Try using 2 cardboard boxes, 2 C-stands and some black paint.

We needed to add few shots of Gemma entering the artist upstairs space in The Warehouse to tie the spaces together better but we no longer had access to the original location.

So we mocked up the connecting doors in the studio using some of the original brown material drapped over 2 large cardboard boxes painted with black paint and cellotaped to a couple of C-stands.

The effect is hopefully seemless once Erik, our sound designer,  added the correct creeks and knocking sounds. Our grader Chris never spotted the join and he’s watch the film a few hundred times!

That’s 3 years exactly (incl. a leap year).

Yes we did shoot over 3 years but not everyday.

Pre production started in earnest March 2010 with casting in May and rehearsals throughout June of that year; the aim was to shoot the bulk of the warehouse interiors during August 2010 and then the location scenes in September 2010.

During this period the script was being constantly revised with actorís dialogue/ comments from rehearsals put in place and comments from script consultant Stephen Ridley.

Filming began at the Warehouse in Aldgate East on the 21st of August 2010 with the first scene, the family turning up to the warehouse for the first time. Day shoots continued until Thursday 26th of August 2010 when we switched to night shoots until the end of the shoot on Sunday 29th August. The climatic ending at the artistís residence was shot on the last two days of the shoot but these scenes where canned and were eventually filmed in May 2011.

Having still scenes to shoot in the Warehouse the week in September, originally for location shooting, was used for pickups, which were filmed from the 18th September 2010 to the 24th of September 2010.

Most of the location scenes were shot between 22nd April and 4th May 2011 (Cheers Will and Kate) and additional days on 23rd July 2011 and a two more blocks 9 -11th of March and 13th to 16th of April 2012.

See the blog: There’s Nothing You Can Do About a Beard! for the reason to some of the delays.

So at the moment the production for the Warehouse has lasted 38 shooting days.

Warehouse days 16 days

Location Days 22 days

Actually not a last minutes piece of cramming akin to the week before your dissertation deadline. The Warehouse was in fact plotted and developed extensively over six months but a la Mike Leigh we wanted significant actor input, particularly in terms of dialogue. In the end we didn’t exactly manage a Mike Leigh style approach given the demands of a pressing timetable, relenting to ultimately write a script ahead of rehearsals.

We did however, manage a reasonable impersonation in some aspects with much input from the cast resulting from a reasonable length rehearsal period (very recommended). However, the tight deadline for the availability of the key location and the lack of any meaningful pre-production budget (£200 if you please) meant there was insufficient time for the vast amount of improvisation and work-shopping our initial plan would have required.

In a reduced way we still managed to morph, amend and generally improve the script thanks to the actors input into the process. Form a Writer-Director point of view hearing things out loud can be invaluable and saves some blushes when you hear some of you crummier efforts spoken.

We are no experts in the best way to develop a script, but for us, dialogue benefits from a bit of breathing space. I also feel there is a point, fairly early on when an actor’s appreciation of their characters exceeds that of your own – it has too really. In light of this it would be remiss not to listen to what they have to say.

Card sorting and a structural approach to script development.

Me and Andrew developed the script together using a card sorting system that puts each scene on an index card and you lay them all out on a table to see how things progress using the standard 3 act structure model.

Stephen takes the script apart.
After a couple of months of working this way we had a first draft that we were reasonably happy with. We then had Stephen, our script consultant, read it through and give us his feedback. He took the script apart and came up with a lot of very valid point as to why the script didn’t really work. A lead character that wasn’t very interesting and just had things happening to him so was very passive etc. After working with Steve we came up with a new plan for the script but now we had very little time because we had already but a production schedule together for initial filming. Andrew then went away to rewrite the script in a couple of weeks as we prepare for the shoot.

See How to Write a Script in Two Weeks post.

Having Two Directors
Splitting the role of director into mainly directing the actors and mainly directing the camera/look worked for us as with such a low budget we were always up against time. Having only half a day on a location quite often left us set dressing right up to the last minute and only choosing the camera positions right before filming. With Andrew spending time with the actors on set and me sorting out the crew optimised our work. Any actor notes I would have on set would be past on only to Andrew so as not to have the actors dealing with 2 sets of comments.

Script Read Throughs and Rehearsals
Another advantage of having 2 directors is that Andrew had sometime to do read throughs with the actors and get them to amend the script to how they think the lines should work. Also just setting up a full script read through right at the start got everyone use to eack other and was good for me and Andrew to hear the whole script for the first time.

We’ve always set up our casting sessions in a profesional manner, using good locations that are easy to get to and are professional spaces eg. booking a rehearsal space or an office and trying not to run them with just one or two people. We always supply some catering and try to have someone that can read opposite the actor incase only one person turns up at a time. Ideally we try to see actors in pairs that can read a scene together, we then call back those we like and try them in pairs again. Getting a good balance between the whole cast is very important not just picking the best performance at the time. For us on this project we needed a beliveable family unit so seeing them together was important.

Getting your own back on the Noisy Neighbour.

The idea started from a script evening we use to run in the warehouse in Whitechapel where I was living, and the main set of the film. I use to live in another warehouse in Stoke Newington and below lived someone who was an alcoholic and use to stay up all night playing very loud music with the windows open and also brought random people back from the local pub who were usually very drunk and would end up fighting in the early hours of the morning.

The bloke downstairs had no sympathy for any of his neighbours as he was the first person the live in the block and thought it was our fault that we moved in as he lived there so he could make a lot of noise at night.

He had a point!

So from this came the idea of having an artist live up stairs who was just trying to live his life away from other people and it was the fault of those that were trying to gentrify the area to make money if they couldn’t cope with his noise at night.

Shooting over such a long time period creates a lot of continuity problems.

We had to delay one block of filming for 6 months as both Julian and Richard were about to do major roles in other projects that needed them to drastically change their looks. Julian had to have his longish hair cut right off and Richard had to grow his out and grow a beard. Shorter hair you can cope with using a wig but a beard!

Luckily after 6 months delay Julian’s hair had grown back just enough and Richard went to a barbers for us.

… and in one scene!

We were warned – don’t have your actors wear their own clothes (Chris Hughes).

Great for saving money and great for the convienence on the day, but when it comes to a pick up shot a year later will they still have that shirt!

Don’t have actors changing costumes if it’s not really needed (The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film).

We have Charlie in a white teeshirt, a grey teeshirt, a brown teeshirt, a white teeshirt with a collar! Now we are editing and moving scenes around and cutting bits of one scene into another the ever changing shirts can be a real problem (3 shirts in one 30 sec scene!!!).