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.
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…Father 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.The 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.
Back we go to film the other half of the shoot.Today 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.
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.Finally, 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!).The 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.
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”. Some 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!). 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.
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. This 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… We assembled early so we could rehearse the scenes in daylight, which meant we would be able to move a lot quicker come nightfall. Once 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… 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. Thanks 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. The 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). Once 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. Lucy 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.
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…