Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Splendid: Pilot - Production Diary Part 1.

Our first stop on the journey was North London suburbia.
Three sketches for our first day: Phone Call, Egg and It's Not Cheating.
Very different sketches and quite a challenge for day one, especially as Egg required interaction with a live chicken.

The morning was the usual slow ramp-up of the beginning of a shoot. Squeaking dollies, carpet scandals, and the crew gelling together.

The crew were a mixture of old faces and new faces, but they all bonded early-on, and we quickly became a very tight unit.

The biggest sketch that day was It's Not Cheating. It had two filming sectors and three actors. I think we ended up with something very silly and preposterous. In fact, when I said "CUT" after a good take I would describe something as being "silly" or "ridiculous", which was a positive response! Very odd, and it took the crew a while to get used to the idea that something being "preposterous" was actually a good thing!
Seemingly, the most difficult sketch was Egg. Working with a live chicken should have been a nightmare, but in actual fact the chicken was very well behaved, and it was our first real big laugh on the show. It would also actually turn out to be quite a challenge throughout the rest of the shoot not to giggle and ruin a take!

As always, with a shoot as complex as this, my head was full of questions and thoughts that related to all the sketches to come. Inevitably, all the laughing and bonding was going on around me, and I was in the middle with a furrowed brow. It's the way it is when you are a director, kind of removed from everyone else, and with half a foot in with the cast, and the other with the crew, and yet in neither.
An AD friend of mine once said that a Director is never really friends with anyone, but it's better to be focused and unpopular than everyone's chum and too distracted.

The day ended with 3 sketches in the can. And it was a little daunting to remind yourself that we were effectively doing 2 short films a day, across 7-8 locations! Quite a challenge. But one that the cast and crew seemed to relish...

Our goal, from Day One, was to create silly sketches that looked brilliant. I was determined to bring a film-style production value to our sketches to make them unique and gorgeous.
It's a trade-off at times between letting comedy breath and have a rhythm and not dampening that with too much setting-up, but already I could see that this would not be a problem. The performers never let up their energy and the crew worked fast to keep the freshness of every sketch alive.

It also helped that Richard Glover and Stephen Evans brought their ukuleles every day and we all worked to the gentle sounds of them singing songs as we worked. What a wonderful atmosphere.

I left that first day, thinking that Splendid had already found it's style, and my thoughts began turning to pyromania...

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