To begin with, due to a minor mix up, I got the call late to be on set. There I was having a gentle Sunday with the kids, pancakes for breakfast and a play in the park… when I get the call, they actually need me today rather than tomorrow (‘Due to the weather’ second AD Lawrie Rose explained later). Oh and can I get here before two as my fellow ‘heavy’ has to leave after that?
A sudden change of gear, I go into mild panic mode, where is that tie? Is my shirt ironed? Did I polish those shoes? etc. but nonetheless I get out and on the road quickly. Before I know it, I’m changing into costume, am handed a petrol can and told to pour petrol over the furniture of the manor! Well we don’t really pour petrol, it will be faked in ‘post’, mostly by the sound guys Roger Cutting and Mike Chubb. After not more than half an hour I’m done, finished!
Well, I don’t really feel like getting straight back in the car for another couple of hours, so I hang about and have a coffee in the marquee outside. I am chatting to Peter (Dunscombe) who is one of the producers and has helped set up this project with his wife Linda and tell him about my rushed morning. Next thing I know he’s arranged for me to be a ‘runner’ for the rest of the day, ‘To make your journey worthwhile’.
Well he certainly helped do that. The rest of the day I hang about on set, there are a thousand working parts on any film set and always jobs to do. I shifted furniture, held up lighting gel to windows, towelled down the Bentley (number plate ‘Marcus 1’ of course), sprayed the drive with water - it had rained and the crew’s parked cars had left dry oblong patches, which looked odd for a long shot where Zed Josef carries Claire King across the gravel drive and out of the burning Manor house. I also got hot under the collar, for a while, as having moved Zed’s old Saab I thought I’d jammed the keys in the ignition as I couldn’t get them out. After Chris Ellison, James Welling and Christian the caterer had all had a go, my temperature was rising. Eventually I caught Zed on set and he said calmly ‘Just put it in reverse’!
The real privilege of the day though was that, mostly, I got to watch scenes being shot in the dining on the monitor all day. This was fascinating, dull and educational, with occasional flashes of artistry and inspiration. Seeing the set transform, as it was dressed, then lit (I tapped Richard Summers-Calvert, the third AD, on the shoulder and volunteered to stand-in so they could set the lighting rigs), while the sound guys debated whether to have the boom from above (not possible) by the side of the table (no again) or with one of them lying on the floor behind the actors (this worked) and so on. Until finally, the actor are called, rehearse a little with each other or the director if they’re lucky and then eventually Nick David Lean (is there a connection? I keep meaning to ask!) the first AD and the person really controlling all these elements, calls ‘Quiet on the set!’ and Matt Gambell the director or he shouts, ‘Action’. This kind of thing is going on everyday all over the world but when you’re in the mix, even in a minor role, it’s fun, exciting and fascinating.
Chatting to James Welling about gangster and crime movies, with shared enthusiasm, whilst all this was going on was great too. As was hearing snippets of what he and Linda plan to bring into the film on post production. Along with the original score, James is keen to have three well known music tracks at a minimum, which is added expense but will give this film, hopefully, a fully cinematic feel. In fact, with this day on set I realized, the production team, cast and crew, really are trying to burn the house down, literally and metaphorically and cinematically!