Ok well, this is a blog so it's about time I posted something like a diary.... blog.... thing.... Here's what happened over the last two days shooting.
[[[[UPDATED - pictures added - thanks to Gladys!]]] :)
7am Monday morning we all gathered at Debden House campsite, Epping Forest. Straight away we were onto the task at hand. Max, Soph & Gary got the orc footprints created while Adrian (Strider), myself and Irene (lol) rehearsed with Matt (playing Gollum in the sack). Makeup and hair went on speedily - grubbying up our Ranger sufficiently to be convincing in the wild. In this scene Aragorn discovered a large trampling of Orc prints. A simple scene but one to help build up tension before the fight. Adrian was marching right along the stream and even though the camera was a bit heavy for the jib we pulled off a rather lovely shot even with the SG-Pro depth of field adapter mounted. This makes the camera twice as heavy but makes the background all nice and out of focus. It makes it look 10 times more cinematic. We were using Chris's FX1 as the main camera during the shoot but also had the HVX200 on our low budget steadicam and for sound. Lucky we had Chris onboard with his cam because the HVX batteries were prone to dying at any moment. After a couple of takes and further hair adjustments we got the scene. Bex kept Strider's freshly cut wig aka "Curly Sue" straightened out for the whole shoot and sprayed the poor chap down at every convenient moment.
Anyway the next scene was Matt's entrance. He'd come all the way from Wales to help out and his main task was to enact the body movements of Gollum while trapped in the sack; with hilarious consequences on the location. The sight of the tightly wrapped bag containing Matt rolling and struggling with the caterpillar effect couldn't help but make us laugh. But poor Matt soldiered on through what must have been considerable discomfort until we had a shot that wasn't too silly but added a bit of lightness into the otherwise dark scene.
Following this Adrian had to draw swords as the steadicam moved towards him. We attempted the Vertigo effect (dolly zoom) on our steadicam - using the remote control to zoom out slowly as JP moved the camera forwards with his trademark smooth operational subtlety. The effect worked pretty well after a couple of takes - . It's always great to experiment - we'll see if it makes the cut.
Next up came the ultimate test. Co-producer's Gladys & Julianne, also know as The Banshees rolled in with the day's rations and our big star for the day. Franceso - Gladys' son. Could we get 4 year old Francesco to perform as needed? It was a difficult and rather violent scene where Gollum gets captured. I knew it was going to be very difficult to get what we needed. After carefully sculpted prosthetic hands were applied by makeup artist Sara (and much coaxing and child-bribery) we attempted to shoot the scene. Ash kept him amused with the latest sci-fi geekery while the prosthetics were sneakily applied. Seeing a laptop playing Stargate in the middle of the forest was kindof wierd. For the scene little Franky was required to be tied completely inside the sack by Adrian. Mum was on hand to make sure he was happy and Adrian was ready to be gentle.
"Ok Franky are you ready to go in the sack?" Franky: "no". The little chap was far more interested in stealing JP's role as camera operator. Uh oh - what next. This is where Spencer stepped in. The kid had latched onto him like a limpet and Spence turned the whole thing into a game. The cameras rolled and Franky did more than 5 takes fully in the sack with the prosthetic hands groping out for freedom before being tied inside by Adrian. Amazingly we got the shots we we're hoping for - a great acheivement by all and what bravery by our little starlet!
So the day finished with a few steadicam journey shots. The pressure was on as the sun started going down (as per usual) but 1st AD Irene made sure we got every shot on camera before darkness set in. Pretty good going - and off to Theydon Bois for a pint and chips to round off the day.
Next day half the crew were back for another grueling shoot. This time at Leytonstone - a risk shooting so near the population of London which unfortunately caught us out. We had to relocate back to the safety of Epping forest and thanks to survival expert Gary (from Bear Claw Bush Craft) we found a suitable Dead Marshes location up there to replace Leytonstone. This time the focus was on Ranger survival in the wild. How would Strider live off the land? Bushcraft teacher Gary Wale had come down with all the gear and experience to train Adrian in skinning Rabbits, making fire, cooking, washing and catching food. It was so realistic we were all in awe. Gary was a real-life Ranger! We spent the morning getting some great survial shots as Gary showed Adrian what to do. Following this we were jumping forward a long way in the script to a scene of considerable tension. Strider discovers he's being followed by a black horseman. Julian jumped right in to replace Matt as Gollum puppeteer. And for the horse; initially planned to be a digital effect, we got solid assistant producer Ash Barker in along with Spencer sitting on his mighty shoulders. Out of focus in the distant sillouette - we had an astonishingly convincing horse impression. Those guys wouldn't believe it but it was pretty close. We shot the scene and then headed straight for the pool (ok it was kindof a marsh). Here some muddy footprints lead our hero on the right track at last. We finished the last shot and the sun went down. Time for a muddy tramp back through the now dark and creepy forest towards The Bull where fresh beer awaited a thirsty crew.
Our young star & cameraman Franky, shows us how it's supposed to be done.
Until next month... Farewell