#OnEdge20 is a series of posts commemorating 20 years since I rolled cameras on my first short film.
Yesterday, we looked at the evolution of the screenplay for On Edge, arguably the most crucial part of any film production.
Today, we’ll look at another vital element you can’t do without. And what is that, I hear you ask?
Why, a Batman Forever diary & organiser of course!
It doesn’t have to be a Batman branded one (although i can highly recommend it is, i mean, the one i used came with really cool stickers and everything) but I can’t underline enough the importance of having something portable that you can scribble in, with enough space for each day of the week to include the important milestones. This was 1998 of course, and we had computers back then but not smartphones. Imagine that. But even now, when I work on a project I use an honest-to-goodness paper diary to keep track of everything. It’s just simpler that way (for me anyway, your milage of course may vary).
Pre-production means a LOT of meetings. For On Edge, there were meetings to be had with the Heads of Department (camera, sound, art, assistant director, special effects, and of course with the cast!). One of my fondest memories about making On Edge is taking the train and a bus to Pinewood Studios to meet with Bob Keen at his Image Animation workshop to discuss the design of Charley Boorman’s prosthetics, and the ‘uber drill’ used by Doctor Matthews to create his latest dental masterpiece. Bob’s workshop was an Aladdin’s cave filled with such treasures as original Cenobite models from Hellraiser and the xenomorph eggs from Aliens. We decided it would be fun to incorporate actual dental implements into the make-up and the drill, and Bob sourced a vintage portable dentistry kit from an antique’s dealer in order to achieve this. I was like the cat who go the cream during these meetings, let me tell you. And later, on set, I got to tick off a bucket list moment — shouting, “More blood please Bob!” before a take. Sigh — it’s the little things that make life so fulfilling.
Going through the diary all these years later revealed what an intense period of activity it was, juggling a day job (at that time I ran a market stall in Camden, and another in Charing Cross to pay the bills and to get me through university) and the many decisions necessary to prep the film for production. Producer Joseph and co-producer Juliet made sure everything ran smoothly (and some of the crew said the catering was even better than on some feature films they’d worked on!) even when we were down to the wire casting the role of the receptionist. Beth Murray (I had seen her brilliant turn in the music promo for Placebo’s Pure Morning) bagged the part, and she was perfect. With Doug Bradley and Charley Boorman on board as dentist and patient, we were ready to go.
The shoot itself passed by in a bit of a blur. We shot for three days at a dental clinic in Covent Garden, and this is where an astonishing coincidence happened. It turned out that the location we had chosen for the shoot was Christopher Fowler’s dentist’s! There was some poetry to that — but all lyricism went out of the window with the actual shoot.
The dentist was away on vacation during the shoot (smart man) leaving his (heavily pregnant) head nurse in charge of the building. The nurse herself warned us that she was given to violent mood swings and tearful outbursts due to her impending due date! Unknown to the film crew, a decorating team had also been booked to spruce up the clinic during our film shoot. Many people still think a film shoot is two actors, a camera and three hangers-on, but we had a crew of over 40 people working on On Edge, two enormous equipment trucks, a massive generator and a metric tonne of equipment to hoist up and down the stairs — a stairwell which was bloody well being painted while we were supposed to be making a movie. The nurse decided that 6pm was our absolute cut-off time for filming each day. When we factored in all the delays, due to being extra careful not to scuff the freshly painted walls and so on, we needed a later finish that that by day 3. And on that day, I ashamedly admit i began to lose my fragile grip on my sanity, rocking back and forth in my director’s chair and gurgling like a madman about ‘the coming apocalypse’.
But it was all right. With the support of my amazing cast and crew, we simplified the opening sequence, so we could achieve it in the time remaining to us. I believe that a cash bribe.. um, I mean ‘bonus’… was made to the nurse-in-charge, and we even invited her to look down the camera lens at what we were doing, all to buy ourselves some more time.
Time is the fire in which we burn.
So if you’re making a movie, get yourself a good diary.
Tune into the blog tomorrow for more #OnEdge20
Check out the On Edge
screening history & list of awards