Week One of the Shoot

Wow, we are one week into the shoot of the film and what a week it has been!
I can’t quite believe we have already shot six days. It has gone by in a blur of ‘actions’ and ‘cuts’.
Discussing the next shot

Discussing the next shot with Ken Collard and Ciro Candia

The first week has all been on location on the Black Widow Russian submarine in Rochester.
Shooting on a submarine has thrown up quite a few logistics problems. Some we were able to plan for and others have come as complete surprises. Having to schedule around tide times has been an interesting experience for our brilliant 1st AD Robyn.

Cramped is an understatement

Cramped is an understatement

The biggest problem by far is simply working in such a tight location. Once you squeeze in a crew and cast, there is literally no place to move. I know how a sardine feels now. Just moving positions between shots is an epic undertaking of elbows and head bashing. We have all got to know each other very well!
The limited space has caused real problems with the daily shooting list and unfortunately we have had to overrun a couple of days and shuffle scenes around. We have also had to drop a couple of scenes from our schedule. Hopefully we can figure out a way to pick these up down the line.

Stuart McGugan and Cerith Jones rehearse one of the opening scenes

Stuart McGugan and Cerith Jones rehearse one of the opening scenes

This all sounds like doom and gloom but it isn’t! The footage we are capturing is looking amazing and far beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. I can’t wait to share some of it with you.
We have a wonderful cast and crew who are all working their socks off and achieving the impossible under incredibly hard conditions. Everyone has been incredibly patient with us as we find our feet on our first feature film and I can’t thank them enough. From day one this has been an ambitious project for a first feature film and I am constantly amazed by the talent of the people who are involved. I feel very blessed.
Ken Collard and David Schall enjoy a joke between takes.

Ken Collard and David Schall enjoy a joke between takes.

Tomorrow is the last day on the sub. We then have a week of studio. I think I speak for everyone one I say we can’t wait to get to the studio! In some ways it should be a lot easier – we will have space for one! In other ways it will throw up a load of new challenges, including meatier scenes and a tighter schedule! Best of all, we wont finish the day smelling of diesel.
Ciro Candia - the only one aloud to wear a backpack on the sub! (It holds the batteries for the camera)

Ciro Candia – the only one aloud to wear a backpack on the sub! (It holds the batteries for the camera)

If you would like to know more on how the shoot is going, do check out this brilliant blog by Alex Scott who is doing a brilliant job helping out with the behind the scenes filming. And of course as always you can get even more updates on our facebook and twitter feeds.
It's cold on the sub and each morning the lenses need to 'breathe'!

It’s cold on the sub and each morning the lenses need to ‘breathe’!


The Night Before.

It is about 11pm and the evening before our first day of principal photography (yes slipped it in again!).

We are checked into the BnB, which is about a ten minute walk from the location in lovely Rochester.

Here’s a (bad) picture of my room!


It’s been a heck of a journey to get here, (I mean to this point of the production not Rochester) and I can’t quite believe tomorrow I will be calling action on my first feature film. It really is a dream come true.

It’s very humbling to think of all the support people have given us, be it by backing us on Kickstarter, sharing their talent, skills and advice or simply by promoting and championing the project. There is no way we would be here if it wasn’t for the support of so many.

One of the producers asked me if I was nervous. The honest answer is no… and yes. We have a brilliant cast and crew on board and I’m very confident that by the end of this two weeks we will have a film in the can. What I am nervous about is the uncontrollable! The weather, the camera breaking, the sub sinking*, that sort of thing.

But that is the thing with movies (I imagine), something will always go wrong and we will just have to roll with the punches. As long as we can keep shooting, we’ll be okay.

I have to be up at around 6.00am in the morning so I best get some sleep.

Fingers crossed tomorrow goes well.

And a huge thank-you to everyone who has made this possible!

*NB to any of the cast and crew reading this – don’t worry the sub won’t sink!

The cast read-through

Wow, where does the time go?

We are just five days away from the first day of principal photography on the film!

I’ve always wanted to say that. ‘Principal photography’ sounds classy, but the truth is I am feeling equal parts child-like excitement and bone-crunching terror. Okay, maybe that’s over-egging it a touch.

Last week we had a read-through with the entire cast. It was the first time I had met them since their individual auditions and the first time they all got to meet each other.

It was incredibly exciting to see how they would ‘fit’ together. Of course I was very nervous. As this is my first feature film, it was also my first proper script read-through. Now I don’t like talking in front of large groups at the best of times, but this was a large group that was about to read a script I have been working on for the last 4 years. A script, I might add, that is meant to be funny.

  • What if it wasn’t funny?
  • What if the actors hated each other?
  • What if they saw I was a fraud and knew nothing about making a film?

These were the concerns running through my head as we all sat around in a big circle. Unfounded concerns? Maybe… maybe not.

So in a trembling voice, I introduced myself and like an AA meeting, we went round the circle and declared who we were and what we were playing.

And then we jumped straight into it. The first read-through with the cast.

An hour and twenty minutes later we finished and I breathed again.

There had been some laughs and some jokes that didn’t hit. Moments that flew by and others that dragged. Suffice to say, I learnt a lot about the film; how it should be played and what areas of the script still need work.

After the read-through we discussed the script and some of the logistics of the shoot and then went to the pub!

As we speed towards principal photography (just wanted to say that again) time seems to be slipping away. Will we be ready? I think so.

Over the past few days we started to announce some of the cast members over on our facebook site. Do check them out!


Titles: Animation Tests

We are moving forward with the film and will soon be heading into pre-production!

Hopefully the updates will start to come thick and fast, but this blog is all about how the titles are progressing.

Chris and Marko have been working hard to develop the style and ‘story’ of the titles.

As we discussed in an early blog we gathered a bus load of references over on pintrest, stuff we liked (and didn’t) and I briefed the guys on what the titles needed to do.


From those references the guys worked up a number of style frames and possible approaches.

A few early ideas:

Initial Idea

Initial Idea 02

We really liked the idea of ‘simple’ graphical backgrounds and environments with more detailed characters.

The guys took these core elements and expanded them out into a number of different scenarios. They also played around with different looks within these constraints.

Inspector ideasSub ideas

The Chef ideas

Marko also began working on different styles for the characters.

Charachter ideas

These frames gave us a good idea of the feel we wanted to create, especially in terms of detail in the backgrounds, texture and if they needed extra 2d overlays.

The next step was to do an animation test and see how some of these ideas worked moving.

And here they are…

We were a big fans of the ‘black frame’ (#3) look; it will give us the opportunity to play with different farmings and transitions between scenarios. We might also include some of the parallax elements from number 4.

As tests, these give us a great idea for the look and energy of the titles.

Now we have a style (pretty much) locked down, the next step is to figure out the ‘story’ of the titles and begin story boarding the whole sequence.

I hope you like the way they are looking!

One of the rewards we offered during the Kickstarter campaign is to be featured as an animated character in the titles! If you backed at this level we will be in touch soon on what we will need from you to turn you into a little animated person.

cartoon charachter

If you missed out on the campaign and would too like to be featured in the titles – well you can! Just head over to our shop. All money goes to making the film better and bigger!

For a closer look at some of the above images, check out the gallery below.

Kevin Macdonald watches Choke Mate!

Last month Choke Mate was up for short film of the month on shooting people. We asked all you shooting people members to vote and you very kindly did.

NB: If you don’t know, Choke Mate was a short film we made in 48 hours during the Kickstarter campaign for The Fitzroy, partly to show what we were capable of and partly for fun. Here’s a blog of how that went!

You guys got us into the top three. Which meant we were in the final!

The prize was for Kevin Macdonald (director of Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland) to review the three finalists and pick an overall winner.

Sadly he didn’t pick Choke Mate but just to be in the final was a great achievement and we really appreciate everyone who voted, watched and helped spread the word.

Here’s what Kevin (as I’m now calling him) said about the film.

“Again, an intriguing concept. Has a nice sense of dread and an evocative use of locations. I felt that the director/writers/actor didn’t quite convince me with the ending – why one takes the mask and the other doesn’t.”
Kevin Macdonald

Well Kevin! It’s all about self-sacrifice. You see, one of the masks is broken and he gives up the last mask for her…. I jest, of course. If he doesn’t feel we got that across then we didn’t get it across (to him).

To be fair he’s not the only one who’s not got or felt the ending. It’s not clear enough that one of the masks is broken. And that is my fault as the director. I did want to put in a closer shot of the broken mask, with a smashed eyepiece. It would have really rammed it home that the mask was broken. Unfortunately we just didn’t have time to do it.

Which actor is this?

Which actor is this?

The other thing we have learnt from feedback on Choke Mate is, that it is hard to distinguish characters when their faces are covered. Bane! This is going to be something we have to figure out for The Fitzroy.

All in all we are really chuffed that Choke Mate made it into the final. We are proud of the little film that could. Thanks again for voting for us and do leave your comments on what you think of it and if you agree with Kevin.