The process diary of film director Glendyn Ivin
Filtering by Category: shooting
Wrapped the shoot last Friday! Our final week took me back again to Beaconsfield, Tasmania. This was my 4th trip, but this time I had some cast and (a reduced) crew in tow. As well as shooting some key sequences in the streets of Beaconsfield, we were most importantly able to shoot 400 meters below ground in the real Beaconsfield mine as well as some other scenes on the 'brace', the area underneath the now iconic triangular poppet head of the mine, including a recreation of the famous footage of the boys coming out after fourteen days trapped below ground.
I think overall we have done very well. From the start we approached the script like a feature film, even though we only had a 'TV' budget and schedule. In most parts I think we have succeeded and if we haven't it wasn't from not trying as hard as we could.
I'm so impressed with the crew that I have had around me. I'm looking forward to the time I can work with each and everyone of them again. On all levels they have delivered above and beyond what was expected. It's been a gruelling schedule to say the least and I know I could not have made it through the shoot without a bunch of guys and gals around me who worked as hard and as fast as they did while still maintain a high level of creativity and craft. Thanks to everyone on the crew, from the production office, to the unit boys, right through and up to the heads of department!
Now into the edit... more fun and games...
We have spent the last week shooting on sets built in a huge warehouse in Yarraville. The main set is 'the 925', which is the name of the drive (925 meters underground) that collapsed on Todd and Brant in the Beaconsfield mine in 2006. Even though we shot in a real mine, we could never create a 'collapsed mine' in a mine, so we had to build it. I've never really shot on sets, in fact I've made a point of not shooting on them, but I've learnt so much watching The 925 develop from inital recces and research, to rough sketches, to drafted plans and ultimately construction.
Production designer Jon Rhode has done an incredible job not only designing but also stretching our very small budget a very long way (over 50 meters end to end!) on this set and all the other smaller ones. Standing on the set of the 925 when it was lit and dripping with water felt alot like being in a real mine, I kept feeling like I needed to put my hard hat on.
A few more snaps after the break...
Just a sample of the bucket loads of fake rocks that had to be moulded, sculptured and painted...
Returned on Saturday from a week shooting deep down underground. Filmmaking takes you to some pretty cool places, but I'm still trying to comprehend not only where we have been, but how on earth we got there. To even step foot in an underground mine is difficult enough, but to gain access and take fifty cast and crew for a week of filming under ground is a thought almost to crazy to consider, particularly on a schedule and budget as tight as ours. Mines are dark, wet, small and full of safety, technical, geological and physical considerations. A crew member with over 25 years in the industry said to me during the week that what we were doing was the most logistically and physically tough shoot he had ever been on. Which on one hand excited me, and on the other made me realise just how hard everyone was working to make this happen as smoothly and efficiently as it could.
The underground environment goes against everything a film crew needs to work; flexibility, accessibility and time. But what the mine took away from us in logistics, it gave back ten fold in providing a location that visually and structurally we could never have recreated in a studio. Speaking of which this week sees us back in Melbourne filming in the relative comfort and convenience of a set built in a huge warehouse in Footscray.
A huge thanks to A1 Consolidated gold mine, tucked high up in the hills about 4 hours drive from Melbourne (just near Woods Point, which is dying for a Deliveranceremake to be filmed there!). A1 essentially shut down for the week to facilitate the shoot and give us mostly free reign on their very cool place. And also a huge thanks to location manager Chris Stanton and the rest of the production team who help seal the deal!
And a massive thanks to the cast and crew who endured the cold, the mud, the dark and the insanity of it all.
More snaps after the break...
Director of Photography Toby Oliver, grinning and bearing it...
Make up designer Fiona Rhys-Jones doing final checks on Syd Brisbane. Everyone below ground had to wear a helmet, cap lamp, steel cap gum boots, safety vest and most importantly an OxyBoks self rescuer that thankfully no-one had to use!
We are half way through the shoot. This week we shot all the scenes of the boys in 'the cage', all 62 of them! We built a set that was the exact dimensions to what the real cage was, it's such a small space that Todd and Brant had to endured for over two weeks. All the news reports at the time, depicted the cage more like a prison cell size, or a least a space they could sit up and casually sit back in. But it was more like a coffin sized space that two big guys could just fit in, when lying down. They could not straighten out, nor sit up, and had the constant threat of thousands of tons of rocks hanging just centimetres above. I think it was Brant who described the situation as similar to having someone point a loaded gun at you for two weeks. Never knowing when or if they might pull the trigger. I had my mind set to build our cage exactly how the real one was, or as close to as possible. And even though we could remove walls and the roof etc to assist us with shooting it was still a really tight fit. It was built on quite a complex rig that could be shaken, jacked up and dropped. It was like this living thing, a bit like a theme park ride. The real Todd Russell dropped onto set and gave us the thumbs up, which is good enough for me. He joked earlier that we was going to get into the cage, but after he had a good look around it, I suspect that he didnt need to re-live the experience even if in the realms of make-believe.
Above: The Cage
We have been shooting between 10-13 scenes a day and I think we got up to up to 13 minutes of screen time on one day. I thought shooting in such a restricted space would reduce time, but because it was so small and there were so many special physical effects (rock falls, dust, water, 'seismic' activity, blasting etc) everything took much more time than I expected. But we got most of what we needed in the end. I hope we have captured some of the true horror of what it would be like to be trapped and buried alive a kilometre under ground.
Despite the long hours and the pressures of the schedule, I'm really enjoying myself. Fingers crossed the good experience continues for the next 2 weeks!
Lachy and Shane Jacobson (below, who plays Brant) are doing a great job as Todd and Brant. I've been so impressed with their approach to the characters and their performances. It was hard to shoot the scenes when they actually left 'the cage' I wish I could have spent another day or two with them on that set!
We are heading to shoot in a working gold mine this week for five days. A very cool but remote location about four hours drive from Melbourne.
Just finished day one out. Fast and furious shooting to say the least... A good day though and a good start to the next 23 days. Below, Lachy Hulme (who I first met and had the pleasure of working with on Offspring last year) as Todd Russell. Lachy has packed nearly 20 kilos for the role. Impressive!
I had a great time at the Vladivostok International Film Festival. The film was received really well. I always thought it had a bit of a russian thing going on in it. It's always nice to get feedback directly from an audience and I had a really lovely man come up to me after one of the screenings and say via an interpreter that he very much enjoyed the simplicity of the story, the more he watched, the more he realised there was more to the story than he first thought, and then in broken english he told me "In the final scene, my brain said 'yes', but my heart was saying 'no'..." I think that was what I was always looking for. I also had an interesting question in the press conference about the violence towards 10 year old 'Chook' (played by Tom Russell). The journalist asked "In Russia there is a saying where children tell their parents 'You did not beat me enough', meaning they have grown up to 'soft' and it is their parents fault. Do you think children should be beaten?" Needless to say there was an 'awkward' pause, before I went on to say that I could never condone any kind of violence towards a children. Not my own, and not to anyone elses. But then again, perhaps I'm one of the soft ones. It was an interesting cultural take on the film though.
I haven't travelled to as many festivals as I have been invited to this year for various reasons, but I was really glad to head back to Vladivostok. I hadn't watched Last Ride for nearly a year and although it was one of those screenings where I sat through and cringed at all the mistakes, the could have beens and I should haves and what ifs, it was really nice to be sitting in the dark and watching the film we made so far away from where we made it.
The photos I mentioned I was going to take have worked out well. I won't post any here just yet. But I wanted to say a special thanks to Dimitry who assisted me in finding a few a people and locations, as well translating and driving. It was really good getting to see another side of Vladivostok with him. Here he is posing with his cool russian made Zenit 35mm complete with a sinister looking 300mm lens and sniper like add ons. Thanks Dimity!
I've finished my time with Offspring. I locked off the edits for my two episodes last week and I'm quite happy with the way they have come together (Eps 108 and 109 go to air in October on TEN). I have had an absolute ball with the cast and crew. I have learnt alot and the experience both personally and professionally, has been invaluable. My fingers are firmly crossed that the show is the success it deserves to be. Below from top to bottom. Sacha Horler, an absolute acting force, who I was lucky enough to cast for the guest role of 'Stacey'. Kat Stewart, this still was taken as part of a visual effect sequence, but here is something I really like about it. Kat is one special actor, who I can't wait to work more with. Asher Keddie, in character in the delivery suite. I have so much admiration for Asher. As the 'star' of the show she has had such an intense and tiring workload, but she continually strived to make each and every take the best she could make it, with impressive results. And Don Hany, who is one of the most down to earth and lovely guys I've ever met. It was a pleasure to watch these guys (and all the cast) at work each day.
I'm very proud of this short documentary I made earlier this year. This film is one of three Exit Films and Publicis Mojo produced for an energy drink called 'Burn', and it will be streamed on websites throughout Europe. Playground is a portrait of 21 year old rapper, poet and 'beater' named Julius Wright a.k.a Lyrical God who lives in Philadelphia. Enjoy...
The brief for Playground was simple. Perhaps a little to simple, make a film about '...an unconventional urban musician, somewhere in the world..." kind of narrows it down a little huh? After a couple of frantic weeks research here in Melbourne, London and New York we eventually stumbled upon this clip on YouTube of a guy called Lyrical God.
I couldn't put my finger on it but there was something that just grabbed me about Julius. I had a feeling in my gut there was something more going on than just 'tapping pens' on a table. I found Julius on Facebook, took a punt and sent him a message. I can only imagine what he must of thought when he recieved it. "Hi I'm from Australia and I'd like to make a film about you... next weekend!". So within a day or two I was chatting to Julius on the phone and he seemed like a really cool guy with a great approach to his music and his life in general.
We got go ahead from Mojo (the agency we were working with in Sydney) on a Wednesday, my assistant Ryley and I were on a flight to Philadelphia on Thursday and we were shooting with Julius on Friday.
I had been waiting for an opportunity like this for nearly ten years. The idea of taking the bare essentials and being jettisoned into the unknown to make a film for me the ultimate way to create, where you rely not on a script, but more on instinct and intuition. Responding to what you see and hear, hour by hour, day by day. That's pretty much how I shot Playground over the five days we were in Philly.
Ryely and I found ourselves in an all black neighbourhood in South Philly, totally out of place for a couple of pastey Australians, but we were welcomed by Julius and his friends immediately and were made to feel most welcome. I was totally drawn in by the city and the people we met and I hope that comes through in the film a little.
Above: The last image I took of Julius just after we finished recording in the studio at 3am.
I guess the coolest thing about the experience was meeting and getting to know Julius and really liking him. The risk for me with a project like this was turning up in Philadelphia and Julius being keen on having a film made about him, but showing no interest in actually getting it made. I mean, all I had seen was some YouTube clips and a phone call. He could have easily lost interest in the idea of making a film when it became apparent that he was going to have get up early, do different things, hang out with us etc. I've seen the novelty of filmmaking wear off on people before, once the novelty wears off, it's just hard work. However, I think Julius really got into it, he loves performing more than anything else, but over all I think he loved sharing the experience in making a film with us. He really wanted to make it work. And was very generous with his time.
One thing became very apparent while we were there though. It's really hard for a black kid like Julius to make the leap from living with his Grandma in a row house in South Philly to being a successful musician. Everyone around Julius knows he has talent, and this is in an environment where everyone can rap and freestyle (all the guys you see rapping with Julius in the film live on his block) in fact everybody you see in the film is incredibly talented. Everyone expects Julius to 'make it'. But by the end of our short week with him, I was all to aware of the great divide between who and where he was and what he dreamed he could be and how freaking hard it is going to be for him to make that leap. Simply by the fact that he is a young, black and poor. He has to busk to eat. And while everyone around him is saying how amazing he is and how he is going to be rich and famous one day, most days there is nothing in the fridge to eat, and he's out hustling for change. The pressure to make it and fulfill his and his friends and families dreams must be huge.
I wish Julius all the best. I know he has a really great support network and his managers Aaron and Nathan, who look out for him in so many ways other than just financially are two of the nicest guys I've ever met. I hope this film is one stepping stone closer for him to his dream.
(On the geeky side, this short project was my first real attempt at shooting on the 5DmkII which I have been discussing here for a while now. Again, I was so impressed with the quality and the usability of the camera in the real world. I used no focus rig or extra bits and pieces. Pretty much the camera and a monopod was all I used. We had a sound recordist with us most days which made a huge difference, but some of what made the cut is the 5D with a microphone mounted on top. Simple, discreet and beautiful 'film like' quality.)
Wrapped shooting yesterday on my block of episodes of Offspring. Feeling pretty trashed. This is the first day I have had off in weeks, and I must say that time today has seemed to pass very slowly. One of the strange things I have always noticed on set is how time seems to expand and compress in the most surreal way. You can look at your watch and there will be two hours to get a scene shot and I'll think this will be no problem. And then in what seems like five minutes you are rushing to secure and maximise every second of value as you race against the clock to get it done. Hours can literally pass in what feels like seconds.
(above: my final clapper board of the shoot. 354 shots x 2 cameras, thats over 700 set ups. Thats a whole lot of material to wade through in the next 2 weeks of edit... yikes!)
Speaking of which this week I really felt the pressure of the schedule. We are shooting about eight minutes a day of screen time, which is pretty fast. Even with two cameras there is just enough time for basic coverage and a couple of takes on each of those set ups. If you go over the time you are stealing time from your next set-up and the next. But somehow everyone digs in and gets through it.
More than a few times this week I was met with a seemingly impossible task of shooting quite lengthy scenes featuring big emotional and staging beats for the characters with time enough for only two set-ups and only a take or two for each of those set-ups. It was quite frightening to be watching the clock, knowing you are already into overtime and knowing that you are going to have to stop shooting regardless of whether you have everything shot or not.
But I am so freaking blessed to have been working with such an amazing cast and crew that some how they pull it off in those one or two takes. In a pretty physical and emotional fight scene between Sacha Horler and Kat Stewart, I had to say quietly before hand "I'm sorry guys but we only have time to do this once...", Sacha looked at me with a sly smile and replied ever so calmly "Don't worry mate, we'll look after you." And they did. I feel like they totally nailed it. I watched these guys just take a leap of faith and go for it. It re-assured me of what great actors can do, even under extreme time pressure. And it reminded me of the trust and the faith that exists between actors, directors and the crew as a whole. And when all the pieces click together, like it did on more than one occasion throughout the week it can be the most amazing feeling. I get those hot flushes of feeling so lucky to be doing what I'm doing.
One of the reasons I came on board with Offspring was the opportunity to direct something that is tonally quite different to what I'm naturally drawn to as a filmmaker. I will always be in love with 'drama' and in particular the harder drama of films like Last Ride, but I know all to well, that kind of film and filmmaking is not for everyone. So even though I know I'm not destined for fluffy comedies (not that there is anything wrong with that) I'm also very interested in creating drama that is 'entertaining', in a more commercial sense. So I've been very focused on finding the tonal balance of Offspring which essentially walks the line between drama and comedy. One word that is used to help describe the tone is 'buoyant', meaning it bobs it's way between the two. It goes down into drama but quickly bobs up into comedy and then back down again. It's been a real challenge for me as a director and I know for some of the actors as well.
Early starts on set and late nights prepping for the next day shooting. It's all consuming, but I love that aspect of filmmaking. Constantly trying to make every minute count.
Here are some random snaps from the week. 'Waiting for my ride', 'Union Club Hotel', 'Union Club Hotel Toilet', 'Magic hour on the way to set'.
Amongst many amazing cast memebers, I had the pleasure this week of working with Lachy Hulme. I had watched and loved The Hollowmen, so I was really keen to meet him and see how he worked. I'm happy to say I don't think I have ever quite met anyone like Lachy before. He brought such great energy to the set. Part class clown, part consummate professional, part force of nature. He is one of those film guys who seems to have an interest in everything and everyone to do with film. Between takes I overheard him talking to someone about an article he had just read in American Cinematographer, he chatted to the sound guys about the qualities of different rechargeable batteries, he loved my Leica, he could quote lines from any movie, and had enough stories to keep everyone amused for hours. All this and being completely focused on the job at hand. I look forward to the day our paths cross again Lachy!
Lachy peering out from behind the surgical mask. I told him I couldn't see him doing 'his acting' from behind the mask. He then reminded me of Hugo Weaving's great performance in V for Vendetta of which I think Lachy is channeling some of in the photo above.