“Not quite Pelennor Fields”

So, Sunday 14th April – the day after my 52nd birthday and my present to myself… filming the battle scenes for “The Washer at the Ford” plus a few other scenes for “The Spirit of the Greenwood”.  The shoot had been a huge one to organise – as well as the main cast and crew I needed as many extras as I could muster (most of whom I needed to be able to provide their own costumes as the budget is so low), so I had set up a Facebook Event. This had led to around 48 ‘warriors’ promising to come along – more than enough to create the effect we were looking for. So once again we found ourselves in the woods at Pippingford Manor on a Sunday. The weather had been very wet for the last few days but come Sunday and the sun shone down. We set up base-camp, including a craft services table and – luxury of luxuries – a portaloo, and waited for the crowds to arrive.

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While we were waiting, my wife (also my producer and editor) Joy took a second unit further into the woods to do a re-shoot of some footage we had shot about a month before. I had not been happy with the costumes or the horn rig we had built (it had all been a last minute rush) so had since had a new, custum rig deigned for Seán to wear as The Horned God and Rebecca had a new dress as The Lady. With Joy in the 2nd unit was Pete Russell, my right hand man on most of my shoots who had been with us on the first version and Wayne Avenson (http://www.theactionhouse.com), our cameraman for the day (another treat, as I usually operate myself). I had storyboarded the shots I needed so was confident that I would get this scene right this time.

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Meanwhile I waited and started to co-ordinate things at ‘HQ’. As ever, Marq was with us to film the ‘making of’ video and the cars started to arrive. In the end, about half the expected people turned up so we had around 24 extras plus our principles. Not as many as I would have liked but still enough to fill the frame – and those who did come were amazing. Great costumes and endless energy and enthusiasm that made the day go so smoothly.

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The 2nd unit came back and we grabbed a few quick shots of the ‘dead and dying land’ with Rebecca and Seán walking amongst the trees before she had to disappear to get to the airport and fly off on holiday (this is what I mean about dedication!!).

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We then set about getting some shots we needed for a series of crownings that lead up to the appearance of… well, let’s just say there was a sword in a stone at one point… This sequence made full use of the 12 foot crane and tracks – sweeping shots that give the films a scale and majesty that belie their micro budget.

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A quick break for lunch and costume/make-up change and then it was down to the ‘main event’ – the battle. Once assembled, the warriors looked amazing. A mix of their own costumes and some supplements courtesy of Terry English (the armourer behind ‘Excalibur’, ‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘King Arthur’ and many more: https://www.facebook.com/ArmourerTerryEnglish?fref=ts).   His partner, Julie was with us with a car full of goodies – she also has a role in one of the films which will feature in a later blog.

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Leading the charge, and looking stunning were Joanne Marriott as Morrighan, Lisa Carrodus as Badb and Kristen Jones as Macha – you certainly wouldn’t want to mess with these 3 sisters!

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We filmed for a couple of hours in the unexpected heat but everyone kept going – the light was amazing and we captured some really wonderful footage. We shot a mixture of choreographed sequences and ‘freestyle’, which we can intercut to give the impression of some serious carnage and chaos! After the main battle we shot a quick burst of the battle with the Formorians – a chance for yet another costume change and some more outlandish make-up.

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Then, to round off the day, Joanne needed to perform a page long speech/poem to the crowd of battle weary warriors which she did in style – and as for the warriors – I think the exhausted expressions on their faces were more than a little authentic!

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And that was it – months of planning and it was over. One very busy, truly memorable day. There is a behind the scenes gallery and some screen grabs over on the Facebook page if you would like to see more. Next blog, coming soon and we are yet again back in the woods!

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Greenscreen

Saturday 30th March was a busy day! starting at 9am, cast and crew began converging on Tower Bridge Studios in London for a day of Greenscreen filming for the tale “Curses and Secrets”. By 10:30 we were ready to roll cameras.

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We were filming out of sequence for various reasons and so were relying heavily on storyboards for the day. All the backgrounds in the film will be paintings eventually (for reasons which will become clear upon release), hence the use of the greenscreen.

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The film centres around the tale of Arianrhod, played once again as she was in the film “the Spirit of Albion” by Lucy Claire Brennan (who was also our make-up artist for the day!).

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First up we filmed the scenes with young Lleu Llaw Gyffes, played by Charlie Boorer in his first ever screen role. This was so he could be released early rather than be kept hanging around. He took to the whole process like a duck to water and the day got off to a great start.

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The next scenes we filmed actually come at the end of the story and centre around the birth of Blodeuwedd, which meant principal cast getting on ageing make-up. It also meant closing the set while we filmed the scenes with Blodeuwedd herself (played by Jen Somerfield).

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Lunchbreak – (pizza!) and then onwards. Altogether we had over 60 set ups to get in during the time we had allocated and I have to say everyone, both cast and crew, was on top form. So, as the day wore on the tale continued – as King Math (Duir Sol) sat with his feet in the lap of Goewin (Kate Palmer), whilst Gwydion (Greg Draven) and Gilfaethwy (Kit Summerfield) plotted…

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Finally, at 6pm we called a wrap. Another shoot over, one step further along the path – yet we have still only scratched the surface of this HUGE project!

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…and the next shoot is INSANE!

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Back at the Museum…

So last Friday afternoon saw us return to one of our favourite locations – the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.

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Those of you who saw the movie will recognise this as the place where we filmed the flashback sequence during the song “Samhain Eve”. Above is the market square where Ceridwen walked through the streets with Esther. Well, if you turned 180 degrees from where this photo was taken, you would see the house from Walderton  (http://www.wealddown.co.uk/Buildings/House-from-Walderton-Sussex). This was doubling for us as an 18th Century scottish dwelling as we were shooting dialogue scenes for “Cattle of the Cailleach”.

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Above you can see the cast running over lines inside this lovely old house. We had exactly 3 hours there to get everything done, including set up time as we are on a budget and this is one of the more expensive locations we use (well, it is expensive for us!) but worth every penny as the production value is huge. An added element on this shoot was using the separate sound recorder for the first time. In the past we have recorded the sound into the camera onto the master tape but as we have gone tape-free on this project we made the choice to go the whole way and ‘do it properly’. This gives us a lot more choices in the edit. So, at 4:45pm the cameras started to roll…

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We wrapped in the first building in just over the hour and moved up to the second location, the glorious Tudor Kitchen which was doubling for the interior of Cailleach’s Bothy (http://www.wealddown.co.uk/Buildings/Winkhurst-Tudor-kitchen-from-Sundridge-Kent). Our ‘mystery actress’ playing Cailleach was already in full make-up, most of which had been applied earlier that afternoon (in fact, she was driven there wearing it, which must have been disconcerting to passing motorists!) and we pressed straight on, finishing dead on schedule at 7pm.

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It was wonderful to be back filming at such a magnificent location, the staff are always very helpful and friendly and make the whole experience totally painless. Maybe one day we will go back with a bigger budget and be able to actually take our time, rather than rush like crazy to get it all done!

So, amazingly, that is almost all the footage for this particular film ‘in the can’. We have one short sequence to shoot in May and that will be that – well, apart from the editing, ADR, digital effects etc… The film itself won’t be the first to be released – they are coming out in a particular order based on the festivals that tie in to each story, but it is nice to know that we are well and truly underway.  The next shoot is on March 30th and coldn’t be more different… watch this space!

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Playing in the Woods

 

Mid-day on a very cold Saturday 23rd February and a small convoy of cars head into the woods. On board are 5 actors, a handful of crew and one excited director. This is shoot number 02 on the ‘Tales’ and we are filming scenes from 3 of the stories. We are also using our new camera kit for the first time – a Canon 5D mark ii – and I am like a kid in a sweet shop. The camera is far smaller and lighter than the one we used on the movie but the image quality is far greater. Today we are only filming guide sound – there is no dialogue and all the sound will eventually be replaced and/or enhanced so we have no need for a sound crew. We are simply using the on-board sound with an added mic. This is one less thing to worry about, quite useful today with a fair amount to shoot and the freezing conditions.

We are filming at some beautiful woodland in Sussex (in the south of England) that is leased out to the ministry of defence, something we are reminded of on several occasions today when our ancient scenes are interrupted with the sound of heavy automatic gunfire from over the hill! Again, I am thankful we are not recording dialogue today…

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First up we film some insert scenes for the film “Noon of the Solstice”. Father and son stunt performers Wayne and Aaron de Strete play the Holly and Oak kings, wearing some amazing armour made for us by EBG Leather (http://www.ebgleather.com)

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The woods were soon echoing to the sound of clashing steel as the two warriors fought for the control of the land.

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Once we complete that we shoot a second sequence for the same film, where they play 2 different characters (sounds confusing but all will become clear when the film is finished – promise!). Once that was done, they leave us as they have to get up to London for a stunt gig that night as pirates – just your average day in the life of a stuntman!

 

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Next up sees the return of a familiar face in the ‘Albion’ family – Seán George reprising his role as the Horned God in the second of the films we are working on today, “Spirit of the Greenwood”.

 

 

In this scene he is playing an earlier incarnation of the character (the film charts the progression of ‘Old Horny’ through history) and is resplendent in a much larger pair of horns than we have seen him wear before. With him today is a newcomer to our team – Rebecca Warnett who is playing the Lady of the Land.

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Their scenes pass by smoothly and Seán also has to leave to go to the same pirate gig (in his capacity as a double for a certain infamous Captain…).

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we shoot a short sequence for the film “Cattle of the Cailleach”. It was a couple of scenes from this film I managed to shoot in the snow a few weeks back and were the subject of the previous blog. Today, rather than the kilted Highlanders we had the Cailleach herself in all her prosthetic glory!

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Her make-up (and indeed all today’s make-up) is by our very own Lucy Brennan, who played Arianrhod in “Spirit…” (and will be reprising the role again in just over a month’s time), with teeth by Steve Bosworth at  http://www.customfangs.co.uk.  And who is playing Cailleach ? Ah, that would be telling! Suffice to say it is a familiar face under all that foam latex but for now we will keep that a secret…

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We are well and truly up and running now, with the next shoot on Friday 1st March. This will be our first proper dialogue scenes of the shoot – so wish us luck!

See you soon.

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And so we begin…

Well, well, well. Today was quite a day as we officially began shooting the ‘Tales of Albion’. The schedule for the whole project is still being put together but I always knew I wanted to start with this shoot – a couple of scenes from the film “Cattle of the Cailleach”. The film is based on a legend set in 1774 in the highlands of Scotland when 2 hunters get lost in the snow… so I needed snow. Last week, we had a pretty heavy fall but for all sorts of reasons we were unable to shoot so I kept my fingers crossed that it would last until this weekend. Throughout the week there has been a steady but slow thaw, with a small top up fall of snow on Wednesday but last night it rained where I live. I decided to go ahead anyway as actually in the story it starts and ends in light snow and I thought “Well, let’s get something in the can at least…” so this morning my actors turned up and changed into their wonderful costumes (specially made for them by The Singing Seamstress, Sarah Newbould) and we drove out to our location. Now, with the kind of micro budget we are on, going to Scotland was out of the question but about a 20 minute drive from me is Ashdown Forest which, with a little digital enhancement will pass very nicely indeed for the Highlands. As we headed out, we noticed the fields around us getting whiter and whiter and it transpired that the rain last night had missed it completely – result!

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We managed to get everything shot that I wanted – the weather was glorious and the light very beautiful. There is talk of more snow in the middle of next month and if thats the case we shall go out and re-shoot the middle section, which is supposed to happen in a blizzard (if we have no more snow then good old CGI will come to our rescue!).

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In the meantime, it feels great to have actually made a start on what will be about a 2 year journey – filming will go on from now until Spring 2014 on and off, with the films being released at intervals throughout that year, hopefully starting at Imbolc. Our next shoot is planned for late Feb, so watch this space for more ‘behind the scenes’ diary action!

 

Peace and Blesséd be.

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Looking back and moving forwards…

A year ago we had just released the trailer for the movie “The Spirit of Albion” and had a huge pile of un-edited rushes staring at us from the computer. Twelve months on and the film has sold over a thousand copies worldwide and we have had the kind of feedback we could only have dreamed of. The response has been overwhelming but rather than rest on our laurels we move on.

We have just locked picture on “Lady in the Woods” – our supernatural/comedy/short we shot back in September. Next job is to do the sound mix and colour grade and then we can release.  It’s a bit of fun that we made to tide us over while we worked on the next big project – “Tales of Albion”. This is the ‘official’ follow on to the movie and is gearing up for production daily. I have people working on costumes, armour and prosthetics right now – the films are almost all cast (and we have a few wonderful guest stars coming your way), the locations are being locked down and all the scripts (bar one) are complete. All I need now is a bit of snow and we can start shooting.

In a previous post I teased the titles of the films so thought I should tell you a bit more about them but rather than go into detail I shall tease a little bit more…

You will see a huge battle in ancient Ireland, The Holly and Oak Kings fighting for the land, travel to Afghanistan with the modern army, march through gas on Ypres and dodge bullets in Normandy. You will go deer hunting in the highlands of Scotland in the snow and chase Greek maidens in the sun; see a lady born of flowers, a blind man and a boy keep a cauldron boiling, sit at a round table, find out who really wore an asses head with the Queen of the faeries and  follow a lady riding a horse that cannot be caught. You will see illuminated manuscripts come alive, and living people become drawings.

Intrigued? I hope so!  Although the films all stand alone, if you have seen the movie there are a few old friends coming to say hello, as well as lots of new faces.

I am currently putting together a set of sponsorship packages which should hopefully go live later this month and will help me finance the series as once again I am doing this for love and out of my own pocket. Although the vast majority of those involved donate their time and talent for free there ARE substantial costs involved so fingers crossed the ‘fund raising’ will pay off.

Well, I think that’s all for now – hopefully once the cameras start rolling these musings will get a bit more interesting!  Thanks for reading and watch this space…

Gary

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Lady in the Woods

So we did it! Saturday 8th September found around 20 cast and crew deep in the Sussex woodland (in fact the very woods where exactly a year earlier we wrapped principal photography on The Spirit of Albion) lined up and ready to shoot our short supernatural thriller ‘Lady in the Woods’. Why?

Good question – well, when we finished ‘Spirit…’, our producer Julianne thought it would be a good idea to have another project to keep the team together until the next major production came along, so she wrote a script and asked me if I would like to direct it. naturally I said yes, as we had such a wonderful time making the movie. The story itself is a simple one – a film crew enter a forest where there is a legend of a mysterious Green Lady to find out the truth behind the story, accompanied by a paranormal investigation team. Stuff happens.

We originally planned to shoot in February but the post production on ‘Spirit…’ meant that we didn’t have the time (or energy!) to do it then, so we put the filming back to September.  A handful of the original cast were unable to make the new dates but  their roles were filled by several new faces of whom, I have no doubt, you will have not seen the last.

 

So – 10:30am on Saturday and cameras started to roll. As is almost typical, we began by filming the final shots (various scheduling and practical reasons) and then, about an hour later we started at the beginning. Because the film takes place over one day and night we decided to shoot the main body of the film in sequence, so that the daylight/dusk/night would follow through. I had planned to keep shooting the daytime scenes until we ran out of light, then shoot the night-time. If we had any day scenes left over we had reserved Sunday afternoon for those as pick-ups. As it happened, we had no need at all. All the daytime scenes were finished in record time – in fact, we had to sit and wait for around4 hours for it to get dark enough to carry on! Luckily we had our trusty boom-box with us and proceeded to have an impromptu party. Again, the night shoot went so smoothly that my anticipated 1am finish actually happened at 10:45pm!

All in all, it was an amazing day and a lot of fun. Now the edit starts and we hope to release as a download in time for Yule.

To see a photo album from the shoot, please go to our Egotrip Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/EgotripMediaLtd

To check out the wonderful Eleanore and the Lost, whose music we are using (Eleanore herself cameos in the film), go to: http://www.eleanoreandthelost.com

To find out more about the wonderful woodland where we filmed, go to: http://morganswood.co.uk

Now, I really must get on with writing those “Tales of Albion”…

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