Saturday, August 15, 2009


Where were we?

Preparing to shoot a number of scenes from Monsters. We have a director and a producer, we have a lead actress, we have a DoP (hopefully), but no cast not until today. (Note, in the following I use the word "actor" in its non-gender-specific meaning.)

It was difficult to know what to do with Monsters - it's a good pilot script for a series that no one will want to make (particularly under current economic conditions) because it would be very expensive.

We had originally thought about doing a trailer. I read the director's description of how the trailer ought to run and I got excited about seeing it. There was only one problem: it would cost almost as much to make the trailer as make the entire episode because we'd have to cast a lot of people, and find and shoot at all the locations. It was a no-go.

Second idea: Extract a few scenes that express the content and the feel of the show and shoot those. The scenes chosen could all be filmed in one location (a school) with a smaller cast (and a schoolroom of extras). And probably done in a single day.

So the Producer sent out the casting calls, weeded out the obvious non-runners, the remaining list went to the director who selected about three actors per character and we invited them to audition. Arguably we made our first mistake there, should have had more: because 50% of the actors we invited did not confirm - and for one part, the Detective Sergeant, we had only a single actor confirmed to audition.

Today was the day and we headed off to Canal Street in Manchester. Yes, this Canal Street. The Taurus Restaurant has a room downstairs well known for hosting rehearsals and auditions - or so I discovered from one of the actors who attended. That's confusing. We were in the room downstairs, and one of the actors told me he'd been there before and then explained.

So, while the producer remained upstairs fending off unwelcome advances (at one point my daughter had to rescue her - from a persistent, fairly stupid, male) and welcoming the incoming actors, I, the director and the Daughter, went through the auditions.

I expected to have a fairly boring time of it (being just the writer) but, of course, I hadn't thought it through. Each scene has a fair number of characters, so the Daughter (who is playing the lead, Chloe) and I were kept very busy reading all the other characters, I found myself talking to myself on a couple of occasions.

So the day proceeded and we hit the next problem. One of the main characters in the story actually has only five words in the extracted scenes. It's a bit hard to audition someone on five words. We realised that we should have included a scene with a bit more meat for that character at least for the audition.

We took the tack of asking the actors what they gleaned about the character and the setting from the limited pages we'd sent. This was especially gratifying for me and I was pleased that most of them had got a good impression of the bleakness of the world I'd created, and managed to grasp the characters - apart from the one with only 5 words.

Luckily for us the one actor who had confirmed for the "D.S." (as mentioned above) was perfect. Phew. In fact there was only one situation where we had the slightest doubt as to which actor was better for a role - even then it took only a little discussion. Of course the final decision is partly down to availability and partly down to the director reviewing the tapes. But I have to say the overall quality was very good indeed.

As mentioned the Daughter, apart from being lead, is also Production Designer and has her very own team. She's already had them working hard and they're all keen to help, which is great. One of them is doing media studies and wants to do a behind-the-scenes documentary - for her course, naturally. This is quite amusing.

Other writing stuff

Did you see the free-running on the TV this evening (or even go to see it live in Trafalgar Square?) interesting stuff. My Parkour/Free-running script, Running, was requested for reading by the company on Inktip. So that's in progress.

I have the main idea for the first of my pitches for the TV-related thing I can't really talk about. Roughly the requirement is for audio-plays related to characters from the series - the first was the easiest as the character in question had something solid I could hook into. I need to put together a couple more, at least one story for each of the others, but these will be trickier as there's less to hook into. (I also have hours and hours of DVDs to watch as research - pity I can't watch TV while driving.) I need a code word for this project ... let's call it Traitor.

The Clones collaboration moves along, I got my bits done for the funding submission, but now I have to knock together a treatment for the first episode - in the next week. It's an arbitrary deadline but without a deadline, the whole thing would just drift.

Then there's Tec, the great solution to my problems that I thought of last week isn't going to fly. But I have another solution that solves the problem with less radical changes.

In other news

The family got back from Edinburgh last night, and they'd had a fantastic time. They all want to go again next year. The dog was grateful to be brought out of kennels, but needs to go through a period of re-training to remind him where he belongs in the pack structure (the bottom). And the cats once again hate us, they enjoyed a week of no dog.

Oh yes, and my current (day job) client has offered to extend my contract until the end of January. Which is nice.

What's on the turntable? "Morbio Gorge" by Gordon Giltrap from "Perilous Journey"

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