Stories from the Set: The Chaos and the Calm

Shooting the full cast in Darley Park, Photo by Ian Cudmore of iCthings Photography

    With 2015 speeding to a close, I managed to fit in one last (very quick) film production. I'd somehow gone from making one film every two years, to making two in one year! And this is down to entering film competitions. First The Dress, and then The Chaos and the Calm.

    Much as I love making music videos, it's widely known that the only way to succeed at making them is to get your work in front of signed artists and record companies. So when Talenthouse offered the public the opportunity to create a short film for James Bay potentially to be commissioned into a larger piece, I had to jump at the chance - even though my autumnal schedule was manic; a heavy combination of the day job, and taking care of Night Owls.

   The only weekend I had free was the second to last weekend in November - two weeks before the Night Owls premiere, and one day before the deadline for the James Bay Film Project! But, with a little encouragement from Laura C. Cann, who works with me at Triskelle Pictures, I bit the bullet and went for it.

    We knew we wanted to do something involving water, as that's something Laura has been keen to explore for a while (plus it seems to be one of the recurring themes in my work), and I knew I wanted to do something more actor-based than visual, as - with such a quick turnaround time - I knew I'd probably have to shoot the film myself. My skills definitely lie much more with directing actors than with camera, as I only have a basic understanding of the latter. So we developed a concept of a series of confessionals, with a hint at baptism, and a concept of a healing stream which could be developed into a larger story, were we lucky enough to be commissioned.

    I filled the script with a range of characters, of various ages, with confessions ranging from a child who's upset her sister, all the way up to a retired businessman who regrets losing contact with his son. The amount of characters was kind of a contingency decision; I never expected to cast every role, as I knew this would be an unpaid little project, and I particularly thought casting the younger and senior characters would be difficult. But, when I put the casting call online, I was inundated - and overwhelmed - by applications! This really touched me; I didn't know so many people would be interested in working with me, particularly on a low-budget project.

Newcomer Lucy Clarke, with hot water bottle out of shot! Photo by Ian Cudmore of iCthings Photography
    With help from Laura, we built up a cast of fantastic local actors, including some I'd worked with before (Jessica Messenger, Michelle Darkin Price and Mark Tunstall), some I'd wanted to work with for a while (Michael Muyunda, Jenn Day and her son Rocco), and some completely fresh faces (John Kinory and newcomer Lucy Clarke). It was a seriously brilliant, talented line-up. The only downside to having a full cast was that I had to cut down people's scripted confessionals in the edit, to fit into the strict two minute running time. But I still think everyone had time to shine.

    It was a brilliant shoot. We had to split it over two days, purely because of the limited light hours at this time of year, but everyone was an absolute joy to work with. In spite of the cold weather and sad subject matters, there were many laughs shared on set. Laura couldn't join us on set, but Triskelle Pictures regular Ian Cudmore joined us to take behind-the-scenes photos, and my partner Edward Harvey recorded the voiceover 'confessions'. He also had one other interesting job, as I'll explain in a moment...

    So, what were the challenges of the shoot? As I said, it was bitterly cold. The whole shoot was set outdoors, firstly in my back garden - for the close-up shots to accompany the confessionals - and then onto Darley Park, where we were joined by a great group of extras. To make matters worse, although we'd had an unseasonably warm November, it took a sudden cold turn - so much so that it snowed the day before the shoot!! The poor actors couldn't wear coats, (I'd asked them to all wear white to enhance the baptism theme), but I took mine off during takes too, as much as possible, so as to be fair.

Actor Michael Muyunda receives a drenching. Photo by Ian Cudmore of iCthings Photography

    The other issue was the 'drenching' that the central actors had to endure. The idea was that it was a pleasant, cleansing water that 'washed their pain away'. But, in truth, it was a sudden, sharply cold spray applied by Edward, stood on a chair with a hosepipe (that's the 'odd job' I mentioned earlier). And poor Jess had to do a 'double drenching', as the camera decided to malfunction during one take (it had got a bit too wet and needed to recover!). Michael went first, and set the bar for 'least flinch' when the water hit him. This set a sort-of fun competition between the actors, and ultimately it was Michelle who won (she didn't flinch at all), followed by closely by young Lucy!

After the location recce

    Luckily, I didn't join in with the actors in terms of getting drenched by a hosepipe, but I did the Darley Park location recce during a rainstorm, and it was so heavy that I couldn't see anything properly through the showers (and my drenched fringe)! Luckily I took enough photographs, and I was able to settle on the Darley Park location by reviewing these afterwards, in the dry.

    So, how did our finished entry fare in the competition? Well, the response was brilliant, even though I'd had less than 12 hours to edit and upload the video. We had over 500 views within 24 hours of releasing it, which is so rare these days, and a lot of seriously lovely comments.

    The other phenomenal thing was the amount of 'likes' (well, 'loves') the video recieved on Talenthouse. Whereas most of the entries had between 2-8 likes on average, ours had over 20. Although we weren't chosen as one of the three winners (which had a lot of content and clearly a much higher budget than our entry), we had the joint third most likes out of the hundreds of entries - more than two of the winning entries.

The finished video has had nearly 800 views on Vimeo so far

    I'm very happy with how well we did, for such a small project. And, in spite of my limited camera skills, I'm happy with the finished video, too - it stands on the strength of the great cast, who were all an absolute joy to work with. It's great to have had some of my work at least seen by James Bay and Universal Music, and - at the very least - everyone involved has some more footage for their showreels.

    But what's the next project I'll be working on? Well, you'll have to wait until 2016 to hear that. For now, it's time to put my feet up, drink some snowballs and spend time with my friends and family. The 'film stuff' will see me again in the new year.


p.s. for more photos from the shoot, check out the album on the Triskelle Pictures Facebook page.


  1. Thank you, Sophie, for the chance to be in this highly enjoyable project!
    John Kinory


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