Theatrical contrasts…

I was just looking back at the blog and realised it’s been a whole year since I last posted… well, it has been a little busy but that’s no excuse! Anyway, when I started this back in 2011 it was intended to be a general blog. Over the last few years it has been taken over (much like the rest of my life) by the making of the “Albion” movies. As we are on the latter stages of post production for “Tales of Albion” now and there is little to write about I can turn my thoughts elsewhere… to theatre (my other great passion).

As many of you know, theatre is a huge part of my life and I have been really lucky to have been involved with some great shows over the years but just recently – in fact in the last month – I have had some of the most intense, exciting times and just wanted to share it a little. It is a story of two contrasting shows, both in content and in process, both of which have left an indelible impression on me.

Firstly, R.C. Sherriff’s “Journey’s End”. I first saw this show when I was just 11 years old. We performed it for 3 nights at my school and I was providing the sound effects. As this was in the dark Ages, long before easy use of recorded sound we used to roll shot-putts along overhead wooden walkways to simulate the rumble of the distant guns etc. So for 3 nights I watched from above as the drama unfolded below and was totally transported. The show literally changed my life as I was caught up in the tragic story of young Raleigh and my view of just what warfare actually meant was transformed. For years afterwards I wanted to be involved in the show in some way – initially as an actor (first Raleigh, then Stanhope, latterly perhaps Osbourne) but then more strongly came the urge to direct it. I had a couple of attempts over the years but the rights were not available until finally, this year, they came free and we added the show to the 2016 programme at the Archway Theatre.

The first thrill came at the audition when literally every person that walked through the door was ideal for particular roles in the play. In fact, I was so spoilt for choice that I had to turn away a couple of actors that at any other time I would have been delighted to have cast in any show. I ended up with a pitch perfect cast, all the correct ages (or at least, correct playing ages, unlike other productions I have seen) and all first rate performers. The rehearsal period itself was a delight – everyone very quickly became wrapped up in the tone of the show and were obviously really invested in getting it right, and in paying homage to that generation who had suffered so much to preserve everything we hold dear. What was unexpected was just how much we laughed during the rehearsals… I suppose this was a response to the intensity of the emotions in the play and it certainly helped to bond the cast unlike many I have known. The set builders also seemed to get caught up in this atmosphere and also went that extra mile in making the set one of the most exciting and immersive spaces I have ever designed. Certainly the actors took to it straight away, the low ceiling by the entrance helping with the claustrophobic atmosphere in the dug-out.

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One subtle, personal touch that no-one would have know about, Ben (playing Stanhope) wore my grandfather’s military watch and had his trench lighter in his pocket – both items had been in the Great War for real and this was my homage to him.

We opened the play on the 29th March (the day that would have been my father’s 95th birthday) to initially slightly disappointing houses but as the run went on we filled the auditorium and in the end played to 86% capacity. I would have liked more people to have seen it – not sure why they felt the need to stay away… perhaps they thought it would be a depressing play, rather than a moving and at times very funny one. It was certainly hard to promote.

Still, when it all was over, it felt like I had fulfilled a lifelong dream and we had put on the best possible version of the play that we could. From the responses we got back from the audience, I think the show touched more than a few in much the same way it did the 11 year old me, all those years ago. I hope so.

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In contrast, on 23rd April, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death I put together a show I christened “Daydream” to commemorate the occasion. The plan – to rehearse and perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in just one day! I asked for volunteers to join me and 14 actors (originally 15 but we lost one a few days before the event, meaning a little frantic juggling of roles) stepped up to the challenge. I worked out casting and let them know who they were playing 5 days in advance, just in case anyone wanted to do a little prep and also decided on the design ethic – a Steampunk vibe – so that if anyone had any costume bits they could bring them along. At 9.30 on Saturday morning we all met in the Studio to begin the adventure…

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After a quick chat and a coffee we got straight on with setting the show. Usually when I rehearse a play, I like to work slowly into it, not prescribing moves etc but letting it all develop organically, guiding and moulding the show as we go but there was no such luxury here. We needed to very quickly set moves and tone. It helped that this was the 3rd time I had directed the show, as well as having appeared in a 4th, so I am very familiar with it. I had encouraged the actors to adopt a ‘larger than life’ approach to the material as I felt an exaggerated performance style would suit the occasion and help cover any (inevitable) rough edges. I also encouraged them not to try and hide the fact that they had scripts in their hands but rather to use this as a part of the comedy. By 12.30 we had reached the interval so we broke for half an hour for lunch then pressed on. By 2.30 we had plotted the whole show and it was already looking very funny. We then gave ourselves 90 minutes to sort out costumes and props before starting a dress rehearsal at 4pm. This also gave me a chance to practice the lights and sound (I had prepared the sound cues in advance). We finished at 6.30 and quickly set out the chairs and table for the audience – who started showing up at 6.45, even though the doors were not due to open until 7!

We had sold 50 tickets online in advance but I had several people approach me that morning asking if I could get them in and as I had not yet bought the food for the buffet we managed to add another 12 to that number so we were VERY full!

At 7.45, the lights dimmed and the show began…

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…suffice to say it went down a storm. The actors rose magnificently to the occasion, the performances were funny, emotional, committed – and when the inevitable small mistakes happened they carried them off with such aplomb that it almost made the show even better for it… even when one actor made a late entrance half dressed as they had got one scene ahead of themselves and was changing costume!

The buzz in the bar after the show was electric and everyone agreed it was the perfect way to celebrate the life of Shakespeare on that very special day.

So, 2 plays – 2 very different experiences. One was 44 years in the making, the other basically 13 hours start to finish! Both were hugely rewarding and will live long in my memory and in my heart.

And now? Well, the next day we started rehearsing “The Tempest” that I am directing to be performed in the open air this July… it has a lot to live up to but judging by Sunday’s read through, it stands a pretty good chance!

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And so, into post we go….

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Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of blogging over the last few months. Once the filming was over and we moved into the post production phase there was less immediate stuff to talk about. There was also the little matter of the Yule holidays etc.

We did manage to shoot, edit and release our bonus short, “Jack o’ Lantern” in that time and you can find the link to it here:

https://vimeo.com/113006486

This did, however, throw up one undeniable fact – our poor old computer just wasn’t up to the task of editing the whole movie – even the 10 minute short made it struggle. So we had to tighten our belts, take the plunge and save up for a shiny new system. This took longer than we anticipated due to a very expensive few months in the ‘real’ world but finally we got there and now have a top spec 5K iMac purring gently in the edit suite. This also threw up a new problem in that we have always used Final Cut Pro 7 to edit but this doesn’t run on the new OS, so we upgraded and tried out FCPX. While it had lots of interesting features (that made it ideal for say, a wedding video) there was so much about it that didn’t suit the way that Joy wanted to edit a long form drama we made the decision to switch programmes and move over to Premiere Pro. Actually, considering the amount of After Effects work there will be on this film it makes a lot more sense. We than ran a few technical tests to make sure everything was how we wanted it and finally, today, 16th March 2015 we have started the edit!

This means we are a few months behind where we would have liked to be at this point in time but as I am sure you are aware, this is a self funded project carried out in our own time as we work around the ‘day job’ and bringing up a young family. We have always said that the quality of the finished film must come first and we will never compromise that to meet a (self imposed) deadline.

I have used the last couple of months to catalogue all the shots for Joy so it speeds up her process in the edit and have web working on a lot of the matte paintings and graphics as well – all this will help and we will certainly keep you fully up to date with all developments as me move forewords. It was SO exciting today to finally see the first shots on the timeline and to see it coming together. I hope you will agree when we finish the movie that it was worth the wait.

Gary

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Our Eclectic Journey

The shoot has continued over the past few months and as I looked back over it, it struck me just what a varied journey this has been. Since the ‘Robin of Sherwood’ convention at the start of May we have done the following:   Shot guerrilla style at a Faerie Festival, filmed Paleolithic hunters underground in caves, headed to a country house and shot a Napoleonic sequence with the 95th Rifles, filmed a quiet, intense WW1 scene in a reconstructed dug-out at a National Trust Fort; shot early Medieval scenes in and around Michelham Priory, filmed a small 2-hander set in Ceridwen’s Hall at a local studio theatre, been back to the white space at Tower Bridge Studios to film our storyteller and made a return to Pippingford Park to film the Lady of the Lake. Each shoot was totally different but equally exciting for us. IMG_3246                                     1973713_10152207610002304_5477421402048179347_o 10342842_10152416316426041_3363605094607972918_n copy 10349081_10152414596231041_1581741725790846865_n copy DSC_0092 DSC_0113 DSC_0280 DSC_0301   All this should hopefully add up to make the finished film something very special. It has certainly been that to us on location.  We have just a small handful of shoots to go and then begins the long process of post production. Thanks for following!  

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The Journey Continues…

Well, it has been an interesting year so far.  Our crowd funding campaign went really well – we achieved 75% of our target, which went towards funding our amazing shoot at the Wychurst Project in April. This incredible location served as Pwyll’s Hall in “The Golden Rider” and made us feel as if we had been transported to Rohan (or maybe Westeros)!

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Talking of ‘The Golden Rider’ it was very exciting to do our first shoot with horses. The lovely Mishka and Ozzy (both gorgeous ex-showjumpers) played the mounts of Rhiannon and Pwyll and were total stars… very well behaved and complete camera tarts!

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We actually started the shooting for block 3 with a couple of visits to familiar locations – the solicitor’s office and the cafe we used in “Spirit…”  It was a strange feeling, 3 years on to be back – even having Annie (Ella Sowton) sat at the very same table. It was also nice to be shooting a weekend of sustained dialogue after so much visual material.

We had another visit to a familiar location on 21st April when we were back at Tower Bridge Studios, the place where last March we shot our green screen footage. This time we were using the infinity space to stand in for Rhiannon’s castle and were delighted to be joined by Judi Bowker and Harry Meacher, playing Rhiannon’s parents. Judi played Andromeda in the 1980s “Clash of the Titan’s” – and my PA Dodie was even more excited that she used to be in “Black Beauty”!

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Another rather cool day was 4th May, when we are asked along to do a little Q&A at ‘The Hooded Man” Robin of Sherwood 30th anniversary convention.  The shadow of Richard ‘Kip’ Carpenter hangs over the project in a big way – the show was a huge influence on me both as a person and a film-maker and it was an honour to be asked along.  It was also fun to be able to go with Seán and Joanne – and for Seán to be wearing Michael Praed’s original Hood and Jason Connery’s shirt and trousers (kindly lent by our fried Jon-Michael, with whom we filmed the Robin Hood sequence last year). It was also a chance to get a photo of our Robin with (at least in my opinion) the definitive screen Robins…

IMG_3215That pretty much brings us up to date… we carry on filming next weekend and have around 10 more shoots to go over the next 3 months before we finish principle photography.

Thanks for reading – more soon!

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Catch up time…

Apologies for the silence – once again I appear to have neglected the blog. I will try harder in 2014!

So, since the last posting an awful lot has happened. I will be writing about it in exhaustive detail in the ‘Making of’ book to be released alongside the DVD but here is a potted history of the last few months…

On 31st August we travelled down to the New Forest where we had a wonderful day filming the Robin Hood scenes for ‘Sprit of the Greenwood’.  Our ‘merry men’ looked fantastic and the footage was impressive. An interesting upshot of this shoot is that as a result of seeing some of the photos, I have been invited to do a panel at the ‘Robin of Sherwood 30th anniversary convention’ in May this year!!!

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Sherwood Forest comes to the New Forest!

 

There followed a week away on business in China, during which I re-boarded some of the ‘Greenwood’ film to take into account a few changes I had made.

The next shoot was on 29th September, scenes for both ‘Spirit of the Greenwood’ and ‘Noon of the Solstice’. We filmed Sean transforming into the horned God and a campfire scene. All very atmospheric and once again the weather was kind to us.

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The Horned God appears…

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Storytelling by firelight…

 

On 12th October we filmed a handful of scenes from ‘Curses and Secrets’ , ‘Birth of the Shining Brow’ and ‘Spirit of the Greenwood’ in a beautiful barn just down the road from where we live.  With subtle lighting changes and the shifting around of props we were able to create several different locations in one relatively small space. 

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We then had a very busy weekend on the 26th and 27th October when we were joined again by our cameraman Avey.  On the Saturday we returned to a location we previously used during filming of “The Spirit of Albion”, the rather splendid St Margaret’s Church in Ifield. To film the framing scenes for ‘Dreaming the Dream’. The vicar there is very cool and let us film inside the church and is now talking about teaming up to shoot a modern dress nativity short!  On the Sunday it was back to Pippingford for more Horned God action, mostly solo stuff but also a rather exciting World War 2 sequence (part of a war montage near the end of the film). We also grabbed a couple of shots of Joy as Ceridwen for her film, ‘Birth of the Shining Brow’, the bulk of which we shoot this spring.

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That brings us up to date with all of the ‘Tales’ shoots so far. We needed a break over the Yule/New Year to grab our breath and also to do some scheduling and casting for block 3. Still, we managed to shoot a music video with the lovely Eleanore for her song ‘The Dreaming’, composed as part of ‘Dreaming the Dream’.

https://vimeo.com/84156612

So we are now building up to this year’s shoots and they promise to be very exciting… we have Neolithic scenes for ‘Spirit of the Greenwood’, pretty much the whole of ‘Birth of the Shining Brow’ and the Rhiannon sequence of “The Golden Rider” coming up, as well as several small pick ups and inserts for most of the Tales.  There are also the Storyteller links to shoot, for which we are working on securing a ‘name’ to help raise our profile as well as the mystery bonus 9th Tale… more about that in a later blog!

Oh yes, did a rather nice interview with John Becket at Patheos…

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2014/01/interview-with-gary-andrews.html

…and we have a crowd-funding campaign up and running. If you haven’t had a look, please pop over and if you can help it would be greatly appreciated.

http://www.sponsume.com/project/tales-albion

Finally you may have seen I have been working on the posters for the film – most are now complete. I will release the final 2 once the last bit of casting has been confirmed.

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So, that’s it. I promise to try and blog a bit more this year and keep you posted with news as it happens.

Thanks for reading!

Gary

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A summer of contrast

Apologies it has been so long since I last posted a blog. Being the parents of two small children the summer holidays get very busy and time becomes somewhat precious – however, I find myself with a spare hour so have decided to do a potted blog to update you on the last few shoots – and what a varied group of shoots they have been.

 

8th June

We find ourselves at a new location today as we film the duel scenes from “The Noon of the Solstice”. We are just around the corner from Pippingford, still in Ashdown Forest but on land owned by a friend of ours as Pippingford was not available this weekend. The landscape is very similar and after a location recce last week I found the perfect spot to set the story. As some of you may know, this film is a re-make of a short we made 13 years ago and is based on a song by Damh the Bard, all about the Oak and Holly Kings. It divides neatly into two sections for filming purposes – with all the duel scenes filmed on one day and the scenes with the children on another. We did this last time as well and it worked out but does rely on two days with similar weather – so fingers remain very much crossed…ImageFather and son stunt men Wayne and Aaron de Strete are back again (having filmed some Oak and Holly shots way back in February) to finish off their scenes – a handful of duels set in several different time periods – which meant a fair few costume changes. They are joined by some friends of ours from the Archway Theatre in Horley, Surrey (who also kindly provided their costumes, Wayne and Aaron bringing their own).  I was behind the camera for today as Avey from The Action House (http://www.theactionhouse.com) will be joining us for tomorrow’s shoot so I can work closer with the child actors.ImageThe sun shone – the cameras rolled and the day went without a hitch. It seemed strange to be re-shooting scenes I had first filmed 13 years ago, especially as Wayne was playing the same role so there was a certain amount of déja vu but it was a great opportunity to re-visit the material and refine the film.Image

9th June

Back we go to film the other half of the shoot.ImageToday is filled with all kinds of resonance. We see the return of Ella Sowton as Annie from “The Spirit of Albion” as the storyteller – lovely to work with her again and the first of several shoots we will be doing together on the Tales, as she turns up again in a later story.Image

Another blast from the past is having Flossie Joseph with us. 13 years ago she played the youngest child in the original film and today plays a small role in a new sequence I added for this version.ImageFinally, playing the role of the youngest child this time round in my own daughter Lily, who appeared briefly with Annie in “The Spirit…” during the song at the Long Man but here has her first ever speaking role, aged 5! The cast is rounded off by Lucy (a young actress from the theatre who I have worked with before) and  Jacko, the son of an old friend who has just secured his first professional acting work and is actually filming tomorrow for that job (during the course of the day we discovered that Lucy and Jacko shared a birthday and are exactly the same age, so became known as the twins!).ImageThe weather has been kind and the shots will match just fine so cameras rolled again and once more we came in on schedule without any mishaps. We even managed to grab the first shots for the film “The Birth of the Shining Brow”, featuring Joy Tinniswood as Ceridwen in her pre-goddess form.Image

 

23rd June

A very different shoot today – and indoors for a change! I am currently directing a production of The Comedy of Errors and we rehearse in a beautiful Elizabethan barn – which just happens to be exactly what I need to stand in for an Elizabethan Tavern in “Dreaming the Dream” – a light hearted look at the inspiration for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. ImageSome of my cast for the play, along with a few friends from my Youth Theatre group play the tavern customers and various wenches, Redvers G. Russell returns as Robin Goodfellow (the role he so memorably played in “The Spirit of Albion”) and as Will the writer we have the very talented Steve Kynman, who is the voice of Fireman Sam on the children’s animated TV show (directing that show happens to be my ‘day job’, so that was handy!). Image We started filming late afternoon after a play rehearsal, shooting the crowd scenes first so we could release the bigger group and then press on with the second half  of the shoot, set in Will’s rooms and filmed on the balcony area of the barn. Both Steve and Redvers were on great form and really bounced off each other – not afraid to play the pauses, giving us some wonderful material.Image

 

29th June

The weather is warm and dry, which is just as well as today is the day – or rather tonight is the night – for our night shoot, where Robin takes Will into the woods and we see just where the idea for that play of his came from! Once again we were in Ashdown Forest, back at the same location where we filmed “The Noon of the Solstice” at the start of the month. ImageThis time we are closer to the farm buildings so we are able to run power out to the lights and use one of the buildings for our costume and make-up department. They are particularly busy tonight, with 4 fairies, Titania, Oberon and Puck to create – as well as a bit of a ‘makeover’ for Will at one point…  ImageWe assembled early so we could rehearse the scenes in daylight, which meant we would be able to move a lot quicker come nightfall. ImageOnce again, we were blessed – everyone was on their game. The lovely Eleanore from ‘Eleanore and the Lost’ played Cobweb, and sang the most haunting lullaby which she had composed to Shakespeare’s words…Image Steve as Will gave us moments of comic genius; Redvers was his usual inventive self and we were really delighted to welcome back to the world of ‘Albion’ the imposing Corin Stuart. Corin played the Horned God at the Witchfest performance of the original musical stage show and tonight was a powerful, intense Oberon. Last but by no means least – the gorgeous Kelly Marie Kerr played a stunningly sexy Titania, taking over at very short notice after our original actress was unable to commit to the project.  ImageThanks to the hard working crew everything went nice and smoothly and we were packed up and out just 15 minutes over our original schedule.

 

At this point we gave ourselves a break to re-charge our batteries, take a holiday with the kids and generally relax a bit before launching into the second block of filming… which began on 10th August.

 

Our most recent shoot to date found us once again back at Pippingford but this time up near the house itself rather than deep in the woods.  The shoot was split into 2 halves – in the morning we were re-creating ancient Greece for a sequence in ‘The Spirit of the Greenwood’ involving Pan and some saucy Greek maidens. ImageThe sun shone, the girls were beautiful and our Pan was most impressive in his custom stilts, courtesy of Area 51 (http://area51.co – also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/area51.co). ImageOnce again, I was grateful to have Avey from the Action House with us to get the most out of the wonderful light and the shots looked truly cinematic.

In the afternoon we moved on to shoot the first footage for the film “The Golden Rider”, which will be the story of Rhiannon and Pwyll. Today we were filming the framing scenes to the Tale, set in early nineteenth century Wales. ImageLucy LaVey and Andy Wiggins played our aristocratic couple (costumes once again courtesy of The Archway Theatre) and we were joined later – once she escaped the clutches of the M25 – by the hauntingly beautiful Ivory Flame (http://www.ivoryflame.co.uk) who was playing one of the Sidhe. Image

 We are now scheduling like crazy for the next few shoots which will see us tackle a legendary outlaw and the once and future king. We will travel to an 11th Century monastery, the Bronze Age and even Neolithic caves. We will see two world wars, the 95th Rifles and a priest with writer’s block! It’s going to be quite a ride…

 Blessed be.

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Woods, quarries and gardens…

28th April and again we found ourselves back at Pippingford, this time with a much smaller crew to film the final flashbacks for the Morrighan film, ‘The Washer at the Ford” – indeed today were the Ford scenes that give the film its title. The view from base camp was glorious, as was the weather.DSC_8413

No luxury for hair and make-up, however as once again they had to operate from the back of the cars. One day I will have a budget…DSC_8479 DSC_8423

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today saw a new addition to the cast in the shape of  Matt Henry, playing the Irish warrior Cu Chulainn – and very Celtic he looked too.DSC_8635

So we all trooped down to the very picturesque stream where we shot several encounters with the Morrighan from various points in history. The crew did a grand job ferrying the jib back and forth over the water and shielding the screen form the sun, a problem I really hadn’t expected after the wet week that had preceded the shoot!DSC_8849

Meanwhile Matt was being made up for Cu Chulainn’s grisly demise, tied to a standing stone so he would die on his feet. Shooting wrapped around 4pm, bang on schedule.DSC_9005

(Mild spoilers follow)

18th May found us in a very different location. A fair portion of the film is set in Afghanistan with a military patrol and I was lucky enough to get permission to shoot at a brick quarry just 25 minutes away from where we are based.Image 035

I managed to re-unite the original members of the patrol from “The Spirit of Albion” for this film (bar one, who was working that day), so we were able to re-create the fatal patrol but in a far more authentic environment.IMG_4437 Image 029

We were also very lucky that our Afghan rebel Mohsin turned out to be a sound engineer, so he was quickly seconded onto the crew as well – result, great production sound and no ADR needed today!!IMG_4465

Sunday 19th and a much easier time, filming mostly in and around my house and just down the road at the Archway Theatre (where this whole adventure began!). We were shooting scenes to accompany a song that ends the film, as well as re-shooting the argument between the two brothers that start the whole thing. Today was also Joanne’s last day of principal photography as Morrighan, a role she has come to embody so totally for many people.

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More filming coming up in June and things take a very different turn. Watch this space!

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