Monday, 15 June 2009

Mistakes have to be made: The making of Past. Present. Future.

Past. Present. Future. was the third film I made after leaving college. It isn't available to see online, for reasons outlined below...

Unsurprisingly, casting on 5 Times For was still not moving on so that project remained stillborn...and the night footage for Date was still nowhere on the horizon. Perhaps I should have taken the hint, but at this stage I was determined not to let all that work go to waste.

Instead, I continued to keep myself busy, and wrote Past. Present. Future. a very (too?) personal rumination of where I was in my “tortured” 19 year old life. This time, Juliet saw sense and turned down the chance to play the female lead of Connie. As I recall her reason at the time was that she felt it was too similar to the other films. I thought this was a ridiculous
excuse as I couldn’t see any similarities. Of course, its only now in hindsight that I see what Juliet was probably really thinking - she’s been in two of my films and still yet to see a bloody frame, so I’m obviously pissing her about...Christ, I think I would have even turned myself down!

I think Mark loved the script, although by now me could have easily been doing them just the time he was partial to the dark side and lived in “the horror house” with 3 goths in Sneinton. Cat was inexpicably the girlfriend of the donkey dicked dipshit stink bag self
proclaimed leader of the house and Mark suggested that she would be ideal to play Connie, plus, as they were already quite good friends, that warmth would easily show on camera. Er....

It seems absurd now, but I’m pretty sure we shot the entire film in a day. An early start from me ensured I was sat in my car outside the horror house waiting for Mark to be inevitably late, then round to pick Cat up who was still late despite us already running behind.

When we picked Cat up I couldn’t help but keep glancing at her in the rear view mirror as she did her make up (late and still not bloody ready!) There was something odd about her when she got in the car that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and now as she sat on the back seat I
was trying to figure it out - then the penny dropped ...

She really did have no, or very little eyebrow hair and really had to paint them on. This was a real shock to myself and Mark, as we’d only ever seen her in full Goth style make up.

First port of call was yet again Sutton-in-Ashfield, home town of myself and Mark, to film on the park where I used to play as a kid. Filming seemed to be running smoothly enough and with the addition of a specific piece of tailored graffiti on the climbing frame platform we
were away. I’d wanted to get an early start on the day, in particular for this scene so what happened wouldn’t happen, but as we were late, it inevitably did happen. Two kids on bikes (why weren’t they at bloody school?) showed up and disrupted the shoot, creating noise and mayhem. They wanted to know what we were doing and I realised the only way to deal with little shits like this was some good old fashioned bribery.

We told the kids we were shooting the new Star Wars film and that Cat was playing Princess Leia. The climbing frame/slide construction we were filming on and all the background would be turned into a spaceship with computer graphics. (OH GEORGE, THE IRONY!)

We told the kids that if they let us film and then came back in two hours we would put them in the film. They left us alone to quickly wrap in this location and bog off before they came back. I sometimes wonder if they got beat up by other kids at school when they told them they’d just seen people making the new Star Wars film...

Naturally, the next location would have its own problems. We went to the cemetery in Sutton adjacent to St Mary’s Church, the location we used in Date. In my typical naive way I didn’t get permission to film there, we just rolled up and started filming. I didn’t mean any disrespect and it’s not as if we were pissing and fornicating on gravestones, but now I can see how us being there could be seen as contentious. The cross we filmed in front of was an actual cross, though there was no name on or around the marker (maybe it was for someone who had no money or family for a burial, or perhaps it was a temporary marker.)

As we were shooting the scene in front of the cross this huge woman straight out of Tom and Jerry (”THOMAASSSSSSS!”) came over and started shouting at us for being disrespectful (not that the marker was anything to do with this woman.)

Cat suddenly whipped out a feisty firey side to herself which we’d never seen and gave as good as she got - the woman had said not only were we being disrespectful, but so was the way that Cat was dressed (implying she looked like a whore or something.) Cat took one look at
this woman in her huge bright yellow shell suit bottoms and bright purple top and suggested that it was SHE who was dressed disrespectfully. I can’t remember what happened next - I think the woman went to report us to someone or something - so we quickly finished the
scene, scuttled back to the trusty Luth Mobile and drove over to Bulwell, where we finished the next scene undisturbed in a church yard there. (This must have been the point in the day where our friend Jim joined us to help with the shoot, as there are stills of all three of us which he must have taken...though he can’t remember being there, and Mark and I can't remember him being there, but he is on one of the production stills, looking through the camera.)

The rest of the film was shot back at the house on Commercial Road in Bulwell where I was stil living - this would prove to be a very frustrating afternoon.

Cat had already been struggling to remember some of the undigestable lines of dialogue in the previous scenes, but during the lounge scene she hit a brick wall. The sequence had to be broken down into a series of piecemeal shots - I think at one point I may have even fed her the lines to repeat back. Some shots where the camera is looking at Mark the audio is Cat simply reading aloud directly from the script...and it shows. I’m pretty sure this approach continued into the evening, where we shot the bedroom sequence in my housemate/landlord/friend’s bedroom (stand up Paul Harrison) and then the final scene in his little study/office. We
must have wrapped around midnight, maybe around 1 in the morning, I really can’t remember.

Bar the scenes where Cat’s dialogue and performance had to be constructed line by line the editing of the film was relatively smooth - I’m guessing a day again, but it might have been two days, with some additional bits added during half a day to (Mono)(Tone)(Drone) - the
extra pub ambience, the titles etc. Once again the film was edited at the remarkably friendly and welcoming Intermedia (I never tire of being sarcastic of that place and its staff.)

Titles were once again created courtesy of my dodgy titling disc and filming the television, although I went with white at the end for a change.

Although I knew using copyrighted music would scupper my chances of showing the film at any of the short film nights around Nottingham, I wanted to use music from the Manic Street Preachers, as they meant so much to me at the time, and the film was so personal to me. The
repetiton of the line “More and more junk” was achieved through the wonderful lo fi use of two tape decks...

Out of all the films I made after leaving college, this is the biggest turkey and the one I like
least. I usually end up shouting SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP at the screen when I’m watching it. As with Date, boy did I need an editor or someone to slap me down and tell me to stop labouring a point past all need. At the time the sentiments were ones I was genuinely feeling (I had tried to get in touch with some childhood friends and was wondering if these scripts
were repeating themselves...damn, maybe Juliet WAS being honest!) but I’m not sure if catharsis through cinema was the best approach for exorcising these demons.

Plus, and possibly the most staggering stumbling block to this whole sorry farago, is that I can’t believe I was having some sort of mid life and artistic crisis at the age of 19, for god’s sake...

This film, like (Mono)(Tone)(Drone), was reviewed in the same issue of A Bag Of Sand and received a scathing review, in particular the dialogue. Steve Lawson noticed some dialogue lift from Goldeneye, which I hadn’t even realised at the time, and reads into the film far too much,
seeing the opening as a passage from the book Mark is writing - I wish this interpretation were true!

For me, there are a few redeeming features = that is my grandma (dad’s mum) in the pre-titles sequence actually describing photos of my family to Mark (hence Mark saying “Brown eyed Murle”, our Van Morrison inspired nickname for my dad, well, his name is Murle, so its barely a nickname...) I’m just glad I’ve got her captured on film, but not in a horrible family video camera way. I also think there’s some great shots in this film, some really nice compositions...the stills in the stills section seem to look really good.

So maybe that’s the answer - turn down the sound and treat the film as a series of stills. It should play a whole lot better.

Funnily enough, in an odd post script, I'd been thinking about the film recently and wondered if I could re-edit the film just enough to remove some of the more excruciating lines of dialogue and performance aspects...maybe a project for a rainy day (as if I don't have enough to do!)

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