a film by Bill Mousoulis
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Sat Dec 1: Well, it's actually not the shoot yet - it begins in a few days' time. At least Summer has started. And already I am super-conscious of the weather forecasts - Summer by no means guarantees rain-free days. Rehearsed today with the two cops, Josie and John. Also met with the three Stills Photographers - Andrea, Lisa, Laurent.
Sun Dec 2: Cast and Crew Get-together today - a chance for those people who haven't met up to now to meet. We held it in my friend Gaby's warehouse, and I showed my previous film, Desire, which I find quite hard to watch these days (and most of the cast and crew found it hard to watch too, what with all the light coming in thru the windows - poor resources are the bane of my life, they restrict my expression). A project like Lovesick is fascinating because it is like a hybrid of a professional film and an independent production - being feature-length, most of the cast and crew are being asked to step up and work at a level they're unaccustomed to. This works perfectly well of course - it is just all the vested interests in the film industry (capitalism rules, as always) that keep independent-minded projects such as this at bay. The mixture of people on this film is unique, and will probably never happen again (unlike the mixtures of people on many "proper" features) - and it will create a unique film. Inexperienced but keen people give off a charge that experienced ones don't. In the finished film, this will particularly be seen in the acting, and the cinematography, both of which will have a real edge to them. The (normal) film industry couldn't care less about this, of course, but that doesn't bother me.
Mon Dec 3: Just one day to go now before the shoot. I wish I could stay up all night and do various tasks, but I need to sleep. I started work at 9am this morning, and it's now 10:30pm, and things remain undone. So if you'll excuse me ...
Tue Dec 4: Well, yesterday and today were quite difficult at times, trying to get things right before the shoot. I pushed Véronique to keep tweaking the Schedule, therefore delaying its delivery to people until today (but people still knew what was happening, as a broad day-by-day Schedule was given to them days ago). On the acting front, Holly pushed me to explain my intentions with the sex scenes. And the sound team pushed a couple of microphones into extreme situations (dialogue on a busy street). Annabel and Fiona were also kept busy - organising permits for us to film in public, on shopping strips, etc. This is quite novel for me, getting full permissions, taking out all the insurances, etc. I usually film guerilla-style. Whatever, the first shooting day (tomorrow) is finally here, after over 9 weeks of pre-production. This is what it's all about - the creation of a world (in many respects an alternate world) on screen. I will feel every shot. And some of them will be magic.
Wed Dec 5: First day of shooting!
A great opening day, everyone working efficiently together right off the bat. We intentionally scheduled an easy enough day (with simple scenes), but we still had to negotiate different locations, the travelling to them, etc. - Richmond, Spencer St. bus depot, Yarraville, then back to the city. We were out on the streets, in public, but we worked unobtrusively. It was quite extraordinary witnessing the calm that enveloped the Yarraville street we were filming on the moment the camera was rolling - people acted as unwitting extras. When the camera was off though, people would hassle us a bit. As if we were Hollywood. Sorry, people, this is an alternative film, please move on ...
the crew: Steve, Jason, Jasmine, Véronique, Nick, Chris
Some scenes with Clay were done first. He's more used to theatre than film, so he found the stop-start nature of filming a little difficult at first. A couple of scenes with Holly were also done, but no scenes were done with the two of them together (and won't be for a few days, as it turns out).
Bill directing Clay
Thu Dec 6: Rush(es)
The excitement of beginning the shoot dissipated today as we began to settle into a groove, second day in. But Nick and I had a further excitement, as we left the crew to a long lunch and went to Lemac to telecine the first day's rushes. I will never again see these images in such a virginal way - the thrill of seeing an image for the first time is almost indescribable. And today's rushes provided a further thrill for me - the first time I have seen images of mine in 1.78 (I've been restricted to the 1.33 ratio in the past). We're going for a certain look in this film - solid images, with depth, contrast, and a sense of space. The actors are then providing the sense of spirituality, and, hopefully ... this will make for a distinctive film.
Our scheduling has been spot on so far, including some minor re-scheduling to allow for rain (which the weather bureau were accurate in predicting). And most of the shots have required just the one take, though we had to take three takes of one shot along Swanston St. today - as people were gawking into the camera. Otherwise, we're doing really well with everything. The hard days are coming though.
Clay and Nick, Laurent, Kathy, Bill.
Fri Dec 7: Daylesford
It's one thing to write different locations into a script, another to film them. We went to Daylesford today, about 2 hours from Melbourne. The irony with this location - which will function as an in-joke to some - is that Clay actually lives in Daylesford (this location was in the original script, so this is an unusual coincidence). It was all a breeze actually, with all the people of Daylesford very helpful to us (being extras), and I got to catch up with an old film-maker friend, Richard Tuohy.
Jasmine, Albert, Andrea, Bill, Nick, Steve, Sharon, Chris
I'm very much enjoying this shoot (and I'm not the only one!), and I'm now wondering why it's been three years since I shot anything. Surely a two-year gap between films is better. There is no doubt that film-making is epiphanic for me.
Sat Dec 8: City Chaos
Top end of Bourke St. for us today, several scenes near The Paperback Bookstore / Pellegrinis area. We started taking some general shots of the surrounds near the corner of Spring St, when a tram approached the S-turn there at a rapid rate, and proceeded to rock violently and derail itself. We managed to film the maintanence crew trying to place the tram back on the rails. We then went about the business of filming the dialogue scenes - without the boom pole, which had been left in Jason's car (with Jason being uncontactable - d'oh! even well-organised teams have problems).
Filming the derailed tram
It's always a risk filming in public, in uncontrollable environments. The rewards can be great, though - one can capture a sense of reality that bigger-budgeted films can't. But it can be frustrating also, trying to get the public not to look into the camera, or spoil the continuity. I got really irritated at one point. Kudos to Stuart and Holly, though - who, as actors, remained very focused amidst the chaos, managing to pull off two one-minute dialogue shots in only one take each. And Shane O'Mara (who did the music on my last film) happened along on the street, offering his services again - so, in the midst of chaos, some order, and art.
Bill feeling victorious and Albert looking confused
Stuart and Holly
Sun Dec 9: Rest day
Well, a rest day for about half the cast and crew. No shooting, but plenty of activity for myself (rehearsing John and Josie, and doing the Shot List for the next few days), for Kathy and Albert (dressing the main location - the couple's flat), and for Véronique and Annabel (finalising the schedule for the next few days).
Mon Dec 10: Dandenongs
Another day out and about on location, this time Belgrave, near Puffing Billy, and in some woods. We scrambled all the necessary shots successfully, including one where we had only a 20-second window of sun to work in (and yes, we timed it and got the shot). With one of the set-ups however, doing a shot inside a train, I committed an act of hubris, commanding the crew to exit the train when we came to a particular station - but the crew were practically still filming, so a flexifill was left on board. Upshot - $400 added to my budget. Double d'oh!
In pre-production, Albert and I looked at a number of the locations, picking exact spots and shots, and it's very fulfilling to actually now be filming those shots. In the final film, the outdoor locations will function as counterpoints to the main location of the flat, and are wonderful settings for the action of "souls in transit".
Tue Dec 11: The Inside World
Today we filmed scenes inside the couple's one-bedroom flat (using my place - production office and set at once!). We've been doing practically all exteriors up to now, so it was a bit of a change for us, working in the enclosed space. Today was also the first time Holly and Clay did scenes together, and the first time we filmed John and Josie, so the whole picture is now building. And another addition was the presence of George and Emma, producing a "making of" video, interviewing the cast and crew, so it was a pretty full day.
Oh no, it's the cops
I'm now getting to the point where sleep is simply a respite, nothing more, and what I'm breathing is the film, not air. There's no time for reflection (he says as he reflects ...)
Véro's in the house
My man Albie ...
Wed Dec 12: Mixed Bag
Well, we're now past the halfway stage of the shoot, and we had another long(ish) day today, from 9am to 7:30pm, so we're starting to get a bit tired. The weather caused us to lose an hour or so at the start of the day, but it was then completely sunny from midday on - typically bizarre Melbourne weather. We had a mixed result with the shots we filmed too - a heap more first-take shots (crucial on a no-budget film), but also several two or three-take shots, where we'll have to check the final result to see if any of them are usable.
John and Josie
A major sequence was filmed today with Josie and John, the two detectives, as well a couple of scenes with Marie. As with yesterday's shots, the full picture is now building. We're making a film.
Bill directing Marie and Clay
Nick and Steve
Thu Dec 13: Rest day
A much-needed rest day, for all of us. Enough said. Back to work tomorrow ...
Fri Dec 14: On the run
The most difficult day in terms of shooting in public, so we did it renegade-style and ... we slammed it. We entered the incredibly busy Bourke St. Mall as if we were undertaking a bank robbery, and we stole some great images of Holly and Clay lost in the Christmas world of Myer and shit like that. People were looking at the camera, but I will probably be able to edit my way round that (fingers crossed!!). We also did the first scene of the film, where Holly and Clay quit their jobs, and we co-ordinated a number of extras, as office workers leaving for the day. It was nice seeing these actors again, people who missed out (just) on the main roles in the film.
Clay and Holly
We also filmed a couple more scenes with John and Josie, again on the run a bit, as we set up a cafe scene in a busy cafe and had to do the scene (one shot) in the space of 20 minutes. On the fly ... we get by.
Holly and Clay
John and Josie
Sat Dec 15: Shot
We're now right in the midst of the difficult part of shooting the film. We worked from 9 to 7 today, and couldn't get all the scheduled scenes done, so we're doing an emergency catch-up shoot session tomorrow. The problem with some of the interior scenes is that - unlike the exterior ones - they're composed of more than one shot, and each shot needs a bit of a light tweak. I'm confident we can catch up and still complete the entire film by Wednesday evening. And we filmed the strangulation scene quite successfully today, so that's another tough scene out of the way.
Holly and Clay
But there's no doubt the crew are getting tired. And I myself, right at this very moment, Saturday night 11pm, am pretty shot. But I'll be up and at it tomorrow. Speak to you then!
Michael with hi-boy
Véronique and Annabel
Sun Dec 16: No rest for the wicked ...
We did a half-day of shooting today, to catch up on a couple of scenes we didn't get to yesterday. Half the crew had made other arrangements for today, but the other half of us managed to get the shots done, with the help of an emergency camera assistant, Fiona Trigg.
Now for the home stretch, three more days ...
Mon Dec 17: Mondayitis
More guerilla-action today, on the streets, on the MET, etc. And some bedroom scenes. I got my third or fourth wind, Albert lost his pep, Kathy seemed over-pepped, and the cast and crew examined some weird websites inbetween shots .... hmm, chocolate ...
Seriously, I could do this forever, on and on and on. Even though I'm tired. The tiredness doesn't bother me. Film-making is it, mate.
Trifon (Bill's dad) helping on set
Tue Dec 18: Hardcore
Well, it's getting really hardcore now, as we unfortunately lost both camera assistants (Steve and Chris) for today, and couldn't replace with anyone else. But Michael put in a big gaffer effort, and some of the rest of us doubled jobs up - luckily Albert was awake today! And the actors (Stuart and Marie today) gave us every possible moment of their time.
Overall, the film has not gone over-budget, though I'm really scrounging now for the last part of the $12,000 budget. But hey, it's only money. Compared to film, money is worth nothing.
Holly, Marie, Stuart
Wed Dec 19: Last day (hopefully...)
Well, today was the last day of shooting, unless some re-shooting happens this Friday. Nick and I will watch all the rushes tomorrow, and decide if anything needs re-shooting. Today's stuff involved the bedroom sex scenes, and Clay and Holly found it tough going, but they got the scenes done.
I will present some ruminations on the whole making of the film in subsequent days, so keep tuned. For the moment, my bed calls ...
Clay and crew
Thu Dec 20: First glimpse of the film
Nick and I watched all the film's shots being telecined today at Lemac, doing a quick grade on the run. Everything looked quite beautiful, and so we don't need to reshoot anything. The mistakes that are in there are so minute that no-one will notice.
Even though we saw all the shots jumbled up, seeing all of them in one hit gives me an idea of what the final film will be like. I must say that I am quite astounded - it looks like the film I had in my head! Maybe 95% of what I imagined several months back when I was writing the script is right there, on the screen. 12 weeks of non-stop work on my behalf is now paying off.
Fri Dec 21: Wrap
No shooting today, which meant that, in the end, we shot the film over a 15-day period, starting on a Wednesday and finishing on a Wednesday. 13 of those 15 days were used to shoot on. Ideally, I think something like 16 shooting days would have been better, to allow for a more careful working environment. But we got everything done - no scenes had to be dropped.
Equipment and clothing and props were sorted out today, and the cast and crew then came to my place at 8pm to watch the first day's rushes on VHS. We then had a bit of a Wrap party, hitting Brunswick St (along with many other Christmas revellers) until 4am or so. I'll do one more of these diary entries for December, in a few days time, giving an overview of the pre-production and shooting period, and I'll then get down to editing in January!
Fri Dec 28: Summary
For the past week or so, I've had a reasonable dose of the "post-shooting blues", which happens after every film shoot. The body and the mind all of a sudden have to jump from a high level of activity to a very low one, resulting in a lethargy (or a "rest" I guess ... depends how you look at it).
I'm very satisfied to now be at this point of the project's journey, with the shooting completed. It's been a solid four months. I wrote the script in September, quickly, intuitively (even utilising the events of Sep 11 in it). Pre-production then began in early October, and went for 9 weeks (or 2 months), a couple of weeks longer than I envisaged. The shoot then transpired over several weeks in December.
This is my fifth feature (first two on Super-8 in the mid '90s, the next two on 16mm in the late '90s, this one on Super-16), so I felt reasonably comfortable putting the production together. Still, it was a little bigger (more ambitious) than my previous film, and therefore required more work, and had more chance of something going wrong. For those of you who have read this diary in its entirety, you will know that there was a low point around late October, about half-way through pre-production. At that point, I had no lead male, no DOP, no Super-16 camera, and no readily-accessible money.
But, as the cliche goes, where there's a will ...
CASTING. When I was writing the script, I was conscious of making everything "filmable". When one doesn't have funding or investment attached, one shouldn't be too ambitious. And so I limited the characters to six in total, and all within the 25-35 range (because there's a lot of actors out there in that range). Still, there were certain requirements I had - the major one being the creation of a convincing couple. In the end, six ideal actors for the roles materialised, but there was work involved in getting them. I fielded close to 200 expressions of interest, and I then gave a 45-minute interview/audition to about 80 of these people. 25 of these then had a proper, 2-hour audition, rehearsing scenes from the film, with other actors. I very much enjoyed this process, and would like to be even more extensive in the future. Out of this, I've actually met a number of excellent actors who weren't right for any of the roles in this film, but who I would like to work with at some point.
CREWING. As with the actors, I got a number of expressions of interest from crew members through Filmnet. Probably around 40 or so. Some were industry professionals who found that they just couldn't commit to a deferred-wages production. But that didn't faze me - on the contrary, the feeling was mutual. When assembling crews, I always look for people who have some knowledge of cinema (and not just of Scorsese or Lantana), who are keen to discover film-making, who can bring something unusual to the project. And so I was pleased to have a French 1stAD who listed Diane Kurys and Eric Rohmer as fave directors, as well as a couple of Asian-cinema aficionados. Some of the crew members were young and inexperienced, but they did a marvellous job.
BUDGET. So far, the film is on budget. Normally, on projects like this, shooting on film, the budgets are around $30,000. That's primarily because of the films employing a standard shooting ratio (6:1 at the least), and spending money on equipment hire (or possibly paying some of the cast and crew wages). Alkinos Tsilimidos' Silent Partner is an exception, it being shot for around $13,000. He had a shooting ratio of close to 2:1, and a shooting period of only one week (he hired the Super-16 gear from Lemac, for one week only, to reduce costs). This is the breakdown of my costs so far (GST inclusive): Insurances - 2,300. Production costs - 2,800. Equipment - 1,500. Film stock - 2,600. Lab processing - 1,800. Telecine - 1,200. Total - 12,200. (I will also spend 1,300 on editing over January, making a total of 13,500 before presenting to funding bodies, distributors, etc. By the way, all this money is coming out of my pocket - there's no outside money involved at all). The first three costs are "overheads" and pretty much unavoidable. Insurances include equipment insurance, Public Liability and Workcover. (Note that for PL, we got one quote of 1,700, and another for 800.) Production costs include a variety of things - phone, electricity, catering, petrol, stills stock, sound stock, camera expendables, art department costs, registering this website, other odds and ends. Equipment includes a nominal hire fee of 250pw for 3 weeks for the camera gear (Lemac charge 3,000pw for the same gear), as well as purchase of a flexifill for 400 (which was lost on location - the insurance not covering it). These three overhead costs came to 6,600. Which leaves 5,600 for the rest. That's 5,600 for 150 minutes worth of film, to make a 75-minute film (shooting ratio of 2:1). And so a 6:1 shooting ratio would have entailed costs of 5,600 x 3, i.e. 16,800, which would have made the whole budget 23,400. And this, my dear people, is the reason why we shoot only one take!!!!
INFRASTRUCTURE. I am making this film as a writer/director/producer. In September, I was purely the writer. From early October, I combined the roles of director and producer. I am able to do this because I'm a highly organised and clear-minded person. Still, it meant I had to work non-stop from early October to just recently, working at least 10 hours each day on the project. I would stop only for dinner, and the occasional Friday or Saturday night out with friends. I believe that with such a project, it's more efficient if the producer and director are the same person - it cuts down on "communication" time between them (because, der, none's needed). To mount a project like this, one needs to be very focused. This time last year I couldn't have done it. But I am a film-maker who's driven, so it was no big deal for me to give over three months of hard work and $13,000. Overall, I am happy with the entire production, though next time I will consider employing a co-producer, to take some of those duties off my hands, as I found that during the shoot itself it was difficult to be both producer and director. As producer, I tried to be professional and ethical all the way through the production, but a couple of misunderstandings did occur. As director, I think I have extended my capabilities with this project, but only by a little bit.
EDITING, ETC. I will be doing a basic edit of the film during January, then shopping it around. Completion funds will then be sought - about 250K. We'll see what happens ...
Go to Diary for 2002 (post-production)