I’m Endangering The Mission. I shouldn’t Have Come.

I’m Endangering The Mission. I shouldn’t Have Come.

This was one of the best film shoots I had ever been on, and is an example I constantly go back on for how things should be done. However, like most projects, this one does come with complications – which only adds to the story.

Guilt And Denial is an independent student short film written by Dan Tonkin, directed by Hamish Gough, produced by Shelbourne Productions, and stars Sam Klein and Alex West.

The split egos of an offender are forced to confront each other in a nightmare where only one can survive.

Planning was key for this project to be a success, for this film had a fare few risks involved. Namely, being caught. The location the crew had chosen was fantastic – it was an old, derelict warehouse factory in Holton Heath on the outskirts of Bournemouth – but not open to the public. I think four recces were conducted before filming to make sure this location would work. The two who conducted the recces (cinematographer Dan, and Director Hamish) were very open with what they saw, posting and informing us with potential risks, possible entrances and exits to the site, where set ups would be and how ultimately this location would work for the film. Numerous photos and videos of of the location came in – telling us where rooms had collapsing roofs, broken doors, or uneven floors. They were thorough in their findings – because they knew the risks, and we knew the risks. If a wrong step were to be made, there was a potential danger of injury and destruction to the site. But we knew what we were going in for and they were transparent in what this location was. As such, in a meeting further down the line, we discussed what we would wear to the location – and I ended up wearing my steel toe boots and clothes I did not mind wrecking.

Many more meetings were conducted before filming to finalise everything and make sure everyone was on the same level. A script, shot list, and call sheet had been made and amended numerous times to get everything to a level of coherence and reduce the amount of alterations when shooting would come round. Time would be a definite factor at this location, for we could be caught and thrown out at any time. The people in charge had even gone out of their way to secure a hire van to transport all of the equipment and most of the crew so when it came to the day, only a van and small car would arrive at the location.

Spacious Van

Unit Call: 07:45

Van loaded, crew strapped in, and all systems go. We are now on our way to the location. I am in the smaller car with the rest of the crew and as such arrive before the van. We park in the lot near the site and eagerly wait for the van to show up but we see something go wrong, we see the van go up the location road, then exit the other side. What has happened? The van got caught going in. The road the location is on happens to also be a private residential road, and one resident sees it strange a van driving up it, so questions the driver thinking he might be lost – thankfully, their swift reaction was to lie and say their GPS took them off course. The resident buys it, and the van drives off, kills some time, and makes a second attempt to getting to the location.

We’re in.

It’s a scramble to get all the equipment over the fence. Alex and Sam jump over first and take the equipment from us as we pass it over. We then hop over and run through no mans land (an open area between the fence and derelict) and enter the building and immediately begin setting up. The hard part is now over, all we need to do now is shoot the film. And that’s what we do.

It was such a lovely experience being on this project. Everyone knew what they were doing and how they were to do it, we all new the story and we all liked each other and get on well. It’s a really pleasant time we all had.

Besides the thought that went into the recce, the attention towards the script and shot list, and the constant communication; there is one reason why I continue to use this project as my example of good filmmaking and my best experience in the field so far – and that is what I was handed when we all met for the unit call… Like a good guy I am, I had printed myself the script and call sheet ready for the shooting day, but when I arrived for the unit call, I was given a personal production pack with my name on it. The folder was new and had my name on a printed label. Inside was not only another copy of the script and call sheets, but finalised shot lists and to my surprise, MAPS and floor plans of the derelict. No production I had ever been on before or since has ever provided me with maps and floor plans of the filming location – and as such, is now a technique I use on my productions. A floor plan is (and was) incredibly useful. It allowed me to know not only what rooms and areas were inaccessible, but also where and when each set up and shot would be. Example, shots 14, 15, 16, 32, 40 take place in the corner by the door etc. But what really struck home was that these guys cared for their each other and it was so nice seeing everyone respected.

That’s me on the right operating the camera (C300)

Filming had finished, lunch had been eaten, and it was time to pack up and go home. But this story plays out like a real film as there’s conflict inbound! We’re plain sailing, everything has gone to plan, we’re golden – which in a film can only mean the heroes are going to face another challenge or spout of conflict – for us, it was capture again. We had packed up and removed everything from the building and we were now at the fence quickly passing kit over to get out of there. The driver had already jumped to grab the van but before it could collect us, another resident of this road came driving up. He got out of his car, with his dog, and questioned us being there “you know you shouldn’t be in there, that’s private land” – all we could say was “sorry” and “we we’re just leaving actually”, I think we came up with some excuse like “we actually couldn’t get further than the fence, it’s all locked off”. What I do remember though, is that the man got back in his care and drove off but forgot his dog! The dog followed behind as he drove further up the road. We were just grateful that he had caught us at the end of the shoot whilst we were leaving – rather than halting production during.

Shaken, we regrouped at uni and discussed what had just happened and he possibilities of future filming. Having been caught twice, everyone was now concerned as to whether or not it would even be possible to continue filming the next day. It was put to a vote, and sadly, postponed until further notice. We all felt that we were lucky to get away how we did, and that it would have been to risky to return the next day. For all we knew, the people who had caught us going in and out could have informed their neighbours to keep an eye out or even the local authorities. In retrospect, it was good we let the heat die down before returning to the site.

But even with being caught going in and coming out, it was still an amazing experience and a fun film to shoot. As always I wish these guys all the best for the future and hope to work with them again.

Guilt And Denial Clapperboard

Continue the story here as we return to the site in the winter.

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