations. The Fool clearly being Donnie’s card. I am creating Major Arcana Tarot cards especially for the movie, all of which will be showcased as part of the final production. It really has become a useful and quite often a coincidental template. Each character will have his/her own ‘card’ and the Major Arcana serves as a useful thread to hang everything on. 

Essentially, although there could conceivably be two or three protagonists in this movie, the story is, in my opinion, effectively Donnie’s. An interesting character from which to base the whole premise, perhaps. He has no redeeming qualities and if he’s been coloured correctly, he will be despised by audiences.

I have wrestled with my mixture and potentially meddling combination of distinctive folklore. Tarot, Native American Indian beliefs, demons, shamanism and apparitions all feature. This is truly a creative risk, not least of all as the movie is ostensibly set in England and obviously, not all the imagery present is of Anglo origin.

Invariably, this could be confusing and, in many respects, I don’t fear the reaction. I make things which have an oneiric vibe and can feel slightly off kilter, so it serves. All of this is highly deliberate. This, if worked well, will convey a memorable and intriguing world, which has the capacity to make the viewer feel uneasy and slightly uncomfortable. Conventions are being displaced but in a distinctly atypical way. This is part of my own excitement with it all.

Donnie’s wardrobe is important. All wardrobe is important. Wardrobe and production design is important to me and I have taken great time and considerable expense (out of my own pocket – this movie has no external funding) to pull it together. Again, much of this will undoubtedly be subliminal; barely noticeable, but I’ll know it’s there and an audience would miss it if it wasn’t. This movie needs bold, but decidedly understated sets, and this is what it will have. I am creating all of this myself. It’s a big responsibility. The scenery and setting is an additional character and a major one. That sense of foreboding will be supplied by the walls around each character. We also have a lot of woods. That feeling of being lost in the forest; tangled branches; simulacra in trees. All perfect for Hokum.

Because I think a lot of this production might be taken for granted, despite the massive undertaking, I will attempt (along with everything else!) to document the process of Hokum. Everything created will be showcased on the official website as a kind of ‘Making of…’; a BTS.

It’s begun and it’s about to catch fire.

Here is Donnie’s promo, played by Jim Low.

I will also be updating the official website here